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NHL Awards 2012: Arctic Ice Hockey Casts Norris Trophy Ballot

44.6% O-Zone Starts?  It burns, it burns!
44.6% O-Zone Starts? It burns, it burns!

After determining that most of Puck Daddy's readership thinks I'm an idiot yesterday (to be fair, words of my own choosing, though I really could care less what the PD crowd thinks - just read their comment threads once), SB Nation moved on to announcing the Writers' Pick for the Norris Trophy today. Where the Vezina Trophy possibilities were pretty thinly sliced, there's a bit more gap between the candidates for best defenceman.

My pick and rationale after the jump

I went with...

1st Place: Shea Weber

2nd Place: Zdeno Chara

3rd Place: Erik Karlsson

Alex Pietrangelo was just barely bumped off by Karlsson in the writer vote, and really there's been a lot of healthy debate on what kind of credit Karlsson should get for being a defenceman. On the other hand, Weber and Chara should be a surprise to no one.

Player 5v5 TOI/60 Rk 5v5 Crsi Rel Rk CrsRel QoC Rk ZS% Rk
Shea Weber 19.65 6 11.2 13 1.332 12 44.6 206
Zdeno Chara 18.92 15 13.0 8 1.015 34 48.1 155
Erik Karlsson 19.86 5 11.3 11 0.657 71 57.1 30
Alex Pietrangelo 17.54 43 7.8 31 0.721 65 52.8 69

Rank ('Rk') is among NHL defencemen, and as you can see Zone Starts were ranked from highest to lowest.

Player 4v5 TOI/60 Rk 4v5 SA/60 Rk
Shea Weber 2.17 76 51.4 81
Zdeno Chara 2.49 46 45.2 53
Erik Karlsson 0.56 190 --- ---
Alex Pietrangelo 3.12 14 39.2 19

Rank is among NHL defencemen who played 2 minutes per 60 or more (n=88). I'm effectively leaving Karlsson out of rate statistics discussion, as he played so few minutes at 4v5.

Neither Weber nor Chara were impressive on the kill, but PK performance is pretty variable due to the lesser minutes - I'm not really concerned that either is bad defensively because of those numbers. Since 5v5 comprises the overwhelming majority of the ice time, that holds a lot more weight. In that regard, there's considerable distance between Weber and the others, both in competition and zone starts, and yet he was able to deliver comparable Corsi Rel. Chara, if your emphasis is on boxcars, seems like the best of both worlds, but it is possible that Weber's boxcars were cramped by his teammates. Nashville was about a half goal worse per 60 minutes of 5v5 than Boston, Chara had the on-ice shooting edge 9.42% to 9.1%, and Boston had 32.4 shots per 60 minutes of 5v5 when Chara was on the ice (4th among all NHL defencemen), versus 27.4 for Weber (81st).

Karlsson enters the discussion for the obvious reason, his offence. And he had a truly elite season in the regard, but if the emphasis is on best defenceman, and you look at the Ottawa Senators' reluctance to deploy him defensively, you can't honestly say he's the best defenceman. The fact that his Corsi Rel was in line with a guy (Weber) who had such a drastically tougher assignment only adds to this case. He deserves to be in the top 3 because his offence should count as possession, and in turn possession as a form of keeping the puck out of your own zone. But that only goes so far if, when the puck does go into your zone, you aren't playing like a top defender.