On Monday, it was announced that Victor Hedman, veteran Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman, was one of the three finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy. The annual award purports to honor the “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position”. Since the best defense is usually a good offense, the award usually goes to the blueliner that has a really good season points-wise.
Was Hedman one of the top three defenders this season? It probably depends on who you ask. The beauty of stats is that you can usually find a handful to support whatever argument you want to make. Their will be folks pushing for the other nominees (Washington’s John Carlson and Nashville’s Roman Josi) and a slew of articles campaigning for folks that didn’t make it to the top three (Jacob Slavin and Alex Pietrangelo c’mon on down).
Much like Andrei Vasilevskiy and his place in the Vezina finalists, Hedman’s standing is probably based part on his play (which was really good this season) and a bit of name recognition. He has won this award in the past (2017-2018) and has finished third in two other seasons (2016-17 and 2018-19). This makes the fourth consecutive season he’s been a finalist, the first time someone has done that since another Swede, Nicklas Lidstrom, accomplished the feat from 2005-2009.
It feels like this is Carlson’s award to lose based on the Capitals’ defenseman’s prolific points season. After all 75 points in 69 games is impressive for anybody, let alone a blueliner. So I’ll go out on an edge and say that Hedman finishes second in the final voting. Of course, if Carlson wins it’s renew the debate for another award that honors the best offensive defenseman award while having the Norris Trophy honor someone who actually helped his team keep the puck out of their own net.
Still, by whatever metric used, Hedman is one of the top defenders in the league and after years upon years of watching less than mediocre players cycle through the blue line in Tampa, it’s great to finally watch one of his stature. For Hedman, it’s an honor to be in the conversation as he told reporters on a Zoom call Monday afternoon,
“It’s always a big honor to get nominated for an individual prize...You go into every season not looking for these kind of acknowledgements, but you go out there and try to do what’s best for your team. You try and play at your highest limits for 82 games. To get the recognition at the end of the year is a big privilege and it’s always a big honor to get nominated...Like i said it’s nothing you take for granted. So I’m super happy.”
Full press release from the NHL:
NEW YORK (July 20, 2020) – John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators are the three finalists for the 2019-20 James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” the National Hockey League announced today.
Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted ballots for the Norris Trophy after the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be revealed during the Conference Finals, with the exact date, format and time to be determined.
Following are the finalists for the Norris Trophy, in alphabetical order:
John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Carlson helped the Capitals to a first-place finish in the Metropolitan Division for a fifth consecutive season by leading all NHL defensemen in scoring by a 10-point margin, tallying a team- and career-high 15-60—75 in 69 games. He became the NHL’s fifth blueliner in the last 30 years to reach the 50-assist mark in 54 games or fewer and first since Sergei Zubov (NYR) in 1993-94. Despite a shortened regular season his 60 assists were the most by a Capitals defenseman since Scott Stevens recorded a franchise-record 61 in 1988-89 and his 75 points were just six fewer than Larry Murphy’s record of 23-58—81 set in 1986-87. The 30-year-old native of Natick, Mass., is a Norris finalist for the first time and looks to become the first Capitals player to win the trophy since Rod Langway had back-to-back triumphs in 1982-83 and 1983-84.
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Hedman ranked third among defensemen in scoring with 11-44—55 in 66 games, marking his fourth consecutive season with 40+ assists and 50+ points. During the Lightning’s scorching 23-2-1 run from Dec. 23 through Feb. 17, Hedman posted an even-or-plus rating in 22 of the 26 games (+29 in all) and played an average of 25:43 per contest. Highlights in that span included four assists on Dec. 28 vs. MTL (5-4 W), tying a franchise record for defensemen, and logging a career-high 32:12 on Feb. 15 vs. PHI (5-3 W). The 29-year-old Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, native is the first Norris Trophy finalist in four consecutive seasons since countryman Nicklas Lidstrom with the Detroit Red Wings was selected from 2005-06 through 2008-09. Hedman became the first Lightning player to capture Norris honors in 2017-18 and finished third in 2016-17 and 2018-19.
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
Josi led the Predators in scoring with 16-49—65 in 69 games, joining Carlson as the only defenseman to top his club in points this season. Josi’s 65 points set a franchise record for defensemen, surpassing the 61 he had recorded in 2015-16, and his 16 goals marked a career high. The Nashville captain’s 12-game point streak (7-13—20) from Dec. 16-Jan. 9 set another franchise record for defensemen and was the longest by any blueliner since Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere (15 games) in 2015-16. Josi ranked among the top three League defenders in several categories, including shots (1st, 260), points (2nd, 65), goals (t-2nd, 16), assists (2nd, 49) and average time on ice (3rd, 25:47). The 30-year-old Bern, Switzerland, native is a first-time Norris Trophy finalist and is vying to become the first winner in Predators history.