Last Updated: 2017-10-02
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the top “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position” and is voted upon by the members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Votes are cast at the end of the regular season before the playoffs begin but aren’t revealed until the NHL Awards night upon the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.
|Norris Memorial Trophy Odds
| Erik Karlsson (OTT) +230
||Brent Burns (SJ) +400
||Victor Hedman (TB) +750
|Drew Doughty (LA) +900
||Shea Weber (MTL) +1000
||PK Subban (NSH) +1000
|Ryan Suter (MIN) +1500
||Kris Letang (PIT) +1500
||Roman Josi (NSH) +1500
|Alex Pietrangelo (STL) +2000
||Dustin Byfuglien (WPG) +2000
||Kevin Shattenkirk (NYR) +2000
|Duncan Keith (CHI) +2000
||Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARI) +3000
||Dougie Hamilton (CGY) +3000
|Zach Werenski (CBJ) +3000
||John Klingberg (DAL) +3000
Odds Courtesy Bovada as of October 1st
Nicklas Lidstrom dominated the category for the early 2000s as he won the Norris Trophy six out of seven seasons between 2000-01 and 2007-08 and then again in 2010-11 at the age of 40, the oldest to ever do so. Lidstrom retired after one more season which paved the way for the next breed of superstar defenseman. Winners since Lidstrom have been Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, Karlsson (again), Drew Doughty and last year’s Brent Burns.
Not including Lidstrom’s epic run of Norris victories, only five of the nine other winners have been under the age of 30, proving even superstar defensemen into their 30s can still produce at a high level and win this award.
Over the last 20+ years the winner has always come from a team who has fairly comfortably qualified for the playoffs which (depending on how you feel about certain teams this year) could eliminate a few of the above names. It would be tough for guys like Doughty (LA), Pietrangelo (STL), Byfuglien (WPG), Ekman-Larsson (ARZ) and Hamilton (CGY) to win this award based on past history if their respective teams fail to qualify for the playoffs. Not to mention the early favorite, Erik Karlsson, who many feel his Senators played over their head last season and are due for a crash course in regression this season. Karlsson is an interesting favorite on his own though as he’s currently recovering from offseason foot surgery which could hinder his dynamite production at least to begin the season, making it difficult to be the best at his position this year.
There hasn’t been a repeat winner since Lidstrom’s run in the early 2000s and before that you have to go back to 1989-90 and 1990-91 to find the previous repeat winner with Ray Bourque. In recent years there seems to be a tendency among hockey writers (the voters) to award this trophy in almost some sort of pecking order, awarding veteran players their place in history. Doughty won the award in 2015-16 after finishing second in voting the year prior. Burns win in 2016-17 was after he finished third the year prior. Of course there’s no proof to this theory, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
With Karlsson’s potential to get off to a slow start and the history of non-repeat winners possibly affecting Burns chances, the field could be as wide open as ever this year. Let’s take a look at a couple of players who could potential give us some good value throughout the season.
Victor Hedman (+750)
If the recent voter trend of rewarding a veteran with their “deserved” accolade then next in line could very well be Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. Keith, Karlsson, Doughty and Burns have all recently won and even though he’s only 26 years-old, Hedman is indeed an NHL veteran with eight years of NHL experience, breaking into the league at just 19-years of age.
I mostly jest about that being an actual feasible theory (but you never know!) so thankfully Hedman’s play on the ice actual lends merit to his selection here, as well.
Hedman has been one of the best offensive defensemen in the league over the past few seasons but emerged from the shadows into more of the spotlight last year with his 72 points and finished third in Norris voting behind Karlsson and Burns (including three first place votes, so maybe we have a head start on a few writers who already like him).
The big news out of Lightning training camp is also great for our Hedman pick. There was some worry that the sinkhole known as Dan Girardi would be paired on the top line with Hedman which could possibly drag down his offensive performance as he would have to be more responsible in the defensive end to account for Girardi. It appears the defensive-minded Jake Dotchin will be Hedman’s partner which should allow him to freely break out on offense even more this year (Dotchin sat out preseason games due to a team imposed penalty but it has not affected his position on the depth chart according to coach Cooper). Hedman will also quarterback the point on the top powerplay unit where he racked up the most powerplay points among defensemen in the league with 33 last season. And that top powerplay has looked incredibly lethal early in preseason with Stamkos and Kucherov lining up in opposite circles.
We won’t mind if the scoring race is tight among defensemen and writers see fit to award Hedman his due, but there’s plenty to love about the young Swede on his own merit. Victor Hedman to win the Norris Trophy at +750 is our top value pick of the year.
Zach Werenski (+3000)
If there’s no conspiracy of the writers when it comes to voting, then one name who could stand above the rest this season is the Columbus Blue Jackets stud 20-year old, Zach Werenski.
Bursting onto the NHL scene with an impressive 47-point rookie season, Werenski’s offensive potential should only be beginning to peak beside defensive partner Seth Jones. With the Blue Jackets breaking out last year and expectations higher this season, Werenski’s offense will be a big part of how far the Jackets can go.
Werenski only averaged 20:54 of ice time per game last year which was only the 75th highest at his position. His points per 60 minutes, however, was 1.73 which was good for ninth among all defensemen (with more than 200 total minutes). His playoff usage increased to 23:29 per game before a puck to the face ended his season after game three.
Werenski’s ice time should creep closer to his playoff usage with a full season under his belt and if his offensive production continues to develop, it’s fair to think Werenski could be among the point leaders this season. Zach Werenski at +3000 to win the Norris Trophy is our other best value pick.
Honorable Mention: John Klingberg (+3000)