The #Johnny4Norris campaign run by the Washington Capitals is one step closer to coming to fruition, as defenseman John Carlson has been nominated for his first Norris Trophy.
The Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman, and the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) have decided that, via a voting poll, Carlson is worthy of the nomination for his work this past regular season. It isn’t hard to see why they think this. The nominations for this prestigious award were released by the league on Monday, July 20, along with the nominees for the Selke Trophy.
Carlson is joined by first-time nominee Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators, as well as 2018 Norris-Trophy winner Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Carlson led all defensemen in the NHL in points with 75 in 69 games. This put him on pace for 89 points over an 82-game regular season. He also led all defensemen in assists with 60, which was good for third-most in the league. The American blueliner tied his career-best with 15 goals on the season.
Johnny Norris, as Alex Ovechkin took to calling him, finished last season with a career-high 70 points, and just missed being nominated for the Norris Trophy a season earlier, finishing fourth in the voting. To start off this season, Carlson was named as an alternate captain of the Capitals, replacing the retired Brooks Orpik. He got off to a hot start on the ice as well. I mean, he straight-up dominated the NHL and made it look easy. He put up 20 points in his first 11 games and set a franchise record for points in a month with 23 in October.
To add a cherry on top of Carlson’s dominant offensive season, he became the Capitals’ franchise leader in points by a defenseman when he passed Calle Johansson with his 475th point in a Capitals sweater.
Carlson did inevitably slow down from his 100-point pace to start the season, but was still on pace to potentially put up the first 90-point defenseman season since Ray Bourque did it in 1993-94 before the stoppage in play.
One thing that Carlson doubters have acknowledged is that his defensive numbers have been average to below-average, and a Norris-Trophy-winning blueliner should have exceptional numbers. In the first half of the season, however, Carlson was playing rather well defensively. Perhaps not best-in-the-league, but combined with how dominant he was playing offensively, he was undeniably the best defender in the league.
Despite being up against two of the league’s best defensemen, Carlson is considered to be the favourite due to his remarkable play during the first half of the season. His numbers, both offensively and defensively, took a dip in the second half compared to his numbers from his outstanding first half of the season. Something to take note of is that when Carlson’s numbers dipped, the Capitals’ success started to dip suggesting a strong correlation between his play and his team’s success.
Arguments have been made that perhaps, since Carlson’s second half of the season wasn’t as strong as his first half, that he doesn’t deserve the award. Many believe that Josi’s play has forced him to be the favourite for the Norris Trophy, which is a fair argument. Josi was unquestionably one of the top defensemen in the league this year, and there is a reason he is in the conversation at all.
What This Means
Washington is not exactly notorious when it comes to Norris Trophy-winning defensemen. “Carly,” as he is known by teammates, is the first Capitals’ defensemen to be nominated for the award since Mike Green was nominated in back-to-back seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10, failing to win both times. If Carlson is able to win, he will be the first Capitals D-man to win the award since Rod Langway in 1983-84.
If Carlson is able to win, it solidifies what Washington and their fans already know: Carlson is one of the best defensemen in the league, and is arguably the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. Over the past three seasons, No. 74 has managed the most points (213), assists (170), and is fifth in goal-scoring (43) amongst all defensemen. Even if he doesn’t win, the numbers don’t lie and now the rest of the league knows how good John Carlson truly is.
The Norris Trophy winner will be announced during the Conference Finals of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Congratulations to John Carlson for securing his name on a Norris Trophy ballot for the first time in his career.