This year’s Norris Trophy race was compelling and hotly contested. Fan bases from Los Angeles, Nashville, Montreal and Ottawa passionately promoted their hometown favorite. Injuries sidelined some other good candidates.
The debate brought out some who wish the award would go to a defensive defenseman, with a new award being created for the league’s best offensive defenseman. However, Bobby Orr long ago broke the mold on what is considered an elite defenseman. For the past 45 years, the award has almost exclusively gone to high scoring defenders, with just a few occasional exceptions. In fact, only three times over that time has the Norris Trophy winner had a point total below 50 points, P.K. Subban, due to the lockout and Rod Langway did it twice. If Drew Doughty had won this year, he would have done so with the lowest point total for a winner in over 30 years.
Now more than ever, the game is dominated by mobile defensemen that control and drive play in a puck possession era. A quick peek at the Stanley Cup final will tell you that Victor Hedman and Duncan Keith dominated these playoffs while high scoring forwards were mostly nullified. The best defense is puck possession and Erik Karlsson exemplifies that more than any other in today’s game.
In Elite Company
D-men to win multiple Norris trophies 25 and under:
— Steve Lloyd (@TSNSteveLloyd) June 24, 2015
With a second Norris Trophy win, Karlsson is starting to write history. He is now one of only 13 players to win the Norris Trophy twice. He joins Orr, Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin as the only defensemen in NHL history to win the award twice by the age of 25. That is very good company.
Karlsson now has back-to-back 20-goal seasons. Only five defensemen in NHL history have had two 20-goal seasons by the age of 25 (Coffey, Orr, Potvin, Ray Bourque and Phil Housley). The most recent player to accomplish the feat was Brian Leetch in 1992. Karlsson also had a 19-goal season in 2012, when he won his first Norris Trophy.
Best Offensive Production Since Leetch
Karlsson now has three seasons of more than 65 points. He likely would have had four if not for the lockout season in which he also suffered a sliced achilles. Only six defensemen have accomplished this before the age of 25 (the same five as above plus Al MacInnis). Once again, this has not been done since Leetch in 1992.
Karlsson has 84 career goals in 397 games. That is the 11th best total by a defenseman before the age of 25. The most recent player to exceed that total is Al Iafrate in 1991 with 87 goals. Coffee leads this statistic with 192 goals in 473 games during the high-flying 80’s.
Karlsson has 303 career points, ranking him 12th all-time in point scoring before age 25. Leetch is once again the most recent to exceed this with 367 points by 1993.
Whether it is Norris Trophy awards, goals, assists, shot attempts or points, Karlsson is joining the who’s who of NHL defensemen to this point in his young career. Made all the more impressive by the fact he is doing it in an era when goal scoring totals are very low compared to the 80’s and early 90’s.
He is fully recovered from that horrific Achilles injury and is just now entering the prime of his career. The next few years will be fun to watch.