Even as the Montreal Canadiens move on from the series against the Ottawa Senators. The battle of “E.K. vs P.K.” continues and with the NHL Award show set for June 24th, in Las Vegas, I will be taking a look at how both former Norris Trophy winners and current candidates stack up against each other.
As contentious as the debate is for which defenceman is better or more deserving of the award, it is interesting to point out just how similar these two players’ seasons have been. It is fairly easy to draw comparisons when both players are noted for their offensive skills. With 21 goals and 66 points, Erik Karlsson led all NHL defencemen in scoring, but P.K. Subban finished tied for second with San Jose’s Brent Burns with 60 points.
Karlsson has led all NHL defenceman in scoring for 3 of the last 4 seasons. The only season when he didn’t lead NHL defenceman in scoring was when he suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury. Subban has always been right up there with Karlsson in terms of scoring. However, where Subban surpasses Karlsson is in his defensive game.
Anyways, without further adieu, this is the E.K. vs P.K. Norris Trophy Face-off.
Why Karlsson Should Win the Norris Trophy:
Erik Karlsson is the most offensively gifted defenseman in the NHL. Karlsson’s shot attempt percentage (SAT%) was 16th among 60 defensemen who logged at least 1,250 minutes of ice time at even strength. His SAT% relative to his team’s average ranked 8th among those 60 players.
Karlsson can skate as well as anybody in the league. He skates so effortlessly. There is no pulse, no panic in his game. He led all Norris Trophy candidates in points, goals and assists (tied).
The biggest knock against Karlsson was his defensive game and he’s even improved upon that in the last few years, most notably this year. Last year Karlsson had a +/- of -15 compared to a solid +7 this year. Not to mention, Karlsson also had more hits (yes, you read that right), more takeaways, less giveaways and was vastly more productive at even strength — compared to Subban who did most of his offensive damage while the Habs were on the power play (yet the Habs still had a horrendous PP in the first round).
On top of all that, Karlsson leads all 3 of the Norris Trophy candidates (Karlsson, Doughty, Subban) in iCorsi and iFenwick (396 and 260 respectively).
Why Subban should win the Norris Trophy:
Subban and Karlsson have a similar offensive style of play; defensively it’s a different story. The Montreal Canadiens’ defensive prowess was centered around Subban (and Price) this season as the team allowed the fewest goals against (189). Subban played every game, hitting career highs in goals (15), assists (45), points (60), plus/minus (+21), game-winning goals (5) and shooting percentage (8.8%). Subban’s offensive numbers don’t appear to reach the same level as Karlsson’s. However, Subban did have more than double the +/- of Karlsson at +21 vs Karlsson’s +7.
If you also look at Subban’s total TOI (2,148:40) and divide it by the amount of points he had (60), you’ll get an average of 0.0279 points per minute played vs Karlsson’s 0.0277. This shows that Subban generated (marginally) more points than Karlsson and was more effective offensively than his Ottawa rival; albeit a VERY small differential, nevertheless it’s still something to consider.
Subban is an all-situation player, playing 2:09 per-game short-handed. Karlsson has scarcely played on the penalty kill. In a some ways, Subban is a more defensive version of Karlsson… minus the diving and disciplinary issues of course.
“So who should win?” You may ask. Well there’s no end-all-be-all answer and it’s subjective to each person’s perspective on which stats are more important. So for now, we’ll have to wait until June 24th to find out.
Who you think should win the Norris Trophy? Comment below.
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Moe Omer, is an Ottawa Senators writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @Momo_Omer.