Will Drew Doughty Finally Take Home the Norris Trophy?

He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious — Yogi Berra

With apologies for the forthcoming malaprop wrapped within a baseball quote, Drew Doughty is amphibious ambidextrous. Not literally, but with respect to his elite two-way style of play.

Who is Drew Doughty?

The question sounds a bit esoteric, so let’s drill down further. What exactly does Doughty bring to the table?

Doughty is a minutes-eater, an offensive wrecking ball, strong both on and off the puck. He doesn’t lead the league in advanced statistical categories, but he’s respectable in both Corsi (57.7%) and Fenwick (57.6%), and the same applies to his physicality (107 hits) and shot blocking prowess (93). If you’re into old-fashioned measurements like +/-, you won’t be disappointed: Doughty ranks eleventh in the league in that category.

By the way, he’s also got two Stanley Cups to his name, not to mention a whole bunch of personal honors and accolades. What’s missing, however, is the highest individual prize bestowed upon an NHL defenseman: the James Norris Memorial Trophy.

Doughty’s Case for the Norris Trophy

We touched upon it already, but let’s dig deeper into where Doughty stands with respect to potentially winning the Norris Trophy this season. Bear in mind, most teams have around ten games left to play, so the situation remains fluid. With that said, how strong is Doughty’s case to win it this year?

Two words: damn strong. Let’s take a look at his rankings among league defensemen in various key statistical categories:

Minutes: Third in the NHL at 28:12 per game.
Goals: Tied for eighth with 14, with an outside chance to set a new career high.
Assists: Fifteenth overall with 32.
Power play goals: Fourth with nine.
Shooting percentage: 23rd at 8.9%. He’s 14th overall in number of shots (167).
Plus/minus: As stated above, he’s eleventh in the entire league, and third among all defensemen.
Hits: 52nd overall.
Blocked shots: 83rd overall with 93.

He’s Come Within a Whisker of the Norris Trophy in the past

Norris
Eric Karlsson edged out Drew Doughty for last year’s Norris Trophy. [photo: Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers]

After having been selected second overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft, Drew Doughty burst upon the scene quickly, putting up six goals and 27 points while averaging 23:50 of ice time per game. He ended up fifth in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting.

During the 2009-10 campaign, his numbers exploded. Doughty scored a career high 16 goals and 43 assists, finishing third in the Norris race behind Duncan Keith and Mike Green.

That wasn’t his only flirtation with the Norris. Doughty ended up in the top ten four other times, including his closest brush yet last season as he was edged out by Erik Karlsson for the coveted trophy.

Will Doughty Win the Norris this Season?

Naturally, nobody knows the answer to that question. By the numbers, he’s got yet another highly compelling case. Although a number of defensemen are having excellent seasons, a subset of the following names — in no particular order — have perhaps the best chance to join Doughty when the Norris Trophy finalists are announced:

Brent Burns: Burns is putting up incredible offensive numbers, with 26 goals and 65 points so far this year. He doesn’t have quite as strong a resume, however, in most non-offensive categories.
Erik Karlsson: Karlsson has already set a career high in assists (60) and is a superior shot blocker.
Kris Letang: Letang has the same number of goals, a few more assists, and is comparable statistically in a number of other areas.
Roman Josi: Josi isn’t the defensive player Doughty is, but he’s put up 11 goals, 40 assists and blocked an incredible 171 shots. His advanced stats are well below Doughty’s.
John Klingberg: Strong offensive numbers (10G, 43A) and possession numbers, although he doesn’t play with physicality or block shots.
P.K. Subban: Having previously won in 2013, Subban is making another strong case this season.

Will Doughty win it this year? He’s playing the most minutes, anchoring a Cup-contending defense and is at or near the top of the league in a myriad of categories. Burns, Karlsson, Letang and Subban are probably his chief competition, with Karlsson and Subban having already won it in the past.

With eleven games remaining on L.A.’s schedule, it could come down to how strongly Doughty finishes the season. Reaching 50 points would definitely help his case, as would team factors like the Kings winning the Pacific division. I’m going to go out on a small, semi-safe limb and say this is his year. Drew Doughty is the current favorite to win this season’s Norris Trophy.