Over the past week, the NHL has begun naming three finalists for each regular season individual award, and on Wednesday they did the same for the Norris Trophy. This is an award given to the best “defence player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position”. While it states that it has to do with both ends of the ice, plenty of fans over the years have complained that the award seems to go to offensive defencemen rather than stay at home defenders.
For this season, the three nominees are Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, and Adam Fox of the New York Rangers. Below, I will review the seasons each of the nominees had as well as who I personally believe should win the award. First, however, is a look at a few players some feel got snubbed for the trophy.
Norris Nomination Snubs
It seems that most fans are in agreeance that the biggest snub from the Norris Trophy candidates this season is Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins. The 23-year-old was arguably his team’s best player this year and averaged a career high 24 minutes of ice time per game.
Unfortunately for McAvoy, he wasn’t able to produce as many points as the three finalists, which like mentioned above seems to often be one of the main cases for the Norris Trophy. Still, in 51 games he managed 30 points, just two shy of his career high. He is only getting better and will remain one of the games best defencemen for a long time.
Florida Panthers defenceman Mackenzie Weegar had without a doubt one of the most underappreciated seasons of all NHLers this year. The 27-year-old had a very unexpected breakout, doubling his previous career high in points with 36 despite playing in only 54 games.
One of the biggest things going against Weegar was simply that the Panthers as a whole do not get a ton of media attention. Sure, they were a lot better of a team this season, and hopefully that can help them gain more recognition going forward, but as of now they don’t get talked about much. It really is unfortunate because he had a fantastic season, tying Avalanche defenceman Devon Toews for the league lead in plus/minus with a plus29.
While his teammate in Tyson Barrie led all blueliners in points, it was Darnell Nurse who many felt should get Norris Trophy consideration this season. For many years, it was evident just how talented he was, but the consistency wasn’t always there. That changed in a big way this year, as he had a massive breakout season for the Oilers and was a huge part in their regular season success.
Nurse, 26, had by far and away the best offensive season of his career to this point, registering 16 goals and 36 points in 56 contests. Even more impressively, 15 of those goals came at even strength, a number which led all NHL defencemen. Unfortunately, he was stacked up against a tough group this year, but if he is able to continue this consistency moving forward, he may find himself as a Norris finalist in the coming years.
The 2021 Norris Trophy Nominees
For many years now, the Lightning have been one of the best teams in the NHL, and Hedman is a huge reason why. The six-foot-six defenceman is great at both ends of the ice and has been highly regarded as one of the best players in the league for a number of years. He has won the award once before, after a 17 goal, 63-point season in 2017-18.
For the 2020-21 season, Hedman had impressive point totals once again with nine goals and 45 points in 54 games. However, some were quick to point out that his defensive play slipped this season and he was often not given the tough matchups he had in seasons past. While it wasn’t a poor season by any standards, he is very unlikely to win his second ever Norris Trophy this year, and was likely given a nomination due to his name more so than his actual play.
In just his second NHL season, Cale Makar has already earned himself a Norris Trophy nomination. He is simply incredible, and will only continue getting better given that he is just 22-years-old. While this is his first nomination, it will certainly not be his last, as he is a player who everyone expects to have multiple Norris’ before his career is said and done.
Unfortunately, he missed 12 games this season due to injury, which is quite a significant amount of time given that this season was reduced to just 56 games total. Still, there is no denying he made the most of his 44 games, registering eight goals and 44 points, which tied him for fifth amongst all blueliners. Due to his missed time, this may not be his year, but his time will come soon enough.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, expectations were high for 23-year-old Adam Fox after an impressive 42-point rookie season with the New York Rangers. The American born defenceman has had hype around his name for quite some time now given his success at the collegiate level, and he has certainly not disappointed. The Rangers have a very bright future with some great young pieces and he is a huge part of that.
This season, Fox scored five goals and 47 points in 55 games, trailing only Tyson Barrie for all defencemen in scoring. Though it wasn’t enough to help his team get into the playoffs, the Rangers are not nearly as good of a team as either the Avalanche or the Lightning right now, so that shouldn’t be a knock on him. He was incredible at both ends of the ice and finished the season with a plus/minus of plus19. He should, and likely will be, the winner of the Norris Trophy this year.
Outside of Hedman, the nominees along with the snubs go to show just how good the young talent is in the NHL right now. The youth throughout the game is incredible and will only continue to get better, which is fantastic news for the league. It truly leaves awards such as the Norris Trophy up for grabs every single season, with no clear favorites. While next year remains a mystery, however, the 2020-21 season Norris Trophy winner deserves to be Fox.
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