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Stating our case for the Norris winner

Thursday, 06.17.2010 / 10:29 AM / Features
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Stating our case for the Norris winner
The battle to win the 2010 Norris Trophy is a nit-picking comparison between the NHL\'s top 3 blue-line scorers. Here\'s how our NHL.com writers would cast their vote.
Duncan Keith's value to the Blackhawks is deeper than the numbers he tallies.

All this week is Awards Poll Week at NHL.com, where our collection of staff writers is stating a case for each finalist in some of the League's major postseason awards. We have opinions and we're not hesitant to share them.

Up for the James Norris Memorial Trophy are Washington's Mike Green -- his second nomination in as many seasons -- and first-time finalists Duncan Keith of Chicago and Drew Doughty of Los Angeles. They finished 1-2-3 among defensemen in scoring, respectively, during the regular season.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is presented annually "to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position." The winner is selected in a poll by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.

The winner will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards, to be held in Las Vegas on June 23. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on Versus in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Here's how the NHL.com writers would cast their vote:

Why Drew Doughty should win …

If any player is worthy of becoming the second-youngest defenseman in NHL history to win the Norris Trophy, Drew Doughty of the Kings certainly fits the bill.

Truth is, the young Doughty is already well beyond his years in physicality, authoritativeness and maturity. He had more hits (157) than the other two Norris candidates -- Washington's Mike Green (133) and Chicago's Duncan Keith (46) -- in 82 games for the Kings.

But don't think for a second the 20-year-old lacks some offensive flair.

Among NHL defensemen, Doughty ranked third in overall scoring with 59 points, was second in goals (16), fifth in assists (43), third in shooting percentage (11.3 percent) and eleventh with a plus-20 rating. He tied for second in power-play goals (9) and ranked first in game-winners (5) along the blue line while placing 13th in ice time per game (24:58).

Doughty's coming-out party was the 2010 Olympics under the tutelage of Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. His appearance in Vancouver made him the youngest Canadian to play in an elite international tournament since 18-year-old Eric Lindros skated in the 1991 Canada Cup. Doughty edged notable defensemen Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf for that final spot on the blue line and proved to be an invaluable piece in the team's gold medal-winning puzzle. Babcock had him on the ice in the most critical situations at even strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill.

Los Angeles coach Terry Murray feels Doughty's age shouldn't be a factor when determining this year's Norris Trophy winner.

"He is deserving, absolutely," Murray said. "There has to be a lot of consideration for him. His statistics, his points and, most importantly, his defensive play -- he's a high-plus player. He plays lots of minutes, critical minutes. That earns him the right to get some consideration."

If he does earn the award, Doughty, who won't turn 21 until Dec. 8, would become the second-youngest Norris Trophy winner in League history -- Boston's Bobby Orr won his first of a record eight straight in 1968 at 20 years and 3 months.

-- Mike Morreale


Why Mike Green should win …

Bruce Boudreau needed a megaphone and a large audience the day Mike Green was named a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Washington's proud and vindicated coach wanted to loudly lecture all of the young defenseman's detractors who say he's flawed.

Boudreau was instead offered an audience of around a dozen reporters standing in front of the Capitals' dressing room at Verizon Center two hours prior to Game 5 against Montreal on April 23. He still detailed his logical reasons as to why Green deserves to be named the NHL's best defenseman.

"These awards are all given out for statistics," Boudreau said. "If you want to make a statistic for something he does negatively then feel free, but he's got the best statistics all around for a defenseman -- and he's not a forward, he's a defenseman and he does it from there.

"We had the best regular season. We had the best power play. He's a huge part of all of this," the coach continued. "When you start nitpicking on him and start saying, 'Oh, look, he was on the ice for that goal against, he made that mistake,' well I turn the TV on an awful lot and the same thing happens with Drew (Doughty) and Duncan (Keith) but nobody ever mentions that and it drives me nuts."

So, yes, if Boudreau had a vote for the Norris Trophy it would go to Green. Same with this writer.

These awards are all based on stats, and no defenseman in the NHL had better numbers than Green, who finished with 76 points (19 goals, 57 assists) and a plus-39 rating in 75 games. The only blueliner with a better plus-minus rating was his own teammate and defense partner, Jeff Schultz, who was plus-50 largely because he played on the left side of Green.

Green hears it from his detractors because they see him on the ice for a goal against and immediately it's his fault. Considering he plays more than 25 minutes a night and is asked by Boudreau to jump into the rush, to act as a fourth forward, occasionally he'll be on the short end of a goal against and will probably look bad in the process.

His critics, though, tend to forget how good Green looks when he's creating offense. He was the best defenseman in the business at doing that this season. He struggled in the playoffs, but this award is for the regular season and no blueliner had a bigger impact on his team's success than Green.

-- Dan Rosen

Why Duncan Keith should win …

When it comes to sheer numbers, it's easy to look at Duncan Keith's statistics and say they don't compare to those of Washington's Mike Green. With the way the Norris Trophy is treated by voters these days, that will be the first thing many people look at.

But upon closer inspection, Keith had the far more impressive offensive season.

Sure, Green finished with 19 goals, 57 assists and 76 points while Keith trailed in all three categories with 14 goals, 55 assists and 69 points. But Keith was by far the better player at even strength.

Green compiled 35 of his 76 points (46.1 percent) on the power play, while Keith recorded only 16 of his 69 points (23.3 percent) with the Hawks playing a man up. Excelling on the power play isn't a reason to vote against someone, but having the ability to generate most of your offense while playing 5-on-5 is a far more valuable asset.

Keith's other competitor for the Norris -- Los Angeles' Drew Doughty -- is far more of a physical presence. Keith registered just 46 hits last season, about four fewer hits than Justin Bieber had over that same time frame. Doughty, meanwhile, had 157 hits, most among the finalists.

But Keith's game isn't about dishing out punishment. His game is speed and positioning, and few are as good or better right now. His 143 blocked shots are a testament to being in the right place at the right time, and the fact Keith faced the opposition's top offensive players every game and still managed to finish ninth among defensemen at plus-21 shows his two-way value.

Perhaps most impressive is how Keith does it all while playing 26:35 per game, the second-most ice time in the NHL. He's a workhorse who can jumpstart the offense from the back end while being counted on to defend against the League's best scorers.

In every category that matters, Keith comes out on top.

-- Dave Lozo


Author: NHL.com Staff