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A closer look at what rocky Norris voting has meant for Zdeno Chara 10.08.14 at 1:56 am ET
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The following is a complementary piece to today’€™s feature on Zdeno Chara. To read the full piece, click here.

Zdeno Chara's lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Zdeno Chara‘s lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last season, Chara finished a distant second to Duncan Keith for the Norris Trophy, which is voted on each season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’€™ Association (full disclosure: I am a voting member who gave Chara my top vote last season).

Intended to go to the league’€™s top defenseman each season, the Norris is perhaps the most up-for-interpretation award on which the writers vote.

Voting, in the eyes of the players and at least this member of the media, is out of control. Either more specific criteria should be set for voters or writers shouldn’€™t determine who wins. The Vezina Trophy, for example, is voted on by NHL general managers. They mess it up sometimes, too, but general managers are (for the most part) smarter than writers.

“A lot of times, it’€™s like a political campaign,” Ray Bourque, a five-time Norris-winner in his day, told WEEI.com.

Defensive metrics are becoming more widely available, but as they become fine-tuned and the hockey world slowly begins to accept them, the statistic that voters continue to look to first remains points. Lunacy.

In 2012, Erik Karlsson won the award, while Chara finished third. The year after that, P.K. Subban won. Both Karlsson and Subban’€™s Norris wins were based exclusively on points; Karlsson did not kill penalties for the Senators and Subban was 12th on the Habs in shorthanded time on ice the year he won.

Yet Subban, after tying for the lead among NHL defensemen in points in his Norris-winning season, finished fifth in points last season but dropped all the way to 14th in voting, receiving a single third-place vote and a single fifth-place vote. So is the award about playing defense or putting up points? If it’€™s the latter, why were Subban’€™s points ignored last season? And why, then, were Mike Green‘€™s 31 goals in Chara’€™s Norris-winning season not enough to wrest the trophy from Chara?

It’€™s that inconsistency in voting that each year brings Chara closer to finishing a Hall of Fame career with just one Norris to show for it.

“You kind of feel like, ‘€˜OK, is this going to ever happen again or is this going to change or are they going to look at it differently?’€™” Chara said. “Because every year they tell you, ‘€˜He didn’€™t get it because he had a lot of points, a lot of goals, but he’€™s not an all-around defenseman.’€™ Then the next year they’€™ll be like, ‘€˜Hey, he’€™s an all-around defenseman but this [other] guy got 25 goals as a defenseman,’€™ so it’€™s like every year it’€™s almost like it swings, the way they look at it. How do you know really [what they want]?”

Over the last 10 seasons, Chara has been a top-three finisher in Norris voting six times and finished in the top five eight times. His only win came in 2008-09, and while both Niklas Lidstrom and Keith have won the award multiple times in that span, no defenseman has finished near the top with Chara’€™s consistency in the last 10 years.

Translation: Chara comes up short a lot.

He loses because of points. In fact, he even understands that though he was the best all-around defenseman in the league last year, his 17 goals (10 of which were on the power play, where he mostly played forward) were probably as big a reason that he got as many votes as he did as his defensive dominance.

Winning the Norris is important to Chara, but he shouldn’€™t expect to win it again. Last season he was as deserving of the award as he usually is –€“ Chara’€™s performance was backed up well by both advanced and old-fashioned stats (his plus-25 rating was tops among the top 10 vote-getters; Shea Weber, who played tougher minutes, was a minus-2) — but he was blown out of the water by Keith, a well-rounded defenseman who was used on Chicago’€™s second pairing to maximize his offensive output. That meant a sensational 61 points (second among defensemen) but it came against easier competition than Chara faced.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com. X-axis: Offensive zone start %. Y-axis: CorsiRel Quality of Competition. Bubble size: Time on ice. Bubble color: Corsi On

The Blackhawks’€™ usage of Keith was brilliant, but it should have done more for Joel Quenneville’€™s Jack Adams (top coach; voted on by broadcasters) candidacy than it did for Keith’€™s Norris odds. Regardless, the voting wasn’€™t close. Keith finished first in votes with 1033 points and 68 first-place votes. Chara was given 667 points, receiving less than a third of Keith’€™s first-place votes with 21.

“I’€™m not mad about Duncan or anybody who is winning the trophy,”€ Chara clarified. “€œI just feel a little bit disappointed at times that I’€™ve really felt I had a strong season, I really had an all-around season and I would deserve it, but it’€™s voting. It’€™s in the hands of writers, and [that] is obviously something that only [writers] who have votes can change and make a difference, if that’€™s something you guys feel should be different.”

Bourque’€™s five Norris seasons give him the fourth-most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom (seven apiece). Keith, who won the award as a shutdown defenseman in 2009-10, is now in the exclusive club of players with multiple Norris wins (12 players).

It’€™s very easy to argue that Chara should be in that club, but both he and anyone who has seen how the votes have fallen over the years should be wise enough to not hold their breath.

“If you want to get me started talking about the Norris Trophy and who should win it and how that all comes about in terms of who wins it in certain years,’€ Bourque said, ‘€œ’€… I think that Karlsson in Ottawa is an incredible offense player, but I think that when you look at the Norris Trophy and the position of DEFENSE-man, and I put an emphasis on DEFENSE-man, it’€™s incredible to me sometimes, the voting and how it all happens.

“Believe me, I’€™ve been there,”€ Bourque added. “I’€™ve been in his shoes many, many times. I won it five times, but it was very frustrating at times, not saying that I’€™ve won it more times.”

Read More: Duncan Keith, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara,
Are the Bruins this year’s Blackhawks? The Blackhawks can see the signs 03.30.11 at 10:54 am ET
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After a game like Tuesday’s, there is most certainly a temptation to look ahead to how far this Bruins team could be going in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s especially tempting when you consider the Bruins dismantled the team that won the Cup last June.

But Tim Thomas isn’t biting, not even after stopping all 32 shots in a 3-0 win over the Blackhawks.

“Haven’€™t thought about it at all, to be honest with you,” Thomas said after his career-best ninth shutout this season and 26th career. “I’€™m just focusing on each game-to-game, and even during the game just trying to play the same way for the whole 60 minutes no matter what the situation. We’€™re pretty good about not think about that kind of stuff lately, so I’€™d prefer not to start now, if you don’€™t mind.

“This was a good challenge for us. Chicago is a good team, I know they’€™re battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. But that’€™s a good thing because you know they’€™re going to bring their ‘A’ game, because those points mean a lot to them. It was a big test, and we responded very well. They’€™re a very fast team and we had our legs going right from the beginning of the game and were able to match them stride for stride.”

If the Bruins are headed for a deep run this spring, Thomas will be a good reason. He turned away every scoring chance in the first period, discouraging the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks so much that even their coach felt his team — battling for its playoff life — was discouraged.

“They were the harder working team tonight,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They play hard. First 10 minutes, we are on our heels. We got back in the game and we didn’€™t do much after they scored first.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2010 Stanley Cup Champs, Boston Bruins, Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks
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