Erik Karlsson has reached the point that he should merit some consideration for the Norris Trophy, and the league’s leading scorer among defensemen has established that he should be at least in the conversation if not a finalist.
I would argue that the third year defenseman should also be in the conversation when it comes to the MVP.
There hasn’t been a blueliner to win the Hart Trophy since Chris Pronger in 2000. In fact, Pronger is the only d-man since Bobby Orr‘s three-peat from 1970-72 to capture the league’s top individual honour. Pronger also won the Norris in his MVP year.
Could Karlsson buck the trend this season? Obviously he is turning lots of heads around the league, based on his near 1 million votes for the All-Star game. There was a huge VOTE ALFIE campaign and Karlsson beat him in voting by over 41,000 votes, so some of Karlssons votes obviously came from outside the Ottawa bubble.
Has he earned the respect of the voters, the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association? Not likely, but if he continues to put up points at a pace that has him at or near the top 10 in scoring he will have to garner some consideration.
I know his defense in in question, and he does turn the puck over more than the average player. I would argue that when you handle the puck as much as he does, turnovers and giveaways are bound to happen. Its that law of averages. Gary Galley used to say when he was on the radio in Ottawa that Ray Bourque used to have 2 or 3 awful turnovers per game, but it was a function of handling the puck so often. And Karlsson’s defensive play isn’t as bad a many people believe. If you watch him on a nightly basis, it has improved substantially from last year, and you rarely see him get beat one on one any more. Sometimes he might seem out of position in his own end, but that is because with his size, he must anticipate where the puck is going and not wait for it to happen. Sometimes he guesses wrong, as is the case with any defenseman.
No blueliner has been in the top 15 in scoring since the lockout. Mike Green (21st) came closest in 2009-10 with 76 points. Karlsson has been Ottawa’s best player on a consistent basis, and if Ottawa manages to finish with a relatively high (1-5 or so) playoff position, he deserves some love considering the club was picked to finish in the bottom of the league.
The Hart is defined as the award given to the player most valuable to his team, and I don’t know of a player this season who has meant more to his club than Karlsson has to Ottawa.
I think he will. Remember, you heard it here FIRST!
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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