There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Erik Karlsson was well on his way to repeating as the Norris Trophy winner for the NHL’s top defenseman until one year ago when his season was derailed by Matt Cooke‘s skate.
P.K. Subban was the eventual winner of the award, taking it away from Karlsson.
Well, the way he is playing these days, Karlsson wants the hardware back. But, what does he need to do in order to make that happen?
1. Be On The Olympic All-Star Team & Be Named Best Defenseman In Sochi
No, the Olympics should not count towards the balloting, but lets face it, it can’t hurt. There will not be more media eyeballs on him at any one time this season than there will be in this two week period. It is a chance for Karlsson to showcase his abilities on the biggest stage, in front of some people who, like it or not, just vote from the stats page. Being named the top defenseman at the tournament won’t guarantee a Norris (just ask Brian Rafalski) but it will open a lot of sportswriters’ eyes.
2. Get to 20 Goals & 70 Points
With 23 games left in the season, Karlsson is 5 goals and 20 points behind those totals. He leads Duncan Keith by 7 points and is tied with Shea Weber for the league lead in goals among defensemen. 70 points should be enough to lead all blueliners in scoring by a pretty wide margin and is a decent total for any defenseman.
3. Get To An Even +/- Rating
This is perhaps the most important factor. Currently sitting at -14, Karlsson needs to get that at least to even or better. Keith, who would be my pick for the Norris if it were handed out today, has a +19 rating, albeit on a significantly better team. The +/- rating is not be all, end all, but combine it with Karlsson’s reputation not being so great in his own end, and the low minus rating will scare some voters off, no matter how many points he puts up.