Fun fact: Before I became a moderate sports writer, I now, I intended to be a lawyer.
I have a political science degree and barely open LSAT study book to prove it.
Obviously, this did not happen. But one of the main reasons that got me on my way to law school was that my parents always told me, with gritted teeth, that I was too good to argue.
So, that’s what I’m going to do today.
As your dear readers as a jury, I’m going to pick four leading candidates for the Norris Trophy this season and present a case – pro bono, of course – why everyone should take home hardware.
Let’s do it, what are we? The court is now in session.
Black Makar-Colorado Snowfall
Stat line: 66 GP, 24 goals, 51 assists, 75 points, 25:39 TOI
Kale Makar is such a good man. Just so good. Makar is a prototypical modern defender; A puck-moving machine with incredible hockey sense, a highlight reel skill set, and lateral movement breaks the ankle to pieces.
Digging under the influence of Makar is a multi-level exercise. The stats are one thing – the man is scoring 92-points for Pete as a 23-year-old defender – but that’s the underlying number where Makar’s dominance and ability to promote his team is really brilliant.
When Makar is on the ice at equal-strength, Avalanche out-scores and out-chances their opponents by a wide margin, creating 57 percent of the expected goals and chances to score, respectively. This is especially good and significant when Makar averages about 26 minutes per game against the best competition.
So, thanks to Makar, the best team on the ice at a large margin for about half of each game is Avalanche. What more could you ask for from a single player?
The best part is that Makar will get better as the years go by – especially on the defensive end, where he has already averaged just over three seasons in his NHL career. However, this season is also quite spectacular. And when calculating for everything, if you put a gun to my head so rudely, he’s probably my Norris favorite.
Roman Josie – Nashville hunter
State line: 67 GP, 19 goals, 65 assists, 84 points, 25:17 TOI
What Roman Josie is doing aggressively this season is totally unreasonable.
How many teams spend an entire organizational era looking for a forward capable of scoring at 103-point speeds? Josie is doing in 2021-22 that as a defender, who logs against his opponent’s best for more than 25 minutes every night, he has to give everything he needs to help the hunters pull to their current position at the top of the Western Conference wild card race.
Josie’s fancy figures aren’t as brilliant as Makar’s – it’s a pretty high bar, fairly – but the 31-year-old is still on the ice for Nashville when it comes to scoring goals as expected and equal power, driving back-end offense more than anyone else in the league. Good.
We are in a golden age of truly offensive defenders, with Josie leading the way. Captain Tears of Prides has reached new heights at the age of 31, and Father Time looks like a coward.
Deploying its tilt, highlighted by the 61 percent share of the offensive zone startup, could give Josie Norris the case somewhat to the defensive conservatives there. But I say: The future is now, old. Embrace the new era of aggressive blueliner brightness.
And given the way Norris usually goes to the height-scoring defender, that means it’s in Josie’s bag.
Victor Headman – Tampa Bay Lightning
Stat line: 70 GP, 19 goals, 48 assists, 67 points, 25:20 TOI
Talking about Victor Headman as the Norris candidate is a lot like being a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise.
That’s great, and whenever it comes up I’ll jump at the chance to heap praise. But we’ve been doing this same song and dance for over a decade now, and I don’t know what else to say.
Headman is one of the best defenders in the league. You know that. I know that. Your dog knows that. But after an unusually mediocre 2021, where he still received the Norris nomination, Greater Sweden came back with a vengeance, scoring at almost a point-per-game pace while scoring the best-anticipated goal and scoring a number of chances throughout his career and a Driving game at insane clips, to boot.
Based solely on reputation, voters are stacked in favor of the deck headman when it comes to casting their final ballot. The 31-year-old Norris has finished the top-three in voting over the past five years, after all, even scattering his first win in 2018.
Last season’s nomination may have been somewhat ineligible, but Headman calmed the skeptics in 2021-22. And if Tampa can fix the last stretch of the season, the narrative will almost certainly give him a big push.
Adam Fox – New York Rangers
Stat line: 68 GP, 10 goals, 57 assists, 67 points, 24:02 TOI
The NHL has not crowned the Norris winner in 15 consecutive years, with Nicholas Lindstrom being the last defender with three consecutive wins from 2005-2008, meaning he has no accurate history in Adam Fox’s history. The party when it comes to defending its title.
Although I wouldn’t count on a 24 year old.
Fox’s fancy stats have dwindled since his unreasonable sophomore season. But the Rangers Blueliner offensively crank things up, scoring point-per-game speeds while logging heavy minutes for some extended responsibilities.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in the Rangers roster, which was the title of the season, was the lack of secondary scoring. Fox went out and gave it to them himself, adding a legitimate weapon to New York’s back-end that could be trusted even in his own zone and move the ice pack with the best of them.
That’s pretty impressive. And in the eyes of Norris voters, that may be enough.