Norris by the Numbers - Part III - And The Winner Is...

Is this your Norris winner? - Dilip Vishwanat

Enough stalling. Time to declare our winner for this year's Norris Trophy as the league's best all-around defenceman.

In Part One, we explained what we were trying to do, and established the areas we'd look at and the players we'd consider. In Part Two, we started to look at how the top defenceman in the NHL stacked up against each other this year. Now, there's nothing left to do but reveal our results, and who we think should have received nominations for the Norris Trophy as top defenceman.

If you're one of those impatient types who can't wait any longer, click at the link at the bottom of this article to see the whole list.

The overall results were incredibly close, so we'll start by looking at some Honourable Mentions. With just a small change in one of their individual statistics, any of the following players could have been among the contenders or even considered the most deserving of the Norris:

Rank Name ES PPG PP PPG ZSHIFT SA/60 FEN% PK TOI ES TOI QOC Score
6 Ryan McDonagh 12.90 0.30 3.60 11.10 9.40 4.20 24.50 4.35 70.35
7 Shea Weber 11.85 4.00 3.05 8.70 8.20 3.00 23.75 7.80 70.35
8 Jay Bouwmeester 9.90 2.40 3.90 9.75 8.30 4.65 23.25 7.95 70.10
9 Zdeno Chara 10.35 1.30 2.65 8.40 9.60 5.00 22.50 9.90 69.70
10 P.K. Subban 10.20 10.00 1.10 13.20 10.00 2.25 20.00 2.85 69.60

We mentioned in Part 2 how Subban (and Chara) found themselves at the top of the most different statistical categories, so how do they only land 10th and 9th, respectively? While Subban picked up a massive amount of points over the others here in Power Play points, he gave it all back due to his low Quality of Competition. Subban's Zone Shift and Even Strength Time are lower than the other honourable mentions, too. Chara doesn't have any significantly low statistic to explain it, just a number of middle of the pack scores that dragged him down just enough to leave him out of our finalists.

We had a four-way tie for fourth place, so an emergency tiebreaker procedure was needed. The highest possible score in any one category would earn the higher rank. Our 4th and 5th place finalists both won a category, so McDonagh and Weber settle for Honourable Mention status.

On to the main course.

Our 5 finalists are.....

Ryan Suter

#20 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild

6-1

198

Jan 21, 1985

Rank Name ES PPG PP PPG ZSHIFT SA/60 FEN% PK TOI ES TOI QOC Score
5 Ryan Suter 12.60 5.00 0.75 9.45 8.40 3.30 25.00 5.85 70.35


(7th) (6th) (41st) (14th) (31st) (31st) (1st) (23rd)

The Wild's Mr. Everything, Ryan Suter's case generally relies on his strong offensive play this season (7th among our pool in ES points per game, 6th in PP points per game) and his league-leading ice time (including the most ES ice-time). His possession stats drag him down, rankig near the bottom in Zone Shift, and more importatnly towards the middle of the pack in his Fenwick and QOC numbers. Suter played a lot of minutes, others played a lot harder.

The intersting thing is Suter wsa also the only person in our top 5 to have his main defensive partner also qualify for this list; Wild rookie defender Jonas Brodin (who placed 31st). All in all, a succesful season for the former Predator, who has firmly stepped outside of Shea Weber's shadow.

Dion Phaneuf

#3 / Defenseman / Toronto Maple Leafs

6-3

214

Apr 10, 1985

Rank Name ES PPG PP PPG ZSHIFT SA/60 FEN% PK TOI ES TOI QOC Score
4 Dion Phaneuf 9.00 5.40 2.55 4.50 7.30 4.85 21.75 15.00 70.35


(30th) (5th) (24th) (45th) (45th) (7th) (23rd) (1st)

I'm going to need you to trust me that when i set out to do this, I didn't intend for the Leafs captain to be a contender. And honestly, after Part 2 where Dion Phaneuf finished dead last in two separate categories, I figured any chance Phaneuf had would have disappeared.

Phaneuf's numbers are positively boom-or-bust. He lead the league in QOC, by a considerable margin. He was among the leaders in power play production and in penalty kill ice time, and was middle of the pack in the other categories (of course finishing last in two). So how does Dion land 4th? Because when Dion finished behind the leaders he didn't lose that many points. When Dion finished at the top, he had a significant edge over others.

Consider that QOC and Shots Against got the same weighting; 15 points. Phaneuf finished last in Shots Against, but dropped 7.7 points compared to PK Subban, the leader. Phaneuf had the maximum score for QOC; the 7.3 points he got in Shots Against for coming last? That was the QOC score for Brian Campbell who finsihed 15th. Don't believe anyone who tries to tell you differently; Phaneuf had a season worthy of Norris consideration.

Victor Hedman

#77 / Defenseman / Tampa Bay Lightning

6-6

229

Dec 18, 1990

Rank Name ES PPG PP PPG ZSHIFT SA/60 FEN% PK TOI ES TOI QOC Score
3 Victor Hedman 14.55 0.70 4.25 9.90 8.30 4.05 21.50 7.80 71.05


(3rd) (38th) (3rd) (10th) (33rd) (22nd) (28th) (10th)

Hedman was another bit of a surprising name to land this high on the list, but really when you look at why Phaneuf made it onto the list, Hedman's case is just a little stonger. Hedmand was top 3 in two of our offensive categories, top 10 in a defensive category, and top 10 in a usage category. In the other categories he was firmly in the middle and didn't lose that much ground. The only real blemish was not being used on the power play to the degree of others (38th place in PP PPG), but then again on a team that scored goals for fun, it was Hedman who drew the job of trying to keep order in the defensive end.

Alex Pietrangelo

#27 / Defenseman / St. Louis Blues

6-3

205

Jan 18, 1990

Rank Name ES PPG PP PPG ZSHIFT SA/60 FEN% PK TOI ES TOI QOC Score
2 Alex Pietrangelo 12.90 2.10 1.60 11.40 9.20 4.70 22.50 7.05 71.45


(4th) (26th) (33rd) (4th) (9th) (10th) (13th) (15th)

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock has a reputation for demanding strong defensive play from his team, and generally being difficult for the opponents to play against. So for Hitchcock to have a defensive gem like Pietrangelo, it certainly makes paying his preferred style that much easier.

The 4th overall pick in 2008 was in the Top 10 in every defensive category, and the Top 15 in both usage categories, adding a 4th place in ES PPG for good measure. When we set out to identify the best all-around defenceman in the league, this is the sort of record we were trying to come across, and how Pietrangelo didn't merit consideration for the Norris is puzzling. Only lower Power Play production and some curiously low Zone Shift numbers kept him from being our winner, and he still only was the runner-up by a scant 0.25 points.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes

6-2

190

Jul 17, 1991

Rank Name ES PPG PP PPG ZSHIFT SA/60 FEN% PK TOI ES TOI QOC Score
1 Oliver Ekman-Larsson 11.85 2.70 3.15 7.80 8.60 4.70 21.50 11.40 71.70


(12th) (22nd) (11th) (31st) (24th) (10th) (28th) (2nd)

Hidden away in Phoenix, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a gem. A model of consistency, he never stood out in any particular category (except QOC where he finished a distant 2nd to Phaneuf). His consistency across the board secures him our selection for this year's Norris Trophy; he simply had no weak point this season compared to his peers, staying within the pack in all categories and never losing too many points to the leaders. So when Dion Phaneuf scored an outrageous QOC score that left the field in the dust, but OEL doesn't fall too far behind, that powers him to the top of the list.

It's funny from a Leaf fan perspective to note that according to our formula, the top 2 defenceman in the league this season were both taken one pick before the Leafs picked (Pietrangelo in 2008 right before the Leafs took Luke Schenn, Ekman-Larsson in 2009 one selection before Nazem Kadri). What might have been.

Congratulations to Oliver Ekman-Larsson on not being nominated for the Norris Trophy he should have won this season.

The full spreadsheet with data can be found here - Norris by the Numbers

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