Top five Norris candidates

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson is looking more and more like a serious Norris Trophy candidate....

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson is looking more and more like a serious Norris Trophy candidate. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency file photo)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:00 AM ET

OTTAWA - There is no debate in Ottawa who should win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman.

It’s Erik Karlsson, hands down. No need for the voting to take place. The people with the ballots — the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association — may feel differently.

Not Ottawa fans, though.

Karlsson leads NHL defencemen in scoring, he’s played well defensively, he’s put up huge minutes, he’s been one of the best players and, without question, Karlsson is playing a large role in why the Senators are in the playoff hunt.

You aren’t going to get any argument here. Coach Paul MacLean won’t give you one, either. But nobody is just going to hand Karlsson the award. Here’s a look at Karlsson and some of the candidates he’s up against.

I have no question he’ll be in Las Vegas in June for the NHL awards as a finalist. Just not ready to declare him a winner.

Here’s a look at the field:

1. Nicklas Lidstrom

People will tell you this guy just gets better with age. It’s true.

He’s 41, still plays a lot of minutes and while he’s sidelined with an injury, Lidstrom isn’t showing any real signs of slowing down. Coach Mike Babcock still relies on Lidstrom a lot. He has pretty much owned this trophy.

With seven Norris titles, he’s got a good chance to win his eighth. The competition is stiff, but the Wings have had success because Lidstrom can take charge when he’s needed the most.

Lidstrom’s best attribute: He keeps it simple and he’s consistent. That’s a pretty high compliment. The Wings want him back for another year.

2. Zdeno Chara

This is a strange one. At 6-foot-9, he has a hard time getting notice from the voters. Really, how could they not see what Chara contributes?

The Bruins have struggled with consistency lately, but Chara has remained at the top of his game. He is a force to be reckoned with and a difference-maker every night. If Chara isn’t in the Boston lineup, his presence is missed.

Chara is contributing offensively with his big shot from the point and he’s got the chance to eclipse his career high of 51 points. He should be there at the end. He is viewed by his opponents as one of the NHL’s best.

3. Erik Karlsson

He’s getting plenty of backing.

Coach Paul MacLean gave his two cents Friday.

“He defends real well and he defends differently than some of the other (hopefuls),” said MacLean. “He’s not as big as some of the other guys, but he uses his feet real well, he uses his stick real well and uses his head real well. He doesn’t have the physicality of some of the other defencemen that would be considered for it, but the fact that he’s gone from a minus-30 last year to a plus-15 this year is a pretty significant difference in the way that he’s learned how to play the game. I think he defends every bit as good as anybody else who’s a candidate.”

4. Shea Weber

The Predators captain has made everybody stand up and take notice of Nashville.

Weber has been one of the most consistent defencemen at both ends of the ice since the 2006-07 campaign. Not only does he contribute offensively, he gets the job defensively and was an impressive plus-18 going into the weekend.

He was third on the club in scoring before Saturday’s game vs. the Panthers with 40 points. No, he’s not going to catch Karlsson for the title, but Weber deserves a look as well. There is no question, he is one of the straws that stirs the drink for the Predators and one of the NHL’s best.

5. Ryan Suter

You’d have to wonder what the Predators would look like without Weber and Suter.

Suter doesn’t always get the notice he deserves because voters tend to give Weber more credit. Suter has been just as valuable with 7-30-37 points before the weekend. This guy can get the job done at both ends of the ice.

There was some belief the Predators might deal Suter because of his status as a UFA this summer. That wasn’t going to happen. Nashville GM David Poile decided chances like this don’t come along very often and got his blueliners help at the trade deadline.

Suter deserves a second look on the ballot.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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