OTTAWA - Erik Karlsson has heard the debate.
In fact, he hasn’t been able to avoid the noise.
With the final ballots for trophy voting by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association due next week, should the high-scoring Senators defenceman win the Norris Trophy as the league’s top blueliner?
And if Karlsson had a ballot, who would get his vote?
“If I couldn’t vote for myself, I would probably vote for (Nashville’s) Shea Weber,” said Karlsson Wednesday.
Until the winner is announced in Las Vegas at the NHL Awards Show in June, the debate will continue to rage over whether the 21-year-old Karlsson should carry home the hardware.
Goalie Craig Anderson, who has played behind Karlsson on many nights, wonders why it’s even up for discussion.
Karlsson is plus-19 and, with 19 goals and 58 assists and two games remaining, will easily win the defenceman scoring crown. It’s not even going to be close with Karlsson holding a 25-point lead over Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Florida’s Brian Campbell.
“Chara is plus-33 and he’s on the best team in the league for goal differential. We have plus-13 differential and they are at plus (64). Right there, that shows you (Karlsson) is a competitor offensively and defensively,” said Anderson.
“If he doesn’t win (the Norris), then I think all the voters need to look at themselves in the mirror and really readjust what they’re looking at to be the best defenceman in the league.”
Anderson said Karlsson is a franchise player.
“He’s been outstanding for us. He’s created an identity for himself that when he’s on the ice, he makes things happen,” said Anderson. “The biggest thing I’ve seen in his game is that he’s a two-way player.
“If he makes a mistake, he’s the first guy back and he makes a big play defensively. We wouldn’t be where we are now without him. Hands down, he is one of the main reasons why we sit where we sit.
“I can’t say that for any other defenceman in the league right now, that their team is so dependent on one player. Not that we rely on him alone, but in the grand scheme of things, he is the Sidney Crosby, or whatever you want to call him, of our team.”
Karlsson said he’ll leave it up to the “experts” to decide.
“It’s something (the media) likes to talk about a lot and I’m happy for you guys,” said Karlsson. “It’s a very fun thing to be a part of and something you take a lot of pride in.
“To be mentioned with the guys who are up there is something that I really like. I want to be up there and now it’s just up to me to show I can be there for a number of years and not just this year.”
Karlsson doesn’t feel any pressure.
“Every season there is always something to talk about and this season it seems like it is me,” he said. “It’s something you have to shut out a bit. I can’t really focus on it too much. I’m happy people appreciate what I’m doing and what I’m doing on the ice.”
THIS 'N' THAT
G Ben Bishop, who left midway through a game against Pittsburgh on March 24 with what’s believed to be a groin injury, said he is feeling fine. “I’ve been skating for five days now and for two practices, a good hard practice (Wednesday) and there and no pain or anything. I feel good,” said Bishop. Coach Paul MacLean will play Craig Anderson Saturday in New Jersey in the regular-season finale. “We just want to make sure everybody gets ready to play,” said MacLean. “Ben needs to play. We just want to make sure he gets a game in before (the playoffs).” ... Ds Matt Carkner and Chris Phillips will grow beards in the post-season as part of an NHLPA playoff Beard-a-Thon to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “We’re going to try to get a lot of the guys involved,” said Carkner.