OTTAWA - It really should be no contest.
Erik Karlsson better walk away with the Norris Trophy Wednesday night at the 2012 NHL Awards at Encore Theater in Wynn Las Vegas.
If he doesn’t, the process is a joke.
The 22-year-old Swede was clearly the best defenceman in the league this season.
Boston’s Zdeno Chara was good, as always. So was Nashville’s Shea Weber. But neither had anything close to the spectacular season enjoyed by Karlsson.
The award is supposed to go to this season’s best defenceman, not the best over a longer stretch of time. That’s why it belongs to Karlsson.
The numbers say it all — and really, that should be all that counts.
Karlsson had 19 goals and 59 assists for 78 points, 25 more than Dustin Byfuglien and Brian Campbell, who were tied as the NHL’s second highest scoring blueliners.
Chara had 52, while Weber racked up 49. Neither could be spotted in Karlsson’s rear-view mirror.
And please, do not argue that Chara and Weber are so much better defensively than Karlsson. Karlsson’s quick stick, improved angling of opponents and blazing speed are assets that don’t get enough credit in such debates.
Chara did post an outstanding plus-33, but he also played on a team that scored 67 more even strength goals than it gave up. Weber was plus-21 on the Predators, who were plus-27 as a group.
The Senators were plus-9 as a whole, while Karlsson was a plus-16.
Weber played more than the other two, averaging 26:09 of ice time per game. Chara played exactly 25 minutes a night.
Karlsson averaged 25:19, so to suggest he wasn’t often on the ice against the other team’s best players is to say they didn’t play much against the Senators.
The problem with some NHL awards is that the voting is done by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Now, this isn’t saying we don’t know our stuff, but too many of us don’t see teams — especially those in the conference we don’t cover regularly — nearly enough to make a truly educated evaluation.
For example, some voters in the East witnessed Weber play once, just as there are writers in the West who saw Karlsson live once. You can’t properly determine how good a player is watching him on TV — especially a defenceman. It’s wrong to assume Karlsson isn’t in Chara and Weber’s league defensively because he is so much smaller, or because he is a top point producer.
If the writers are going to vote for the Norris, they have to go largely by the numbers, not by reputations or the opinions of others. If you throw all the numbers together, there should be no question as to who deserves the Norris Trophy this season.
If Karlsson doesn’t walk away with it, there will be no greater argument as to why the system needs to change.
Twenty-five points is too big a bulge to ignore.
TAKING HIS TIME
Daniel Alfredsson is in Las Vegas for the awards and then is heading back to Ottawa to pick up his family for a trip to Sweden. The Senators captain will spend most of the next eight weeks in his homeland, where he’s expected to decide if he’ll retire or play a 17th season with the Senators.
“I haven’t gotten to a point where I’ve made a decision yet,” Alfredsson told Sens TV in Las Vegas, where he’s up for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. “I had a setback about a week and a half ago, when I got sick. I started working out and had a throat virus that set me back for over a week. I was in bed pretty much for five days, didn’t eat much and had a hard time swallowing. So I’m just getting back into training again and I’m probably going to take a little bit more time before I know where I stand in my training and my motivation, more than anything, and go from there.
“I don’t feel that it’s difficult in a way that it’s weighing on me every day,” he added. “But at the same time, I want to make sure I make the right decision. I’m not there right now.
PRE-SEASON SKED SET
The Senators will have seven games in six nights if the owners and players can agree on a new CBA in time for the NHL to have an exhibition schedule in the fall.
For the first time, the Senators will have split-squad contests when they play the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Place and in Barrie on Sept. 30.
The Senators’ pre-season schedule is slated to begin Sept. 23 when they visit the Montreal Canadiens. Their first home game will be two nights later with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town.
Along with the Islanders games and home-and-home games against the Habs and Leafs, the Senators wrap up their exhibition schedule Oct. 6 in Winnipeg.
The regular-season schedule will be announced at a later date.
2012-13 Ottawa Senators pre-season schedule (all times Eastern)
- Sunday, Sept. 23: Ottawa at Montreal, 7 p.m.
- Monday, Sept. 24: Ottawa at Toronto, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, Sept. 25: Toronto at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, Sept. 27: Montreal at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Sept. 30: Ottawa vs. N.Y. Islanders, 5 p.m., (at Barrie, Ont.)
- Sunday, Sept. 30: N.Y. Islanders at Ottawa, TBA
- Saturday, Oct. 6: Ottawa at Winnipeg, 8 p.m.