The Nashville Predators are neither a big market team nor a playoff contender in the 2014 season and that has appeared to hurt Defenseman Shea Weber’s chances of winning his first Norris Trophy (the award given to the best all-around defenseman). The Predators, however, are not taking this lightly. In an attempt to raise more awareness of how well Shea Weber has been doing all year for the Predators, the team has decided to make one final push in an attempt to win him his first Norris Trophy by putting out a promotional video for him… and for good reason. Weber has two-second place Norris Trophy finishes under his belt (2011-12; 2010-11) and during this season, he has outshined his own production in both of those years. Unfortunately for Weber, the Norris Trophy in recent times- especially in the years he has finished second in voting- has gone to the best offensive defenseman rather than the best all-around defenseman. However, this season Shea Weber is the best all-around defenseman and should win the Norris Trophy because he ranks among the tops of defensemen in offensive, defensive, and “clutch” production.
In the two seasons that Weber got second place finishes in the Norris Trophy vote, the trophy went to the better offensive defenseman. In the 2011-12 season that saw the Norris Trophy go to youngster Erik Karlsson (OTT), who put up an astonishing 78 points, but the most balanced and all-around best defenseman that season could have gone to Shea Weber. Weber ranked sixth among defensemen in the NHL that season in points scored (tied for first in goals), out hit Karlsson by 117 hits (177 total), out blocked him by 75 blocks (140 total), played roughly 50 seconds more per game than him (26:10 per game), and had a higher shooting percentage than him by one whole percentage point (8.3 percent). Weber eventually lost the vote that year to Karlsson by a mere 12 votes (1069-1057).
In the 2010-11 season, the Norris Trophy went to veteran and future hall-of-fame defenseman Nicklaus Lidstrom. Lidstrom played two-way defense better than Karlsson had in the 2011-12, but Weber outshined the 2010-11 Norris Trophy winner in defensive categories and was most likely the better all-around defenseman. Weber and Lidstrom tied that season in Goals Scored (16) and Lidstrom ended up scoring 14 more total points than Weber (32). However, on the defensive end of the puck, Weber completely outshined Lidstrom. Weber that season racked up 211 hits (160 more than Lidstrom) and 113 blocks (21 more than Lidstrom). Also, among the 20 finalists for the Norris Trophy that year, according to the category of Defensive Point Shares or DPS (an estimate of the number of points contributed by a player due to his defense), Weber ranked sixth with a DPS of 5.5 as Lidstrom ranked dead last with a DPS of 3.3. Weber eventually lost the vote that year to Lidstrom by only nine votes (736-727).
Head coach Barry Trotz has been pushing for Captain Shea Weber to win the Norris Trophy this year- as he should- as Weber has put up some of the best numbers of his career and has responded nicely to whatever coach Trotz has asked him to do, including being tasked with “breaking in” four or “five defensemen.” The 2013-14 season for Nashville has not been ideal; especially for the offense and that has forced Weber to shift his game into more of a defensive approach. The Predators have seen their production in the offensive end diminish from previously being ranked 8th in the NHL two seasons ago to 22nd in the NHL this season. With that being said, the shifting of Nashville’s production and Weber’s game into being more defensively oriented has not seen the kind of drop you would expect to see in his offensive production. In fact… it has had the opposite effect. This season, Weber is on track to put up the most points he has ever had in a single season and has seen his offensive efficiency numbers at its highest as well.
Comparing his offensive numbers this season to the numbers he had when he finished second in the Norris vote, there is no reason he should not be considered, let alone be the frontrunner for the award this season. In the 2010-11 season, Weber had a total of 48 points, including six Power Play Goals. The next year, he saw his total point numbers rise to 49 total points to go along with 10 Power Play Goals. This season, Weber has outshined both of those years scoring a total of 52 points so far to go with 11 Power Play Goals. Comparing his defensive numbers to the years he finished second in the Norris vote, Weber has been forced this season to spend more time in the defensive end of the ice and his numbers show it. As Weber’s Hits totals appear to be dropping every season, his Blocks totals are on the rise. Weber’s Block totals are on the rise because of one simple factor: less team offensive production means more time on defense. Weber has had to play more time on defense than he ever has before and like a true leader, he is sacrificing his body more and more every game. Weber’s block totals went from just 113 in the 2010-11 season to 165 this season. So that is how Weber stacks up against his own production when he had received two second place finishes for the Norris Trophy, but how do Weber’s numbers stack up against the rest of the NHL?
According to ESPN’s top five finalists for the Norris Trophy award, the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy is Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. Keith is then followed in projected order by St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Boston’s Zdeno Chara, St. Louis’ Jay Bouwmeester and Montreal’s Andrei Markov. In order to choose the best all-around defenseman this season, there are certain factors that voters have to take into account. There will definitely be offensive factors taken into consideration; factors like: goals, assists, total points, power play points and offensive efficiency (shot percentage). There probably are also defensive factors that need to be taken into consideration; factors like: hits and blocks. Another possible factor needed to be taken into consideration before the vote should be a “clutch-ness” factor; factors like: time-on-ice (the more time-on-ice the more their team truly leans on them to produce) and game-winning-goals (nothing says “clutch” more than a game-winning-goal). Looking at these factors, no one in ESPN’s top five finalists list shines all-around more than Nashville’s Shea Weber does.
According to the offensive categories, Shea Weber ranks ahead of Chicago’s Duncan Keith in all categories except for Total Points and Assists. Weber leads all NHL defenseman in Goals Scored (21) this season and is fifth in Total Points (52)… eight behind front-runner Keith who has 60 Total Points. Weber ranks first among ESPN’s finalists in Power Play Goals with 11 and is also first in total Power Play Points with 25- that is four points ahead of the second ranked Keith who has 21. In the category of offensive efficiency (shot percentage), Weber again ranks in first place with an 11.2 shot percent- that is one whole percentage point higher than the player second in this category Zdeno Chara (10.2) and is seven percentage points higher than Duncan Keith (3.1).
According to the defensive categories, no one is more balanced than Nashville’s Shea Weber. Weber is second in comparison to the finalists in the defensive category of Hits with 158- four hits behind finalist Zdeno Chara and 122 ahead of Duncan Keith. Weber is ranked second among finalists in the category of Blocks this season with 165- that is 12 behind Andrei Markov and is almost double the amount Duncan Keith has (88).
Lastly, according to the “clutch” category, no one in ESPN’s finalists for the trophy is more “clutch” than Shea Weber. Weber ranks fourth among all NHL defensemen in the category of Time-On-Ice with 26:53- that is a minute and a half more than closest finalist Pietrangelo and is nearly two and a half minutes more than Duncan Keith. In the category of Game-Winning-Goals, Weber leads the pack of finalists again with four- one ahead of Keith and Chara.
Weber has not only outshined his own previous performances in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons when he got second place in the Norris vote, he also has out-performed every single finalist in ESPN’s top five finalists for the Norris Trophy in offensive, defensive and “clutch” categories this season. The fact that Nashville has had to put out a promotional video for a player in order to get recognition for an award that Weber is most deserving for and clearly should be the frontrunner in seems ludicrous… and it is. It would appear that Weber is possibly being overlooked because he plays for a small-market team that is also not in playoff contention rather than the numbers. Weber is quietly posting an offensive year worthy of comparison to the recent winners of the Norris (Lidstrom in 2010-11 who had 20 goals; Karlsson in 2011-12 who had 19 goals) and has also proved to be the best all-around defenseman with the defensive numbers he has posted. If the Norris Trophy and its voters want to remove themselves from the recent stigma of having the trophy going into the hands of only the best offensive defenseman and get back to awarding the trophy to the best all-around defenseman… then voters, Shea Weber should win the Norris Trophy this year.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles