By Ryan Porth
Following Sunday’s Game 3 win in Detroit, Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz said his team’s captain had a "monster" performance. If you’ve been watching the Predators all season, you’d know that it was nothing new.
Shea Weber proves on most nights that he is the top defenceman in the NHL – and he should be rewarded as such when the annual awards are handed out in Las Vegas this summer.
There have been a lot of defensemen worthy of being a finalist for the Norris Trophy this season. Alex Pietrangelo deserves to be among the final three, but how do you select him over Zdeno Chara? How do you select Dan Girardi or Nicklas Lidstrom over those two?
It’s impossible to come up with just three Norris finalists. However, there are two that are getting more love than the others from the voters: Weber and Erik Karlsson.
Karlsson finished the regular season with 78 points – 25 more than the defenseman with the second-most points in the NHL, which is the largest margin since Edmonton’s Paul Coffey had a 38-point edge in 1988-89. Karlsson also became the youngest defencemen to reach the 70-point mark since Brian Leetch back in 1988-89.
Not only is the 21-year-old Swede an offensive dynamo from the blue-line, but he was Ottawa’s MVP in their surprising regular season campaign. It’s hard to imagine the Senators making the playoffs without Karlsson’s presence.
While Karlsson’s defensive game has improved a lot in a short time, he is essentially a fourth forward on the ice. How did that work out for Mike Green and his pursuit of the Norris a few years back?
It could be different for Karlsson, though, since his offensive numbers were overwhelming better than everyone else’s – but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should beat out Weber for the Norris.
By definition, the Norris Trophy is annually given to the "defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."
Ladies and gentlemen, Shea Weber.
Weber is as much a complete package as there can be when it comes to defensemen. He shoots like Al MacInnis and hits like Scott Stevens – and it was all on display in the 2011-12 season.
The 26-year-old British Columbia native co-quarterbacked the Nashville Predators’ power play, which just so happened to finish first in the league in efficiency in the regular season. He finished second on the team with 22 power play points, only trailing his defense partner Ryan Suter by three.
Weber also tied for third with 19 goals in a well-balanced Predators attack, and he could have finished with 20 if it weren’t for a mid-season concussion that caused him to miss four games.
That’s just the offensive side of his game.
The intimidating 6-foot-4 specimen finished the season with a plus-21 rating and an average of just over 26 minutes of ice-time logged per game. The difference between Weber and Karlsson? The Senators’ blue-liner only averaged 33 seconds of shorthanded ice-time throughout the season, while Weber was played the hard minutes in all situations.
More than the time-on-ice and plus/minus numbers, there is no statistic that proves someone is a game-changer. Weber was just that for Nashville. He was a dominant force in his own end and made opponents fight for every inch of ice, as has been the case throughout his career.
"There are lots of good defensemen in this league, but [Shea] brings the overall package, which I think the [Norris Trophy winner] should have," Predators defenseman Kevin Klein said. "I don’t think you see too many guys play as physical in all situations like Webs. He does it all."
Weber should have won the Norris last year, but the voters instead gave it to Lidstrom since it was supposedly his last hurrah. Oops.
Whether it was carrying the team to memorable comebacks against Detroit and Washington in the first half of the season, or completely dominating in statement wins over San Jose and Chicago in the second half, the Predators’ captain was a monster all season and has the résumé to win his first Norris Trophy.
And it should be the first of many.
Who is more deserving of the Norris Trophy?