The discussion for this year’s James Norris Memorial Trophy (awarded to the best NHL defenseman) once again features a defenseman that is scoring boatloads of points, but isn’t a great defender, per se. In years past, we’ve seen high-scoring defensemen like Washington’s Mike Green and Ottawa’s Sergei Gonchar have their names thrown in the ring for the Norris Trophy, despite their limitations at playing defense, and they of course never get more than a nomination, let alone win the Norris. This year, 21-year-old Erik Karlsson, a Swedish-born defenseman for the Ottawa Senators, is considered to be in the thick of the race for the Norris Trophy.
However, many detractors claim that he’s only going to be nominated because he, as of March 4th, 2012, has scored 66 points in 65 games (15 goals, 51 assists). Those same detractors cite that he’s actually not that he’s a defenseman who’s not all that good at playing defense, the same argument that doomed Green and Gonchar in years past. But shouldn’t someone like Karlsson be rewarded for their outstanding play nonetheless? That’s why, in this writer’s opinion, the NHL should add a new trophy to their venerated awards cabinet: the Bobby Orr Trophy, an honor that is bestowed on the most offensive-minded defenseman. Orr, of course was the great Boston Bruins defenseman who was known for his ability to rack up points , so it’s only fitting that this award be named for him (Orr still holds the record for most points scored in a single season by a defenseman; 139 in 1970-71).
Every year offensive-minded defenseman are passed over for the one award that honors their position. This needs to stop. The Mike Greens, the Sergei Gonchars, the Erik Karlssons of the hockey world need to be recognized. After all, the NHL already has a similar honor for wingers and centermen: the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive-minded forward. So why not have an award for the best offensive-minded defenseman? It’s only fair, right? Players like Karlsson are great in their own right. Defensemen aren’t expect to rack up points. They’re supposed to patrol the blue line, keep the puck in the offensive zone, and get it to the forwards, who are then supposed to get the offensive glory. So when someone like Karlsson comes along, and bucks the trend by scoring at a point-per-game pace, a rate usually only met by the best forwards, don’t they deserve to be honored for their skill, production and uniqueness? Because it’s going to be a real shame in July when Erik Karlsson goes home from the NHL Awards ceremony with no hardware for his amazing 2011-12 season.
By lead columnist Arun Morace