We’re closing in on awards voting season, which means we’re already well into awards arguing season. And this year, the biggest argument so far has centered on the Norris Trophy for the league’s best defenceman. Despite Erik Karlsson‘s gaudy offensive totals, there’s a strong sense that this could finally be the year that Drew Doughty earns his first nod.
We can save the Doughty vs. Karlsson debate for another day. But there’s an interesting undercurrent to this year’s Norris talk, and it goes something like this: Doughty is just due. The guy has been one of the best defencemen in the league for the better part of a decade, and it’s somewhat shocking that he hasn’t won a Norris or two already. If the race is close, the thinking goes, he might deserve the trophy as a sort of make-good on all those previous snubs.
Putting aside the idea that it seems odd to be giving out lifetime achievement awards to a guy who’s only 26 years old, the argument makes a certain type of sense. But only if you buy the central premise – that Doughty has been narrowly missing out on the Norris for years. Fair is fair, and maybe you really do nudge a guy up your list if he’s continually posted Norris-worthy seasons, only to fall just short when the ballots are counted.
But has he? Let’s take a look back through all seven previous seasons of Doughty’s career and find out.
(All award voting data in this post comes from hockey-reference.com.)
2008-09Norris winner: Zdeno Chara, who narrowly edged out Mike Green’s 31-goal season in a minor upset to earn his only Norris.
Doughty’s finish: No votes.
The case for Doughty: There wasn’t one, which is what you’d expect – Doughty was a teenaged rookie, so the fact that he was even able to handle a regular shift at the NHL level was impressive enough. He finished fifth in the Calder voting, well back of winner Steve Mason, and was named to the all-rookie first team.
Bottom line: No Norris case here. But Doughty would get to that level quickly.
2009-10Norris winner: Duncan Keith, winning his first of two so far. Green finished second again.
Doughty’s finish: Doughty finished third in the voting, a stunning performance for a guy who was still 19 years old on opening night. He didn’t come all that close to winning – he had 15 first place votes to Keith’s 76 – but it was clear the Kings had something special.
The case for Doughty: It’s tough to argue with the Keith pick in what would stand as his breakout season. He posted 69 points while averaging 26:36 ice time and posting excellent possession numbers, topping Doughty in each of those categories. The gap in voting reflects that, although you have to figure that at least a few voters also figured that Doughty’s performance at such a young age meant that future Norris honours were inevitable.
Bottom line: Nobody would argue that Doughty had already peaked, although it’s interesting to note that he’s yet to come close to matching this season’s 59 points. That’s largely due to the Kings’ transition into the league’s top defensive team, one that’s paid off with two Stanley Cups, but could be hurting Doughty’s offensive numbers.