I'm sure I'm opening myself up to get pummeled here, but that's okay I just want a discussion about something that most definitely does not involve Steve Yzerman.
Bobby Orr comfortably won the 1967-68 Norris trophy over JC Tremblay and others:
NORRIS: (216/216, 108-108)
1. Bobby Orr, Bos 68 (56-12)
2. J.C. Tremblay, Mtl 31 (5-26)
3. Tim Horton, Tor 30 (22-8)
4. Jim Neilson, NYR 26 (0-26)
5. Jacques Laperriere, Mtl 15 (3-12)
6. Pierre Pilote, Chi 11 (11-0)
7. Bill White, LA 9 (1-8)
8. Mike McMahon, Min 8 (0-8)
9. Ted Green, Bos 6 (0-6)
10. Harry Howell, NYR 5 (3-2)
11. Gary Bergman, Det 4 (4-0)
Also, he finished a comfortable 4th overall in Hart trophy voting, ahead of Howe and Esposito:
HART: (216/216, 108-108)
1. Stan Mikita, Chi C 52 (34-18)
2. Jean Beliveau, Mtl C 43 (4-39)
3. Bobby Hull, Chi LW 32 (32-0)
4. Bobby Orr, Bos D 29 (29-0)
5. Gordie Howe, Det RW 16 (4-12)
6. Phil Esposito, Bos C 11 (0-11)
Now, Orr played only 46 games in a 74 game season, so only 62% of the games. He scored 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points, while being an impressive +30. If pro-rated to 74 games, this comes to 16 goals and 32 assits for 48 points while being +48.
These numbers are quite good, especially in the context of the time period, but they don't strike me as so overwhelming (at least offensively) compared to the league leaders at the time (of course, I'm not arguing any of those offensive leaders deserved the Norris, as none of them are/were regarded as great defensive players). Moreover, the two players who finished behind him in the Hart trophy voting were 3rd and 2nd in the NHL in scoring respectively, behind Hart and Art Ross winner Stan Mikita.
This is of course just a look at the most basic numerical metrics, so I'm not taking a strong opinion on this issue but more putting out there for discussion:
Was Orr's play that season so good to warrant him convincingly beating lesser offensive players, but very good defensive ones, such as Tremblay, Horton, and Howell that played almost full seasons for their respective teams? Feel free to offer up first-hand accounts, advanced statistics, quotes, etc. (but lets go easy on the Legends of Hockey-type fluff and flowery writing). Was his impact in 46 games really so much that such a high Hart trophy finish was warranted? Or is some of this attributable to the fact that everyone expected Orr to be a superstar, and they voted that way a bit too soon?
Incidentally, none of this is intended to be any sort of argument as to Orr's all-time position; I don't think this one season, if one were inclined to downgrade it, affects his "resume" all that much. So it's more about looking at this year in isolation, and not thinking about anything that came after.
To my understanding, the votes were still being split (1st half, 2nd half) that season, and Orr's first half performance before hurting his knee had the Bruins in a position to make the playoffs for the first time in 9 years.
I think it shows how the First Half/Second Half voting that occurred for a while can give you a result like this. I’m willing to bet that if the same voting method was used in 2011, Crosby would have won the Hart, as he would have been the near unanimous 1st half winner, and the 2nd half vote would have been split.
At the very least, this voting makes an analysis of the season interesting. For example:
-Beliveau must have been on fire in the second half of the year. He did miss 15 games that season, and I guessing they were all in the first half. He was voted ‘MVP” of the Second half by a pretty large margin.
-Reverse situation for Hull. Obviously he (and Mikita) had an amazing first half, but they both seem to tail off (Hull moreso than Mikita).
-I’d love to see the breakdown of Esposito’s points with, and without Orr in the lineup. If I was to judge solely based on this information, I’d say he still put up a good amount without Orr, but probably saw his production decrease (given he was 2nd in league scoring overall, but only 5th in second half Hart voting, mainly without Orr it would seem).
-Gordie Howe is amazing. 5th in the Hart, despite playing on the worst team of the O6 that year.
Yeah, the first half of the season for Orr was enough for the voters to give him the Norris. I also think that other factors involved were a little bit of a gap in defensemen at that time. This is before Park, Robinson, Potvin. This is after Harvey and after Pilote's best years. Tremblay is in there which is fine and Horton is another one I certainly wouldn't say anything bad about but in a way it was the perfect season to miss that time because there wasn't another defenseman out there who could have made up for it. One of Park's best years or Potvin's and there is no doubt Orr doesn't win the Norris.
I also think Orr was a very sexy vote too. Many people think he should have won the Hart in 1975 but by then he had won everything and in 1968 people weren't "sick" of him winning everything. We saw this with Gretzky at certain times that he didn't win something (1984 Conn Smythe, 1986 Pearson). He was the new kid on the block in 1968 and he had a much different style that was very popular with the NHL. The Bruins had been so terrible for so long which didn't hurt. I don't know why he got more Hart votes than Esposito though. I am not getting into the Orr/Esposito debate that we've had on here so many times to downgrade Esposito (I always am in the corner that highlights Espo's greatness) but I think the voters may have underrated Esposito that year too, and he played a lumbering style of game which didn't help. Also at that time no one knew the type of player Esposito would become. So it makes sense for Orr to get those votes based on all of that context, I think. Or at least that's the reason why I think it happened.