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Norris trophy & playoffs

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Old
12-26-2010, 11:22 PM
  #1
Hockey Outsider
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Norris trophy & playoffs

As most of us are aware, it's extremely difficult to win the Hart trophy playing on a non-playoff team. Since expansion, only one player won the Hart on a non-playoff team (Lemieux in 1988). Before that, you'd have to go back to Andy Bathgate in 1959.

Hart finalists sometimes come from non-playoff teams, but that's also very rare. In the past two decades we have Iginla (2002), Selanne (1998) and Vanbiesbrouck (1994).

I recently noticed that every Norris trophy winner has played on a playoff team. No exceptions. I tried thinking of Norris finalists from non-playoff teams - off the top of my head, I can't think of any examples from the past twenty years.

Two questions:

1. Does it really make sense that every Norris winner should come from a playoff team? When discussing the Hart ("most valuable") you can argue that a player wasn't all that valuable if his team didn't make the playoffs, but the Norris supposed to be for the player who "demonstrates... the greatest all-round ability". It doesn't sound like making the playoffs should be prerequisite.

2. Are there any Norris finalists from a non-playoff team? Couldn't think of any from the past twenty years but haven't done any research on this.

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12-26-2010, 11:31 PM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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I think it's two things:

Since defensive play is so subjective, I think there's an attitude that "if he was really that good of a defenseman, his team would have made the playoffs."

Also, IMO, a #1 defenseman is the most important position on the ice, so if you have the best in the league, it's highly likely you will be in the playoffs.

As for your other question, I would imagine that Bill Gadsby was probably a Norris finalist without making the playoffs. Salming might have done it too.

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12-27-2010, 12:22 AM
  #3
nik jr
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i don't like the de facto requirement of making the playoffs. hockey teams rely very much on depth.


norris finalists who missed the playoffs:

'59: gadsby and pronovost
'67: orr
'68: horton

pronovost and orr played for last place teams. '67 bruins were very bad: 17-43-10 with -71 goal differential.

horton's team was above .500 and probably would have made the playoffs if the divisions had been balanced.

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12-27-2010, 04:39 AM
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Brian Leetch 2001-02 is probably the best candidate.

I also think that Mark Streit is somewhat underappreciated, specially his 2008-09-season, though he did finish eight for Norris.

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12-27-2010, 04:43 AM
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
I think it's two things:

Since defensive play is so subjective, I think there's an attitude that "if he was really that good of a defenseman, his team would have made the playoffs."

Also, IMO, a #1 defenseman is the most important position on the ice, so if you have the best in the league, it's highly likely you will be in the playoffs.

As for your other question, I would imagine that Bill Gadsby was probably a Norris finalist without making the playoffs. Salming might have done it too.
I would add that a lot of trophy voting seems to coincide with 'buzz' over certain players and how well they're doing, and it's usually centered around teams that are considered contenders or ones that are overachieving. Reputation probably plays a part as well, as the guys on top teams are generally regarded as having something extra about them that makes them better, and if an established Norris-candidate's team starts to go downhill, he's usually associated with that even if it's not his play that's slipping (and while the Sharks will likely make the playoffs, an example might be how little Boyle gets mentioned in Norris talks this year, when it's really the rest of the defense that has been the problem). Also, if an established player has a 'down' year, he may be punished more for it, being ranked behind someone he was still better than simply because he wasn't his usual self.


Part of it is also the number of teams that make the playoffs. When you have 16 out of 21 teams making the playoffs in the 80s for example, chances are your award winners will be from one of the 16, especially with a lack pf parity in the league. Winners like Carlye and Wilson would probably be the equivalent of non-playoff winners today. While I doubt it will happen often, I wouldn't be surprised if we'll see more of it in the near future as almost half the teams miss the playoffs today, and the salary cap has really started to spread out the talent.

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Old
12-27-2010, 06:48 AM
  #6
Dennis Bonvie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
I think it's two things:

Since defensive play is so subjective, I think there's an attitude that "if he was really that good of a defenseman, his team would have made the playoffs."

Also, IMO, a #1 defenseman is the most important position on the ice, so if you have the best in the league, it's highly likely you will be in the playoffs.

As for your other question, I would imagine that Bill Gadsby was probably a Norris finalist without making the playoffs. Salming might have done it too.
Agreed.

+/- might be a bigger factor in Norris voting, also. A top defenseman on a non-playoff team isn't likely to have a great rating.

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12-27-2010, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Bonvie View Post
Agreed.

+/- might be a bigger factor in Norris voting, also. A top defenseman on a non-playoff team isn't likely to have a great rating.
Very true. +/- is a big factor in Norris voting. And it was even bigger more than a decade ago, when many reporters really did use it as a measure for defensive ability.

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12-27-2010, 03:08 PM
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Non-Playoff Defensemen

Quote:
Originally Posted by nik jr View Post
i don't like the de facto requirement of making the playoffs. hockey teams rely very much on depth.


norris finalists who missed the playoffs:

'59: gadsby and pronovost
'67: orr
'68: horton

pronovost and orr played for last place teams. '67 bruins were very bad: 17-43-10 with -71 goal differential.

horton's team was above .500 and probably would have made the playoffs if the divisions had been balanced.
1959. Pronovost gained recognition because of increased playing time due to Red Kelly playing hurt. Actually 1959 was interesting as the two leading defensemen in the NHL Harvey and Kelly played with injuries a good part of the season giving defensemen like Tom Johnson, Marcel Pronovost and Bill Gadsby more attention then usual. Others stepped-up as well. Bob Turner had a surprising season with the Canadiens and Pierre Pilote showed signs that he was going to be a star.

1967 Bruins. True they were bad but without Orr the previous year their goal differential was -101.

1968 Leafs. True they may have made the playoffs if the divisions had been balanced but the other if is that if there was no expansion in 1967 chances are the Leafs do not make the playoffs yet Horton still has an excellent season. The team would have had massive retirements and a rookie or young team in the O6 era would have been very iffy.

The relationship between playoffs and Norris quality performance is rather basic.

In the O6 era to succeed teams had to keep the puck out of their end - transition game or limit play in their end to the areas away from the slot. If a d-man could not contribute to this then he would get little or no Norris consideration. From expansion to date the emphasis is still on the transition game - keeping the play away from your end and keeping the other teams offense away from the slot.

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12-27-2010, 03:56 PM
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
1959. Pronovost gained recognition because of increased playing time due to Red Kelly playing hurt. Actually 1959 was interesting as the two leading defensemen in the NHL Harvey and Kelly played with injuries a good part of the season giving defensemen like Tom Johnson, Marcel Pronovost and Bill Gadsby more attention then usual. Others stepped-up as well. Bob Turner had a surprising season with the Canadiens and Pierre Pilote showed signs that he was going to be a star.

1967 Bruins. True they were bad but without Orr the previous year their goal differential was -101.

1968 Leafs. True they may have made the playoffs if the divisions had been balanced but the other if is that if there was no expansion in 1967 chances are the Leafs do not make the playoffs yet Horton still has an excellent season. The team would have had massive retirements and a rookie or young team in the O6 era would have been very iffy.

The relationship between playoffs and Norris quality performance is rather basic.

In the O6 era to succeed teams had to keep the puck out of their end - transition game or limit play in their end to the areas away from the slot. If a d-man could not contribute to this then he would get little or no Norris consideration. From expansion to date the emphasis is still on the transition game - keeping the play away from your end and keeping the other teams offense away from the slot.
I agree with that. That might be a good explanation as well for why Norris winners are rarely pure shutdown guys because if you help the transition well, you're bound to get some points.

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12-27-2010, 04:10 PM
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The relationship of Norris winners with strength of team goes further than just playoffs/non playoffs.

Looking at the list of Norris winners, a high percentage of them have played for teams that were among the very best in the league that season.

From expansion in 1967-68 to the present day, the following Norris winners did not play on teams in the top quarter of the standings.

1981, Randy Carlyle - PIT were 15th of 21
1982, Doug Wilson - CHI were 15th of 21
1983, Rod Langway - WAS were 8th of 21
1987, Ray Bourque - BOS were 8th of 21
1997, Brian Leetch - NYR were 8th of 26
1998, Rob Blake - LAK were 11th of 26

It's unusual for a Norris winner to come from a team that isn't a Cup contender. And a few of these selections from average/weaker teams are still debated on this board today.

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12-27-2010, 05:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
I think it's two things:

Since defensive play is so subjective, I think there's an attitude that "if he was really that good of a defenseman, his team would have made the playoffs."

Also, IMO, a #1 defenseman is the most important position on the ice, so if you have the best in the league, it's highly likely you will be in the playoffs.

As for your other question, I would imagine that Bill Gadsby was probably a Norris finalist without making the playoffs. Salming might have done it too.
IMO if a player sucks in the playoffs (see Mike Green) it will be noticed by the voter the following year.

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12-27-2010, 09:45 PM
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The Norris isn't really all that different from the Hart. The odd time it is a defenseman who wins the Hart. That being said, Lemieux won the Hart in 1988 but missed the playoffs. When you look at it closer, the Pens missed the playoffs by one point in the most competitive division in the NHL and actually had the 12th most points in the NHL that year. So when you look at it that way, the Hart winner is never on a non-playoff team either. The Norris winner can at times be the best player in the game arguably as well. It is unlikely a team with the game's best player will miss the playoffs.

Similarily, there is only one time a goalie who was a 1st team all-star/Vezina winner missed the playoffs. That was Glenn Hall in 1958.

Bottom line I think there is a reason why the top dogs at each position are the top dogs. They make their teams better, and get them into the playoffs

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12-27-2010, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Very true. +/- is a big factor in Norris voting. And it was even bigger more than a decade ago, when many reporters really did use it as a measure for defensive ability.
True, though I think making the playoffs is a more important factor than plus/minus. We've seen Norris winners with negative plus/minus ratings (Blake in 1998, Carlyle in 1981) and a few more finalists (Coffey in 1989, Housley in 1992, Bourque in 1999, Pronger in 2004). But we've never had a Norris winner from a non-playoff team and only a small handful were finalists.

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12-28-2010, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
True, though I think making the playoffs is a more important factor than plus/minus. We've seen Norris winners with negative plus/minus ratings (Blake in 1998, Carlyle in 1981) and a few more finalists (Coffey in 1989, Housley in 1992, Bourque in 1999, Pronger in 2004). But we've never had a Norris winner from a non-playoff team and only a small handful were finalists.
Though most of those examples you cite can be explained away. I don't think plus/minus was really on the radar in 1981 for Carlyle. Coffey, Bourque, and Pronger could fall under the category of reputation picks. Housley had a big year points-wise, by far the leading scorer on an otherwise unimpressive Jets team. That really just leaves Blake, and the Kings making the playoffs for the first time in five years (team on the rise) may have brought him to the fore.

Maybe it would be beneficial to work backwards at this. Does anybody recall any instances where they felt a defenseman on a non-playoff team was snubbed in Norris voting?

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12-28-2010, 01:15 AM
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Agreed.

+/- might be a bigger factor in Norris voting, also. A top defenseman on a non-playoff team isn't likely to have a great rating.
I was just going to say this. +/- is likely taken into account for dmen moreso than forwards and as much of the media thinks it is a reflection of actual defensive play.

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12-28-2010, 01:32 AM
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Maybe it would be beneficial to work backwards at this. Does anybody recall any instances where they felt a defenseman on a non-playoff team was snubbed in Norris voting?
I'd be interested too if anyone can think of someone. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a good case.

At first, I thought maybe Rob Blake.

Norris Trophy and 1st Team All Star in 1998. 2nd Team All Star in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

Why no recognition in 1999? That was the one year Blake's team (the Kings at that point) failed to make the playoffs.

But then I look at Blake's personal stats and he only had 12 goals and 35 points in 98-99, while scoring at least 16 goals and 50 points in each of his All-Star years, so statistically, it looks like his drop in play was part of the reason the team missed.

I barely watched the Kings at that point, so I really can't say anything about it other than look at the stats.

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12-28-2010, 01:56 AM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
I'd be interested too if anyone can think of someone. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a good case.

At first, I thought maybe Rob Blake.

Norris Trophy and 1st Team All Star in 1998. 2nd Team All Star in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

Why no recognition in 1999? That was the one year Blake's team (the Kings at that point) failed to make the playoffs.

But then I look at Blake's personal stats and he only had 12 goals and 35 points in 98-99, while scoring at least 16 goals and 50 points in each of his All-Star years, so statistically, it looks like his drop in play was part of the reason the team missed.

I barely watched the Kings at that point, so I really can't say anything about it other than look at the stats.
Maybe Brian Leetch? The Rangers stopped making the playoffs after 1996-97, and Leetch never got serious Norris consideration again. But he was still playing 27-29 minutes a game, and scoring points.

His plus-minus was ugly, but other than that he had the statistical profile. I didn't watch the Rangers much (mostly because they were never in the playoffs), did you think he was still playing at a high level?

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12-28-2010, 02:19 AM
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imo, pronger should have been a norris finalist last season, probably at least 2nd. if philadelphia had lost that shootout, they would have missed the playoffs. philadelphia's weak season probably hurt pronger in norris and AS voting.

i think pronger could also have been a norris finalist in '06.


i know some thought mark streit should have been a norris finalist in '09.

led NYI in points and +/-. over 25 minutes per game, played on PK. points in 28% of his team's goals.

+5 on a last place, -78 team

i don't think i saw even 1 game of NYI that season.

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Maybe Brian Leetch? The Rangers stopped making the playoffs after 1996-97, and Leetch never got serious Norris consideration again. But he was still playing 27-29 minutes a game, and scoring points.

His plus-minus was ugly, but other than that he had the statistical profile. I didn't watch the Rangers much (mostly because they were never in the playoffs), did you think he was still playing at a high level?
i did not watch NYR regularly, but when i saw their games, leetch usually looked mediocre defensively later in his career. and NYR as a team looked bad.

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12-29-2010, 03:46 PM
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Pure Shutdown D-men.

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I agree with that. That might be a good explanation as well for why Norris winners are rarely pure shutdown guys because if you help the transition well, you're bound to get some points.
Pure shutdown defensemen. Unless they can get the puck efficiently out of the defensive zone in a transition rarely accomplish much. The puck staying in the zone eventually wears down the defense and the goaltender.

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12-29-2010, 09:10 PM
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Pure shutdown defensemen. Unless they can get the puck efficiently out of the defensive zone in a transition rarely accomplish much. The puck staying in the zone eventually wears down the defense and the goaltender.
Yep. See Robyn Regehr for a current example of just that. 7 out of 10 times when he takes possession of the puck he turns it over either just inside or just outside his blueline. Rarely does it ever get any farther than that. And yet Flames fans love him because he's their shut down guy. You wouldn't believe the flak you catch when you point out his uselessness at transitioning or offensively.

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