The NHL announced the three finalists for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman on Tuesday morning, and the three names could not have been more surprising. Making a run at the trophy, each of them for the first time in their career, are P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter, and Kris Letang.
The Montreal Canadiens already had one player nominated for an award, with Brendan Gallagher a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. But this award is significantly bigger in nature. And Subban likely has a much better shot at winning than Gallagher does.
Subban had a breakout season for a very surprising Habs team, which went from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to the no. 2 seed in the postseason. There were a number of factors as to why they experienced such a turnaround, but Subban may have been the biggest.
He began to emerge as a superstar on the blue line. After a contract dispute cost him the first couple games of the season, Subban went on to have an outstanding year. He put up more points than any defenseman in the league, finishing the season with 38 points, including 11 goals. Of those 38, 26 came with the Habs on the man advantage.
But while Subban is certainly making his case to be referred to as ‘elite’ in the offensive end, he showed that he’s capable of being just as strong in the defensive end. His Corsi numbers were the best on his team for a defenseman, finishing with an on-ice Corsi of plus-15.
The Habs’ possession numbers were better with Subban on the ice than with him off, as should probably be expected of a Norris Trophy winner. But don’t tell that to Ryan Suter. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his point totals and advanced stats is the fact that he only started in the offensive zone about 53 percent of the time. So they’re not inflated.
There’s no doubt that Subban is a worthy Norris Trophy finalist. You could make the case for all three. But with what Subban has accomplished this season on the blue line for Montreal, in leading a team from worst to second in the conference, the award should go to him.