The NHL‘s Norris Trophy is awarded each year to the top defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. As the season’s mid-point comes and goes, the front-runner has to be the St. Louis Blues‘ Kevin Shattenkirk.
As much as people may try to argue that the award should go to a player that plays well offensively and defensively, it is clear that those voting place an emphasis on the offensive side of things. Since the 2004-05 lockout, the Norris winner has been top three in scoring all but twice. Shattenkirk is in the midst of a breakout season to remember. He is on pace for 72 points and a plus-36, not to mention a projected 46 power-play points. That is ridiculous, especially when you take into account that his highest scoring campaign to date was last season’s 45 points.
Now don’t worry — even if it’s not as important, he’s no slouch defensively as well. With all those power-play points, he still has managed to lead all d-men in plus/minus with a positive 18. He plays 23-plus minutes per game, most of them with fellow Norris candidate Alex Pietrangelo. And among defenders who have played at least 500 minutes, Shattenkirk ranks fifth in goals allowed per 60 minutes with 1.50. His defensive numbers may not blow anyone away, but they prove that he is a competent defender.
The only defenseman that is really challenging Shattenkirk offensively is Calgary Flames‘ captain Mark Giordano. His 36 points are one shy of Shattenkirk’s, and his plus 16 is good for third among d-men. The biggest difference is his 13 fewer power-play points.
There is still half a season to go. And studs like Shea Weber, Erik Karlsson and Ryan Suter will more than likely put up great numbers. But if Shattenkirk can continue to play well and produce the way he has shown he can this year, there is no reason why he shouldn’t get a decent look when award season rolls around in June.
Simon Wells is a St. Louis Blues writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter.