It’s official, Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi is in the Norris Trophy limelight for the first time in his career as the league’s top defenseman by being named a finalist for the award.
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The Norris Trophy is one of the most prestigious awards in all of hockey. The honour is awarded “to the defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” The winner of the award is selected through a voting poll that is taken by members of The Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of each NHL season. The nominations were released by the National Hockey League earlier yesterday morning (Monday, July 20th). John Carlson of the Washington Capitals and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning join the Predators captain in the nomination class.
Carlson (30), is heavily favoured to win the award this season. He led all defensemen in points this season with 15 goals and 75 assists in the 69 games he played in. Hedman (29), who will likely finish third in the polls, notched 11 goals and 55 points across 66 games played this season. This is his fourth straight nomination and won the award after the 2017-18 season.
Each of the two standout blueliners averaged over 24 minutes of ice time per game for their squads. Both the Capitals and the Lightning are also expected to have deep runs in the 2020 Playoffs. The two powerhouse teams are set to face off on August 3rd in a round-robin matchup as a part of the league’s 24-team return-to-play plan.
Norris History in Nashville
Believe it or not, the Predators have never actually had a defenseman win the Norris Trophy. For a team that has had one of the best defensive cores for the past decade, you would expect at least one Norris win would be added to their name. Former team captain Shea Weber was nominated for the award three times over his ten and a half seasons with the franchise. He fell just short in 2010-11 and 2011-12 when he finished second in back to back seasons.
Weber was of course part of the blockbuster, one-for-one deal in the summer of 2016 that sent him to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K Subban. Before becoming a Predator, Subban had been nominated twice for the Norris and took it home in the 2012-13 season with Montreal. In his brief three-season stint in Nashville, he was once again nominated as a finalist for top defenseman in 2017-18 but finished third in voting. Eventually, he was traded off for prospects in the 2019 offseason and is yet to return to his elite caliber status that the Predators only had flashes of.
Josi Has a Chance
Josi has always just fallen short of the elusive Norris Trophy nomination. The former 38th overall pick from Bern, Switzerland consistently falls just short of the top three finalists each season. Since making his NHL debut in the 2011-12 season, the d-man is almost always in the discussion for the award. He has finished top ten in voting four times: 2014-15 (5th), 2015-16 (5th), 2017-18 (7th), and 2018-19 (7th).
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With his first-ever finalist nomination this season, can the team’s most valuable player finally bring home the league’s top defensive honour? Josi had an incredible 2019-20 season. In fact, he had one more goal than Carlson. The 30-year-old fan favorite in Smashville finished second among defensemen in scoring with 16 goals and 49 assists, combining for 65 total points. He also averaged 24:27 of ice time each game and quarterbacked the team’s power play, accounting for 23 of its points. In addition, he also tallied a respectable plus/minus of plus-22.
The team captain spent most of the season on a pair with Ryan Ellis as the team’s top defensive duo. With Josi, Ellis notched 8 goals and 30 assists, combining for 38 points this season. Head coach John Hynes has continued to match the two up alongside each other in intrasquad scrimmages leading into the qualifying round against the Arizona Coyotes. Josi is also widely recognized across the league by some of the best of the best, including 2015-16 Norris winner Drew Doughty back in April.
Drew Doughty said if he had a vote for the Norris Trophy today it would go to Roman Josi over John Carlson. “I think Josi has a lot less of a team than Carlson does,” Doughty said.
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) April 13, 2020
Upsets have been notorious in sports, and especially when it comes to awards. Carlson may be the front runner for the defensive hardware, but crazier things have happened. We could see Josi emerge victorious for the Predators. The winner will be announced during the conference finals.