Norris Trophy: The National Hockey League’s most outstanding defenseman.
Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang was an offensive and defensive force for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. If Letang didn’t suffer injuries throughout the season, he would have most likely been in the top ten players for time on ice. He only played in 35 games this season and accumulated 897 minutes on the ice. Per game, Letang was on the ice for about 25:38, which ranks him second among the other nominees. In the 35 games he played, he racked up a league-leading 33 assists. He also notched 5 goals and tied P.K. Subban for first in points. Out of the nominees, Letang had the best plus/minus rating with a +16. He also accounted for 45 hits, 59 blocked shots, and 12 takeaways. With a team full of all-stars, Letang did a great job standing out.
P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens: Subban was way down the list with only 976 minutes of ice time, but only played in 42 games. That boils down to being on the ice for about 23:14 minutes per game, which ranks last among the nominees. In the shortened season, P.K. finished with a +12 plus/minus rating. Offensively, Subban was a huge asset to the Canadiens. He came in third for assists (27), second in goals (11), and first in power play goals (8). He was also tied for first in points among defensemen with 38. Defensively, he had 51 hits, 49 blocked shots, and 10 takeaways. While it’s relatively safe to say that Subban was the best offensive defenseman, it’s hard to say whether or not that means he was the overall best defenseman.
Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild: Suter started out a little slow, but once he found his game he was sensational. The Wild defenseman led the entire league in ice time with 1,309 minutes and played in every game of the season. He also takes the lead for ice time per game with 27:16 minutes. That’s nearly half a game. And not half a baseball game (no offense to baseball fans)—but half of a hard-hitting hockey game. Offensively, Suter came in second for assists (28) and also had 4 goals. With Letang and Subban tied for first in points, that leaves Suter not far off in second with 32. He ended the regular season with only a +2 and only 33 hits, but made up for it with his 74 blocked shots and 9 takeaways. Suter was one of the biggest reasons for Minnesota’s success this year.
Pink Puck Pick: Kris Letang. This is a really tough category to judge. It’s easy to find offensive stats and go from there, but the best defenseman is much more than that. Subban is a very offensive asset and helped his team with flashy numbers. On the other hand, Suter is much more defensive-minded, so it’s hard to put his success into numbers. It’s tough to measure how much defensemen contribute to their team by preventing goals, which is just as important as scoring them. That’s why my vote goes to Kris Letang. He is a great balance of scoring, defending, hitting, blocking shots, and sticking up for his teammates. Among the other nominees, Letang had the most evenly distributed resume between offensive numbers and defensive play.