Why Duncan Keith Will Win the Norris Trophy

On Wednesday night the NHL will hand out their annual awards in Las Vegas, and the Blackhawks will be well represented as the newly-crowned champions of hockey.

One specific award of interest will be the James Norris Memorial Trophy, which is presented annually “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” This year’s nominees are Washington’s Mike Green, Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty and Chicago’s Duncan Keith.

Keith, the oldest of the three nominees at 26, ended the regular season with career-highs in goals (14), assists (55) and points (69),  including three power-play goals, in 82 games. His point total was second among all NHL defensemen behind Green, but he led all NHL defensemen in goals (10), assists (38) and points (48) at even-strength. Keith also led all defensemen with five shorthanded points (1 goal, 4 assists), and ranked second among all defensemen with 15 multi-point contests, and earned a +21 rating.

While Keith’s offensive explosion this season has certainly been a wonderful surprise, what Blackhawks fans have come to expect is exceptional play on the blue line for a lot of minutes per night. Keith was credited with 143 blocked shots this season, and ranked second in the NHL averaging 26:35 of ice time per game. Keith topped 30 minutes in a game eight times, including a team season-high of 32:40 March 14 against Washington (the game in which Brian Campbell was injured). He averaged 2:58 on the penalty kill and 2:48 on the power play per game.

Keith’s Blackhawks ranked fourth this year killing penalties, while Doughty’s Kings ranked just 20th and Green’s Caps ranked 24th.

In his fifth season, Keith’s 69 points were the most by a Hawks defenseman since Chris Chelios tallied 72 points in 1995-96. If he wins the Norris, Keith would join Chelios, Doug Wilson and Pierre Pilote as just the fourth representative of Chicago’s Original Six franchise to be named the league’s top defenseman.

Here is how the three finalists compare, with their ranking among defensemen in the regular season next to each statistic:

  Duncan Keith Drew Doughty Mike Green
GP 82   82   75  
G 14 6 16 2 19 1
A 55 2 43 5 57 1
Pts 69 2 59 3 76 1
 +/- +21 9 +20 11 +39 2
PIM 51   54   54  
ATOI 26:35 2 24:58 13 25:28 9
SH TOI 244:25 21 165:31 86 161:41 87
SH ATOI 2:58   2:01   2:09  
PP Pts 16 34 31 2 35 1
SH Pts 5 1 0 N/A 1 34
BkS 143 25 76   105  
Hits 46   157 25 133  
Tka 45 10 20   44 12

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