Frozen Pool Forensics: The Norris Debate – Part 1

by Cam Robinson on May 5, 2017
Victor Hedman - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

As we close the door on another terrific season of hockey and the finalists for all the major awards are slowly being released, Frozen Pool Forensics will dig into some of the contenders and give our take on who deserves to win each award from a fantasy perspective.

This week, we’re looking at one of the most hotly contested awards – the Norris battle. We will provide context and a statistical breakdown outside of the superficial counting stats and by the end, we’ll announce our winner for the Fantasy Hockey’s Most Valuable Defenseman award – also referred to as the Erik Karlsson Trophy (How could we not? It was a layup)

This year’s finalists for the EK Trophy are: The man himself and captain of the Ottawa Senators, Karlsson; the bearded beast from NorCal, Brent Burns, the long-necked Swede out of Tampa Bay, Victor Hedman and the majestically massive, Dustin Byfuglien.

 

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Just missed the podium…

 

Dustin Byfuglien

The punishing defender was both literally and figuratively huge for the Winnipeg Jets this past season. He anchored a blue line that was riddled with injuries and often home to a handful of AHL-calibre players.

Despite being one of the elder statesman of this group, Byfuglien suited up for the second most games, recorded the most short-handed and total time on ice per contest. His 27:27 per night led the entire league by nearly 20 seconds.

His counting stats are not comparable with the other three players, but 13 goals represent the consistent scoring ability he brings most years, and with just one goal coming with the man advantage, he trailed only Brent Burns for even-strength tallies.

What the 6’3 American brings above most fantasy defenders is the peripheral stats. His 183 hits were 10th most by a defender with only Rasmus Ristolainen as a player ahead of him capable of producing any other tangible numbers. His 241 shots on goal were good for 22nd most league wide and placed him behind just Burns for blue liners.

 

Advanced Stats

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

IPP

2016-17

997

8.52

48.54

1.4

42.6

2015-16

1001

8.88

51.91

1.6

45.3

2014-15

1002

8.02

51.11

1.7

45.3

2013-14

961

7.15

50.52

1.9

52.9

2012-13

1000

8.72

49.6

1.6

60.2

2011-12

989

8.27

54.08

2.0

50.9

2010-11

1000

8.06

55.49

1.7

57.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byfuglien accomplished these numbers while seeing several of his metrics fall. His offensive zone start times, power-play points and time on ice, personal and even-strength shooting percentage all took dips from a season ago. He did see an increase in total time on ice, but that’s a product of increased time shorthanded.

And as we mentioned before, most of his defensive partners weren’t exactly a who’s who of NHL stars…

 

Even Strength Line Combinations

Freq

Line Combination

60.4%

BYFUGLIEN,DUSTIN – MORRISSEY,JOSH

13.5%

BYFUGLIEN,DUSTIN – MELCHIORI,JULIAN

11.6%

BYFUGLIEN,DUSTIN – CHIAROT,BEN

8.5%

BYFUGLIEN,DUSTIN – ENSTROM,TOBIAS

6%

BYFUGLIEN,DUSTIN – TROUBA,JACOB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Winnipeg continues to build top young talent, Byfuglien will continue to be the anchor on the backend. He receives all the top power-play time, but is also saddled with the most shorthanded time on ice, of any EK finalist. That may help him if he ever gets a nomination for the Norris, but in the fantasy world, more time defending down a man is only good for blocked shots.

Congrats on fourth place, big man.

 

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There’s nothing wrong with a third place finish…

Victor Hedman

This is the first Norris nomination for the 26-year-old native of the hockey factory known as Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, but likely not the last. He was drafted back in 2009 as a player capable of one day becoming a true No. 1 defender and organizational cornerstone. The Lightning rewarded that potential with a monster eight-year, $63 million extension last summer, and boy did Hedman repay them quickly.

He finished his campaign with 16 goals, 72 point, 93 hits, and 132 blocks. His 33 power-play points ranked first for all defenders and trialed only Nicklas Backstrom for the most in the league.

He set or met career-high marks in: goals, assists, points, hits, power-play points, blocks, power-play time on ice, shooting percentage… needless to say, it was a banner year.

 

NHL Stats – Last 5 Years

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

79

16

56

72

0.91

3

47

166

9.6

93

4

33

0

132

0

 

03:01

55.2

39.0

24:31

40.3

2015-2016

78

10

37

47

0.60

21

46

180

5.6

62

1

11

0

132

0

 

02:37

44.9

37.7

23:04

38.1

2014-2015

59

10

28

38

0.64

12

40

115

8.7

51

3

11

0

110

0

 

02:31

41.9

46.1

22:41

37.4

2013-2014

75

13

42

55

0.73

5

53

164

7.9

85

3

14

0

100

0

 

02:27

44.5

39.2

22:07

36.7

2012-2013

44

4

16

20

0.45

2

31

76

5.3

56

0

2

0

84

0

 

01:44

30.9

49.1

22:40

37.4

Average

82

13

44

57

0.69

11

53

172

7.6

85

3

17

0

137

0

 

02:32

44.8

41.3

23:04

38.1

 

 

 

 

 

Finally seeing prime minutes on the team’s top power-play unit was integral in vaulting Hedman up amongst the statistical leaders for his position. One might look at what he accomplished with Steven Stamkos shelved for most of the year and envision an even greater spike in production for 2017-18, but it could be argued that the loss of Stamkos facilitated such a spike.

Jon Cooper had long divided his talent over two man-advantage units, preferring the right-handed Anton Stralman passing to the right-shooting Stamkos for his patented one-timer. This season we saw Tampa reverse their setup with left-handed Nikita Kucherov becoming the triggerman from Hedman feeds. This slight change allowed Hedman to put up almost as many power-play points in one season (33) as he had accumulated in the previous three combined (36).

 

 

Hedman was a terrific addition to any fantasy squad and likely brought with him the most value. Karlsson and Burns were sure-fire selections and likely the first two defenders off the board across all formats. Meanwhile Byfuglien represents a unique breed capable of stuffing many categories and averaged out as the fifth blue liner selected.

And then there was Hedman. Taken way down in the fifth round in a standard 12-team league, averaging as the 14th defender drafted.

Hedman goes home in third place this season, but I expect we see his name show up annually on this ballot for the foreseeable future.

 

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Join us next week as we break down the last two men standing.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening too.