Midseason Awards, Part II: The Norris and the Selke

Jonathan Willis
January 18 2012 01:13PM

As the NHL moves past the midway mark of the season, it’s time to look back at which players deserve hardware, based on their performance over the first half. To answer that question, we polled writers from across the Nation Network, talking to writers at every site.

Today, we look at the second set of our midseason awards: our picks for the winners of the Norris and Selke trophies.

James Norris Memorial Trophy

Description: The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.

Winner: Zdeno Chara

Runners-Up: Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom

This was one of the tightest races for the writers we polled, with Zdeno Chara just barely squeaking past Shea Weber for the top honours at the midpoint of the season.  These two players rather clearly represented the best defenders in the NHL in the opinion of our writers, with Weber receiving four times the votes of the third-place Lidstrom (who narrowly edged out some other defensemen listed below).

Chara won his first Norris Trophy in 2008-09, and has once again been instrumental in the Bruins success this season.  As it stands now, he's on pace to set career highs in assists, total points, and plus/minus, all while combining a take no prisoners style with a 6'9" frame.  He's one of the most imposing defensive rearguards in the league, and over the last decade has also been one of the NHL's better offensive weapons on the blue line. 

Of course, Shea Weber's been pretty good in his own right.  Jason Gregor, one of those who had Weber first overall in his voting, said that Weber has "no real weaknesses in his game, and he's absolutely right.  Even missing time to a concussion hasn't led to a reduction of his duties; in his first game back Weber played more than 25 minutes and has been in that range pretty consistently since.  As it stands, he's likely to put up career highs offensively and like Chara he plays against the best opposition.

The rest of the field features former winners in Lidstrom and Duncan Keith, the NHL's leading defensive scorer in Erik Karlsson, Toronto Maple Leafs' captain Dion Phaneuf, and Weber's frequent defensive partner in Nashville, Ryan Suter.

Also in the mix: Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Description: The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

Winner: David Backes

Runners-Up: Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk

A swell of support for David Backes, who has been instrumental in the St. Louis Blues return to respectability, moved him past a pair of very strong candidates in Bergeron and Datsyuk.  Backes, as is fitting for someone winning this award, plays against the best opposition and starts more in his own end than in the offensive zone.  He has also been one of the Blues' regular penalty-killers and his physical style of play surely didn't hurt him either.  As Jason Gregor said in his comments on the vote, Backes "doesn’t have the same name recognition as Datsyuk or Toews, but he’s big, strong, and nasty and he wins lots of one-on-one battles."

Pavel Datsyuk is a three-time winner and is doing the same things he's always done (as Gregor put it, "he is unreal all over the ice") while scoring at a better than point-per-game pace, while Patrice Bergeron remains a phenomenally good defensive player.  Unlike Datsyuk and Toews (who are starting 58.1% and 62.4%, respectively, of their shifts in the offensive zone), Bergeron is starting in his own end well over 50% of the time and continues to push the puck in the right direction.

I also wanted to make special note of the fourth-ranked candidate, Manny Malhotra, who some will think an odd choice given his minus-6 rating for the Canucks.  No player in the league starts more of his shifts in his own end of the ice than Malhotra, who Vigneault has converted into the league's formost defensive zone specialist.  Of his non-neutral zone faceoffs, 86.4% of them are in the defensive zone.  Despite this brutal treatment from head coach Alain Vigneualt, Malhotra somehow has 13 points and is just minus-6.

Also in the mix: Manny Malhotra, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Callahan, Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 bev
January 18 2012, 01:17PM
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Hemsky for the Selke

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#2 King Mob
January 18 2012, 01:22PM
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The NHL should change the description of the Norris Trophy to

"The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability to be Niklas Lidstrom."

Seriously, when's the last year that guy HASN'T been in contention?

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#4 Steve
January 18 2012, 01:29PM
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Ryan O'Reilly should probably at least be "Also in the Mix"

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#6 Mac962
January 18 2012, 01:38PM
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bev wrote:

Hemsky for the Selke

That would mean he would have to bust his butt on the back check and pick up his winger... ohhhh u were being sarcastic... ha ha ha

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#7 CdnBarbarian
January 18 2012, 02:25PM
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I know his offensive numbers arn't there but Girardi is probably the best Defensive Defenseman in the game right now

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#8 MAC962
January 18 2012, 03:00PM
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I just happened to wonder thru Leafs Nation and all the other nations/Armies, and noticed how few comments were posted on the blogs/articles. We as Oiler Nationers rule. Look at the comments and the number of them, We love Our Oilers good or bad, and love talking Hockey. The other sites / Fans could give a sheet by the looks of it.

Unless, we just have nothing better to do.. which i doubt is the case.

We ROCK Oilers Nationers !! if only our team did.. They will rise again and we will be louder and Prouder. Check out the ther site and how manly people comment compared to us..... interesting...

Mac

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#9 Pucker
January 18 2012, 03:16PM
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check out the sunshine girl today. Surely 'Oilersnation' can come up with something competitive . . . ?

(I only read these articles for the pictures)

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#10 Justin Azevedo
January 18 2012, 03:45PM
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let the record show that I voted for malhotra as my 1st place pick for the selke. damn, love that guy.

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#11 Sloppy Joe
January 18 2012, 03:51PM
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MAC962 wrote:

I just happened to wonder thru Leafs Nation and all the other nations/Armies, and noticed how few comments were posted on the blogs/articles. We as Oiler Nationers rule. Look at the comments and the number of them, We love Our Oilers good or bad, and love talking Hockey. The other sites / Fans could give a sheet by the looks of it.

Unless, we just have nothing better to do.. which i doubt is the case.

We ROCK Oilers Nationers !! if only our team did.. They will rise again and we will be louder and Prouder. Check out the ther site and how manly people comment compared to us..... interesting...

Mac

My theory on why 'Nucks fans don't post a lot on their own site is that they're all too busy trolling here.

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#12 Danny Gray
January 18 2012, 04:05PM
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Voted for Bergeron, but Backes is a solid pick.

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#13 Oilcruzer
January 18 2012, 07:59PM
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Letang out since end Nov but expected back any day. Serious contender.

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#14 Wanyes bastard child
January 18 2012, 08:22PM
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Are you doing the Calder in this series?

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#15 DSF
January 18 2012, 08:51PM
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Adam Henrique has to be an also mention in the Selke race.

The kid is phenominal.

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#16 Chris
January 19 2012, 07:35AM
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Horcoff for Selke!

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#18 Spaghetti - Team Facalto
January 19 2012, 10:16AM
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@ Jonathan Willis

I know this is a bit late and off topic but the other day in part one of the mid season awards you stated:

Description: The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.

Winner: Claude Giroux

Runners-Up: Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

By that description/definition should Jordan Eberle not be up for this award? Claude Giroux is a pretty good player but even with him out the Flyers are a pretty good team and wouldn't be too hurt by his absense. The Oilers without Eberle on the other hand, well you know.

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#19 Pucker
January 19 2012, 10:17AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Pucker:

Glad to hear it, Pucker. Don't bother clicking on anything with my name on it, then - that's simply not my game.

I sincerely apologize. My sense of humour goes south sometimes.

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#20 MC Hockey
January 20 2012, 07:19PM
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Hi all! Cannot understand how Phaneuf got any votes for Norris....He does hit and put up points but his lack of effort and skill in actually helping prevent goals-against is iincredible not to mention a genaral lack of brainpower on the ice!

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