It’s not as if the Professional Hockey Writers Association owes the Nashville Predators anything.
But those who cover the sport for newspapers, magazines and websites throughout North America certainly have not done the local NHL franchise any favors the last couple years.
Twice in a row their voting for the Norris Trophy has turned out so that Nashville’s Shea Weber has been the runner-up. In 2011 he lost to fading legend Nicklas Lidstrom, and last month emerging offensive phenom Erik Karlsson edged the Predators’ captain.
It is important to note that the Norris Trophy is created to honor the best all-around defenseman. Seemingly, that means it’s for someone who excels at both offense and defense — the way Weber unquestionably does.
Two seasons ago Lidstrom was little more than a power-play specialist. The vast majority of his 62 points came with the man-advantage, but in 5-on-5 play he was something of a liability. He finished the season with a minus-2 rating.
More recently, Karlssson’s offensive numbers dwarfed everyone else’s at the position. However, he averaged barely 30 seconds of penalty-kill duties per game, which does not suggest much in the way of defensive prowess.
Many believe Lidstrom won in a final nod to his career, which was extraordinary. However, this was not Paul Newman winning an Oscar for The Color of Money. Lidstrom had won six times previously. It’s not as if he needed a seventh to validate anything.
The prevailing line of logic with Karlsson was that his offensive numbers were too big to be overlooked. However, that thinking is completely out of line with the stated intent of the award.
It’s possible that something else was at work here, something that ultimately could cost the Predators a lot more than a place in their trophy case.
Lidstrom played in Detroit, the self-proclaimed “Hockeytown” and arguably the capital of hockey in the United States. Karlsson was with Ottawa, the capital of hockey’s home, Canada.
Looking at how the voting has gone the last two years, one just can’t help but wonder whether Weber will ever get the recognition he deserves playing in Nashville.
Consider that in the past 25 years, the Norris has gone to a player from one of the league’s Original Six franchises 21 times. The first three exceptions were Los Angeles’ Rob Blake (1998) and St. Louis’ Al MacInnis (1999) and Chris Pronger (2000). Karlsson won in a city with a hockey history that reaches back to the start of the NHL, even though the current franchise is relatively young.
It’s entirely possible, therefore, that playing for the Predators already has cost Weber the Norris Trophy not once, but twice.
That, in turn, raises the question of whether or not it will be worth his while to stay here for the long term.
Most of the talk leading into the current free agent signing period, which commenced Sunday, centered on unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter and whether or not he would be back for 2012-13 and beyond.
Weber’s status, though, is almost equally uncertain.
For the second straight summer he’s a restricted free agent. For more than a year now he has rejected Nashville’s efforts to sign him to a long-term deal. Chances are that at this time in 2013 he’s going to follow Suter into unrestricted free agency and see exactly what others are willing to spend on him.
The money is going to be there, whether it’s from Nashville or another franchise. However, if he values personal accomplishment and recognition, he’s likely going to have to go somewhere else to get it because the Norris Trophy rarely seems to go very far from traditional hockey spots.