The Norris Trophy is supposed to go annually to the defenseman “who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
It says so right there in official NHL literature.
Shea Weber knows that is not exactly true. If it were, the Nashville Predators captain might not have been a mere runner-up for the award each of the last two years, and he might actually still be in the running to win it this season.
Weber knows all too well, though, that offense outweighs all other factors in the minds of the voters. After all, last year’s winner, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, basically was a one-trick pony who posted a huge point total but rarely played in shorthanded situations. In 2011, the award went Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom for the seventh time, but by that point in his legendary career he was a power-play specialist who was barely better than pedestrian in all other areas.
Armed with that little bit of personal history, Weber has to know he is not going to win the award this year either. Heck, he’s probably not going to extend his streak as a finalist.
It took until the 10th game of this season for him to get his first point, an assist. That did not exactly get the ball rolling for him either. After that? Three more games without a point.
The nine-game pointless streak matched the longest of his career. He had one as a rookie and another in 2008-09 before his name was mentioned in discussions about the best players in the game.
Each of the last two seasons, when he rated as one of the top “all-around” defensemen, he never went more than five games without at least a goal or an assist.
Perhaps with an 82-game schedule there would be ample opportunity to overcome that start and make his mark. After all, Weber did not get a goal until the 10th game of last season and had just three assists before he did. He still finished with 19 goals and 49 points, each the second-highest total of his career.
This is not an 82-game season, though, and his scoring drought covered more than the first quarter of the condensed, 48-game schedule necessitated by the NHL’s latest lockout.
In terms of scoring, it also put him well behind the likes of Karlsson, who since has sustained a season-ending injury, St. Louis’ pair of Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, all of whom have the potential to be the next big thing, a role that is available following Lidstrom’s retirement after last season.
Weber figured to be the first in line for that title before the games started. He had the reputation of a two-time Norris runner-up, the clout of a bidding war for his services that resulted in a landmark contract last summer and the opportunity to establish a singular identity following the free agent departure of his longtime partner Ryan Suter.
He just doesn’t have the points, which is not to say he has played poorly.
There is a lot more to playing defense in the NHL than simply the ability to provide offense, and he can do it all. When it comes to winning the award for the best defenseman, though, nothing is more important, at least not based on recent history.
For his part, Weber insists that winning is all that matters, and if he never scored but the Predators won consistently, he would be happy.
Yet in a recent game at Minnesota, he slid down into the faceoff circle during a power play and one-timed a pass just wide of the net. For a brief moment, he looked up, incredulous.
If he’s looking to win the Norris Trophy, he’s going to have to look beyond this season.