The James Norris Memorial Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the defenseman who “demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position."
Based on that criterion, it’s hard for the Professional Hockey Writers Association to justify their awarding Colorado’s Cale Makar the 2022 Norris Trophy over Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi.
Despite finishing with more first- and third-place votes than Makar — 98 to 92 and 17 to 5, respectively — Makar ended up with more total votes — 1,631 to 1,601 — and won the closest vote since 2012 when Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson narrowly beat out then-Predator Shea Weber by 12 votes.
But numbers never lie.
And although Makar had more goals, even-strength goals, game-winning goals and power play ice time than the Predators’ captain, it’s difficult to overlook Josi’s all-time season.
The 31-year-old blueliner scored the most points by a defenseman (96) in nearly 30 years, and only six defensemen in NHL history have had better individual seasons than Josi did in 2021-22.
Setting career highs in points, goals (23) and assists (73), Josi broke five franchise records including single-season points, single-season assists, single-season shots, assists per game and total goals on ice for.
Among all qualifying defensemen, Josi ranked first in points, assists, points per game, power play goals and shots, and he ranked second in goals and power play points.
In fact, he bested Makar in 13 categories including points, assists, even strength points, power play goals, power play assists, power play points, power play shooting percentage, shots, individual shot attempts per 60, blocked shots, takeaways, on-ice power play goals for and percentage of team goals scored or assisted on.
However, Josi is more than just his offensive prowess.
Per Sportlogiq, he is also one of the, if not the, best puck possession defenseman in the NHL, leading his position in controlled zone exits per game (7.56), controlled zone entries per game (4.33) and offensive zone loose puck recoveries per game (7.83), while ranking second in offensive zone puck possession time per game (0:53) and third in total puck possession time per game (2:31).
Josi also led all blueliners with 26 multi-point games, four four-point games and 12 three-point games. In addition, he was the only defenseman who led his team in scoring.
Only Bobby Orr, who did so three times, and Erik Karlsson in 2015, have ever recorded a higher percentage of their team’s points in a single season than Josi’s 13.2 percent this year.
In any other year, a Makar win likely wouldn't even be questioned. But it’s hard for the PHWA to defend its slight of Josi this time.
"Roman Josi is the best defenseman in the game," Predators coach John Hynes said in March. "You look at what he means to this team and what he means to the franchise night in and night out. … When you look at other defensemen, I'm not so sure there's a player that impacts their team, their organization the way Roman does."
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