You say that even though Adam Fox is likely more deserving of the Norris off his sublime play at both ends of the rink than Erik Karlsson, it is unrealistic to deny the Sharks defenseman the award off his spectacular 101-point season in which the future Hall of Famer scored 25 goals.
You know Fox ranked fifth in the NHL in goals-for percentage at 59.48 while Karlsson rated 57th of the 93 defenseman with at least 1,200 minutes at five-on-five. You know that the Rangers’ 2021 Norris winner was seventh in the league in goals-against per 60:00 while Karlsson ranked 90th.
(You also, of course, know Fox played for a legit contender in New York while Karlsson played for a bottom-feeder in San Jose.)
Karlsson, a two-time winner, became the first defenseman to hit the century mark in 31 years, since Brian Leetch’s 102-point season in 1991-92. The Swede recorded 25 points more than runners-up Quinn Hughes and Josh Morrissey, a 32.9 percent difference.
But — and yes, this is the age of analytics, and underlying numbers that paint a more comprehensive picture — Karlsson was also minus-26. This is as much a team stat as an individual one, and the Sharks’ had the worst save percentage in the NHL, but can the league’s best defenseman be minus-26? Fox, by comparison, was plus-28.
There is some precedent here. Paul Coffey became the third defenseman in NHL history, after Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin, to hit the 100-point mark. He did it for the fourth time in 1988-89 with 113 points (30-83). Steve Duchesne was the next-highest-scoring defenseman with 75 points, a 50.67 percent difference. But Coffey was minus-10.
And finished second in the Norris balloting to Chris Chelios, who had a 73-point season (15-58) while going plus-35.
The following season, Coffey recorded 103 points (29-74) for Pittsburgh but was a career-worst minus-25.
And finished fourth for the Norris behind winner Ray Bourque (19-65-84, plus-31), Al MacInnis and Doug Wilson.
Here’s a wild one. Karlsson was on the ice for a total of 150 goals. When Orr became the first defenseman to hit the century mark in 1970-71 (37-102-139), he was on the ice for 258 Bruins goals.
Another one. In 1982-83, Bourque had 73 points and a plus-49, Mark Howe had 67 points and a plus-47.
The Norris went to Rod Langway, with 32 points and a minus-two.
There is always a target or two, always a scapegoat or two in a John Tortorella locker room, and this time around the coach of the Flyers fingered a couple of former Rangers in Tony DeAngelo and Kevin Hayes.
DeAngelo was a healthy scratch for the final five games of the season after he slammed down his stick and tossed following his team’s 4-2 defeat in St. Louis on April 4. Was that the reason? Apparently there’s been no reason provided to DeAngelo, who had a decent year offensively and a deficient one defensively.
The 27-year-old had been at his best the previous season in Carolina playing for a head coach in Rod Brind’Amour who oozes positive reinforcement out of every pore. The guy in Philadelphia, not quite so much.
Hayes, meanwhile, completed the season as the club’s second-leading scorer with 54 points (18-36). Did not and does not matter. Tortorella made it known early and often he has no use for No. 13’s style after constant devaluation of his game.
The Flyers pretty much wasted the season. They weren’t bad enough consistently enough to get into the Connor Bedard conversation, though by finishing 26th overall, the Flyers will have a 6.5 percent chance to come away with the grand prize. There may not be a team in the league that is as bereft of sheer skill that has become determinative during the regular season.
With Tortorella apparently having been ceded a fair amount of authority regarding personnel matters, it seems unlikely that either DeAngelo or Hayes will play for Philadelphia next season.
DeAngelo, who has one year at $5 million remaining on his contract, could become victim of a buyout. Under that scenario, the Flyers would be dinged with a $1,666,667 in cap charge each of the next two seasons, and No. 77 would be on the open market following a buyout for the second time in three years.
It is not quite that simple for the 30-year-old Hayes, who has three years remaining on his deal at an AAV of $7,142,857. A buyout would be accompanied by cap penalties of $2.254M next season, $4.754M each of the two seasons following that, then $1.611M the next three years.
Of course, eating 50 percent of the contract to facilitate a trade would add more dead money to the ledger than a buyout.
The myth of Brian Burke has been shattered again, and if NHL club owners and executives have the slightest bit of sense, this will be for the last time.
Fired by the Penguins’ Fenway Sports Group ownership in concert with general manager Ron Hextall, Burke has held upper management positions with three teams since winning the 2007 Cup as Anaheim GM after having the fortune of inheriting a roster with Scott Niedermayer’s brother on it.
As GM of the Maple Leafs for four years, president of hockey ops for the Flames for four years and lately as the president of hockey ops for the Penguins the past three years, his teams have won a sum of one playoff round while missing the tournament seven times in 10 seasons.
Maybe the NHL and NBA will allow Mark Cuban to donate the $750,000 fine with which his Dallas Mavericks were assessed for tanking the final game of their season in order to protect a top-10 draft pick to Columbus.
That sum, however, would be a pittance compared to the revenue potentially lost by moving out of last place overall to 31st by defeating the Penguins in their penultimate game in what will become the most costly victory in NHL history unless the lottery ping-pong balls bounce their way.
Chicago shamelessly tanked starting last summer. The Ducks waved the white flag, ending their season with a 13-game losing streak (0-11-2) to pass the Blue Jackets. Anaheim will enter the May 8 lottery with a 25.5 chance to snag Bedard while the Jackets are at 13.5 percent.
And in other news, the Blue Jackets fired head coach Brad Larsen on Saturday.