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The nominees for the James Norris trophy were released this week. The Professional Hockey Writers association voted on the players they feel demonstrate the best all around ability at the position of defence. The three nominees are Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.

These three defensemen are phenomenal. They deserve recognition. However, a certain defender has been left off the list that is just as deserving as these mentioned players, in fact I would assert more deserving. Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames deserved a Norris nomination.

Giordano had a very impressive season. He set personal records in goals and points and had the most successful season of his career. He also led his Calgary Flames team in a season that surprised many by showing flashes of skill and success — despite finishing 27th in the league.

I’m going to make my case as to why I think he deserved a Norris nomination and potentially even deserved the win over all.

 

Tough Circumstances

 

Before I introduce how well each candidate has performed this year, I want to show the circumstances in which they had done so. To do that, it’s important to look at three main things; the competition they are facing, the team mates they are playing with and the frequency they are starting in the defensive or offensive zones.

Let’s start with team mates and competition. The quality of competition and teammate statistic from Extraskater.com demonstrates the skill of ones linemates or competition by measuring the amount ice time the team mates or opponents play. Then, they average that and express it as a percent of overall ice time. The higher the percent, the more the player is playing, and therefore the more skilled he likely is. The below graph shows all the quality of linemates and competition of the four aforementioned defensemen (NOTE: graph starts from 26.5%, only small variance between highest and lowest)

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What we see here is that Chara and Keith are playing with slightly worse teammates than Giordano and Weber. However, when we look a bit deeper into the specific players that they are each playing with, we see a different story.

Duncan Keith played the most with forward Jonathan Toews and defenseman Brent Seabrook. Zdeno Chara played most commonly with David Krejci and Dougie Hamilton. Weber played most with Mike Fisher and Roman Josi. Mark Giordano played most with forward Mikael Backlund and defensemen T.J. Brodie.

Giordano may have played with some of the best linemates available on his team, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically equal to the teammates that Keith and Chara played with. No one in the world would argue that Backlund and Brodie are even on the same level as Toews or Seabrook, or even Krejci — that’s not a knock on those players, more just a point on how elite the others players are.

Giordano and — to a lesser extent — Weber’s line mates are far inferior to those of their peers in this comparison. This makes their results inherently more impressive.

Their competition, meanwhile, shows that all these candidates are playing against very difficult opponents. Chara is playing the hardest competition, while Weber and Giordano are playing slightly easier opponents. Keith, meanwhile, is playing considerably easier minutes than the others.

Additional to all this is where the defenders are starting most; the defensive, offensive or neutral zones. Here’s a chart that shows each players starting rates in each zone.

 

Start Rates

Giordano

Keith

Chara

Weber

Offensive  Zone

27.4%

35.8

30.8%

27.9%

Defensive Zone

36.2

26.7%

33.1%

34.7%

Neutral Zone

36.4

37.6%

36.1%

37.3%

 

Giordano starts the most in the defensive zone and the least in the offensive zone. He starts an average amount in the neutral. Below is a graph from extraskater.com that compares the quality of competition and zone start ratio (offensive divided by defensive zone starts) that visually demonstrates just how tough Giordano’s minutes have been this year.

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For reference: the more blue a circle is, the better his corsi for percentage is; the farther to the left a player is, the less he starts in the offensive zone; the higher he is, the tougher his competition is. Giordano is so far to the left that he can barely be seen.  He is starting the least in the offensive zone, his zone start ratio being 15% lower than Keith’s. When one starts so frequently in the defensive zone, it will hurt his overall point totals and possession statistics, not to mention how tough his competition has been; this is what makes the information I will get into shortly even more impressive.

 

Results

It’s no secret that Giordano had an amazing season. I’ve heard many say that his games lost to injury hurt his eligibility to be a norris candidate. Here I’ll show why I think his results are impressive enough to ignore his 18 games lost to injury.

I’ll look at his point results and his corsi results to show how impressive he has been throughout the 2013-2014 season.

Giordano was equally if not more efficient at creating goals this year than the Norris nominees.

 

 

Giordano

Keith

Weber

Chara

Overall Points

47

61

56

40

Points per game

0.73

0.77

0.7

0.52

Points per 60

1.16

1.48

0.96

0.87

The only player among the three that produced points at a better rate this season was Keith. Past him, Giordano was producing at rates better than Chara and Weber both on point-per-game and point per 60 minutes of ice time perspectives. The value of both of these is that it removes the games played or ice time bias from the point totals, revealing who is truly most valuable when they are on the ice.

Giordano’s point totals are undeniably impressive. They are superior to two of the three nominees. However, points aren’t everything. Another huge statistic — for defensemen especially is shot attempt percentages. How a player influences shot totals while they are on the ice is essential knowledge for analysis. For this I’ll look at on-ice shot attempt percents — or corsi for percent — as well as goals for percent for those who are less friendly towards shot metrics.

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The first bars demonstrate the shot attempts for or goals for percentage while that player is on the ice; the second is while they are not. This is meant to show how much of a true impact for their team that player has.

Both through shot attempts for and goals for the same conclusion can be drawn; Giordano had a tremendously positive impact on his team, more so than any of the other mentioned defensemen. His relative corsi of 10.3% is first in the league. Seemingly no other individual player has had such a huge impact on his teams shot totals than Giordano has had for the Flames in the entire league, let alone just these other three defenders.

One of a defenseman’s most prioritized responsibilities is reducing shots against and increasing shots for. Giordano accomplishes this incredibly well and when considered relative to his team, he does this best of any of the defender’s nominated. His benefit to the team is undeniable.

 

Conclusion

Giordano’s results are amazing. His point totals and shot attempt percentages are very impressive. Even more impressive is he has great results considering the quality of linemates and competition he has, not to mention how often he starts in the defensive zone as opposed to the offensive. The only one of the defenders to produce points more efficiently was Duncan Keith, but Keith started substantially more in the offensive zone and was playing alongside elite talent such as Jonathan Toews.

Although I understand the hesitation to nominate him due to injuries this season, his results are impressive enough in my opinion to offset 16 games lost to injury. Giordano has demonstrated the best all around ability of any defender in the league this year, both in reducing shots against and creating goals for, while doing so in very difficult minutes, with poor linemates and tough competition. Giordano was a top defensemen in the league this year and as such deserved to at the very least be nominated for the James Norris Memorial Trophy.

 

Follow me on Twitter, @LukaRyder

 

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