The race for the 2021-22 James Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually “to the defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” is a three-man pursuit at the halfway mark of the NHL season.
Two of the players in the hunt are former winners of the Norris. The blueliner who is the current favourite was the runner-up in Norris voting last season.
Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche is pulling away from the pack thanks to his play on both ends of the ice. Victor Hedman, who has been a fixture on the Tampa Bay Lightning backline and who won the Norris in 2018, is once again in the hunt for a second Norris. Also in the running for his second Norris is last year’s winner, Adam Fox of the New York Rangers.
2021-22 Norris Trophy Odds
Let’s have a look at the current odds for the 2022 Norris Trophy.
|To Win 2022 Norris Trophy|
Cale Makar builds a lead
Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche won the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL at the end of the 2020 season. He also garnered enough votes in the Norris race to place ninth overall in the voting for that award. He had two fourth-place votes and 17 fifth-place nods. In 2021, the Norris voters noted Makar’s improved play by voting him runner-up to Adam Fox. When the first-place votes were counted, Fox landed 40, while Makar earned 31.
Fox and Makar are both playing superb hockey this season, but Makar is pulling ahead of the pack for consideration for the Norris. He has 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) and is a plus 22 while playing an average of 24:38 minutes per game.
Makar is on pace to score over 30 goals this season. If he accomplishes that feat, he will be the first defenceman to do so since Mike Green netted 31 in 2008-09. Before Green hit 31, the last blueliner to net 30 or more goals was Kevin Hatcher with 34 in 1993.
If Makar can keep up his scoring and remain the shutdown defensive player he is (along with partner Devon Toews), odds are good he will win his first Norris in 2021.
Victor Hedman makes a case
Victor Hedman, who won the Norris in 2018, finished third in the voting for best defenceman last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning star, who has back-to-back Stanley Cup trophies to his name, picked up 22 votes. Hedman leads all blueliners in points this season with 43 (9 G, 34 A). Hedman is almost a lock to be a finalist for the Norris for a sixth straight year in 2021.
Hedman might not be as flashy as Makar, but that could be a positive for some voters. He plays well at both ends of the ice and he is also a physical force. Another thing to note about the veteran is that he is a go-to-player for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay was recently forced to ice just four blueliners for a game due to injuries and salary-cap issues. With that, Hedman played a career-high 32:18 for a regulation game and had three points (2 G, 1 A) in the Lightning’s 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
Hedman has made a strong case for a second Norris at the halfway point of the 2021 NHL season.
Adam Fox looks to repeat
Adam Fox finished his rookie season in 2020 with 42 points in 70 games played and a plus 22 rating on the New York Rangers blueline. He finished fourth in the voting for the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL that year. He was ignored for the Norris Trophy.
Last season, Fox put up 47 points (5 G, 42 A) in 55 games for the Rangers and had a plus 19 rating. Fox was first among NHL defensemen in assists, ranked second in points and power-play assists (21), tied for second in power-play points (23), ranked third in takeaways (38). The Rangers also awarded Fox with the team’s most valuable player award.
Fox leads NHL defensemen in assists in 2022 with 35 and is tied with Roman Josi in points with 42. He is a plus player at plus 16.
Fox has a chance to go back-to-back, but if he doesn’t match his (prorated) numbers from last year he might struggle to take votes away from Hedman and Makar.
Our Canada Sports Betting Norris Trophy Pick
It looks like this will be a close race and if things remain as tight as they are right now, I think the voters go with the veteran player in Victor Hedman.
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