As the NHL's regular season draws to a close, it is indeed time to start talking about some of the year-end awards, as they are voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
You'll see as we discuss it that Victor Hedman, star defenseman of the Tampa Bay Lightning (priced at +550 to win the Stanley Cup) is the clear favorite to win the Norris Trophy, given to the player judged to be the overall best at his position.
Don't get us wrong; the price on Hedman is not exactly prohibitive. But we're here to tell you that there is another way to go, and if you want to get a nice payoff, it could be worth a small wager.
Okay, it's time for us to explain.
Odds To Win The 2021 Norris Trophy
VIctor Hedman -145
Adam Fox +450
Cale Makar +900
Charlie McAvoy +1000
John Carlson +1000
Jeff Petry +1800
Drew Doughty +1800
Shea Theodore +1800
Darnell Nurse +2000
Samuel Girard +4000
Morgan Rielly +5000
Dougie Hamilton +5000
Quinn Hughes +6000
Aaron Ekblad +8000
There is a certain degree of controversy to digest here.
The argument - and a heated one - takes place between Hedman's critics and the advocates for Fox, and it revolves around the proposition that Hedman, who won the Norris in 2018, might win this on reputation.
There is actually some evidence to support that notion. As an article in the Washington Post has just pointed out, the Tampa Bay Lightning's goal share at even strength with Hedman is in the ice is 54%, compared with 61% for Fox, and for that matter, Colorado's Cale Makar. Both Fox and Makar have a plus +14 differential when they're put there.
Furthermore, Hedman's overall plus-minus figure of +7 pales in comparison with Fox's +21. And Fox is every bit the factor in special teams situations that Hedman is, if not more.
Fox, we might add, is also the highest point-scorer among NHL defensemen.
The problem that folks hold against him is that he is not playing for a team (the New York Rangers) that is likely going to the playoffs.
But maybe you want to consider that the Rangers are in a division (the East) that may be the most competitive in the NHL. So maybe, just maybe, you don't want to hold his team's non-playoff status against him.
But while we're at it, let's talk about team performance.
And that brings us to the candidacy of Shea Theodore, who is priced at +1800. His team, the Vegas Golden Knights, has the second highest percentage of High Danger Scoring Chances in their favor. The team is also fourth in expected goal differential (all this in 5v5 situations).
In fact, it is the defensive corps that has enabled Marc-Andre Fleury to be one of the top Vezina Trophy candidates.
And the kicker is that according to metrics compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight, Theodore's "Goals Above Replacement" figure is the best among NHL defensemen, although it's close. He is also first in "Point Shares," a metric that is presented at HockeyReference.com.
Makar, who won the Calder Trophy last season, leads a Colorado defense that contributes to the Avs being #1 in both percentage of High Danger Scoring Chances and expected goal differential.
Taking a much closer look at these numbers could give sports bettors at least a few Norris Trophy candidates that may have more real-world viability than Hedman.
And you also have to think about the fact that in this day and age, analytics have become a much more prominent component of the vocabulary of hockey writers.
They read them they follow them, and they have become accustomed to mentioning them when they write about the games. So what we've been talking about here is not a deep, dark secret to them.
For that reason, it shouldn't be any surprise if Fox gets ample consideration, and to a lesser degree, Theodore or Makar.
If the hockey writers are anything like the baseball writers, they don't mind handing out an award to someone with a non-playoff team, taking all the factors into account. Just look what they've done with Mike Trout (and Jacob deGrom, for that matter).
They may find themselves open to voting for a guy like Fox.