Mark Giordano was the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy at the quarter pole of the season. Is 61 games and a great all-around performance enough for him to win the best defenseman award or should it go to a blueliner who plays 70-plus games?
If Mark Giordano is to win the Norris Trophy this season, he’ll need to channel his best Bobby Orr to make it happen.
Giordano played 61 games this season before sustaining the torn bicep muscle that will keep him out of Calgary’s lineup until next autumn. In those games, he was the frontrunner for the award given to the NHL’s best defenseman. Problem is, those 61 games represent just 74 percent of an NHL season. The only other time that award went to a blueliner who played a smaller chunk of the season was 1967-68, when the great Orr played just 46 of 74 games (62 percent).
But we all know Orr was in a class by himself. That was the first of eight consecutive Norris Trophies for him.
Giordano has been exceptional for the surprising Flames this season (11 goals and 48 points in 61 games), but he hasn’t been Orr-like head and shoulders better than the likes of Kris Letang, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, P.K. Subban, Dustin Byfuglien, Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith. It’s quite probable that in the eyes of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, who vote on the award, at least one from that group surpass Giordano at ballot time.
Letang, in the opinion of some, is now considered the favorite, even though he has missed six games and at most can play 93 percent of the season.
Other defensemen who have won the Norris playing 90 percent or less of the season are:
• Larry Robinson, Montreal, 72 of 80 games in 1979-80 (90 percent).
• Doug Harvey, Montreal, 62 of 70 games in 1955-56 (89 percent).
• Red Kelly, Detroit, 62 of 70 games in 1953-54 (89 percent).
• P.K. Subban, Montreal, 42 of 48 games in 2012-13 (88 percent).
• Ray Bourque, Boston, 72 of 84 games in 1993-94 (86 percent).
• Pierre Pilote, Chicago, 59 of 70 games in 1962-63 (84 percent).
• Doug Harvey, Montreal, 58 of 70 games in 1960-61 (83 percent).
• Bobby Orr, Boston, 63 of 78 games in 1972-73 (81 percent).
• Jacques Laperriere, Montreal, 57 of 70 games in 1965-66 (81 percent).
• Bobby Orr, Boston, 46 of 74 games in 1967-68 (62 percent).
My THN associate Matt Larkin said the injury to Giordano coupled with a potential nosedive by the Flames could actually contribute to the Calgary captain’s case for Hart Trophy consideration. Giordano was already in the conversation for the award that goes “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” What better case to be made than seeing a team fall apart without him?
The only player to have won the Hart with less than Giordano’s 74 percent of games mark is Mario Lemieux in 1992-93. He played 60 of 84 games (71 percent). No other non-goalie has won the Hart with less than 83 percent of games played.
So what are Giordano’s chances for an NHL award?
I don’t think he’ll be one of the three finalists for the Hart because there’s too much season left and too many other players to consider.
But I do think he’ll be a finalist for the Norris. And unless Letang goes on a wild ride in the last month of the season, I predict voters will decide Giordano has done enough in 61 games to win the Norris.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN