It’s the summer doldrums but the hockey beat marches on.
BetMGM has recently released their odds for the Norris Trophy – though these odds will surely move throughout the season. Adam Fox capped off an incredible season in a neck-and-neck race for the Norris, but past history suggests winning two in a row would be difficult. Is it Cale Makar’s to lose?
Here’s a quick look at some of the biggest names on the board and why each of them could have a strong case:
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche – 6.00
The Case For: Since leaving UMass-Amherst, Makar is just one of five defensemen to have scored at least 90 points over the past two seasons and ranks second behind only John Carlson at 0.93 P/GP. He finished ninth in Norris voting in his rookie season and trailed Adam Fox by just nine first-place votes. His ability to control play and generate offense with his skating and puck skill is unmatched, and rightfully the favorite.
The Case Against: Much like Nathan MacKinnon’s chances of winning the Hart, a lot of it will come down to how well the Avs fare during the season. Darcy Kuemper’s numbers have been good but he’s battled injuries and the Avs have lost depth up front and on the blue line. Samuel Girard and Devon Toews, who earned one third-place vote, have also drawn rave reviews and could take some attention away from Makar.
Adam Fox, New York Rangers – 7.00
The Case For: Well, he is the most recent winner. He passes the eye test with his high IQ and ability to move the puck and the analytical models – which is leaned on more heavily for evaluating defensemen since points can be so misleading – simply love him.
The Case Against: Back-to-back wins would be historic. It’s been done before but only Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin managed to do it before their 25th birthday. We can be bullish on Fox, but a reminder that Orr (86 points ahead of second place), Coffey (96 points) and Potvin (46 points) blew away the competition by a substantial margin during their two consecutive wins. Fox was one of 11 defensemen to score at least 40 points and finished second to Tyson Barrie by one point, and once again he’ll have his work cut out for him with a Rangers blue line that lacks depth.
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning – 7.00
The Case For: He played hurt during the playoffs?! Hedman could’ve fooled anyone. He’s finished top-three in Norris voting – which has also traditionally been a bit of a reputation award – for five straight seasons and remains the consensus best all-round defender in the league.
The Case Against: Hedman is coming back from a few injuries but should be ready for the regular season. However, the Lightning has figured out that blitzing through the season doesn’t guarantee playoff success and individual awards have taken a backseat to team success. The Lightning may simply choose to rest Hedman a little more this coming season, especially if he’s headed to the Olympics, and lean more on Ryan McDonagh or Mikhail Sergachev.
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators – 16.00
The Case For: Josi is an exception offensive defenseman and having been a former winner doesn’t hurt. Since getting his first Norris attention in the 2014-15 season after finishing fifth in voting, Josi ranks eighth in P/GP, 11th in PPP and fifth in TOI/GP.
The Case Against: The Preds just don’t seem like a very good team. They traded away one of their most dependable players and Josi’s main defensive partner in Ryan Ellis, and their offense has taken a hit with the departure of Viktor Arvidsson. We can rag on plus-minus all we want, but a negative rating has adverse effects on voting, and Josi’s minus-11 rating was second-worst on the team.
Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars – 16.00
The Case For: Heiskanen has a big contract to live up to, but beyond that, the Stars defense and goaltending should be solid all the way through. He’s an excellent two-way defenseman and solid in all three zones and could have a strong bounceback season. There’s an argument to be made that he simply played too much last season, and the additions of Ryan Suter and Jani Hakanpaa could maybe alleviate some pressure.
The Case Against: He doesn’t score enough. Over the past three seasons, he ranks 33rd with 95 points, and the Stars prefer having John Klingberg running the power play. Even though voters have moved away from awarding the Norris to the top-scoring defenseman, points still matter. Both Klingberg and Esa Lindell also deserve a lot of credit for the Stars’ tough, defensive style. However, if Heiskanen can increase his offensive production to his 2019-20 levels, he seems like a very good value bet.
Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights – 21.00
The Case For: If Pietrangelo can start where he left off in the playoffs, he’ll be golden. He was the Knights’ best player, and even on a fairly crowded blue line he was worth every penny. He can definitely put up the points and he doesn’t have to be elite in his own end every night in a weak Pacific Division, making him a good value bet.
The Case Against: He’s never quite gotten the attention he deserves and his Norris voting history is sporadic; in 11 full seasons, he’s finished top-five in voting three times but also failed to get any votes four times. He shares the spotlight with Theodore and Alec Martinez, and rightfully or not, may get his production discounted because he plays in such a weak division.
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens – 26.00
The Case For: Petry had an outstanding regular season and finished top-20 in voting for the second time in three seasons. It may have taken a while, but Petry seems to be aging like fine wine, posting four consecutive 40-point seasons after his age-30 season. With Shea Weber missing the entire season, Petry will once again play a huge role on Montreal’s blue line.
The Case Against: Petry’s become a far more efficient shooter in recent seasons but a 9.4 S% is hard to replicate. His scoring took a nosedive in the playoffs with just six assists in 20 games, and that’s probably more indicative of his offensive production though he did play injured. His strong play was also buoyed by excellent puck possession and team defense, but Weber is out, Carey Price will likely begin the season on injured reserve and Philip Danault signed with the Kings.
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes – 36.00
The Case For: He did the most with the least last season and was just one of two Coyotes to score more than 40 points last season. Offensively, he’s been fantastic with an uncanny ability to get shots through.
The Case Against: Perhaps like Oliver Ekman-Larsson in his peak years, the Coyotes just aren’t good enough or gain much attention to help Chychrun get votes. My guess is Chychrun will put up solid individual numbers but the team around won’t do him any favors, especially his fellow defensemen and an AHL-caliber goalie tandem. Chychrun’s a fun bet, but don’t expect it to pay off.