Tonight Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy and I am stunned.
I had not prepared anything in advance of the announcement because I honestly didn’t think that he would win. Fortunately, I have enough time to get this post up because the CBC has opted to air the NHL Awards with a one hour taped delay. Go figure…
The reason why I didn’t believe Karlsson would win was not because he wasn’t deserving (he was) but because at times, it often felt like he was being stigmatized and mislabelled as a bad defensive player – that his offensive production dwarfed whatever contributions he could make in the defensive zone or that he didn't average enough shorthanded ice-time.
Combined with the fact that I wrongly assumed that the Western Conference writers would favour Nashville’s Shea Weber, and that the large constituency of east coast writers would favour Boston’s Zdeno Chara and New York’s Dan Girardi, I figured the Eastern Conference votes would be split and Karlsson's totals would suffer.
I was wrong and couldn’t be happier because for the first time since Daniel Alfredsson won the Calder Trophy in 1996, an Ottawa Senators player has won a major NHL award. In fact, per the NHL’s media release, Karlsson is the youngest winner of the award since Denis Potvin won the first of his three Norris Trophies in 1976 and if you want to go even further, Karlsson's the youngest Norris Trophy recipient since Bobby Orr, who captured the first of his eight consecutive Norris titles with the Boston Bruins at the age of 20 in 1968.
Here is how the PHWA voting broke down:
Norris Trophy Voting Pts. 1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th
1. Erik Karlsson, OTT 1,069 (66-31-32-9-5)
2. Shea Weber, NSH 1,057 (49-54-32-9-2)
3. Zdeno Chara, BOS 950 (32-48-47-19-2)
4. Alex Pietrangelo, STL 381 (0-7-20-68-28)
5. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET 132 (0-5-4-16-29)
6. Dan Girardi, NYR 70 (2-0-4-6-12)
7. Brian Campbell, FLA 58 (0-2-2-6-16)
8. Ryan Suter, NSH 57 (0-1-3-5-20)
9. Kris Letang, PIT 40 (0-0-4-3-11)
10. Dan Hamhuis, VAN 21 (0-1-0-3-5)
11. Ryan McDonagh, NYR 13 (0-0-1-2-2)
12. Michael Del Zotto, NYR 5 (0-0-0-1-2)
13. Duncan Keith, CHI 4 (0-0-0-1-1) Keith Yandle, PHX 4 (0-0-0-1-1)
15. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG 4 (0-0-0-0-4) Alexander Edler, VAN 4 (0-0-0-0-4)
17. Dan Boyle, S.J. 2 (0-0-0-0-2)
18. Kevin Bieksa, VAN 1 (0-0-0-0-1) Willie Mitchell, L.A. 1 (0-0-0-0-1) Kevin Shattenkirk, STL 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Five fifth place ballots for Karlsson?
Those five writers should be found and openly mocked.
Conference Call Chat Transcript with Karlsson:
How does it feel?
ERIK KARLSSON: Pretty good, actually, very special. And I'm actually more comfortable here now than I was there. It's very special, and I don't really think I understand everything that was going on, and probably didn't give the best speech in the world or anything like that.
But obviously very happy and appreciate everything.
Q. Is it a surprise given the guys you're up against?
ERIK KARLSSON: Yeah. I think both those guys have had had terrific years. They've been good players for a number of years, and they have many more to come. And just to be nominated with those guys is something that's very rare. And I respect them a lot as players and as persons as well.
And I still watch them on TV like I did a couple of years ago, and it's something that I know is very rare and special, and I am very humble and it's very special to me.
Q. Did you sign that contract one day too early?
ERIK KARLSSON: No. I'm very happy with how everything turned out. And it's just a special feeling right now. And probably a little bit taken.
Q. Could you imagine having two days quite like this?
ERIK KARLSSON: Probably not. It's not something I counted on, and especially not now. And it feels just really good, I think. And I'm just a little bit nervous. Never been this nervous before in this kind of way.
In one way it's very frustrating because I want to be who I normally am, but it's very big, and it's a great honor, and it's something that I will look back on and being one of the best days of my life.
Q. How do you build on this year after year, still so young and still going to get so much better? How do you carry this forward?
ERIK KARLSSON: I think the hardest part is I really have to work very hard on improving my game and I want to be a player that plays for a number of years and play really good.
I want to be up there, and I'm going to do everything I can to be able to do that for a lot of years, hopefully.
Q. Did you ever picture yourself winning? Did you think your reaction would be this way?
ERIK KARLSSON: Absolutely not. I mean, I'm happy to be here, and it was very, very, what do you call it? When I got nominated I was ?? I don't really think I understood how it works and how big it was until I came here. And once I sat down and saw that the first prize was mine, I didn't really know what to do and probably going to have to look at the tape a couple times to really figure out what really happened.
And it's just a lot of fun right now. And I'm going to enjoy myself.
Q. Did you forget to thank anybody when you were out there?
ERIK KARLSSON: I thanked the organization, right? (Laughter). Both the other players and my fiancee. And probably forgot my family. They did a lot. And I mean, everybody that's my friends and that's around me. Especially the organization and the team and my teammates are probably the biggest reason why I had such a big success this year. And without them, I couldn't probably have done a lot.
Q. Do you have a space on a shelf for a trophy that big right now?
ERIK KARLSSON: No, I don't. And it's very special. That's probably the best word to describe everything. And now I gotta take it to the next level and go from here.
Q. (Off microphone)?
ERIK KARLSSON: He's been so good for so many years and he's a role model to a lot of players. That's young and even the older players in the league. He really took the game to another level and showed a lot of people how he played fun hockey.
Q. What a feeling is it that your name is going to be on a plaque, a trophy, the same as his?
ERIK KARLSSON: Obviously it's a huge honor and it's very big, and I couldn't be more happy with where I am right now. And just be able to look back on this, it's pretty hard to say how great it feels.
Q. You seem pretty overwhelmed right now. Can you talk about your emotions a little bit?
ERIK KARLSSON: It's a brand new situation for me. I've never been here before. I've never been a part of something this big, and I just think it's something that kind of took me by surprise a bit. And I don't really know what to say. Probably if you come back a couple days from now, I'll probably say a few more words and everything like that. But I mean I'm just very honored about everything. And it's been a great night so far.
Q. How will you remember this trip to Vegas?
ERIK KARLSSON: Probably rank pretty high. First time here. I've seen a lot of good shows. Had a lot of good dinners. Being here, seeing everybody and being around the best players in the league is something that I know you're not going to be a part of every year.
And it might even be a one?time thing, you never know. And I'm going to try and enjoy as much as I can and not be so nervous, hopefully. And it's just a great honor. And I'm very appreciative of everything that's been happening in this city.
Q. Do you remember the Finals last year, Zdeno Chara won the award? What do you say about them and what do you say about being in the company of those two?
ERIK KARLSSON: As I said before, they're the kind of players who has been around for a while. They've been here before and they've been playing good for a number of years, and they both had a terrific season this year. And I don't really think I understand how much it takes to be that kind of player they are. I have a great, a whole lot of respect for those two guys. They're amazing hockey players and they do it every night and they're game?changers both of them.
Q. Given how young you are to win the award, is there part of it: I could be the next, maybe I could win seven?
ERIK KARLSSON: I don't like to look too far ahead either. I'm here right now. And it's a great feeling and it's something that I know I want to be a part of again. And I'm going to work hard to try and do that.