The Norris Trophy race for the NHL's top defenseman is down to its final three names and they're all familiar to the award. Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators were named finalists for the Norris Monday. All three have been finalists multiple times, with Keith and Chara having previously claimed the award, while Weber was twice a runner up.
Seeing Chara on the list is no surprise as he was the top defenseman on one of the league's stingiest teams. He helped lead the team to the President's Trophy while averaging 24:39 of ice time per game, by far a team high. Chara finished with 40 points including 17 goals and registered a plus-25 rating. This while facing among the stiffest competition opponents had to offer. Chara won the Norris in 2008-09 and has been a finalist six times.
Keith was second among all defensemen with 61 points including 55 assists, best among NHL rearguards. The slick-skating Keith led the Blackhawks with 24:38 per game and put 198 shots on goal this season. This is just the second time Keith has been a finalist. He won the award in 2009-10. It's pretty clear that the Blackhawks are a better team when he's on the ice, he didn't play the toughest defensive minutes for his team. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya tended to see the toughest competition among Hawks blueliners. Though that could be a slight downgrade for Keith, his production and what he did while on the ice surely wasn't to be overlooked.
Weber was his typical productive self, registering 23 goals, tops among all defensemen in the league. He also set a Predators' franchise record for points by a defenseman with 56. Weber has been a finalist twice previously (which seems kind of low). He was the runner up in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He may be a controversial pick as a guy who is a finalist because he put up points, but considering how bad the goaltending was in Nashville this year, his defense may have been undervalued as well. Weber averaged nearly 27 minutes a night, taking all of the tough minutes and shouldering a heavier offensive burden with such low-producing forwards.
Among the snubs, you might consider Mark Giordano, who had a rather ridiculous season for the Flames. Missing 20 games with a broken ankle probably did him in, but 47 points and having success despite some of the toughest defensive assignments of any player this season surely got him some votes. It will be interesting to see where he ends up when the vote tallies are released.
The trio who will head to Las Vegas is certainly worthy, however. Any one of the three really could win this thing.
The NHL Awards will be presented on June 24.