Dallas Stars: John Klingberg Should Be Norris Trophy Favorite

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: John Klingberg #3 of the Dallas Stars celebrates a goal by Tyler Pitlick #18 at 21 seconds of the third period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 13, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: John Klingberg #3 of the Dallas Stars celebrates a goal by Tyler Pitlick #18 at 21 seconds of the third period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 13, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg might not be the Norris Trophy favorite, but there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be 

The 2018 NHL season is more than halfway over. Since the All-Star Game is coming up, this is the time of year people enjoy posting award ballots. Though voting doesn’t happen until after the regular season, it’s always fun to see who gets votes. Remarkably, Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg didn’t rank as highly as he should have in the Norris Trophy voting.

It’s at least understandable why someone like Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche didn’t get many votes in the recent PHWA Midseason Awards ballot. He probably should have gotten votes for the Rod Langway Trophy (a fun hypothetical award given to the best defensive defenseman), but since it’s not even a real award, it’s not worth getting mad about.

Klingberg finished third in the Norris Trophy voting. He should have been first.

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His case for the Norris is very strong. While Klingberg doesn’t play quite the minutes as Victor Hedman and Drew Doughty, that shouldn’t count. Why punish a player because his team’s blue line is deeper? Also, Klingberg’s still averaging of 23 minutes per game as of Jan. 26. That’s a ton of minutes.

Offense

The Norris goes to the best defenseman in all areas of the game. So it’s only fair offense gets considered. Klingberg’s Norris Trophy revolves strongly around what he does on offense.

Other than Erik Karlsson, there might not be a more dangerous defenseman with the puck than the Stars defenseman. Klingberg ranks first among blueliners in points with 48. Brent Burns is gaining on him with 41, but he still holds a pretty comfortable lead.

Klingberg also ranks first among defensemen in even-strength primary points (goals and first assists). This stat is very useful because the impact of secondary assists varies. A player who touches the puck for a brief second is given as many assists for doing that as the guy who sets up the goal. Primary points get rid of secondary assists, focusing on who’s actually driving the scoring.

But Klingberg gets a lot of ice time. How does he rank among defensemen who also get a ton of minutes? Let’s see how he does among those with at least 600 minutes at even strength.

  • 2.07 points per hour (first)
  • 1.75 total assists per hour (first)
  • 0.84 primary assists per hour (second)
  • 0.32 even strength goals per hour (29th)

You’d like to see him score more goals, but he’s a defenseman. Also, Klingberg clearly influences play on offense, which is what matters. He’s an important catalyst of the Stars power play, though there are certainly better man advantage producers.

Defense

Defensive metrics aren’t perfect. Then again, no stat is. So before we look at Klingberg’s defensive metrics, I’ll provide a little context. I’ll be using his relative numbers, which compares how the Stars do with him on the ice as opposed to how they do without him on the ice.

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My reason for doing so is Klingberg’s numbers would be a bit biased if only raw numbers were used. The Stars have an outstanding defensive system. If I would have told you this a year ago, you’d likely wonder which village is missing their idiot. Credit Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock for overhauling a broken system. It’s still not perfect, but it’s light years better than the previous two seasons.

His teammate-relative even-strength shot attempts against rate of -0.04 doesn’t rank favorably. But again, Dallas has a really good defensive system. So this shouldn’t be surprising. It’s more telling of how good the Stars are defensively than anything else. But as far as expected goals, few defensemen are more impactful than Klingberg.

The Stars have numerous solid penalty killers, so it’s not surprising Klingberg is rarely used while they’re short-handed. Of course, there’s also the issue of teams refusing to use their best players on the penalty kill, but that’s another story.

Overall

It’s hard to find a defenseman as well-balanced as Klingberg. Even if his offense is better than his defense. Victor Hedman would be a nice candidate, but his recent injury probably hurts his chances. Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano should get serious consideration, but for a variety of reasons, they won’t.

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Klingberg not leading the Norris Trophy ballot for the midseason awards is a bit baffling. Because no matter which metrics you like to look at, Klingberg is the favorite.