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Preview/Lines #74: Quinn Makes Case for Karlsson Norris



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn made his case for Erik Karlsson winning the Norris Trophy yesterday.

“I think a big piece of it is what is your elite quality?” Quinn asked, rhetorically, when comparing Karlsson to 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, who he coached in New York. “When Foxy won the Norris Trophy, his elite quality was his offensive side of it, but through the course of that season, he became an elite defender as well. There was a double whammy.

“With Karl, his elite quality is so elite.”

Quinn is referring to Karlsson’s offense.

Rachel Doerrie of The Hockey News wrote an excellent piece yesterday, highlighting how Karlsson has lapped the field and should be given the “McDavid treatment” in deference to how far ahead both leaders are to their positional runner-ups.

Just for example, Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 140 points, 26 more than teammate Leon Draisaitl. So the forward has an astonishing 20.4 percent lead over the second-best scorer in the league.

Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen with 90 points, 21 more than Josh Morrissey and Quinn Hughes. So Karlsson has an even more astonishing 26.4 percent lead over the second-best scorer in his position.

And another level of astonishing?

Karlsson is ahead of even McDavid in this key area.

“When you produce at the level he’s produced 5-on-5, I don’t see how he doesn’t win,” Quinn continued. “When you’re that far ahead of everybody else in a huge, huge category.”

Karlsson has 59 5-on-5 points, four more than runner-up McDavid. The next defenseman after Karlsson? Vince Dunn has 39 5-on-5 points.

Quinn would also argue that Karlsson’s defense is underrated.

On one hand, it’s valid to point out that Karlsson is penalty killing a lot less than a traditional Norris candidate. He averages just 20 seconds of PK a night, after years of a regular short-handed shift.

But it doesn’t mean he’s playing any less. His 22:07 Even Strength TOI Per Game leads the league, a good minute more than Thomas Chabot. Meanwhile, his overall 25:45 Per Game is third in the NHL.

It’s fair to say that the Sharks pulled Karlsson off the PK not because he was incapable there, but because they were trying to save him for offense. Keep in mind that San Jose had the second-best kill in the league last year with Karlsson as a regular on the unit.

There’s also a focus on Karlsson’s -17.

“I know what his plus-minus looks like,” Quinn acknowledged. “I think people should look into the empty net goal situation because that certainly plays a big part in it.”

Karlsson has been on the ice for more empty net goals than anyone else in the NHL, 20. And yes, ENGs go into +/- for whatever reason.

Consider, instead, that Karlsson leads the Sharks with a +6 at 5-on-5. Just three Sharks have a positive 5-on-5 plus-minus, and two of the, Jaycob Megna (+3) and Mikey Eyssimont (+1), are long gone.

“He’s defended a lot better maybe then the analytics say that he has,” Quinn argued. “He’s hockey strong. He’s got a great stick.

“He plays a ton of minutes and he’s usually out there against everybody’s best players. With probably not the supporting cast that other candidates have had. So I think you’ve got to take everything in consideration when you look at his defensive numbers.”

Quinn finished his Karlsson 2023 campaign with this flourish, comparing his star blueliner to Babe Ruth.

“I know there’s all these other things you got to consider, I get it. But when someone’s doing what he’s doing that special, that far above everybody else, it’s like Babe Ruth hitting 60, and the other guy hitting 20.”

San Jose Sharks (19-39-15)

James Reimer will start tonight, and Jeffrey Viel will draw in for the injured Alexander Barabanov, who’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Winnipeg Jets (41-30-3)

Where to Watch

The San Jose Sharks will take on the Winnipeg Jets at 7:30 PM PST at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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