Monday, March 30, 2009

How Good Has/Is Mike Green's Season This Year?

There has already been a debate started about whether Alexander Oveckin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby or a fourth player should get the Hart Trophy (MVP Award) this season, so I'm not going there, mainly because to me the jury is still out on that one.

The debates I want to start and end are: 1) Is Mike Green even worthy of consideration for the Norris Trophy this season? 2) Assuming you think he is worthy of consideration, should he win the Norris Trophy this season.
So let's look at and quickly dispense with the answer to question 1. There is no doubt that Mike Green is worthy of consideration - here's where he ranks in key statistics so far this season in comparison with the other defenseman in the league:

A) +/- ratings: Green's current +24 puts him at number 6 among all defensemen in this stat.
B) Total Points: Green's 67 points so far this season puts him at number 1 in this spot, 7 points ahead of second place Andrei Markov in this category.
C) Goals: Green's 28 goals put him in first 7 goals ahead of Shea Weber and Sheldon Souray.
D) TOI/G: Green's 25:51 put him at number 7 on this list just 00:19 seconds behind sixth place Zdeno Chara.
E) Shots & Shooting %: Green's 229 shots put him at number 4 in that statistical category 24 shots behind category leader Dion Phaneuf but Green's 12.2% shooting % puts him 3.1% better than Shea Weber, 3.7% ahead of Souray, and 8% better than Phaneuf - the only guys ahead of him in SOG. He is the number 1 defenseman in shooting % by a fair measure (0.7%).
F) Hits, Blocked Shots and Takeaways: While Green's 80 hits and 97 blocked shots both put him at #78 among the league's defensemen in those categories, both somewhat lower than Zdeno Chara (125 hits # 33 on the list and 110 blocked shots #55 in that category - among defensemen) whose name most often come up when talk turns to the Norris Trophy winner this season. Game Over's 47 takeaways put him at #5 among defensemen in that category ahead of Chara 25 takeaways/#53. For what it's worth Green is ahead of Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in all three categories by a considerable measure, Lidstrom has 34 hits, 61 blocked shots and 26 takeaways in 72 games played so far this season, and nobody casts aspersions when someone suggests him for possible consideration for another Norris Trophy.

Now on to the answer to question 2. First the definition of the Norris Trophy is: the James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. When you look at all the statistics and you factor in the fact that each season the premium placed more and more on offensive production without costing your team defensively is growing in response to changes in the game, is being done so for good reason; you come up with a pretty short list of worthy possible awardees. They include:

A) Nicklas Lidstrom, the award winner for the past three seasons is #4 in +/- and #15 in TOI/G. Lidstrom also has 13 G and 40 Assists including 4 game winners.
B) Zdeno Chara, Boston's Captain and shut down defenseman is everything listed above as well as #7 in +/- and #6 (26:10) in TOI/G. Chara also has 16 goals and 27 assists including 2 game winners.
C) Mike Green, the league's highest scoring defenseman is also # in +/- and #7 in TOI/G (25:51); he has 3 game winners, 11 even strength, 16 even strength and 1 short handed goal. He broke the NHL record for goals in consecutive games this season and with 2 more goals will be the first defensemen in long stretch with 30 or more goals. He is also #1 in shooting percentage (12.2%) and #4 in shots on goal (229). In today's NHL, the best defense is a good offense - it's hard for a team to score when they are focused on stopping the other team from scoring and that's what Mike green has been doing when he's been on the ice this season.
D) David Johnny Oduya , the New Jersey Devil who is +23 is #8 in that category and his 21:00 TOI/G is #89. Oduya has 7 goals and 21 assists, including 4 game winners.
E) Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawk is +32 (#2 in that category) has 25:32 TOI/G is #9, He has 8 goals and 34 assists including 1 game winner and 1 short handed goal.

I'm sure you can argue whether Oduya, Kieth or someone else should be the last two guys on my list but even when you do, with between 5 and 8 games left in the season, you won't likely argue with the inclusion of Chara, Green and Lidstrom on the list. Bottom line is all three have been dominant forces most of the time they've been on the ice this season. However for my money the guy who has exhibited the greatest all around ability in the position this season is Mike Green. Perhaps the best thing Green has going for him in the voting is I suspect despite all the campaigning unless Evgeni Malkin just doesn't show up much the rest of the season, he, not Alexander Ovechkin, will win the Hart Trophy. By the way if you look at The Sporting News NHL player overall strength ratings Green is the highest rated defensemen as of the March 24th rankings at #2 wedged between MVP candidates Ovechkin #1, Zach Parise #3 and Evgeni Malkin #3. The highest rated defenseman after Mike Green is Chara at #17. Perhaps that's the best argument for Green getting the Norris this season.
Yesterday, in NHL action, there were 7 games, 6 of which had playoff implications for sure and the seventh which could possibly come in to play but it's unlikely. In the action that is most likely to affect the Capitals, the Bruins beat the Flyers in regulation. In the other game involving Eastern Conference teams Ottawa beat Tampa Bay in regulation in a game likely to be one of several games the next two weeks whose only impact is likely to see who gets into the lottery for the first draft pick. In Western Conference action: Vancouver beat Chicago in regulation, Nashville beat Detroit in regulation, St Louis beat Columbus in regulation, Minnesota beat Edmonton and Anaheim beat Colorado.
Finally Caps fans, tonight when New Jersey plays the Rangers, they will be playing their final game in hand they have on the Capitals. So once again we find ourselves in a very, very, very strange position - rooting for the Rangers to win in regulation. If that happens then the Caps will truly be in second place 1/2 game and 1 point ahead of the Devils. Yesterday, the Bruins beat the Flyers so they are now 7 points ahead of the Capitals and they still have a game in hand on the Caps. There are only three games tonight NJ vs. NYR; San Jose vs. Calgary; Dallas vs. Phoenix. The only one of the three games with any ramifications on the Eastern Conference playoff races is NJ vs. NYR.


Bill Thomas said...

Mike Green has become one of the premier defensemen in the NHL, but we all know that winning an award such as the Norris trophy in largely a popularity contest and is based as much upon past performance and reputation as much as worthiness. Do I believe that Green will eventually win the award, yes, but not necessarily this year.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...


Fair comment but if he gets 3 more goals, that along with the record he set earlier this season might and I emphasize might make it possible for him to win over Chara. Given Lidstrom's stats this yerar and his 3 prior wins in a row, I don't see him 4-peting this year though being the Captain of ateam that could win the President's Trophy, again won't hurt his chances either....That said being a Caps Fan I'm rooting for Green....


DMG said...

Just by ranking, Green wouldn't have a great chance most years. Sure, he's first in point production but of the ~150 defensemen playing regularly in the NHL I'd bet he's no better than 50th in his own end and generally a guy like that is going to lose out to guys like Chara, Lidstrom, Weber, and Keith, who are all top 15-20 both offensively and defensively. The question is whether or not the fact that Green is not only leading, but dominating, the point race among defensemen is enough to compensate for the fact that he's not as good as the other guys when it comes to defense.

It's interesting you stressed the language of the Norris Trophy; the "all around ability" part because if anything I think that hurts Green. He doesn't kill penalties as much as the other contenders and part of his dominance is his production on one of the league's best powerplays. He does lead in ES points for defensemen per minute, but he isn't nearly as fair ahead in even strength production as he is overall.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

DMG: Good points - what specific "defensive" statistics are you looking at though - I have a hard time finding the type of stats you often cite - i just don't seem to look in the right places. I'd like to look at them and do a little "plinking" with them....

DMG said...

I wasn't looking at any defensive statistics, just estimating where I think most pundits, coaches, etc would put Green in terms of defensive ability - above average, but not elite.