The NHL reached the three-quarter mark of its season this past weekend. Now, with the NHL Trade Deadline in the rear-view mirror, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines -- and award winners -- that have developed across the first 900-plus games of the 1,230-game regular season.
The Norris Trophy races in 2008-09 and 2009-10 were a referendum -- first on offensive play vs. all-round play, and second on reputation.
Washington's Mike Green had a historic offensive campaign in 2008-09 and followed it with an even better all-round season in 2009-10. He also ended up as the Norris bridesmaid each time.
2011-12 NHL TROPHY TRACKER
- HART TROPHY: Malkin establishing healthy lead
- VEZINA TROPHY: 'King' Henrik should get crown
- JACK ADAMS AWARD: History on Tortorella's side
- SELKE TROPHY: Bergeron remains top candidate
- LADY BYNG TROPHY: Moulson emerges as favorite
- CALDER TROPHY: Henrique ascends to the top
- GM OF THE YEAR: Coyotes' Maloney leading the list
The next season there was little doubt Green should have won. He finished with 19 goals and 76 points -- again leading all defensemen -- and was even better at even strength. He was on the ice for 96 Washington goals while only 51 goals-against -- 23 fewer than Norris winner Duncan Keith.
Green lost in 2009-10 because of reputation -- he wasn't considered a solid defenseman in his own end of the ice and no statistic, whether it was his traditional plus/minus of plus-39 or any advanced metric was able to sway enough voters.
This season, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson is having a similar campaign to the ones Green had, and it has made him a leading contender for the Norris. He also doesn't have the best reputation in his end of the ice, and it may cost him votes.
There is a strong case for Karlsson to win the Norris this season, but the argument for a certain seven-time winner of the award just might have a little bit stronger.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings -- Lidstrom has played against the toughest competition of any defenseman in the League this season at even strength, according to Behind The Net's quality of competition rating. What makes that even more remarkable is Detroit possesses two of the seven most-productive forward trios at even strength, according to Dobber Hockey's line-production tool. So Lidstrom can't face two of the top lines, but he's still faced the toughest cumulative competition.
Despite that, Lidstrom is among the top defensemen in goals-for per 60 minutes and goals-against per 60 minutes at even strength, checking in at ninth and No. 11, respectively. He's second in the difference between those two numbers, or his plus/minus per 60 minutes at even strength -- only defense partner Ian White is ahead of him.
To summarize, Lidstrom faces the toughest competition and yet his team dominates at even strength when he's on the ice. He also started the week tied for fifth in goals among defensemen and tied for the best traditional plus/minus, but his dominance at even strength at both ends of the ice should more than make up for a lack of assists in the eyes of voters -- if they look beyond the traditional back-of-a-hockey-card numbers.
SOG: 205 | +/-: 15
He has improved -- Karlsson was on the ice for the sixth-most goals at even strength among defensemen in 2010-11 and has been on for the 13th-most this season. The big difference is at the offensive end -- he leads all defensemen in goals for and goals for per 60 minutes at even strength.
It's not that Karlsson doesn't face tough competition -- he's No. 36 in advanced-metric website Behind The Net's quality of competition rating and second among the Senators defensemen. Karlsson has improved defensively and a lot offensively, but the total package still is not as impressive as the work Lidstrom has done in 2011-12.
It will be interesting to see if Karlsson's reputation, which is similar to what Green's was a few seasons ago, will hold him back with voters or if his offensive numbers are just too great. Karlsson's advantage over Green's candidacies, while coincidental, is that he has a bigger lead in points than Green did in either of those two seasons.
Shea Weber, Predators -- It's probably a two-person race for the Norris at this point, as Lidstrom and Karlsson stand out from the other contenders. A case could be made to put Boston's Zdeno Chara or Weber's teammate, Ryan Suter, in this place.
Weber is tied with Karlsson for the League lead in goals by a defenseman with 14 and he's third in points. He's also in the top 30 among defensemen in goals-for and goals-against per 60 minutes at even strength, while playing the sixth-most minutes per game at even strength.