Carolina Hurricanes almost had a Norris Trophy Winner
If it weren’t for an untimely injury, we could have been talking about Carolina Hurricanes Defender Dougie Hamilton being a Norris Trophy finalist for the 19-20 Season.
When the Carolina Hurricanes went into Columbus to visit the Blue Jackets in their bid for a second consecutive year of making the playoffs, they didn’t know that the trip would end in terrible fashion. Not only did they lose the game to a division rival, but they lost their All-Star defender and possible Norris Trophy winner, Dougie Hamilton, to a season-ending injury.
When Hamilton and Blue Jackets rookie Kevin Stenlund’s skates got entangled it started a chain reaction that haunts me to this day. Hamilton’s season got cut short. He had to be replaced for the All-Star Weekend. The Carolina Hurricanes came out of the break and began to spiral which led to more injuries.
Luckily, the Carolina Hurricanes managed to course-correct well before the pandemic put a stop to the season and are now preparing themselves for the return of the playoffs starting with a qualifying round against the New York Rangers.
Dougie Hamilton, back in the line-up after recovering and rehabbing successfully can only wonder what it would have been like if the injury never happened.
For one, He would probably be one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and probably a favorite to win it. The NHL announced the actual finalists yesterday:
Dougie Hamilton missed 21 games with the Carolina Hurricanes. In the 47 games he played before the injury, he tallied 14 goals and 26 assists for a solid 40 points, keeping him just shy of a point a game. Had he kept that pace, he would have finished the abbreviated season with about 20 goals and 38 assists for about 58 solid points.
That would have had him tied with Zach Werenski for most goals by a defender and third behind John Carlson and Roman Josi for most points, putting him just ahead of Victor Hedman who had 55 points.
But what would have elevated Hamilton to becoming the Norris Trophy favorite would be his defensive ability along with his ability to create offense. There is a reason he was paired with Jaccob Slavin on the top line. After all, the Norris is supposed to identify the “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position”.
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Dougie Hamilton is well known by now to be an offensive force with the Carolina Hurricanes with an unfair ability to generate offense whenever he deems fit regardless of which forward lines are skating with him. But that also translates to lack of opposition offense going the other way. In fact, among all defenders, he is eighth overall in Corsi percentage with none of the current finalists coming any higher.
To add to that, the entire team plays better when he is on the ice. From the offense to the defense, the presence and play of Dougie Hamilton as a defender elevates the Carolina Hurricanes and makes them a more dangerous team on offense as well as a harder team to score on.
Among defenders that have played at least 20 games or more, not a single one in the league has a higher high danger change percentage than Hamilton at 62.27%.
There is not a more well-rounded defender in the league that is as dangerous on offense as he is in protecting the net then Dougie Hamilton. The advanced analytics verifies this. The eyeball test verifies this. The only thing that stops Hamilton from being a Norris Trophy finalist is the fact that his season was cut short in January.
Even then, there is enough from the 47 games he did play to make a solid argument for him to be a finalist regardless.
Question for CC Readers: Should Dougie Hamilton still have been a Norris finalist?