Letang, Subban, Suter are first-time Norris finalists

François Lacasse | Getty

Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / NHL Awards

The field for the James Norris Memorial Trophy received a makeover this season.

Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadians and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild are this year’s finalists for the trophy awarded to the defenseman that shows the “greatest all-round ability” at the position, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season.

It is the first time each finalist has been among the final three in Norris consideration and the field is absent traditional presences like 2009 winner Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, who finished as runner-up in each of the past two seasons.

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who won the award last year, missed the majority of the 2012-13 season with an Achilles injury.

Letang, 26, shared the League scoring lead among defensemen with 38 points, taking seven fewer games to reach the total than Subban. Letang missed 13 games with an injury.
Exhibiting a fluid skating stride that allows Letang to eat up ground and get back on defense, the Penguins defenseman topped all defenseman with 33 assists, a total topped by only 11 forwards this season.

Only six defensemen averaged more time on ice per game than the 25:38 Letang played per game. He played for Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma on both the penalty kill and the power play, where he had 13 of his 38 points.

François Lacasse | Getty
François Lacasse | Getty

Subban, 23, also finished with 38 points, tying the career high he set two seasons ago in 71 appearances during his rookie campaign.

The biggest difference this season was his defensive responsibility. During his rookie run, Subban was a minus-8. This season, he was a plus-12.

Subban was an offensive dynamo for the Canadiens all season, helping the team that finished last in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12 claim the Northeast Division crown and a top-two seed this season. His 26 power-play points — including seven goals on the man advantage — were the cream of the defenseman crop this season.

Suter, meanwhile, proved worth the enormous investment made in him by the Wild during the first few days of free agency.

All Suter, 28, did in his first year in Minnesota was completely carry the Wild defensively.

Suter played more than any other defenseman, leading the League in time on ice at even strength and playing an average of 51 seconds per game more than Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers, who was No. 2 in that category.

As good as Suter was in his own end, he was also good offensively. His 32 points were good for third in the League among defensemen and his 28 assists ranked second.