We here at the C.I. Labs often like to dispel any myth or the storyline that’s floating around at any given time. What can we say? When we’re not doing that we find children’s birthday parties and go pop all the balloons and steal the cake. It sustains us. It is our oxygen. Yes, we need help.
The current one going around these days, that I’ve seen far too often from people who should know better, is that Brent Seabrook is somehow a dark horse Norris Trophy candidate. This is ludicrous on a ton of levels, the first being that you can already set the three finalists as Karlsson, Doughty, and Klingberg and Karlsson should win it unanimously and the other two should apologize to him for taking up any of his time. Then Karlsson can worry about making a run at the Hart, which he has a serious case for but will never get because the Senators won’t make the playoffs, or aren’t likely to. But that’s not why you called.
The case for Brent Seabrook seems to be based on the fact that he has a lot of goals and points for him, 9th in goals among d-men and 11th in points. Being in the top 10 isn’t an automatic launch point to Norris candidacy, but people don’t tend to use logic when pressing this sort of case.
It’s also based on the idea that all it takes for a d-man to win the Norris is a lot of points, that no one cares about what is actually going on. And I suppose on some level that’s true. Those who vote for this award can have their eyes glazed over by glittering counting stats. It’s how Duncan Keith won a Norris in 2014 with a huge amount of secondary assists, even though he’s been just as good or better in the following two years and didn’t even earn a top three spot for the award.
People think this because Karlsson piles up a ton of points and there’s this perception he doesn’t actually play defense. That latter thought is utter bullshit, but whatever. The thing is Karlsson piles up a historic amount of points, and is on pace to put up 90 this year from the blue line which hasn’t been done in over 20 years. The other thing is that Karlsson makes a huge difference for the Senators when he’s on the ice. So does Seabrook for the Hawks, except it’s in the opposite direction. Let’s compare, shall we?
Here are Karlsson’s WOWYs with his teammates. The first percentage is their CF% when ice together, and the second is that player’s CF% without Karlsson:
Now let’s do the same for Seabrook:
Pretty much every player who matters gets worse with Seabrook on the ice. Strangely, Duncan Keith is not one of them, but they’ve only played 80 minutes together this year.
All of Seabrook’s sabermetric numbers, or whatever you want to call them, are not just worse than the team’s overall, but some of the worst in the league in relation to his team. His relative Corsi is 5% worse, one of the 20 worst in the league. His scoring chance share is 6% worse than the team’s, one of the 10 worst marks in the league. His high-danger scoring chance rate (which I don’t take at full value because of the varying definitions but I also don’t ignore either) is 6% worse than the team’s. If the argument is that Seabrook is a good defensive d-man, then he would be limiting the scoring chances against. He’s not. He’s surredering the most amount of chances and high-danger ones on the team.
To boot, he’s doing that and he’s not even facing the toughest competition. That’s Keith’s and Hjalmarsson’s job. Seabrook isn’t facing bums, taking on the second wave of most teams, but he also isn’t seeing the big guns.
The debate then becomes how much does his scoring cancel out what he’s giving up at the other end (and thanks to Corey Crawford, he’s not giving up all that many goals while he’s on the ice because Crow has been pulling his ass out of a sling all season). Certainly, it cancels out some. Not all. Perhaps Seabrook is just pacing himself for the spring, because as we know he’s generally a borderline heroic playoff performer (though getting run over in the 2014 Conference final is still fresh in the mind). Seabrook also has value in the room, a lot of it, though we obviously can’t quantify it but I hardly want to dismiss it either.
If the Hawks PR and their fans really need to pump someone for the Norris to join Kane for the Hart and Crow for the Vezina, they can look at the player who is always a contender. In 10 less games and facing harder competition, Duncan Keith has more points, is dominating possession, and makes everyone better. He’s doing it with the worst zone starts he’s had in the Quenneville Era. It almost seems impossible that Keith could still go under-appreciated after all this time. And yet it still feels that way.
Maybe Seabrook ate Keith’s appreciation.