The Norris Trophy is voted upon by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, who submit a ballot of their top 5 choices for the award, ranked accordingly. The votes are then tallied, with more weight given to first-place votes, and the top three are announced as finalists. The winners will be announced at the annual NHL awards, which will be held in Las Vegas on June 23 this year. Voting is done after the regular season ends and before the playoffs begin, and Olympic performance should not be a factor.
It's a huge honor as well as a testament to the season the Blackhawks have had, that Duncan Keith made it as a finalist. Last year, he wasn't even in the radar for most of the voters. And just think: we have this guy locked up for years to come.
That being said, it would be interesting to see who the award goes to in the end. There will be debates, of course, about what makes a defenseman the "best all-around" blueliner in the league, and things like Doughty's youth and inexperience, Green's "all offense, no defense" image, and even Keith's post-Olympic struggles can all work against the finalists. Semantics will be discussed, and statistics broken down, parsed, used as proof to back up both argument and counter-argument. I'd actually like to look at the numbers, but there are so many to consider and anybody's criteria is subject to criticism.
And that's the important thing to keep in mind here: unlike the Art Ross, or the Rocket Richard, or the William Jennings, judgment on what makes a Norris Trophy winner can be pretty subjective. While some voters will undoubtedly attempt to quantify the contributions of each defenseman so as to come up with as objective a ballot as possible, I also don't doubt that there will be more whose decisions will be shaped by some form of bias.
Some Philadelphia writers, for instance, believe Chris Pronger should have been included as a finalist. While Keith seemed to be a frontrunner throughout the season (and even that, to me, almost seems to stem more from all his press about being both underrated and an incredible bargain), support for Drew Doughty has grown since his Olympic outing. Mike Green, meanwhile, put up the best offensive numbers and +/- among all the defensemen, yet seems to be the sort of player to suffer snubs throughout his entire career, losing the Norris race last year to Zdeno Chara and failing to even make it as the 8th defenseman for Team Canada in the Olympics. (There were only 7 defenseman, and that 7th spot was down to Doughty or Bouwmeester, who finished the season with 3-26-29 and a -4 rating. Mike Green's stat line? 19-57-76, +39)
The general impression I've gotten this season is that Keith is the favorite, but either I have been insulated in a coccoon of Blackhawks-centric hockey (highly possible), or his recent struggles may be his downfall yet. From those who have posted their ballots (admittedly a very small sample size of around 10), I have seen more writers place Doughty above Keith than the other way around. As such, I wouldn't be surprised either if Doughty ran away with it in the end.
But here's hoping Duncan Keith does get the recognition he deserves.