Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lubomir Visnovsky should win the Norris

Unfortunately, he's not even nominated. Those nominations went instead to Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Nashville’s Shea Weber. At first blush, it seems like the list is a near perfect one: Lidstrom second in points and his team having ANOTHER solid year, Chara dominant as ever, and Weber leading an offence starved Preds team to another playoff berth. The optics are good for those picks, but considering the raw numbers I'm about to throw at you, I think you can easily make a strong case for the waterbug from Topolcany, Slovakia.

As before, I think it is valuable to delve into the numbers a bit to get an unbiased look at how they performed respective to each other. Considering that some of group that is voting for the Norris has probably seen as much of these guys as I have, it makes sense to go with hard numbers before any of the sentimental, seen-him-good type arguments are put forth.

Here are the Boxcars and their teams 5v5 goals for/against ratio (think of it like a team +/-).

Name TOI/G GPGoalsAssistsPoints+/-S% Team 5-5 F/A
NICKLASLIDSTROM 23:28 8216 46 62 -29.1 1.02 (15th)
ZDENOCHARA 25:26 8114 30 44 335.3 1.40 (1st)
SHEAWEBER 25:19 8216 32 48 76.3 1.16 (6th)
LUBOMIRVISNOVSKY 24:17 8118 50 68 1811.8 0.89 (21st)

Some things to consider: based on the team 5v5 for and against rates, Visnovsky has the most impressive plus minus rating: 2nd on his team which only had 6 guys over +1. Weber has the worst; he was only 12th best on his whole team! Some people might question Lubo's shooting rate, but he's been over 11% 4 of his last 7 seasons (his career number is 9%).

By pure offensive boxcars it is pretty clear that Lubomir was king and by a decent 10% margin or so. i would say he has a clear advantage on +/- versus team performance, and the shooting performance IS repeatable.

I dive into the advanced numbers after the hop.

Here are the contenders plus Lubo's advanced stat spread 5v5 for 2011 (Here's a primer in case you forget any of the statistics):

Name TOI/60 GPCorsi Rel
Corsi Rel
G/60P/60RatingCorsi Rel Ozone%
NICKLASLIDSTROM 16.04 821.807 -1.080 0.27 0.870.00 -6.9 48.8
ZDENOCHARA 18.87 811.047 2.220 0.20 1.060.70 12.0 45.6
SHEAWEBER 18.74 820.942 1.890 0.35 1.09-0.26 7.2 45.3
LUBOMIRVISNOVSKY 18.70 810.907 3.908 0.44 1.391.74 15.4 45.0

First off, Lidstrom's performance at his late age is quite amazing, all things considered. He was clearly being line matched all season against only the very best offensive opponents, and still managed a decent scoring rate. The other three are very similar in many ways. They played virtually the same amount of even strength ice, had similar competition, and all scored above the 1P/60 cut off for great offensive defenceman (22 regular D-men made that list this year). They all had tougher zone starts (most of the guys putting up 1.0 P/60+ were over 50% offensive zone starts), and they all had good to great Corsi Rel numbers.

For those of you not familiar with's Ranking statistic, it is their +/- rate per 60 minutes subtracted by the average +/- rate per 60 minutes when they are off the ice. In other words, its a relative comparison to a players team mates in terms of outscoring at even strength. It is sometimes referred to as Relative Plus Minus.

That said, lets just examine league wide rankings amongst DMen who play at least 15 even minutes a game and at least 40 games:

Name Corsi Rel
G/60 P/60 RatingCorsi Rel Ozone%
NICKLASLIDSTROM 1st 15th42nd 74th 113th 54th
ZDENOCHARA 18th 39th17th 22nd 3rd 28th
SHEAWEBER 22nd 7th14th 94th 26th 27th
LUBOMIRVISNOVSKY 25th 1st2nd 2nd 2nd 25th

It's pretty obvious that not only did Lubomir Visnovsky have the very best offensive year for a defenceman in '10-'11, he also did it while playing leaps and bounds better than everyone else on his team (indicated by the top flight relative plus minus 'rating' number). Shea Weber just wasn't that good at outscoring 5v5, and Chara was solid but a cut below the elite for most of these statistics.

There are two other things to consider when it comes to Dmen: power-play and penalty-kill. Let's start with the PP (Dmen with 40gp+, at least 1 PP/min per game):

NameTOI/60P/60P/60 RankTeam PP% (Rank)
NICKLASLIDSTROM3.766.621st20.8 (8th)
ZDENOCHARA3.012.7163rd15.4 (25th)
SHEAWEBER3.483.1549rd16.3 (22nd)
LUBOMIRVISNOVSKY3.964.877th25.5 (3rd)

There is the classic question of whether or not Chara and Weber had lousy PP numbers because their overall team PP was lousy, or because they were lousy on the PP for their team. I will refrain from arguing either way, and focus more on the facts. The fact is, Lidstrom had the best season for a defenceman on the power-play by a good margin. His scoring rate was 6th league wide (all positions), with the caveat being Zetterberg was 7th and Datysuk 23rd. In other words, he had some top-class PP performers on ice with him most of the time. Lubomir had Selanne (2nd league wide in P/60 on the PP) and Perry (14th) on the ice with him, clearly helping him achieve his excellent PP numbers.

I'd give the edge to Lidstrom easily in terms of PP performance, with Lubo in a solid second place and Chara and Weber providing direct scoring threats but that's about it.

As far as PK is concerened (Dmen with 40gp+, at least 1 PK/min per game):

NameTOI/60GA/60GA/60 RankTeam PK% (Rank)
NICKLASLIDSTROM2.557.17123rd82.3 (17th)
ZDENOCHARA2.697.17122nd82.6 (16th)
SHEAWEBER2.054.2925th84.9 (5th)
LUBOMIRVISNOVSKY0.425.24N/A81.3 (19th)

And here it is, the reason why Lubomir was most likely left off the ballot. Lubomir Visnovsky did not PK this season, and in fact he's never really been a regular on any PK (He PK'ed a bit back in '07-'08). Fortunately for Lubomir's case, Chara and Lidstrom were on mediocre PK's and both performed fairly poorly. Weber's team had a great PK that Weber performed well on. Again it's hard to divide up how much of a good PK is responsible for good Weber numbers and vice versa, but suffice to say he was clearly the best PK performer of thise group of four, with Lubomir grabbing the copper medal.


I think it's basically a forgone conclusion that Weber is going to win the Norris this year, with maybe an outside shot to Chara. I think when you take a look at all four though, I don't see how Lubomir wasn't the best candidate. Not only did he put up the best offensive numbers, he also was lights out in terms of puck possession (Corsi) and relative plus minus (he was outscoring tough opposition every time he hit the ice).

Here's a basic run down of how I see it:

Shea Weber - Will probably win because he's on a team without much star power up front, but he actually didn't perform all that elite in 5v5 situations with a 12th ranked +/- on his own team. He was a great PKer, but playing in front of Vezina caliber Pekka Rinne certainly had something to do with that. He was 10th among defenceman with 6PP goals, but 24th overall with 17 PP points. Certainly nothing dominating.

Zdeno Chara - Had a solid 5v5 campaign, playing solid opposition and getting the league leading +33; he also had the benefit of playing on the best 5v5 team this year. Unfortunately he fizzled greatly on special teams. He only had 15 PP points, and the PK performance for both him and his team left a lot to be desired. He certainly didn't drive 5v5 offence at an elite level when he was on the ice.

Nicklas Lidstrom - The grizzled vet proved he still had the capability to plat hockey an an elite level, but we are beginning to see his ability to be a defensive stopper erode away as he ages. His PP performance was spectacular, but on the PK and 5v5, there was something to be desired. That said, he faced the toughest competition with (according to the numbers) the worst linemates, so he definitely had a fantastic season.

Lubomir Visnovsky - He had lots of help, but he still played tough minutes (toughest zone start of the four), and absolutely crushed opposition in comparison to how the rest of his team performed. Sure, he had great teammates in Selanne and Perry, but it's not like Lidstrom and Chara have teams filled with scrubs.

The seen-him-good guys will lament the fact that I'm not accounting for Zdeno Chara's physical imposition on opposition, or Shea Weber's atomic net-buster, or Lidstrom's cybernetic efficiency, but in the end, the game is about results. I think all of the four players listed here had good to great results, but mainly I think Lubomir's are the best when all things are considered.

In the end, even if you don't think he deserves the Norris, surely he should have been given a spot over a guy like Lidstrom. You have to think that for a small guy like Lubomir, once the spring is out of his step, he likely won't be able to reach the lofty heights of Norris consideration. Unfortunately for Anaheim fans, and fans of the diminutive Slovak in general, this was likely Lubomir's first and last shot at the trophy.


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