The NHL has officially released the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s best defenseman. Adam Fox (NYR), Victor Hedman (TBL), and Cale Makar (COL) are the three nominees for the 2021 award.

Adam Fox failed to earn a Calder vote during an impressive rookie campaign but followed it up with a significant jump in his sophomore season. Now a Norris Trophy finalist, the New York Rangers’ defenseman has proven that at just 23-years-old he is already among the elite defensemen in the game.

He tallied 47 points (5 G, 42 A) in just 55 games, good for second amongst NHL blueliners and first amongst Norris finalists. It was a miraculous season for Fox, who even drew Brian Leetch comparisons throughout. There was no zone where he was not dominant, playing significant minutes when even-strengthed, on the powerplay, and during penalty kills for the Rangers.

The roster around him pales compared to that of Hedman and Makar, which should only boost his candidacy in the writers’ eyes. He played 11 more games than Makar and one more game than Hedman, maintaining his health and level of play all season. He finished with a Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 53.29 (11th), an expected goals for (xGF%) of 59.15 (9th), and a goals-for (GF%) of 62.94 (8th). Analytically and statistically, Fox was as sound as it comes in 2020-21.

Offensive zone starts paint a picture

One of the most telling statistics for me is the offensive zone start percentage, which measures the number of shifts started in the offensive zone. Makar started 65.88% of his shifts in the offensive zone per Natural Stat Trick, giving him a distinct offensive edge. Hedman started his fair share of shifts there, with 59.64% starting in the offensive end.

For Fox, who had more points than the other two finalists and had the weakest team out of the bunch, he started just 48.23% of his shifts in the offensive zone. So not only did Fox start the majority of his shifts 200 feet away from the opposing goal, he managed to be defensively responsible and offensively inclined enough to erase that disadvantage and outproduce his counterparts.

That right there screams Norris Trophy. The New York Rangers have a gem in Adam Fox, and from watching game after game in 2020-21, he is deserving of the Norris.

 

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