Adding to the Norris Trophy Discussion

Hockey Prospectus has revealed their latest 2011-12 Regular Season Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) player rankings and surprise, surprise, Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defencemen in GVT.

The premise of GVT is quite simple: much like baseball’s Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), the statistic serves to show the value of a player above what a replacement could provide.

More specifically, per its creator, Hockey Prospectus‘ Tom Awad:

It is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. The fact that GVT is measured in goals is crucial: statistics that divide up ‘Win Shares’, so that the ratings of a team’s players sum to that team’s number of wins, are very erratic and non-linear, since wins don’t increase or decrease linearly with team caliber. While hockey is ultimately about winning or losing, players’ contributions always come down to scoring goals and preventing them. A player cannot ‘win’ a game, even though he may be put in a situation where scoring a goal or making a key save would create or conserve a win. Each player’s role, no matter his position, is to try and increase the goal differential in favor of his team. An offensive player who scores a hat trick only to see his teammates allow 4 goals against has nevertheless done his job; a goaltender who stops 39 of 40 shots only to lose 1-0 has likewise performed well. Using this standard, all players can be compared by the same yardstick: how much did they help (or harm) their team’s goal differential?’

A player’s GVT value is the sum of three things: his Offensive Goals Versus Average (OGVT), his Defensive Goals Versus Threshold (DGVT), and his Goaltending Goals Versus Threshold (GGVT).

If you wish to read up more on the GVT, there is an excellent three part series over at Hockey Prospectus that can be read: here, here and here.

As the regular season comes to its conclusion, the discussion surrounding each of the league’s major individual player awards will pick up steam. Despite Karlsson leading all defencemen in points by a significant margin (11 points), there’s no question that Karlsson’s Norris Trophy candidacy will suffer from the same criticisms that plagued previous candidates like Lubomir Visnovsky and Mike Green.

At least in this situation, as reflected by Karlsson’s GVT value, his OGVT is so good that it causes his GVT to be better than any of the other league’s top defencemen. Assuming that he can maintain his strong offensive production, there’s no reason why he should be excluded as a candidate in any Norris Trophy conversation.