The Race for the Norris Trophy 2023-24: A Spotlight on Defensemen Excellence

Shimmering Norris Trophy reflecting its legacy.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is a theatre of dreams for every young hockey player. While many dream of high-scoring games and thrilling penalty shots, there’s an elite group that defends the line and stands as the backbone of every successful team: the defensemen. The Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL’s top defense player, and as the 2023-24 season begins, speculations are rife about who will claim the honor. Let’s dive into a thorough analysis of the top contenders.

The Norris Trophy: A Brief Overview

The James Norris Memorial Trophy is a testament to defensive prowess. It is awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” Contrary to popular belief, the trophy doesn’t always land in the hands of the highest-scoring defenseman.

“Norris Trophy voters tend to favor older defensemen because they look at players’ full body of work, rather than their efforts for a single season.”

While many winners have had standout seasons in terms of points, it’s the all-rounded capability that truly shines through.

The Veterans and the Young Guns

Last season, Erik Karlsson’s astounding 101-point performance was a nod to the veterans. At age 32, and in his 14th NHL season, he became the oldest Norris winner since Mark Giordano in 2019. However, his win was an anomaly in recent trends.

“Sure, there were questions about Karlsson’s defense. But becoming just the sixth blueliner ever to hit triple digits in scoring was too monstrous of an achievement to brush aside.”

This is not to say that younger players aren’t making their mark. In 2022, Cale Makar’s Norris win in his third season and 23-year-old Adam Fox’s victory in 2021 are clear indications that the younger generation is pushing boundaries.

Top Contenders for the Norris Trophy 2023-24

The NHL’s Norris Trophy race for the 2023-24 season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory. From seasoned veterans making a resurgence to young stars solidifying their dominance, the league boasts an impressive array of defensive talent vying for the top honor.


Despite facing injuries and missing 22 games last season, Makar’s presence was undeniable when he was on the ice. His average ice time topped the NHL charts. With the Colorado Avalanche team regrouping and gunning for glory, Makar is one to watch. If he claims the trophy, he would emulate the feats of legends like Nicklas Lidstrom.


Heiskanen’s rise as a defensive stalwart has been meteoric. With his average ice time reaching 25:29 and doubling his points tally, he’s a key player for the Stars. His resilience, demonstrated when he played despite a face injury, makes him a fan favorite and a top contender.


Fox’s Norris win in 2021 set the tone for his career. Despite changes in coaching tactics, his consistency is commendable. With Peter Laviolette taking charge, Fox is expected to up his game even further.


The Hughes brothers have already made their mark in the NHL, but Quinn stands out with his record-breaking feats for the Canucks. Rick Tocchet, the new coach, sees leadership qualities in Hughes, hinting at an even more significant role for him this season.


Representing the veterans, Burns’s move to the Hurricanes has rejuvenated his career. He’s not just about the iconic beard; his gameplay speaks volumes. His experience will be vital for the Hurricanes as they look to contend this season.

Brent Burns, star defenseman for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Norris Trophy: Beyond the Points

While scoring is vital, the true essence of a Norris Trophy winner lies in his ability to defend, lead, and inspire. Whether it’s the youthful exuberance of Makar and Hughes or the seasoned expertise of Burns, the race for the Norris Trophy in 2023-24 promises to be thrilling.

As teams gear up for the season, every game, every goal, and every block will count. The Norris Trophy might be an individual award, but it’s a testament to a player’s contribution to his team’s success. With the puck set to drop, may the best defenseman win!

The Norris Trophy: A Glimpse into Its Illustrious History

The Norris Trophy, named in honor of James E. Norris, has long stood as a testament to the pinnacle of defensive play in the NHL. Since its inception in 1954, the trophy has chronicled the evolution of the defenseman’s role, tracing its arc from rugged defenders to skilled playmakers. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Legends and Legacy: Many greats, such as Bobby Orr and Nicklas Lidström, have held the Norris. Orr, with a staggering eight consecutive wins, and Lidström with seven, set benchmarks for future recipients.
  • Era of Physicality: The 70s and 80s were dominated by defensemen who combined brute strength with skill. This era celebrated the multifaceted role of the defenseman, emphasizing both their defensive and offensive contributions.
  • Turn of the Millennium: Players like Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty entered the scene, focusing on agility, puck movement, and joining the offense. The defenseman’s role started skewing towards being a two-way player, balancing both defensive and offensive duties.
  • Team Dynamics: While individual skills shine, many Norris Trophy winners highlight the significance of teamwork and synergy.
  • The Modern Defenseman: Today’s contenders for the Norris showcase an amalgamation of the past and present. They embody the physicality, skill, and game intelligence that the trophy has long celebrated, but with modern twists in their gameplay.

As we anticipate the next recipient of the Norris Trophy for the 2023-24 season, it’s worth remembering the rich legacy of this prestigious award. It not only celebrates the best in defensive play but also the evolution of the sport itself.

Hockey Expert
reviewed by: Jeremy Karamen (Hockey Expert)

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