Adam Fox deserves Norris consideration

Adam Fox is easily the best Rangers defenseman, and it’s not even close. Yet when it comes to Norris consideration, Adam Fox usually isn’t even mentioned. In fact, just four days ago the NHL released it’s trophy tracker for the Norris, and Fox wasn’t on the list.

All due respect to the guys on this list, who are having great seasons (except for Doughty, but we will get to that), but it is concerning that it’s always the same names or the point totals that matter. Defense is such a nuanced position that more needs to be taken into consideration.

Fox doesn’t have the sexy scoring numbers, with just two goals and 16 assists this season. His powerplay production isn’t up there either, which checks out since the Rangers have had issues all year on the powerplay. But since when is the Norris just about scoring? Or checking off the same name (Doughty) because he had a good season here and there?

This is Fox compared to Doughty this season and over the last three seasons (two for Fox, obviously). There is no real competition here. Doughty isn’t Norris worthy anymore, yet he continues to get votes for…reasons? Guess it’s those seven goals and 25 points.

Then there’s just Fox’s overall impact on the ice. Fox is currently 12th in the league in xGF% (minimum 300 mins played) at 57.07. But that’s just half the story. His 1.8 xGA/60 is 16th in the league, and ahead of everyone on that list the NHL released.

Fox’s heatmaps are off the charts too. Offensively, he’s a net 21% difference in expected goals for when he’s on the ice. He’s a 14% net difference in expected goals against defensively. This again shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watches Fox on a regular basis. Maybe it’s because the Rangers aren’t necessarily good, so Fox gets overlooked?

What is astounding is his impact on the powerplay. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. It’s a small sample size, but that is a net 85% difference in effectiveness on the powerplay with Fox on the ice. Part of this may be due to the powerplay units, since Fox is on PP1, but regardless that impact is unreal. Fox’s penalty kill impact isn’t nearly as pronounced, and you can actually see an argument that he needs to work on that aspect of his game. Again though, small sample size.

Yet despite this, Fox isn’t mentioned in any Norris competition. Even if he’s not a finalist, the omission from the conversation is ignorant at best. Adam Fox is one of the best defensemen in the league and deserves Norris consideration this year. And likely every season going forward. 

Charts from Hockeyviz and Evolving-Hockey.

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  • Maybe this is blasphemy…. but he is as close to Nicklas Lidstrom as I’ve seen in years. So intelligent. Always seems to make the right play. Big minutes against the other teams top lines. Pleasure to watch every night.

  • It’s gonna take a couple more years before Fox gets considered. The Norris is awarded as much for reputation as it is for performance, it usually takes a couple years before younger defensemen get the consideration they deserve. It should be Hedman’s award to lose this year.

    Where it gets interesting is with Hughes and Makar. Those guys will have higher point totals than Fox for a couple of years, but eventually Fox might catch up to them in that regard. All-around game is Fox’s strength, to me he’s a better defender than either Makar or Hughes.

  • Agree with most of your sentiments, but you should not give him bonus points because Ranger PP2 is atrocious. When it comes to the power play, Fox is nowhere near Norris caliber. The Ranger PP1 is basically the same players as last year except for Fox in place of DeAngelo. It is decidedly weaker and decidely below average.

    Things like low xGA/60 playing against top lines is a big plus, but the PP is not. Sadly though, for the most part, while Rod Langway did win it many moons ago, you have to score to win the Norris.

    • Larry Brooks agrees with your point about the PP being more effective with TDA:
      “There is nothing not to admire about Adam Fox…At 23, he has become Saint Adam.

      But are we allowed to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Tony DeAngelo was more effective at running the power play?”

  • Fox is a very skilled defenseman. He has a high hockey IQ and is adapt at breaking up plays. Does at times get out muscled by the opposition and could improve his play along the boards. Norris trophy winner, a possibility one day but certainly not this year.

  • I agree with the entire post. It’s time for Norris consideration to keep up with the times, most notably modern analytics.

    • I don’t agree. People confuse what modern analytics are and what they are not. Compared to old statistics, they are designed to better predict the future, not to predict the past.

      Suppose we have two players. Player 1 had a GA/60 of 2 and an xGA/60 of 3. Player 2 had a GA/60 of 3 and an xGA/60 of 2. If the analytics are correct, Player 2 will have a better GA/60 than Player 1 next year. xGA is supposed to predict future GA better than GA does. You want Player 2 on your team going forward.

      BUT BUT the fact remains that Player 1 was more successful defensively than Player 2 this year. We don’t give the Stanley Cup to the best team, but to the team that wins the most games in the playoffs. And we should not give the Norris to the best defenseman, but rather to the defenseman who actually had the best year. And modern analytics are not designed to tell us that. Penalizing the unlucky is a big part of sports.

  • They have no problem honoring the best defensive forward with the Selke but no equivalent for defenseman.

    Advanced stats have changed the way players are evaluated. It’s time to change the award system and bring it up to date as well.


  • There should be a separate award that goes specifically to the highest scoring defenseman each year. Just points. Than the Norris can be more focused on the all-around play.

  • It’s absolutely ridiculous that Fox is not at least in the conversation. It is outright NY bias, plain and simple.

    How do we know? Hank has one Vezina Trophy. ONE. The best goalie of his era.

    It’s such bulls-it. The Rangers are not part of the NHL good ole boys club. Dolan sued them in the middle 2000s over marketing and the 1990s spending spree (remember the Sakic offer sheet?) caused the league to get a hard cap.

    When the league was negotiating with the players on the CBA, the meetings were in NYC and Dolan was not invited.

    Other than Hedman, I would take Fox over any of them, thank you very much.

    • the hockey writers are biased against Fox because the rangers sued the NHL twenty years ago? 🙂

      And yeah, I could see some of the GMs steering their Vezina votes away from Hank over it, though he was usually in the top grouping year in year out he was statistically the best only a handful of seasons, which seems to usually be the decision factor for Vezina voting and largely ignoring the variance of whether a goalie is playing behind a weak or strong team.

      • No, it was 2007 or something like that (the lawsuit).

        Plus the hockey writers are pro Canadian teams. They try like hell to make those teams sound better than they are.

        I remember the year, a couple of years ago, that no Canadian team made the playoffs, but you wouldn’t know it listening to the media.

        Hank having one Vezina is criminal.

        • Hah yeah the antitrust case the rangers lost which is a shame because the NHL-controlled team store sucks!

          There were a definitely a few other years hank could have won but was beat out by guys like Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Marty brodeur who also had crazy years and better total stats.

  • All valid points, but Norris voting has been about the highest scoring defenseman forever, just like Hart voting rarely been about the player judged most valuable to his team as opposed to highest scoring player. The voters are largely not a thoughtful bunch! So this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone even if you wouldn’t trade Fox straight up for one of those other guys.

  • In all honesty he’s not beating out a guy like Hedman … and there are other d’men that are also overlooked, aside from Fox. I haven’t seen enough games with say Petry to judge him beyond the numbers, which are very very good. One thing though that I will mention, he’s right in line with McAvoy, so an argument could be made he should at least be somewhere on the periphery of the conversation.

    • Very true, don’t think you’ll ever see the defenseman with 60% the total points of the leader win Norris, but McAvoy in the conversation then a guy like Fox should be, McAvoy has more of a reputation so he gets included

  • Fox is clearly an upper elite D man. As for the game itself, its pretty clear that we need a rugged policeman that can play some hockey. Dillon, Wilson, and company push us around too much, but I like the fact that we have stood our ground and beaten these bastards 3 out of 4. Kudos to Kinkaid, who made the saves when we needed him to make the net a rock. Buchnevich is proving me wrong, and is playing with a purpose.
    The positives:
    Team is playing tight.
    Defense continues to improve
    Lindgren-A rock
    The negative:
    Capital cheap shots-many of them.
    Ice was not good for the second game in a row.

    • That’s why NYR have guys like Schneider and robertson in the pipeline. Hopeful they make the grade!

    • Last I saw Dillon was getting pushed around by Zibanejad. Toughness is a dying art in today’s NHL.

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