If the Norris Trophy were simply about defense and only defense, Niklas Hjalmarsson would have to be a contender every season. Hammer is in the bottom 20 of all NHL d-men in the amount of shifts he doesn’t get that start in the offensive zone. He takes on the toughest competition every night, and has done so for the past three years at least (allowing Duncan Keith to become Fireball Mario). Last year, he was on the ice for the third least amount of goals against per 60 minutes despite those obstacles. And having just turned 28, he should be right in the heart of his prime as a d-man (we can only hope). Hammer might enter the season as the player with the least amount of questions about him. He’d be manning 75% of the other teams’ top pairing.
But we still need to find a way to have a stick laying on the ice that he can swat away dismissively on the few occasions he scores.