In a general sense, one could say a majority of conversations about defensemen usually focus on things they've messed up.
Whether it's a failed breakout pass, a blown coverage in front of the net or an inability to keep an offensive attack alive at the point, things can get rough for defenders. In fact, some believe the best way to determine how well a defenseman is playing is by how infrequently you notice him.
However, this is a difficult request when determining who should win the Norris Trophy.
Awarded annually to the NHL's top defenseman, the Norris is supposed to be given to the player who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position.
Of course, figuring out how to judge a defenseman's all-around ability is difficult. Given that plus/minus is not the most reliable of statistics, it makes it tough to determine how effective a defender is in his own zone (when using traditional statistics). Many believe ice-time, penalty minutes and games played are an important component to a defender's value because they need to be on the ice in order to be effective.
When it comes to offensive numbers, things become simpler.
With a little over a week left in the regular season, it appears as though Kris Letang, P.K. Subban and Ryan Suter are considered the favorites for the award. Subban leads defensemen in points (36) and goals scored (11), while Letang leads in assists (29), followed by Suter (28) and Subban (25).
Suter leads all defensemen in average time on ice per game (27:11), while Letang is ranked seventh (25:38). This category has been a point of contention in terms of Subban, as he is entering competition on Thursday night averaging 23 minutes of ice-time per night, which is ranked 41st in the league.
Is this enough to keep Subban from taking home the honor? Some think it might.
The Norris Trophy is determined by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. If a general survey of their columns and tweets are any indication, it appears as though the final vote will come down to Subban's production against Suter's minutes. Of course, with a handful of games remaining, who knows what could happen to sway the voting.
In terms of minutes against production, it will be up to an individual's personal preference when determining what has more value. Given that not every writer is likely willing or able to watch every minute each candidate has played this season, it seems difficult to determine how well the player performed in those minutes.
Of course, giving a player the Norris solely based on production doesn't seem to fit the criteria of the award, either.
Regardless, the final result will likely leave a segment of the hockey world dissatisfied. If Subban wins, someone will make the case that he only won because of his production. If Suter wins, someone will make the case that he only won because of his minutes.
When dealing with an imperfect system, you sometimes get imperfect results. Ultimately, it will come down to who the PHWA determines is the most worthy.