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Could Norris winner Karlsson average 30 minutes per game?

Feb 7, 2013, 9:50 AM EDT

Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottowa Senators reacts after being called for a two-minute penalty for elbowing Zac Dalpe #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at PNC Arena on February 1, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(January 31, 2013 - Source: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

The Ottawa Senators have no problem leaning heavily on 22-year-old Erik Karlsson — and why should they? Karlsson captured the Norris Trophy last season and is widely regarded as one of the best offensive defensemen in the league.

Still, could they really use him in roughly half of every game?

Karlsson has averaged 28:17 minutes per contest this season and he’s logged over 30 minutes in each of his last two games. That’s an unreal amount of work, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“(The media) keeps better track of that than I do,” Karlsson said in an Ottawa Citizen report.

“I feel great. It feels like I can play more if I want. As long as my body feels good, I don’t have any issues. We’re 10 games in and there are still 38 to go and more than that, hopefully (with the playoffs). You’ve just got to try and take care of your body every day and stay in shape.”

Karlsson took Wednesday’s practice off to give him some time off the ice, but when it comes to games, Senators coach Paul MacLean primarily lets Karlsson play as much as he wants to.

“I guess there is (a risk) with the compacted schedule, but he’s a pretty young guy,” MacLean said.

“There’s always a risk, whether you’re playing 15 (minutes) or 20 or 25 or 30, but he has the capability of handling the 30 minutes. A lot of times, the game, and how the team is playing, dictates it. Right now, we feel he’s at a level that he can keep playing. His fitness level is a big part of it.”

38-year-old defenseman Sergei Gonchar‘s (flu) return might cut into Karlsson’s playing time, but Karlsson logged over 29 minutes in the last contest Gonchar participated in.

No player has averaged more than 30 minutes a season since Chris Pronger did it in 1999-2000. Due to his efforts, Pronger joined Bobby Orr as one of the only two players to ever win the Norris and Hart Trophies in a single season.

  1. broadstbully33 - Feb 7, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    This kid is amazing to watch. The way he can carry the play is an awesome spectacle.

  2. steelpenbucs87 - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Such a talent…. I just hope he doesn’t burn out.

    Ya know, unless its during a playoff Series with the Pens :)

  3. jpelle82 - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    he can do it, he’s young enough to handle it. rock solid in all situations, i dont see why he would be held off the ice for any scenario other than health…would be cool to see happen, one of those stats you dont really think about

    • miketoasty - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      Sounds cool now, but going into the playoffs may have us singing a different tune. I know he is young, but everyone has their limits and playing that much hockey over 100 days could prove costly.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM

        as a pens fan i would be ok with him burning out come playoff time. in all reality there’s no way the coaches are gonna push him beyond his ability or put him at unnecessary risk for a stat like this though.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:03 AM

      @jpelle82: if it happened it wouldn’t be the first time in sports history a coach misused a young player. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but I wouldn’t say there’s “no way” it will. However, with Mu-mu-mustache saying he lets Karlsson play as much as he wants to the onus is really on Karlsson to not overexert himself.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 7, 2013 at 11:16 AM

        i just think its the last thing on the coaches mind during the game…uh oh better get him back out there, my TOI meter says he is under 30 mins this game…

  4. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    If anyone can do it its the defending Norris trophy winner. This guy does so much for the Sens. Might be time to consider a d man for the Hart.

    • shoobiedoobin - Feb 7, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      Oh god, really?! I sat through this defensive liability winning an ill-deserved Norris basically for being able to pass and skate and have his forwards finish, over Weber and Chara who deserved it 100X more than he did. I sat through comments from cool guy contrarians jumping at the chance to play devil’s advocate and defend him because pointing out he can’t play D has been said too much so it’s cool to oppose it now.

      But claiming he should get the Hart? That is absolute, undisputed, insane ignorance. The guy is barely trusted on the PK and he isn’t trusted in big defensive situations. He’s a forward playing D. But we’re retards for offense. Jangle shiny keys in front of our faces long enough and we’ll forget about whatever problem lies behind them.

      If we’re giving awards to defensemen for scoring, let’s start giving the Hart to anyone who wins the Selke and scores more than 50 points. But that doesn’t sound as fun because defense is boring and offense is fun.

  5. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    You clearly do not watch or follow the Sens. Karlsson is not a defensive liability. Once again just because your not chara or weber or 6″4 250 does not mean you cannot play d or are a liability. The guy is on the ice for half the game. if he was as bad defensively as u say the Sens would be blow out every game (even with anderson playing like he is).

    • shoobiedoobin - Feb 7, 2013 at 5:12 PM

      Sorry but that’s logic only someone who doesn’t know hockey would exhibit. Plenty of defensively average to poor players play big minutes. He’s still only one player, for half of the defensive side. Go and look at when he won the Norris-he was NOT on the ice during critical defensive scenarios. There were even articles written about it and I’m not talking about some Bleacherreport trash, I mean paid professionals. Size means nothing. There are huge defenders who are useless. The best defenseman of all time was only 6 foot and around 190lbs and never hit anyone. Karlsson needs everyone around him to maintain the defense and he’ll accumulate points. That’s his game. Until he stops losing his check he’s not a true defenseman. Let’s just say he’s a forward who doesn’t line up on the line of scrimmage.

  6. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    stop hating on Karlsson and accept he will be in the discussion for the norris trophy for the next ten years. Did you hate Paul Coffey this much to?

  7. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    Good points for sure but your still selling him short on your analysis of his defensive game. His rookie year you could argue that. His overall game has improved and you saying he shouldn’t be considered for the Norris is crazy. As you say, the greatest d man ever and one of the best ever (coffey) have had the same things said about them.

  8. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    And there is no “average” player in the league playing close to 30mins a game.

    • shoobiedoobin - Feb 7, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      No? There’s not? Actually yeah, there is. Brian Campbell. Francois Beauchemin. James Wisniewski. Fedor Tyutin. They all averaged about the same ice time as he did and don’t even try to tell me they’re anything above “meh”. As for this year, Toby Enstrom, Andrew McDonald and Jack Johnson are averaging around the same TOI. He’s a mediocre defender and if I can say anything positive it’s that he’s improving enough to be trusted with PKing thus far but that shouldn’t automatically shoe you in for the Norris.

  9. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Most of the players you named are above average players. Going over the top Toi guys and u see the names of the best d man in the league.

    • shoobiedoobin - Feb 7, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      LOL wow man, you’re gonna tell me those mediocre jokers are above average? No they’re not, you just have a problem admitting you’re wrong. Just because you find some good defensemen playing a lot of minutes (duh) doesn’t negate the fact that I was right, and some teams put some poor to average defensive players on the ice a lot. If you don’t see Beauchemin or Wiz, look at last season. Didn’t Brian Campbell lead in TOI? The guy couldn’t cover a cone.

  10. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    in no order: green/letang/suter/keith/weber/chara etc. certainly not meh players.

  11. nygdriveforfive - Feb 7, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    I dont see beauchamin or wiz in the top 30.

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