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Adam Fox Demands Your Respect

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The 23 year old defenseman has proven himself to be a top defenseman in the league and a legitimate Norris candidate.

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

As we all know, Adam Fox has been stellar for the New York Rangers this season. The 23 year old Jericho, New York native was elevated into a top paring role in his second season on Broadway and has met and exceeded the expectations that everyone had for him before the 2020-21 season started. The right-handed defender made an impact during his rookie season, quickly establishing himself as the best defenseman on the Rangers’ blueline. Fox also set himself up to take a step forward, but no one expected the leap he has made this season.

Not only has Fox seen an elevated role at 5 on 5, seeing his average ice-time jump from 15:54 to 16:55 at 5v5 (via NaturalStatTrick.com), but he has also seen his special teams role increase as well. He played his way onto the top power play unit and is averaging almost two full minutes more on the man-advantage this season than he did last year. Finally, Fox has also been impactful on the penalty kill this season, a new role for him, playing on average two and a half minutes while a man down, compared to the nine seconds he had last season on the penalty kill.

With the increased ice time in all situations and responsibilities, it would have been normal to assume that Fox might see a dip in production and play from last year (sophomore slump), but so far that has not been the case. Through the 30 games Fox has played this season, he’s put up a 51.54 CF%, almost identical to 19-20 (51.59%), while also driving the shot quality game to the tune of a 59.02 xGF%, up from last season’s 70 game campaign (52.64%). All rate numbers are 5v5 unless otherwise stated, and are courtesy of the wonderful Evolving-Hockey.com. On top of all of this, Fox has 3 goals and 21 points halfway through the 2020-21 season. To better illustrate how consistent Fox has been from last season to this season, let’s look at his isolated impact, via HockeyViz.

Micah Blake McCurdy, Hockey-Viz.com

For a 23-year old in his second season, to be this good and this consistent is quite noteworthy and deserving of praise and accolades. Not only has Adam Fox been the Rangers’ best defenseman this season he has also been one of the best defensemen in the entire league. Naturally, Fox should be a player that gets a lot of recognition and praise around the NHL, especially when it comes time to hand out year-end awards. Well, recently the NHL dot com writers got together to decide who the front runners should be for the Norris trophy, the award given to the league’s best defender.

OK, so Victor Hedman leads the pack halfway through the season but...wait a minute...Jeff Petry? Charlie McAvoy? DREW DOUGHTY?! Uh, excuse me? Now, it is easy to just write off the tweet as a one-off that should not be given much thought but something seems off here. Then, if you read through the article you will find something probably even more shocking.

NHL.com

Yeah, that is right. Adam Fox did not receive a single solitary vote for the Norris trophy at the midway point of the season. Luckily, a NHL dot com writer that covers the Rangers on a nightly basis has a good explanation.

Apparently, Adam Fox needs to wait in line to get consideration as one of the best defensemen in the game. So, let’s take a look at how Fox stacks up against the four runners up in that mid-season Norris vote.

Fox has played 30 games, one fewer than both Doughty and Petry but two more than Charlie McAvoy though Doughty does lead the pack in total ice-time with 823.55 minutes played this season. That is the only thing the NHL’s runner up for the Norris trophy leads in. In fact, when looking under the hood, Fox should be a clear contender for the Norris trophy as he leads Doughty (45.09), McAvoy (55.87), and Petry (57.92) in xGF% at 5 on 5. A good portion of this number is driven by Fox’s xGA/60 which at 1.83 is lower than Petry’s 1.86, McAvoy’s 1.99, and Doughty’s 2.29.

While there are legitimate cases for Charlie McAvoy and Jeff Petry, the Montreal defender does have the best GAR of the quartet at 8, of which 6.5 is offense, 0.4 is defense, and 1.1 is penalty differential. Fox’s GAR of 4.1 is second-best, McAvoy’s 3.7 is third-best, and Doughty’s 2.9 is last. Fox’s number includes an EVD number of 2.7, and an overall defense number of 2.3 which is tied with McAvoy. Simply stated, Fox’s defensive metrics stand out in a significant way here, while others are seeing a bulk of their value come from their offensive contributions. Interestingly enough, Samuel Girard is leading defenseman in GAR at 13 (8.3 OFF, 2.9 DEF, 1.8 PEN) and he failed to get a vote too.

With all of that said, for the Norris, there is no legitimate argument for Drew Doughty to be a major part of the conversation especially when you put his season up against one like Adam Fox’s. Last year Fox finished fourth in the Calder Trophy vote, and he was overshadowed then, and continues to be forgotten while many debate the merits of Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes. When you consider that, and Doughty’s inclusion and the fact that Fox needs to “wait his turn,” it is an indictment on the state of hockey media and it is past time that Adam Fox gets the respect his play has earned him.

Stats via Evolving-Hockey, HockeyViz, and Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise stated.