By Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
After coming off arguably his best career season in terms of on-ice play, the 2023-24 season would be a better time than ever for Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy to win his first Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. He has not previously been nominated but is heavily regarded as one of the league’s top defensemen.
From what we have already seen, McAvoy is highly praised for his two-way abilities on the back end but can reach a higher level offensively. With the departures of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci via retirement, the Bruins are going to need other players to fill those voids in the point-production department.
McAvoy is coming off his second-highest career point total with 52, seven goals, and 45 assists. He certainly would have surpassed his career high, where he recorded 56 points for the 2021-22 season, but he missed the first 15 games of the 2022-23 season due to recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. The workhorse defenseman has every attribute to be the league’s top player at his position. Although he has put up good numbers, there is still another element of his game he can grow to place him as a Norris Trophy candidate.
McAvoy’s point production isn’t as touted as regular Norris Trophy candidates because his season goal totals aren’t as high. His career high for goals came in 2021-22, where he scored ten. The last three Norris Trophy winners (in an 82-game season) have scored an average of 23 goals. So why has McAvoy not yet reached a goal total that high?
Total shots on goal and total shots attempted would seem to be the leading factor for why the 25-year-old defenseman hasn’t reached a higher goal total. Along with averaging 23 goals a season, the last three Norris Trophy winners (in an 82-game season) have recorded an average of 236.3 total shots on goal and 508 shots attempted. McAvoy has never recorded more than 166 shots on goal or 295 attempted shots in his NHL career.
So, the moral of the story here is McAvoy needs to increase his volume of attempted shots, which should translate to more shots on goal. The math would obviously reveal he’s likely to score more goals if he takes this approach. McAvoy does not have a poor shot either; he has displayed his ability to shoot the puck with a quick release or be patient and let it rip. He also knows how to place the puck where he wants to shoot, demonstrating with several picked corner goals throughout his career.
McAvoy may not shoot the puck as much as other top defensemen around the league because of the high-end shooting talent the Bruins have had among their forwards since McAvoy entered the NHL in 2017. With players that can shoot the puck like Pastrnak, among others whom McAvoy has played with, it makes sense to rely more on puck distribution, which he is one of the best in the league. But with the Bruins roster looking not as strong offensively on paper as previous seasons, it should be time for McAvoy to start putting more pucks to the net.
The former Boston University Terrier doesn’t have many weaknesses as a hockey player. His defensive game and physicality speak for themselves, and his leadership on and off the ice. He logs high minutes every night, largely contributing both on the power-play and penalty kill, and is arguably the best defenseman in the league at breaking the puck out of the defensive zone. But with how the league has changed, it’s simple if the former first-round pick wants to collect his first Norris Trophy. Shoot the puck more.