Karlsson takes back blue-line belt
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In 2009, while then-UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar was out with a serious illness, Shane Carwin defeated Frank Mir to become the UFC Interim Champion.

After the match, Lesnar commented on the situation, saying, "It was a good fight, but he's wearing a belt that's a make believe belt. I've got the real championship belt."

Something similar happened in fantasy hockey last season.

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered a lacerated Achilles' tendon courtesy of Matt Cooke's skate in February, allowing Montreal Canadiens blueliner P.K. Subban to step in and win the Norris Trophy.

Karlsson was more humble about his scenario, reportedly saying, "I cannot hate someone who is better than me," last November.

But much like Lesnar, who beat Carwin to unify the titles once he was healthy, Karlsson is proving that he is the real heavyweight champion.

The Sens 23-year-old star has 14 goals, 39 assists, 22 penalty minutes (PIM) and 177 shots on goal (SOG) in 57 games. His 53 points and 24 power-play points lead all defensemen, and his shots on goal rank second to Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets.

Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Duncan Keith is five points behind Karlsson, but he only has three goals and is 33 SOG behind the Ottawa defenseman.

Meanwhile, Subban sits at eight goals, 30 assists, 61 PIM and 151 SOG.

The 24-year-old started off 2013-14 as hot as he ended last season, generating 23 points (four goals) and 87 SOG in his first 27 games, but he has gone cold since the start of December with just 15 points (four goals) and 64 SOG in 30 games.

Karlsson has been consistently excellent, putting up at least 11 points in all four months this season and starting off with two in the first three games of February.

He's on pace for 20 goals, 76 points and 255 SOG, nearly identical to the 19 goals, 78 points and 261 SOG he recorded during his Norris Trophy-winning season of 2011-12.

It would be Karlsson's second career 70-point season. The only other active blueliner with even one 70-point season on his resume is Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, who has two.

The only thing preventing Karlsson from winning a second Norris Trophy is his -16 goal differential. Since 1967-68, only three players have won the Norris Trophy with a plus/minus in the red.

But that has only put a minor dent in his fantasy value this season, not enough to knock him from the No. 1 spot.

In the past three years, only a freak injury has been able to do that.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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