April 19, 2011
Check out the rookie scoring leaders for the 2010-11 NHL regular season. Now check out the goalies. In a perfect world, the Calder Trophy should have been a 10-nominee deep pool like the Best Picture Academy Award, because the rookie class was that impressive. Instead, we're down to three finalists, as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture(notes), New York Islanders right wing Michael Grabner(notes) and Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner(notes) are the three finalists for the 2010-11 Calder Trophy, awarded "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition."
Also, the player who did not play "more than 25 NHL games in any single preceding season, nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons." Which is important this season.
First, the snubs. Corey Crawford(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks was (spoiler warning) No. 3 on our ballot, having led rookie goalies in wins (33), starts (55) and tied with Michal Neuvirth(notes) of the Washington Capitals with four shutouts.
Maybe Neuvirth and Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers stole some votes with their outstanding seasons. Maybe some writers felt Crawford was a product of the team in front of him. (Yet Jimmy Howard was second overall in last season's vote.)
So Crawford is, in our estimation, the chief snub here. The problem for players like Tyler Ennis(notes) (Buffalo Sabres, 49 points), Derek Stepan(notes) (New York Rangers, 45 points) and Jordan Eberle(notes) (Edmonton Oilers, 43 points) was that there were three quality forwards ahead of them on the scoring charts.
And now, those three are finalists for the Calder. Who wins?
Why Logan Couture Deserves the Calder
From the NHL:
Couture was a key contributor in all areas on a Sharks team that captured its fourth consecutive Pacific Division title. The 22-year-old center ranked second on San Jose in goals (32), game-winning goals (eight) and plus-minus (+18); placed third in shots (253) and face-offs (888); fourth in power-play goals (10) and sixth in points (56). He led all rookies in game-winning goals, power-play goals, shots and face-offs, finished second in goals and points and was fifth in plus-minus. The Sharks' first-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft tallied seven of his game-winning goals on the road, the most ever by an NHL rookie.
Couture was all-around one of the best players on the San Jose Sharks this season, making an impact as a first-year player and saving their bacon on more than one occasion. His chemistry with Ryane Clowe(notes) gave the Sharks the secondary scoring option they needed as the big guns misfired; Clowe's 62 points in 75 games was a career best.
Now, will Couture's experience count against him? He played 25 regular-season games last year, which is the maximum to still be considered a rookie; he also played in 15 playoff games, scoring four goals. Does experience count against a Calder candidate? Perhaps. (Yet Jimmy Howard was second overall in last season's vote.)
Also, Couture didn't end up leading the NHL for rookie points or goals … and these other guys did.
Why Michael Grabner Deserves the Calder
From the NHL:
Grabner didn't start the season with the Islanders, but ended it as the club's goals leader with 34, a total that also led NHL rookies. Claimed on waivers from Florida on Oct. 5, Grabner surged near the top of the rookie scoring race with a run of 16 goals in 15 games from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, a period also highlighted by a first-place finish in the Fastest Skater event at the 2011 NHL SuperSkills. His six-game goal streak from Feb. 1-15 matched the longest by any player this season. The 23-year-old Villach, Austria native led all rookies in shorthanded goals (six), ranked second in shots (228) and seventh in plus-minus (+13).
Grabner's is a redemption story, unable to latch on with the Vancouver Canucks, traded to the Florida Panthers, unceremoniously placed on waivers after training camp and snatched up by the Islanders. He was the hottest rookie in the league for the first two months of 2011, before trailing off a bit near the end. His plus/minus, for example, slipped from a gaudy plus-17.
He led all rookies in goals scored, and put up incredible numbers for what was, by far, the worst team represented in these finalists. Is 34 goals enough to win the Calder when he only has 18 helpers?
Why Jeff Skinner Deserves the Calder
From the NHL:
The Hurricanes reaped immediate dividends from their top pick in the 2010 Entry Draft as the 18-year-old Skinner, selected seventh overall last June, led all rookies in scoring as the League's youngest player. His performance over the first half of the season earned him a berth in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, played in front of a hometown crowd in Raleigh. He went on to lead all rookies in points (63), rank second in assists (32) and third in goals (31). Skinner netted his 30th goal of the season Apr. 6 against Detroit, becoming the seventh-youngest player in NHL history to reach the milestone (18 years, 325 days).
There were questions if he'd stick in the NHL this season, and Skinner made himself indispensable. And then he made himself a sensation.
When the NHL's writers converged on Raleigh for the All-Star game, they experienced the Bieber-mania that surrounded Skinner locally. It left an impression. You combine that with leading the NHL in rookie points and closing strongly as the votes were being cast, and Skinner has to be considered the favorite here.
Who wins the Calder Trophy?
Skinner wins, especially because Couture didn't lead the league in either points or goals for rookies. But it'll be a razor-thin margin.
We felt Crawford had the better full season, despite Grabner's fireworks in the second half. We also wanted to give some love to a stellar rookie crop of goalies (Crawford, Bobrovsky, Neuvirth) and defensemen.