Who will win the NHL's Calder Trophy this season?
There are three excellent finalists to choose from and you could make a healthy argument for each of them to win. Michael Grabner is arguably the fastest skater in the league, Logan Couture might be the best overall player of the group, and Jeff Skinner is a non-stop ball of fire.
My choice would be Skinner, but then again, my point of view could be a bit slanted.
Last week, one of our friends at Behind The Net looked in depth at several of the more obscure stats and came to the conclusion that Grabner should win.
I think Grabner should be the Calder winner at this point. At even strength, all three players put up similar offensive numbers, though Grabner put up the most goals. Meanwhile, Grabner played the toughest even-strength minutes and still put up the best relative corsi. Couture's overall corsi is better, but I suspect very heavily this is due to the fact that he had a better team than either of the other two players. Skinner does get extra credit for the massive penalty differential, for sure, but I think that's offset by the easier minutes he faced.
Meanwhile, Grabner provided a good lot of value on the PK as well, by being one of the league's best PKers this year. Skinner didn't play PK at all, and though Couture did, he seems nothing more than average in terms of this year.
The edge Skinner and Couture get in the point totals comes entirely from power play time they get that Grabner did not get. The question is of course how much extra credit does this give them? After all, from a replacement level point of view, these are easier minutes to put up nice numbers. I just don't think it's enough to outweigh Grabner's edge in even strength and penalty kill.
Thus My Calder Ballot, given these three candidates, would be:
1. Michael Grabner
2. Jeff Skinner
3. Logan Couture
Skinner and Couture are close...but I think the massive penalty differential makes up for it. Grabner's +10 penalty differential means however that Skinner's penalty edge isn't quite big enough in my mind to make up for the easier minutes.
Bottom line, the author deduced that Grabner played against tougher competition and should be the winner primarily based upon that stat.
My recollection of Grabner when watching him play in Carolina was that he was cheating on defense, quite often waiting near the blueline, so that he could have an easy breakout attempt. I think that happened three times in one game alone against the Hurricanes.
Although, his plus/minus stat and time on the penalty kill would indicate that he is a very good defensive player.
|2010 - Jeff Skinner||82||31||32||63||3||46||6||0||2||215|
|2010 - Michael Grabner||76||34||18||52||13||10||2||6||3||228|
|2010 - Logan Couture||79||32||24||56||18||41||10||0||8||253|
My argument for Skinner is pretty simplistic.
He led the entire league in penalties drawn and dominated the other two finalists in that stat, 45-15-14. I don't think the importance of this can be easily overlooked. It takes tremendous effort and commitment to constantly battle and fight for position, which is what Skinner did to draw those penalties.
Name one other stat in which either Grabner or Couture was ranked number one in the league.
He led all rookies in total points scored. Period. He had 20% more points than Grabner. While Skinner played more on the powerplay than Grabner did, Grabner scored 6 shorthanded goals and Skinner did not have that opportunity since he did not play on the penalty kill. Perhaps he would have had a couple of shorties himself, if given the chance? For that reason, I don't think Skinner should be penalized for having more time on the powerplay.
If the point totals were closer, I could see bringing in the level of competition argument to settle it, but the point totals are not that close between Grabner and Skinner.
One set of stats the author did not look at were the "real time" stats on NHL.com.
Skinner leads all three with 70 hits compared to 60 for Couture and a paltry 22 for Grabner. Couture had the most blocked shots, but considering that Grabner is supposed to be the dominant defensive player, it's surprising that Skinner had more blocks than he did.
Finally, Skinner was second on his team in scoring. Couture and Grabner were
both sixth on their respective teams. (Couture was sixth and Grabner was fourth). This indicates to me that Skinner was more important to his team.
We'll leave the 18-year-old's younger age out of the discussion, but the fact that he is the seventh youngest player in NHL history to score 30 goals, even younger than Gretzky, is something else that should not be overlooked. The kid is in the record books already.
All three players had tremendous seasons and are deserving in their own ways. But if I'm an NHL general manager, I'll take Jeff Skinner to build my team around, thank you very much.
Here are a couple of other views from the mainstream:
Calder Trophy: Skinner received my top vote - CBSSports.com
Eye on Hockey - Calder Trophy: Skinner received my top vote
Skinner was big during the Hurricanes' playoff push, with 16 points in the the team's final 19 games