Thu Apr 22 01:20pm EDT
The Calder Trophy race has fascinated us this season because of how the dynamics changed so dramatically from last summer's draft to today, when the finalists for the 2009-10 rookie of the year were revealed.
Matt Duchene(notes) was taken No. 3 overall by the Colorado Avalanche. The players in front of him -- John Tavares(notes) of the New York Islanders and Victor Hedman(notes) of the Tampa Bay Lightning - were both tabbed for Calder contention because they were (a) ridiculously talented and (b) figured to see a lot of playing time. Duchene, meanwhile, wasn't a lock to be in the NHL this season.
Neither was Tyler Myers(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres, who played his way into a prominent role on the blue line. Was there anyone picking Myers to be anything more than an honorable mention at best for the Calder before the season?
Jimmy Howard(notes) of the Detroit Red Wings was going to see some time this season after Detroit let Ty Conklin(notes) skate away. It didn't mean he was going to win the job, which he did, or start 25 consecutive games, which he did.
So it's Myers vs. Howard vs. Duchene for the Calder. Who has the edge?
Why Tyler Myers Deserves the Calder. Here's what the NHL had to say on Myers:
Myers not only won an NHL roster spot as a 19-year-old, he posted statistics befitting an established veteran. The 6'8", 222-lb. defenseman led the Sabres in ice time per game (23:44), three minutes more than blueline partner Henrik Tallinder(notes) who ranked second. He shared second place on the club in plus-minus (+13) and was fifth in scoring (11-37--48). Myers ranked at or near the top in several rookie categories, including average ice time (first), shorthanded time (first, 3:04), assists (first), blocked shots (first, 137), plus-minus (T-second) and points (third). He also was one of four rookies to play all 82 games.
Something not pointed our here is that he was third overall in rookie scoring with 48 points, just seven away from leading the NHL in rookie scoring as a defenseman. Which isn't exactly commonplace.
Why Matt Duchene Deserves the Calder. Here's what the NHL had to say on Duchene:
Selected third overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, Duchene earned a place on the Avalanche roster out of training camp as an 18-year-old. He went on to lead all NHL rookies in scoring with 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) in 81 games, shared the rookie goal-scoring lead with the New York Islanders' John Tavares and ranked second among rookies in assists. The Haliburton, Ontario, native placed second on the Avalanche in goals and led the club in power-play goals (10) and multi-goal games (six). Duchene's 55 points were the second-highest total by a rookie in Avalanche history behind Paul Stastny's(notes) 78 in 2006-07.
Our conversation with Coach Joe Sacco about Duchene was enlightening. As a center, he's playing a position that dramatically different on the NHL level compared to juniors, especially within the Avs' system. He's grown as a player during the year, and he's been a clutch player in a way other rookies haven't, helping Colorado to a stunning playoff berth. Plus, he's boys with Melo, which gives him more street cred than either of the other two.
Why Jimmy Howard Deserves the Calder. Here's what the NHL had to say on Howard:
Howard seized the Detroit starting job in 2009-10 following a four-year apprenticeship at AHL Grand Rapids. The Syracuse, N.Y., native started 25 consecutive games from Jan. 29 to Apr. 4, the longest streak by a Red Wings goaltender since Tim Cheveldae (29) in 1991-92 and tops by a Detroit rookie since Connie Dion (26) in 1943-44. He posted a 37-15-10 record, 2.26 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, including a 15-0-2 run during his final 17 starts that clinched the Red Wings a playoff berth for the 19th consecutive season. Howard is just the fourth goaltender in Red Wings history to post 30 wins in his rookie season.
He provided the backbone between the pipes the team needed to figure their problems out and cruise into the postseason. There's going to be outcry here that Tuukka Rask(notes) of the Boston Bruins was snubbed, and that's not fair to Howard, who started 22 more games this season than Rask did. (To put things in perspective, Rask faced over 1,000 fewer shots than Craig Anderson(notes) of the Avs this season.)
Please note that there's no age specifically stated by the NHL for 26-year-old Howard, unlike the other two players.
Who Wins The Calder? Myers should win. Howard might win. We'd be surprised if Duchene won.
Myers has been a revelation this season as a defenseman, and has the stats to justify the Calder. But he lost some of the spotlight to Howard right around the time when the votes were being cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. That timing may actually give Howard a bump in the voting over Myers; it's a two-horse race, from the vibe we've gotten from the voters.
Again, there's no denying that Duchene is worthy of a nomination, and that we may all look back at him being the best player in the rookie crop of 2009-10. But his offensive numbers didn't match those of Bobby Ryan(notes) last year and every offensive player that's won the award since Chris Drury(notes) of the Colorado Avalanche in 1999 (20-24-44 in 79 games).
We had a vote for the Calder this season. This was our ballot:
1. Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
2. Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
3. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
4. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Age means something here. Howard is 26, and a seasoned pro. Myers and Duchene weren't expected to be in the NHL season by many observers. You have to take that into account for a rookie the year award, but it isn't a disqualifier. Howard's season for a first-year NHL player was outstanding, which is why he's there.
No John Tavares on our ballot. Thought he played good, but not great, and not up to our expectations. He was No. 6. James van Riemsdyk may have been a reach, considering his limited ice time; but for much of the season he was flirting with the scoring lead in the rookie race before he hit the wall. Impressed with his play.
Bottom line: Give Myers the Calder. He earned it.