The approach of the NHL trade deadline signifies something we all don’t wish for —, the end of the regular season. Along with that comes awards and plenty of talk about which player should win which award.
We saw just this week the fierce head-on-head competition of Patrik Laine vs. Auston Matthews, being labelled as a battle for the Calder trophy. But one worthy name has been left out of the discussion, Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Being a goaltender already means it’s hard to win the Calder and prove you are the best player among your rookie class. Murray is showing all the signs that he deserves to be in the running.
Looking back on the four most current goaltenders that won the Calder trophy, it’s clear Murray should be in reach of the Laine vs. Matthews battle for the award.
To compare the goaltenders, let’s use SV% compared to league average, and games. For the forwards, let’s use Points/60 (when available) and Points/GP.
THE CURRENT RACE
As impressive as Matthews’ and Laine’s seasons are, Murray is right in there. Having a .923 sv% as a 22-year-old goaltender in the NHL is comparable to having a 0.88 or 0.98 pts/game as a teenage forward in the NHL this season. Murray’s .926 sv% is good for fifth in the league this season, tied with elite starting goaltender Braeden Holtby and above extremely hot all-season, Sergei Bobrovsky.
In fairness, both Matthews and Laine also have numbers around elite company. Both have currently scored more goals than Alex Ovechkin and have around the same number of points as Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and John Tavares.
A rookie goalie this dominant is quite rare and needs to be considered for the Calder trophy at the end of the season.
MARTIN BRODEUR (1993-94)
Starting with the eldest member of this group of goalies, Martin Brodeur won the Calder trophy for the 1993-1994 season. With a great .915 save percentage in 47 games played, especially when the league average was .895%, Brodeur showed that he was an above average netminder from the start.
Remarkably, that season’s Calder race is extremely similar to this year.
Coming in second in voting was Jason Arnott, who posted 0.87 pts/game in his rookie season. But not to be outdone by the third place vote of 21-year-old Mikael Renberg, who put up an impressive 0.98 pts/game. Unfortunately in this year, the TOI data was unavailable for comparison, so I could not list the two points/60 to compare.
In this season, Brodeur had tough competition for the Calder. Renberg had the numbers, but perhaps was not truly considered because of Hall of Famer Eric Lindros being his centreman.
EVGENI NABOKOV (2000-01)
With Nabokov’s Calder trophy-winning season, he had less competition than Brodeur and significantly less than Murray will have with Matthews and Laine. He’s still an above-average goalie in the NHL as a rookie.
Nabokov was 25-years-old when he won the award for the 2000-2001 season. A 20-year-old Brad Richards scoring at the rate he was, and showing similar numbers to the numbers that fellow centreman Matthews is putting up this year, could have been more deserving.
ANDREW RAYCROFT (2003-04)
What an exciting career Andrew Raycroft had. By exciting, I mean like a rollercoaster with a sharp decline into nothing. He was still a goalie that deservingly won a Calder trophy.
He posted an incredible .926 sv% to win himself that award, especially significant with the league-average at .911%. If those numbers won him the Calder, then Murray’s very similar numbers should at least have him in the running.
His competition was also similar. Michael Ryder posting a 2.92 points/60 and 0.78 points/game is comparable to Matthew’s 2.93 points/60 and 0.88/game. The one difference is a forward even better than that in Laine that everyone has to consider.
STEVE MASON (2008-09)
The most recent goalie to win the Calder trophy was Steve Mason. His 2008-2009 season won him the award of best rookie, with a 0.916 sv% and a total 61 games played, securing himself as a rookie starting goalie in the NHL. That by itself is quite a feat.
His only real competition that year was Bobby Ryan, scoring at an incredible 3.46 points/60 and 0.89 points/game rate. Just as Ryder’s rookie numbers were comparable to Matthews, Ryan’s second place numbers are similar to Laine’s 3.23 points/60 and 0.98 points/game scoring rate this year.
Similar to Mason, Murray is a rookie starting goalie in the NHL and putting up above-league average numbers. That fact in and of itself should have Murray in contention with Matthews and Laine.
For Murray to win the Calder trophy this year, both Matthews and Laine need to significantly slow down after the trade deadline. If they continue on the same scoring pace — or score even more — there will be a significant gap between them and the rest of the 2016-2017 NHL rookie class. It’s hard to compete with the amount of coverage the Matthews vs. Laine battle for the Calder is getting.
Comparing the roles Matthews, Laine and Murray each play on their own team can also have a significant role in the voting. Matthews is the Leafs’ No. 1 centre, Laine is one of the Jet’s top-line wingers and Murray is in a goalie tandem with Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins. As great as his numbers are, I know that will have a role in the decision.
He might not play as big as a role within his own team as Matthews or Laine, or might not make as big as an impact game-by-game. But the pure and raw numbers show that Matt Murray is extremely deserving of a top (if not the top) spot in the Calder race.
-all data used is from hockey-reference.com and nhl.com-