• Sean Holmes-Smith

The Calder Debate - A True Two Horse Race and Who Got it Wrong

Cale Makar is a deserving Calder Trophy Winner. There were two absolutely run away contenders this season and then the rest of the crowd. There were two rookie seasons that were generational performances and then the rest of the rookies who played very well. There were two players who showed they are bonafide superstars, and then the rest of the class that has star power potential. Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes were in a class of their own this season in regards to the Calder Trophy. Unfortunately there were a handful of voters who over-complicated the vote.

When you compare Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar’s seasons to all the other rookies seasons from 2005-06 on it’s hard to not understand how amazing these seasons were. Quinn Hughes is the only rookie defenseman to lead all rookies in points (3rd to do that all time after Bobby Orr and Brian Leetch). Since 2005-06 there have only been 3 rookie defensemen to put up over 0.7 Pts/GP, Shayne Gostisbehere being the other. Even when you compare Hughes and Makar’s Pts/GP to all players it’s impressive, Makar’s 0.88 Pts/GP is the same as Patrick Kane rookie season (12th best since 05-06) and Quinn Hughes’s 0.78 Pts/GP is better than Nathan Mackinnon and Jeff Skinner. Adam Fox got a first place vote from The Athletic’s Murat Ates and a 2nd place vote from Larry Brooks of the New York Post. Adam Fox’s Pts/GP was 0.60, which isn’t on the same tier as Makar and Hughes, so “I guess what I’m saying Brooksie” is YOU GOT IT WRONG!

The only forward who got 2nd place votes this season was Dominik Kubalik thanks to Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Jim Thomas of the St Louis Dispatch. Kubalik became the 14th player since 05-06 to score 30 goals in his rookie season and that’s great but he also only had 16 assists and a 0.68 Pts/GP which isn’t even in the top 40 of rookies since 05-06. He had a solid season and a surprisingly good season but not one that should be considered good enough to knock Hughes or Makar out of the top 2 on ANY Ballot. Jim and Ben, YOU’RE INCORRECT! Although I feel Jim got a good look at why Hughes was by far a top 2 rookie this season after the playoffs this summer.

Now, we have the two votes for the goaltenders. Elvis Merzlikins and Mackenzie Blackwood both got one 2nd place vote each. Let's look at the Mackenzie Blackwood vote from Renaud Lavoie of TVA, Blackwood had a 0.915 Sv% this season which is solid but not spectacular. Are you really voting for a solid goaltender over a historic season from a defenseman? You shouldn’t be. Renaud Lavoie, guess what YOU WERE WRONG! Now, Elvis is arguably the best of the rest of all the contenders. We saw last season a goalie make Elias Pettersson’s Calder crowning a bit more complicated than it should’ve been with Jordan Binnington but it wasn’t enough because of the Games Played argument. Elvis’s stats compared to Binnington are close enough that you can make an argument that Elvis deserves a look. Elvis’s 0.923 Sv% ties him with Matt Murray for the 4th best Sv% since 05-06 by a rookie goaltender, but again what curbs any momentum for the Elvis campaign is Games Played, Elvis only played 33 games and only started 31 games out of the 70 games the Blue Jackets played in the regular season. Stephen Conroy of the Boston Herald, were you wrong? YES!!!!

Ok, now that I’ve gone crazy and yelled/shamed the voters who decided to overlook what was a season by 2 rookie defenseman that we haven’t seen since the 2004 lockout to vote for others in the top 2 I’ll claw this back a bit. Dominik Kubalik, Adam Fox, Mackenzie Blackwood and Elvis Merzlikins all deserve a lot of praise for the seasons they had. In most other seasons these 4 players would have a much better chance at the Calder Trophy. Congrats to Cale Makar for winning the Calder Trophy, and to Quinn Hughes for a season that is very deserving of winning the Calder Trophy as well. I hope next season there isn't any overthinking, if anyone has a historic season don’t try to be different and vote for someone else.

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