It's the best time of year!
As we sit here on Jan. 25, there really is no favorite for the Calder Trophy. By this time last year, Tyler Myers was the clear-cut favorite; the same goes for Steve Mason back in 2008-09. But there are a handful of Calder nominees worthy of taking home the hardware if it were decided today.
Talented forwards Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner, along with goalie Corey Crawford, seem to be in a dead-heat and heads-above-shoulders the rest of the candidates. Not to ignore the others in consideration, but let’s make a case for all three of them individually…
When I spoke with Todd McLellan back in December, he mentioned Couture was a ‘catalyst’ for the Sharks this season. Couture leads Team Teal with 22 goals, six of which are game-winners. What has been equally impressive is the little things Couture does, both defensively and in the faceoff circle. He has arguably been the Sharks’ best two-way forward of the first half-plus.
Some people consider Couture, 21, as the clubhouse leader for the Calder. However, will voters take into account that he played 40 games last year (including playoffs)? Especially when his biggest competition is the baby-faced Jeff Skinner? It shouldn’t be a big factor, but is something to think about.
Being a ‘late-bloomer’ is never a bad thing (better late than never, right?); I’m sure the ‘Hawks are happy they have someone that can stop the puck consistently! Crawford, 26, is third in the NHL in goals-against (2.14), thanks to a surge over the last month or so. He started stealing starts from Marty Turco on a regular basis in late November and has left him in the dust.
Crawford’s late to the party with Couture and Skinner already establishing themselves as Calder front-runners. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but pundits already have the mindset of it being a ‘Couture-Skinner’ race for the award. Crawford will have to keep up his great play to truly get the attention of the voters.
I really thought Skinner’s Calder resume took a hit in December; but whatever momentum he lost then has been fully regained. Skinner has surged to the top of the rookie points leaders with 40, eight more than Couture (in second). His skill level has transitioned smoothly to the NHL so far and he’s doing a lot of things kids his age can’t do (said skill has helped Carolina win games in the shootout as he is tied for the league-lead in shootout-deciding goals).
And that’s the thing – Skinner is 18. He was drafted just last summer. His two biggest competitors are eight and three years older than him, respectively, which has to impress the voters (but like I said earlier, it is not the deciding factor). Not many believed he would make it through training camp with the ‘Canes, much less the nine-game early season ‘tryout’. He is now a main contributour to a Carolina team that is making their voice heard in the playoff race.
How would I rank the three for the Calder as of now?
1. Skinner, 2. Couture, 3. Crawford
It will definitely be interesting to see how this race unfolds as the season grows older. Who will edge who in Skinner-Couture? Will Crawford eventually jump to the top? Will any dark horses play their way to a nomination?
Photos credit: Getty Images
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