"The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season."
Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche
Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
The Case for Matt Duchene
The third-overall pick in the 2009 draft finished atop the rookie leader board in goals and points, and he was third among all rookie forwards in average ice time. Except for a seven-game drought to start the month of November, Duchene did not go more than three consecutive games without registering a point. Duchene was also quite the road warrior, finishing the 2009-2010 season 16-15-31 in 41 road contests. In fact, he led the Avalanche in goals scored on the road. He also had a knack for putting up numbers against playoff teams – three goals against Vancouver (tied for his high against a single team), going 1-3-4 against San Jose, three points in four games against Phoenix. He also finished among the top-20 rookie forwards in hits, blocked shots, and takeaways. He was a consistently high performer for an overachieving team.
The Case for Tyler Myers
It is said by many that defensemen take the longest to learn their trade among any of the positions in hockey. If that is the case, the 12th-overall pick from the 2008 draft is among the fastest learners in his sport. Myers made the jump straight from juniors (Kelowna of the WHL) in 2008-2009 to the Sabres this season, where he played in all 82 games and led all rookie defensemen in average ice time (minimum 40 games). He also led all rookie defensemen in goals, assists, and points. He finished second in plus/minus and power play points. He showed a grittier edge, too, finishing the season fourth among rookie defensemen in hits, first in blocked shots, and third in takeaways. He managed to record points against 12 of the other 14 teams in the Eastern Conference. On a club that emphasized holding opponents in check (fourth best goals allowed per game), Myers led the Sabres’ defense in average ice time, shorthanded and even-strength ice time. Myers suffered a bit of a slump in February (1-0-1, minus-3) in seven games, but he came out of the Olympic break with a rush, ending March 3-11-14, plus-11 in 16 games as the Sabres were going 10-5-1 and cementing a place in the playoffs. In his first year, he was the cornerstone defenseman that made goalie Ryan Miller’s job just a little bit easier.
The Case for Jimmy Howard
“Number one goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings.” It isn’t exactly a position with no pressure attached to it. The Wings ice enough talent to make the goaltender’s job a bit easier than in might be in other cities, but the expectations of the club and by their fans negates whatever relief a goalie might enjoy from the talent in front of him. There is no hiding in Detroit from bad performances. Howard did not take the reins of the number one spot right away – he appeared in only five of the first 15 games the Red Wings played. Chris Osgood held the top job, going 6-2-3, 2.77, .902 in his 12 appearances over that stretch. But Osgood allowed five goals to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-1 loss on November 7th. Howard got the call in the next game, and he allowed only a Rick Nash goal in a 9-1 win. Starting with that game, Howard did not go consecutive games on the bench over the remainder of the season. He would finish the year topping all rookie goalies in games and wins, and finish second among rookie goalies in goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts. He was amazing down the stretch, not losing a game in regulation after March 9th and going 13-0-2, 1.89, .926, with two shutouts to end the season. Instead of following the lead of the talented skaters in front of him, he was leading them to their tenth straight 100-point season, precisely what the Wings and their fans expect.
Trying to pick the “best” from among players that play different positions – forward, defenseman, goaltender – adds another layer of subjectivity to what is always a very subjective process. Duchene played for a team that struggled down the stretch (8-10-3 after the Olympic break). Howard played for a team that found its offensive game late (3.25 goals a game over their last 16 contest). Myers played in front of an elite goaltender who was maintaining his high performance level late in the season (Ryan Miller did not allow more than three goals in any game after the Olympic break). But in the end, it would seem as though Myers was more an integral part of his team’s success than were the others, even given Howard’s excellent numbers. And, he plays what might be the most difficult position to master. That is why, if we had a pick for the Calder Trophy, we would pick…