Faces of Despair is a potentially recurring feature that spotlights hockey fans that just can’t hide their agonized reaction to an opponent’s goal.
Harrison Mooney, my same-sex blog-partner over at Pass it to Bulis, writes a popular feature for Puck Daddy called Hockey Hugs. It celebrates the primal joy of hockey’s quintessential post-goal celebration. Now, it might just be because I am extremely cynical, but I can’ t help but notice that in the background of many of those joyous goal celebrations is a whole lot of despair and sadness.
Sometimes when you pay good money to see a hockey game, you get a front row seat to see the opponents scoring goals against your favourite team and rubbing it in your face by hugging right in front of you.
Jonas Brodin has quietly assumed a big role in Minnesota. Does he deserve consideration for the Calder Trophy? (Bruce Kluckhohn, Getty Images)
A defenceman has won the Calder Trophy just 3 times in the last 23 years, with Tyler Myers being the most recent. There are a number of reasons why it’s rare to see a defenceman win rookie of the year. Opportunities are harder to come by: with teams dressing just 6 defencemen, most young defencemen will spend their rookie seasons on a team’s third pairing or shuttling between the NHL and AHL.
Defencemen also don’t tend to put up the kind of point totals that catch the attention of voters. Myers was a rarity. He finished third in rookie scoring and was just 7 points behind Matt Duchene, who led the league. He also stepped into a lineup that needed a number one defenceman and averaged just short of 24 minutes per game.
This season, the forwards are once again leading the way, as Jonathan Huberdeau and Cory Conacher battling for the rookie scoring lead and Brendan Gallagher making an argument for himself by putting up respectable point totals while playing for a team that is actually playoff-bound. The selection of Gabriel Landeskog for the Calder Trophy over Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last season, however, indicates to me that voters may be paying more attention to the role that a rookie plays on his team.
With that in mind, several defencemen are playing important roles on their respective teams and could, by the end of the season, have worked their way into the Calder conversation. If the forwards falter in the final days of the season, one of them could even win. Here are six rookie defencemen who deserve some attention.
The trade deadline is one of the most overhyped days on the NHL calendar, but, since I’m a sucker for manufactured drama, I’ll be up bright and early in the morning to watch all of the non-action live. Or perhaps I just enjoy watching the TSN crew desperately clawing for something to report for hours upon hours until finally James Duthie snaps, steals Darren Dreger’s phone and starts frantically dialling numbers to ensure the outside world hasn’t ceased to exist.
My favourite part of watching the trade deadline is seeing three different desks full of analysts breathlessly breaking down a trade involving a depth defenceman, a career AHL-er, and a draft pick because it’s the only trade that has happened in the last four hours.
This time around, the trade deadline looks like it’s going to be even more dull than normal. Here are 5 reasons why:
It looks like Anders Lindback might miss Nashville. Or, at least, Shea Weber. (Scott Audette, Getty Images)
It’s not easy becoming an NHL team’s number one goaltender. There are only 30 positions available and hundreds of goaltenders looking for their shot. Talented young goaltending prospects often find themselves starting out in the ECHL, simply because there’s no room on a team’s AHL affiliate. Players gradually work their way up the depth chart until they finally get called up to the big club — and end up as the perennial backup, stuck behind an aging incumbent or an undrafted Finnish phenom.
Getting a chance to finally take centre stage and stand in the spotlight as a team’s go-to goaltender is a rare opportunity. At the start of this season, five goaltenders were given that opportunity after spending last season as a backup: Cory Schneider, Anders Lindback, Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, and Tuukka Rask. The results so far have been mixed.
Marek Zidlicky, Jhonas Enroth, and a Corsi Event. Not pictured: a high-quality scoring chance. (Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)
Last week, Cam Charron wrote about the NHL’s counting problem here at Backhand Shelf, bemoaning the secrecy of NHL teams when it comes to advanced statistics. One part in particular, however, caught my eye when he talked about hockey’s “Aha!” moment when it comes to statistics.
There’s a reference in the Friedman piece to Craig MacTavish walking around looking for the “Aha!” moment when it comes to hockey analytics. I don’t think MacTavish has realized that half the hockey world is a step ahead of him in that regard. The “Aha!” moment comes when you realize that shots are a hell of a lot more predictive than goals for determining future events. As soon as you realize that hockey is a game between two teams trying to take shots on goal, I think the rest of it falls into place.
Cam isn’t really wrong, but this is also one of the biggest problems that people seem to have with so-called advanced statistics: they’re almost entirely reliant on counting shots. Corsi and Fenwick are both shot-based statistics that are pretty much the opposite of “advanced.” All they are is adding and subtracting shots. The more shots for your team and the fewer shots against, the better. Outshoot your opponent enough, particularly at the right time of the game (such as when the score is tied or within one goal), and you’ll win a lot more games than you lose.
If this seems like an incredibly simplistic view of hockey, that’s because it is. It’s also a completely inaccurate view of hockey. That isn’t to say that Corsi and Fenwick aren’t useful, because they certainly are. As Cam points out, shot-based analytics have impressive predictive power. But they also are coming at hockey from the completely wrong end.
I believe this is part of the reason why so many people are resistant to shot-based statistics. What matters is winning, winning requires goals, and a high volume of shots does not, strictly speaking, create goals. Shots are a by-product and not a cause.
Early Wednesday morning, Damien Cox caused a minor stir online with a tweet about a trade offer the Maple Leafs supposedly made for Roberto Luongo at the 2012 draft that Mike Gillis turned down. It had everything Cox could want in 140 characters: two of the biggest hockey markets in Canada, one of the hottest players in the NHL in Nazem Kadri, the ongoing intrigue of the Luongo trade saga, and even a snide put down of an NHL General Manager.
Worth noting at June draft Canucks could’ve had Kadri, Bozak and a pick for Luongo. Got greedy. Now have lost as many as have won.
There’s only one problem: none of it was true. For such a brief little story, it had a remarkable number of holes in it. It’s the Andrew Raycroft of tweets, if you will. For starters, the Canucks were never offered a package of Kadri, Bozak and a pick at the draft. The rumour at the time was that Luke Schenn was the player offered by Brian Burke and Gillis, understandably, balked.
In fact, the Leafs never offered Kadri, Bozak, and a pick; instead, that was what Gillis reportedly asked for in a trade for Luongo from the Leafs. So, at no point could the Canucks have had Kadri, Bozak, and a pick for Luongo, because Burke and Nonis said no to that offer. What actually happened is the complete opposite of what Damien Cox said.
What’s worse is that Cox knew it wasn’t true. Actually, what’s even worse is that people believed him.
The battle for the Calder trophy is shaping up to be a good one: Cory Conacher’s 18 points in 21 games has him as the favourite, but Jonathan Huberdeau’s 10 goals is tops among rookies and Justin Schultz is playing nearly 23 minutes a night for the Oilers. A strong push from Brendan Gallagher, Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Dougie Hamilton, or one of half-a-dozen other rookies could see them in the running by the end of the season.
But what about last year’s rookies? Early last season, it looked like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was going to run away with the Calder, but an injury and strong all-around play from Gabriel Landeskog saw him lose out in the end. Meanwhile, Adam Henrique and Matt Read made a case for themselves with their two-way play and solid offensive numbers.
How are this season’s second-year players handling the dreaded sophomore slump and who is making a case for being the best sophomore this season? So far, Cody Hodgson is leading the way thanks to a great offensive start to the season and the struggles of last season’s Calder candidates.