Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov fails to make Calder Trophy cut, team shut out again for shot at NHL rookie award
Florida Panthers’ Huberdeau, Montreal Canadiens’ Gallagher, Chicago Blackhawks’ Saad named three finalists
EDMONTON - No Edmonton Oilers rookie has ever won the Calder Trophy and it’s not going to be any different in 2012-13.
Flashy Russian winger Nail Yakupov did not make the final three in voting for the NHL’s top rookie. The Oilers have yet to win the Calder even though they’ve been in the league since the 1979-80 season.
Yakupov led all NHL freshmen with 17 goals, five in the last two games, in 48 games this season. He tied for the league-high in points (31) with Florida Panthers centre Jonathan Huberdeau, who was named a finalist on Monday.
Besides Huberdeau, who played the most minutes of any rookie forward this season at almost 17 a game, the other two finalists include Montreal Canadiens feisty right-winger Brendan Gallagher, who had 15 goals as a pest type of player, and Chicago Blackhawks left-winger Brandon Saad, who had 10 goals and 27 points this season. Saad plays on Chicago’s top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
Amazingly, Minnesota Wild outstanding defenceman Jonas Brodin, who plays the most minutes of any rookie at 23-1/2 a game and is the youngest rookie blue-liner at 19, didn’t make the final three either. He’s also a plus player when it comes to plus/minus rating.
Yakupov’s stats were impressive because he only played 14:33 a game. On the other hand, Gallagher played less than that at 13:51 and only had three fewer points and a better plus/minus rating.
Yakupov closed strongly and finished at minus-4, while Gallagher was plus-10.
Of Yakupov’s 31 points, 21 came at even-strength. Huberdeau had 22 five-on-five points.
However, Huberdeau, playing on the lowly Panthers, finished at minus-15.
Huberdeau had 12 even-strength goals while Yakupov had 11. Saad had no power-play goals among his 10 and 22 of his 27 points resulted from five-on-five play.
The final vote totals won’t be released until the Stanley Cup final, but this could be one of the closer tallies. Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz, who had the most points among rookie blue-liners with 27, Canadiens centre Alex Galchenyuk and Dallas Stars defenceman Brenden Dillon will likely all get solid representation in voting.
However, there was little to choose from any of the rookies this season. The truth is, no forward stood out over the rest, but Brodin played against the other team’s top lines night after night, and was somehow overlooked for the three finalists.
There are 178 media voters, with 46.4 per cent based in Eastern cities, 32.8 per cent from Western-based clubs and an international voting base of 20.8 per cent, which covers the league as a whole. It’s easy to say there may have been some bias to Eastern players, with Huberdeau and Gallagher getting in the final three, but last year the two rookie finalists were both from the Western Conference — Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The shortened season means less separation in quality of play for rookies, too. Eastern voters are covering teams in the Eastern Conference and vice versa for Western voters in a lockout season with no crossover games, which makes voting trickier.
The Oilers have had some close calls when it comes to the Calder. Wayne Gretzky had 53 goals, but was ineligible in 1980 because the NHL said his one year in the World Hockey Association constituted a major pro season.
In 1994, Jason Arnott was second to New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, even though he had 33 goals as an Oilers rookie centre. Last June, Nugent-Hopkins was runner-up to Landeskog even though he had as many points as the current Avalanche captain in 20 fewer games.
The amazing thing is the Oilers have trotted out Hall of Famers Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr from their glory days, and more recently Taylor Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Yakupov, and Edmonton still has no Calder winner. This is due, in part, because the glory days players were perhaps slow starters, or most recently the young Oilers didn’t feel the love from voters.
Of the last 25 Calder winners, 16 have been forwards. Four have been defencemen — Brian Leetch, Barret Jackman, Tyler Myers, Bryan Berard) — and five have played in net, including Steve Mason, Andrew Raycroft, Evgeni Nabokov, Brodeur and Eddie Belfour.
Winning the Calder is hardly a guarantee of long-term success in the NHL. Raycroft was here today and gone tomorrow. Kent Douglas, Brit Selby and Willi Plett had NHL careers, but were journeymen players.
Many Hall of Famers never won the Calder, including Gordie Howe, Guy Lafleur, Phil Esposito, Steve Yzerman and Messier. Many had slow starts to their great careers. And there’s no Sidney Crosby listed on the Calder. The Pittsburgh Penguins star captain lost to Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin in 2006.
When Nicklas Lidstrom, maybe the second greatest defenceman of all time after Bobby Orr, was eligible in 1992, Pavel Bure beat him. Bryan Berard beat Jarome Iginla in 1997. Barret Jackman beat Henrik Zetterberg in 2003. Mario Lemieux beat fellow surefire Hall of Famer Chris Chelios in 1985.
On the other hand, Luc Robitaille, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Leetch, Belfour and Bure — all in the Hall of Fame — have won in the last 25 years. And others like Teemu Selanne, Brodeur and Ovechkin, future Hall of Famers, won the Calder as well.
The NHL will announce the three finalists for the Norris Trophy as best defenceman Tuesday. The three could be Minnesota’s Ryan Suter, Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Montreal’s P.K. Subban, with Chicago’s Duncan Keith also very much in the running.
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