While many, and with good reason, have written Tyler Myers and Matt Duchene in on the Calder ballot already with a couple weeks of hockey still to play, the 3rd spot is possibly still debated by some.
The majority say John Tavares will get it. Some believe recently traded Atlanta Thrashers stud Niklas Bergfors can steal that spot. But the one that few are talking about, and I think is not only a serious contender, but also, a serious contender to win it, is Jim Howard.
Howard, the Detroit Red Wings barely 26 year old (aka- Calder eligible) starting goalie was on no ones radar at the start of the year, mainly because he was the undisputed back up in Detroit to long time veteran and past Stanley Cup winning goaltender Chris Osgood. But as Ozzie faultered early on, Howard stepped in and was a solid 2nd option. Since the Olympic break Howard has been the undisputed #1 in Detroit, going 12-2-1 in that time. In fact, since the start of the calendar year, Osgood only has 2 decisions (0-2-0), while Howard is 20-7-7 in that same timespan. it took till December, 3 months into the season for the Wings to realize who the real #1 was in their organization. If it took THEM that long, you can understand why sports writers and fans alike are still overlooking statistically, the 2nd or 3rd best goalie in hockey right now. Here is a guy who should be in Vezina talks by TV analysts & writers, but is barely even getting Calder mentions.
Its easy to see why Howard is overlooked by some. Statistically, he isnt the top rookie goalie....sort of. If it were not for Boston Bruins star Tuukka Rask also having a solid year, Howards dominance might seem more impressive for a rookie. But with Rask (who would also be a contender, if not for the fact he only has 40 GP) having a better GAVE & SPCT on the season, Howards 2.27 GAVE & .926 SPCT (both in the top 5 in the NHL) doesnt seem as spectacular to some. But it really is spectacular, and someone needs to start taking notice.
He is in the top 5 in the two most notable categories for goalie in the entire NHL. He is 10th in Wins, despite starting the year as the back up. He currently is riding a 6 game winning streak, and hasnt lost in regulation time since March 9th, despite playing in every game in that time. With a .918 SPCT, and a 2.23 GAVE in the month of March, for a team fighting for their playoff lives, his play has been nothing short of incredible.
Even while having more wins than Jose Theodore, the starting goalie for the #1 team in hockey, and Cristobal Huet, the #1 goalie for the Blackhawks 3rd in the NHL & topcs in teh Wings division, Howard seems to fly under the radar to everyone. He had far superior stats to Tim Thomas and even Jonathan Quick going into the Olympics, yet didnt get the call from Team USA. The guy just seems to get no respect. Even the Red Wings, who kept riding Osgood early in the season, despite Howard constantly having better stats in the limited games he was getting, overlooked him. I suspect, sports writers will do the same when voting for the Calder too.
There is only 2 goalies with a better GAVE than him who have played more than 40 games. There is only 2 goalies with a better SPCT than him who have played more than 40 games.
If you take out Hart contender, Ryan Miller from the equation, theres only 1 goalie in each of those categories. Miikka Kiprusoff in GAVE, Tomas Vokoun in SPCT. Jim Howard should be considered for the Vezina trophy. Let alone the Calder. But he wont, because the writers dont have a familiarity with him yet that they do with statistically inferior stars like Nabokov, Lundqvist, Bryzgalov, Brodeur or Luongo. All who have "good" stats, but not amazing stats. All who have inferior stats to Howard.
When you consider that Matt Duchene, the NHL rookie scoring leader has only 53 pts & 23 goals on the season. Stats that put him 62nd in points, and 50th in Goals amongst forwards, is a lock on the Calder ballots, Howard should be too. Howard is more dominant in his position than Duchene has been at his. More of a case can be made for Tyler Myers than Duchene. He is afterall in the top 10 in defenseman points, goals and top 20 in +/-. But he still, statistically is not dominating his position as much as Howard is his.
Against the 9 teams statistically ahead of the Wings currently in the league, Howard has 13-2-4 record. He has 13 wins against the top 9 teams in the league. He has beat all of them but 2, Washington and New Jersey. He also didnt get the chance to face Washington or NJ. So he has beaten all the teams above the Wings currently that he has had the chance to face. Probably not going to be a Vezina finalist, and possibly not even a Calder finalist. HOW??
There is a realistic chance Jim Howard wont be a finalist for the Calder, let alone the winner when the awards are handed out in Las Vegas in June. The NHL poster child for this years rookie crop, and NEW YORK team based kid wonder John Tavares will probably be hand picked by the NHL to be the other finalist just because. All that Howard has achieved this year will be ignored by the NHL writers most likely, and if its not, the NHL likely will ignore it anyways.
Jim Howard should be a Vezina finalist, and the Calder winner. At the end of the day, he most likely wont even be a finalist for either award. Whether the NHL writers or the NHL itself is to blame for this remains to be seen.
The Czech Republic comes into 2010 Olympics ranked 6th by the IIHF. They havent medalled in a World Championship in 3 years, finishing no higher than 5th in that time. Their 6th ranking is the lowest they have had in many years.
Dont count this jekyl & hyde team out though, its still loaded with stud star players. The team is ripe with all-stars & hall of fame calibur players.
Tomas Vokoun- FLORIDA PANTHERS (NHL) Whether Dominik Hasek can go or not, Vokoun is likely the starter.
Dominik Hasek- PARDUBICE HC (CZECH). When unarguably one of the best goalies in the history of the game says he wants in, you dont argue much with him being there. Even if there are multiple obstacles, most notably, an injury that has seen him only play 3 games this season. If he can go, he is there. If not, the back up will be Pavelec & the 3rd string will likely be young Michael Neuvirth.
Ondrej Pavelec- ATLANTA THRASHERS (NHL) If Dom cant go, he is the uncontested back up.
Tomas Kaberle- TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (NHL) Clearly far & away the top defenseman from the Czech team. Tomas will be expected to play heavy minutes against the top units of the opposition.
Marek Zidlicky- MINNESOTA WILD (NHL) A power play specialist, Marek will log lots of PP time & likely #2 unit ES minutes.
Pavel Kubina- ATLANTA THRASHERS (NHL) This 6'4 rock will take a lot of the checking duties & will likely play with Zidkicky who is a bit less defensive minded.
Roman Hamrlik- MONTREAL CANADIENS (NHL) Another PP specialist, with a strong shot. Roman will log lots of PP mins, but has a defensive skill set as well which will make him usable in all situations.
Ladislav Smid- EDMONTON OILERS (NHL) A solid +13 this season, and some offensive skills will make him a usable piece in all situations.
Jaroslav Spacek- MONTREAL CANADIENS (NHL) 700 NHL games & a strong season this year at both ends of the ice are hard to ignore. Should be on this team.
Karel Rachunek- MOSCOW DYNAMO (KHL) The best of the European based dmen should make this team. What capacity is not entirely sure.
Martin Havlat- MINNESOTA WILD (NHL) Having a slow year offensively adjusting to the Wild system of play. Still expected to be a top unit contributor though.
Patrik Elias- NEW JERSEY DEVILS (NHL) Since returning from injury, he has shown flashes of his old self. Minus a small 3 game blip a couple weeks ago, Hes scored pts in 10 of 11 games.
Milan Hejduk- COLORADO AVALANCHE (NHL) Will be expected to score goals, and likely will fill that role.
Vaclav Prospal- NEW YORK RANGERS (NHL) The Rangers have been lucky enough to catch Prospal on an even numbered season. The epitome of Jekyl & Hyde is doing it again this season, having a stellar year after a letdown one last season. The Czechs must be thrilled the Olympics are this year for this reason.
Jaromir Jagr- OMSK AVANGARD (KHL). Like Hasek, he is there simply by default. But he has done well in the KHL to validate his spot. The all time leading scorer amongst Czech players in the NHL will only really need to think about whether he is on the top line, or 2nd line.
Tomas Plekanec- MONTREAL CANADIENS (NHL) The top scoring Czech in the NHL is a lock for the team, just what line will he play?
Tomas Fleischmann- WASHINGTON CAPITALS (NHL) Yes I know. Anyone could score with Semin, backstrom, Greene or Ovechkin helping them. But dont be fooled, he showed these skills even in the AHL where none of them were there to help him.
Martin Erat- NASHVILLE PREDATORS (NHL) A few weeks ago I doubted his spot on the team, but hes strengtehned his offensive game lately & now I see him as a probable top 2-3 line guy.
Milan Michalek- OTTAWA SENATORS (NHL) A slow Decemeber has dropped his stock some, but hes still expected to be on the 2nd line, or 3rd line.
Jiri Hudler- MOSCOW DYNAMO (KHL) Forget Jagr, Jiri Hudler is the top scoring Czech in Russia this year. He'll be used in offensive situations certainly, but in probably will be 2nd or 3rd line mostly.
Petr Sykora- MINNESOTA WILD (NHL) if he is back from his concussion by then, he'll make the team.
Roman Cervenka- SLAVIA PRAHA HC (CZECH) The runaway scoring leader of the Czech league will probably be on this team. Will he be used in an offensive spot is still to be determined. Too many offensive weapons, not enough spots. But he'll still be here for no other reason but to reward his great play this year in the Czech Republic.
David Krejci- BOSTON BRUINS (NHL) After last seasons superb campaign, there were high hopes for David this year. he hasnt met them YET, but shows flashes of last years skills. He'll be here solely based on what he showed last year.
Radim Vrbata- PHOENIX COYOTES (NHL) Has offensive skills, but will be expected to play generally a checking role here.
maybes- Michael Neuvirth, Zbenek Michalek, Ales Kotalik, Jakub Voracek, Robert Lang, Michal Frolik.
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.