The Flames feature many award contenders heading into their homestretch
Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike8 months ago
The Calgary Flames have 17 games remaining on their 2021-22 regular season schedule and, league-wide, teams are into their stretch drives. Based on the amount of hockey played, and left to play, it’s probably a good time to see how the Flames as a team and as individuals are tracking towards various league awards.
Let’s dive in!
No serious contenders
The Flames have no rookies, so they have no contenders for the Calder Trophy or All-Rookie Team. Similarly, Rasmus Anderson is their best blueliner, but he’s 20th in scoring among D-men and so he probably won’t be considered a strong Norris Trophy contender.
Elias Lindholm has 34 goals, 13 fewer than NHL co-leaders Auston Matthews and Leon Draisaitl in the Rocket Richard Trophy race. Similarly, Johnny Gaudreau has 90 points, seven behind NHL leader Connor McDavid in the Art Ross Trophy race. They both have too much ground to make up.
William M. Jennings Trophy
This award goes to the goalies who played 25+ games for the team that allows the fewest goals against. Right now, the Flames are second (behind Carolina) in this category. Carolina is averaging 2.37 goals against per game, Calgary 2.46. The Flames are a ery strong second place, but they will need to pitch some shutouts or have Carolina get tuned up for a few games to close that gap.
(Also, will Daniel Vladar reach 25 games played? He’s in 16 games so far and it seems unlikely that he’ll play nine more times in the final 17 games.)
This is the first of the awards that the Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on – disclosure: I am a member. For the year-end all-star balloting, voters are asked to provide three ranked choices for each position (six for defencemen).
For left wings, Johnny Gaudreau and Jonathan Huberdeau are likely to be first and second on most ballots due to being the leading scorers on two breakout teams in Calgary and Florida. Let’s take a minute to spare a thought for Matthew Tkachuk, though, as he’s listed by the league as a left wing and will be battling with Kirill Kaprizov, Alex Ovechkin, Kyle Connor and others for the third spot on most ballots.
We’ll get into this later, but Jacob Markstrom is a strong contender for the Vezina Trophy and therefore will also be top three on a lot of All-Star ballots at the goalie position.
Lindholm is eighth among listed centres in scoring. He’s a possible dark horse for the All-Star balloting, but aside from sneaking onto a few ballots it’s hard to see him really making noise in this category.
Voted on by the league’s general managers, the Vezina goes to the top goaltender in the NHL. Markstrom is obviousy a strong candidate, having played a ton for one of the league’s best teams. Statistically, compared to goalies who have played 20 games or more, Markstrom is fourth in goals against average, fourth in save percentage, first in shutouts and tied for third in wins.
There’s a big clump of goalies at the top of these categories: Frederik Andersen, Jeremy Swayman, Igor Shersterkin and Ilya Sorokin. There’s also likely to be some residual voter goodwill towards past contenders such as Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tristan Jarry and Sergei Bobrovsky. Markstrom’s a strong contender, but it’s tough to guess how 32 GMs will vote.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
The Masterton goes to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, dedication and commitment to hockey. Each PHWA chapter nominates a player, then everybody votes on the winner between those 32 nominees – this is the only award where referring to a player as a “nominee” is accurate.
Anyway, if he’s nominated, Oliver Kylington seems like a strong contender. He was on waivers last season and spent the majority of the 2020-21 campaign on the taxi squad. Now he’s a legitimate top four blueliner playing key minutes on one of the NHL’s top teams. That’s a remarkable turnaround, and a testament to what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
The Selke, voted on by the PHWA, goes to the player who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. Because that’s nebulous and a bit hard to define, the award tends to be somewhat based on reputation and occasionally boils down to “the player who scores a lot who also back-checks.”
This year, you’re probably hearing a lot about Lindholm as a Selke contender. That’s because he’s the defensive conscience of the NHL’s top offensive line. You can make a case for Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, too, especially if you look at their underlyings on sites like Evolving-Hockey. But Lindholm plays centre against top lines, kills penalties, and has a reputational groundswell this season, so he seems like the strongest Flames contender. He might not win – hey there, Patrice Bergeron – but expect Lindholm to be on most ballots.
Jack Adams Award
Voted on by the league’s broadcasters, the Adams goes to the league’s top coach. Generally, that manifests as “coach of the team who made a big turnaround.” It’s hard to imagine Darryl Sutter won’t feature prominently, especially considering the Flames’ turnaround in all facets of their game.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
The Lady Byng goes to the player who combines sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct with a high standard of playing ability and is voted on by the PHWA. Generally, that manifests itself as “high-scoring player that doesn’t take many penalties.”
This year’s prominent Flames contender is Lindholm. He plays a ton against the best players on the other team, and he’s taken six minors this season. It’s hard to handicap this award, though, as some players avoid taking penalties for awhile and then take a bunch late. Kyle Connor has somehow taken just two minors, which may be hard to beat.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Voted on by the PHWA, the Hart goes to the player who is considered most valuable to his team. Players on non-playoff teams usually don’t do well, but prominent players on playoff-bound teams usually get votes.
Gaudreau is currently among the top scorers in the league, among the top even strength scorers in the league, and has been the difference-maker in several key Flames wins. The two players ahead of him in scoring league-wide right now are McDavid and Draisaitl. It’s hard to project how voters will vote, especially in a year with so many strong performances league-wide, but Gaudreau is a really strong Hart contender. Disappear him from the Flames, and they’re a much, much weaker team.
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