Corey Crawford was snubbed. The NHL announced the three finalists Tuesday for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s best rookie, and Crawford failed to make the cut.
The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the award, in addition to other awards. Their three finalists were Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes), Michael Grabner (New York Islanders) and Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks). Couture is the only one in the playoffs.
Crawford, 26, emerged as a strong candidate for his consistent play for Hawks, who were floundering early in the season. He had 33 wins in 55 starts. It’s very impressive considering Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who many consider a Vezina Trophy candidate (best goalie), won 33 games in 64 starts.
Crawford had a 2.30 goal-against average, which is slightly better than the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury (2.32) and Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price (2.35). Fleury and Price are also considered candidates for the Vezina, which NHL general managers vote upon.
“That’s the least of my worries right now,” Crawford said Tuesday before Game 4. “We have bigger and more important things to think about and focus on. We just have to keep playing our game and keep making plays.”
His teammates believe he should have been a finalist, though.
“He’s been huge for us,” winger Troy Brouwer said. “We feel he should be in there, but there is a pretty good class of rookie.”
Marian Hossa was shocked by Crawford’s omission.
“Wow, it’s a big surprise to me,” Hossa said when told about the finalists. “He’s played so many games, won so many games.”
Here are the cases for Couture, Grabner and Skinner, as provided by the NHL:
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Couture was a key contributor in all areas on a Sharks team that captured its fourth consecutive Pacific Division title. The 22-year-old center ranked second on San Jose in goals (32), game-winning goals (eight) and plus-minus (+18); placed third in shots (253) and face-offs (888); fourth in power-play goals (10) and sixth in points (56). He led all rookies in game-winning goals, power-play goals, shots and face-offs, finished second in goals and points and was fifth in plus-minus. The Sharks’ first-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft tallied seven of his game-winning goals on the road, the most ever by an NHL rookie.
Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
Grabner didn’t start the season with the Islanders, but ended it as the club’s goals leader with 34, a total that also led NHL rookies. Claimed on waivers from Florida on Oct. 5, Grabner surged near the top of the rookie scoring race with a run of 16 goals in 15 games from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, a period also highlighted by a first-place finish in the Fastest Skater event at the 2011 NHL SuperSkills. His six-game goal streak from Feb. 1-15 matched the longest by any player this season. The 23-year-old Villach, Austria native led all rookies in shorthanded goals (six), ranked second in shots (228) and seventh in plus-minus (+13).
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes reaped immediate dividends from their top pick in the 2010 Entry Draft as the 18-year-old Skinner, selected seventh overall last June, led all rookies in scoring as the League’s youngest player. His performance over the first half of the season earned him a berth in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, played in front of a hometown crowd in Raleigh. He went on to lead all rookies in points (63), rank second in assists (32) and third in goals (31). Skinner netted his 30th goal of the season Apr. 6 against Detroit, becoming the seventh-youngest player in NHL history to reach the milestone (18 years, 325 days).
As a PHWA member, I vote on the award. Crawford, Skinner and Couture were my top three picks.