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  • Could the Wild win more than the Calder?


    Before Tom Wilson mania took over NHL Twitter this week, one of the major topics being debated and bandied about was the race for the Calder trophy for the league’s best rookie, with the race for all intents and purposes being down to two players at this point: the Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov and Jason Robertson of the Dallas Stars.

    But should the Wild stop dreaming with just the Calder? Could this be a remarkable year where Minnesota adds multiple awards to their trophy case?

    Let’s take a look at the Wild’s most likely candidate(s), and where they’d stand against the NHL competitors...

    No chance

    These are awards that are completely numbers based, or have been historically biased towards the biggest names/teams in the league that Wild players/staff would have little-to-no chance of winning.

    True, you could apply that description to just about any award the NHL has to offer. But even if we’re tossing away our Minnesota Sports Pessimism, there’s some awards that are just too far out of reach.

    Art Ross

    Awarded to the NHL’s regular-season points leader

    Wild’s best candidate: Kaprizov

    The Art Ross is all about the numbers, so no amount of #TwitterHashtags or campaigning will help make up the 48-point deficit that the Wild’s current points leader has behind the Edmonton Oilers’ incomprable Connor McDavid, currently sitting at 31 goals and 62 assists. Mac’s got an 18-point lead over the next closest player, his teammate Leon Draisaitl with 75 points.

    Nope, McDavid’s taking home the hardware.

    Maurice Richard

    Awarded to the NHL’s regular-season goal scorer

    Wild’s best candidate: Kaprizov

    Again, this one’s totally numbers-based, but what’s remarkable about Auston Matthews’ current leading number of 39 goals is that he’s only done it in 48 games. Next-best McDavid has 31 goals having enjoyed playing in three more contests than Matthews.

    Kaprizov would need a hat trick in each of his last five games to get to Matthews’ current number, and that would assume the Maple Leafs’ forward goes goalless throughout the rest of his campaign.


    Awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman, as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate: Jonas Brodin

    While there may be a lot of criteria that go into choosing the NHL’s best defenseman, this award has been historically a points-based popularity contest for hockey media. That being said, reigning Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman was in the driver’s seat, but he’s struggled a bit at times this season. The New York Rangers’ Adam Fox has more points than Hedman, and both Dougie Hamilton of Carolina and Cale Makar of the Avalanche could be in the conversation.

    Brodin has had his best season from a goal-scoring and points-earning perspective, and his Corsi For percentage is right below Jared Spurgeon’s at 47%, but none of his numbers will get him in the discussion.


    Awarded to the NHL’s best goaltender, as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate: Cam Talbot

    Let’s face it - Talbot wasn’t ever going to get more than a handful of votes for the league’s best netminder. But Talbot may have actually done better in league-wide consideration if not for teammate Kaapo Kahkonen, whose mid-season winning streak took away not only starts from the Wild’s de-facto 1A starter, but also a lot of the media attention. In reality, it’s Talbot who has been stellar down the stretch, keeping the Wild in games where they were out chanced and out shot, while backstopping the team to potentially contend for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    But while Talbot may have gotten a few votes without Kahkonen making his own Vezina case in February, his .918 save percentage isn’t enough to compete with the likes of Semyon Varlomov (.930), Andrei Vasilevskiy (.929) or Juuse Saros (.928). That’s to say nothing of Marc-Andre Fleury, Philip Grubaruer and Alex Nedeljkovic.

    Lady Bing

    Awarded to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability, as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate: Kaprizov

    The Lady Bing is a “face-of-the-league” award. You have to be good, you have to be nice, and you have to be marketable. Martin St. Louis and Pavel Datsuyk won the award multiple times, if that tells you anything about the kind of player usually considered.

    Kaprizov might win it some day, but no one on the Wild has the numbers or the name recognition of last year’s winner, Nathan MacKinnon. Mac could take it again, but my money is on Matthews, who was a runner-up for the award in 2020.

    Ted Lindsay

    Awarded to the most outstanding player, as voted by the players

    Wild’s best candidate: Kaprizov

    It’s Connor McDavid. Moving on...

    Vote getters

    These are awards where Wild players maybe get a few votes and might be on the fringe of the conversation, but their candidacy won’t rise to the level of finalist.


    Awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate(s): Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno

    Eriksson Ek got some Selke talk early in the season after starting the year on fire both offensively and defensively, earning time on the Wild’s top line for a bit. And even though that talk cooled as the season went on, he should end up getting some votes behind front-runners Phillip Danault and Aleksander Barkov. Eriksson Ek is on a second tier with the likes of veterans Mark Stone and Patrice Bergeron, but his relative league-wide obscurity will limit his vote-getting potential. Still, his 1.95 xGA/60 is only percentage points behind Barkov’s 1.89, so he’ll at least be in the conversation.

    But if it’s true numbers that we’re talking about (and since it’s hockey media who’s voting, probably not), Foligno might get some votes too, with his fifth-best xGA/60 of 1.66 among skaters with over 400 minutes played this season.


    Awarded to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate: Kaprizov

    A Wild player ever winning the award may be a pipe-dream, but no one can argue that the straw that’s stirred the drink for the Wild this year has been Kaprizov. He’s reset almost every rookie record for Minnesota. He’s been dynamic. He’s contributed in crunch time. He has more average time-on-ice than any other Wild forward. And there’s no doubt that this team wouldn’t be the same this year without him.

    I mean, yeah, the winner will probably be McDavid, with Matthews and McKinnon nipping at his heels. But with the voting being regional this year and each division getting an equal number of voters, Dolla Bill Kirill may have done enough to get at least a third-place vote or two for MVP. And that’s just enough to put #KaprizovForHart in the Vote Getters section.


    Awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate(s): Marcus Foligno, Cam Talbot

    What is ostensibly the “comeback player of the year” award, the Masterton is given to the best story. Devan Dubnuk and Josh Harding have won the award recently for the Wild, and Alex Stalock was the nominee for the Wild in 2020.

    The Wild have some good stories in 2021, be they Foligno’s return from injury and rescuing a spiraling lineup, or Talbot’s resurgance with Minnesota this year. And since every NHL team gets a nominee for the Masterton, the Wild’s eventual choice will at least be celebrated and talked about locally.

    But nationally, nothing beats Oskar Lindblom’s return from Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, as he’s managed eight goals in 47 games played in 2021. It’s open and shut.

    Front runners

    There’s only two awards where the Wild should have a legitimate chance at a finalist, if not winning the award outright.


    Awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL as voted by the media

    Wild’s best candidate: Kaprizov

    When the only compelling argument against you is that “you’re too old” to win an award that is defined by the NHL as “most proficient in his first year of NHL competition”, you’re doing something right.

    That’s taking nothing away from Dallas’ Robertson, as both players have been exceptional during their rookie seasons. Both Kaprizov and Robertson have been doing their parts down the stretch - Kaprizov has eight goals and two assists in his last 10 games, while Robertson has gone 5-10=15 in his last 12.

    If Robertson hadn’t started the year on Dallas’ taxi squad, it might be a totally different story, But add the fact that the Stars have dropped their last four contests and are quickly drifting out of the playoff picture, it may mean that, for NHL award voters, that Kaprizov’s Calder may be a fate accompli.

    Jack Adams

    Awarded to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success, as voted by NHL broadcasters

    Wild’s best candidate: Dean Evason

    Evason’s case for the Jack Adams is a bit strange, as I think local fans may be a little more sour on him than the national media, who see only a team that should have been a fringe playoff team at best end up clinching an early postseason spot, vie for the West division lead at midseason and be one of the few teams who have been able to have success against the Vegas Golden Knights.

    That being said, it’s broadcasters who vote for the Jack Adams, not Wild fans, and the media have Evason firmly in the conversation. NBC has Evason at the top of the list, and many Jack Adams power rankings or vote trackers have had the Wild’s bench boss in the conversation - at that was before the Wild had clinched their playoff spot. Should the Wild end up passing Colorado for the second spot in the West, it’s hard to believe that Evason wouldn’t be on a short list with the likes of Florida’s Joel Quenneville and Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour - who, granted, are much more likely to take home the trophy.



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