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The Calder Trophy nominees have been announced today by the NHL. Seen Stamkos?
We kid the kid, who managed to have a nice rally statically in the latter part of his first season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But at the start of the season, the notion that Steven Stamkos isn't among the Calder finalists would have been stunning.
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And yet here we are: The finalists for rookie of the year are goalie Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets, forward Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks and forward Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The question about whether Drew Doughty's consistent and impressive rookie season would be overlooked as a defenseman on a bad team with good stats (27 points in 81 games) has been answered: uh-huh.
There's no question Versteeg deserves Calder consideration; but a nod to Doughty's year as an ice-time leader (23:49) for his team would have been dandy.
Why Mason Deserves the Calder: He's as much the Blue Jackets' MVP as their rookie of the year, playing 61 games to the tune of a 2.29 GAA and a .916 save percentage. His 10 shutouts led the NHL, and we'll leave whether that's a tribute to his abilities or to Ken Hitchcock's system for the pub debate circuit. He's been chatted up as the rookie of the year all season, and it's difficult to imagine him not taking the hardware. Unless ...
Why Ryan Deserves the Calder: As compelling as Mason's story is, Ryan's has its own appeal; after all, he's The Guy Who Emerged From Sidney Crosby's 2005 Draft Shadow. Ryan had to wait his turn for rookie glory, as the Ducks navigated through economic and personnel decisions. When he came up to the Ducks again this season, he was a difference-maker: Leading all rookie scorers with 31 goals and 57 points, and helping the Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf line dominate down the stretch to carry the Ducks into the postseason. An argument can be made for Ryan as the Calder winner, especially since his sample was only 64 games. But Mason's case is still stronger.
Why Versteeg Deserves the Calder: Fourth on the Blackhawks in scoring (22-31-53), Versteeg added some vital secondary offense to Chicago. He hasn't exactly been a model of offensive consistency in the second half of the season, but he's still a legitimate candidate. Obviously, back-to-back Calder wins would be a coup for Chicago.
But like Ryan, he's not Steve Mason. And it's Mason's year.