April 19, 2011

Grabner Nominated for Calder; Will He Win?

In what was pretty much just a formality at this juncture, Michael Grabner was nominated for the Calder Trophy after having a rookie season to remember.

Grabner scored 34 goals for the Islanders this season. It's funny to look back on things such as this and realize how much of a surprise it was.

Throughout training camp, it was widely thought that if Grabner didn't make the cut, Florida could very well waive him. In all honesty, if you told m they would when camp opened I would have laughed and said you were crazy.

In our preseason "Face Off," Sean and I both agreed that you could put Grabner down for 20-25 goals once he got going. When he did eventually get going, he would far exceed that.

Grabner and Skinner will now battle for the Calder. Photo by C. Hessel
Here's the scarier thought: when he really got going in January-ish, he was sitting at about nine goals. He scored at quite an alarming rate, and did so while often getting 15 minutes of ice-time or less per game, and not a whole lot of power-play time.

But are Grabner's accomplishments enough to put him over the top against his competition in Carolina's Jeff Skinner or San Jose's Logan Couture?

This is the first year that I can recall where there were a number of strong candidates. Between these three, Corey Crawford, Sergei Bobrovsky, P.K. Subban and a few others, some players who had fine years were going to be left out.

While some people think that the Professional Hockey Writers Association strike will affect who wins in the end, I really don't think it will move enough mountains for Grabner to win the trophy. Besides, this boycott started well before the ballots were handed in, and the fact that he's been nominated pretty much puts to bed any idea that this will really sway the voting in one of the other impressive youngsters’ direction.

In my eyes, you'd be hard pressed to not vote for Jeff Skinner.

Sure, you can say Skinner had a better team around him. Steve Stamkos had an even better one around him in his rookie year in 2008, however and didn't have the year that Skinner did.

We can also sit here and discuss how Carolina didn't make the playoffs, so Skinner's season doesn't mean as much.

Be that as it may, you would be foolish to do that. What this 18 year old with a boyish face did - in a men’s league - is absolutely astonishing. Especially when you take into account he was a fairly little known 8th overall pick.

Taking a look back over time, there haven't been many players who went from a late top-10 pick to being a regular on an NHL team in a matter of months. The previous two? Sam Gagner (6th overall in 2007) and the Isles very own Josh Bailey (9th overall in 2008).

Neither has come close to having a season like the 31 goal, 32 assist campaign that Skinner did at any point in their combined seven years of service. It is very tough to come from the back of the top-10 and contribute right away, but that's exactly what Skinner did.

I know my thinking is probably not one of the more popular ones around here, and some of you had made it known during our final show of the season. That's all well and good. Just remember that the rest of the competition is very impressive to, however. I think when you look at some of these facts, while Grabner will put up a great fight, he will most likely finish a close second to Skinner. I understand Skinner has more of the media behind him and whatnot too, and yes that does play a big part.

What bothers me a little bit is when people say this as if it's a bad thing. In my opinion, all of the talk around Skinner is well deserved. People should be more in awe of his feat rather than talking about NHL bias and how that will be why Grabner doesn't win. The fact we can be having a discussion like this is excellent news for the Isles, Canes, Sharks and the NHL. A rookie class like this is something the league needed, and it's good to see they finally got one.

At any rate, Grabner has his work cut out for him. Congrats to him for the well deserved nomination, and good luck!



No comments: