The Calder Trophy Nominees vs Jonas Brodin: Statistical Analysis

Apr 30, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) moves the puck past Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that, after weeks of speculation, the PHWA votes have been counted and 3 nominees have been selected for the title of Best Rookie Of The Year, also known as the Calder Trophy.

The 3 nominees are: Brandon Saad (of the Chicago Blackhawks), Brendan Gallagher (of the Montreal Canadiens) and Jonathan Huberdeau (of the Florida Panthers).

Minnesota Wild fans, along with many other fans, pundits and writers are outraged that Jonas Brodin hasn’t even been nominated, as it was widely speculated that he would win the Calder this year on the basis of his excellent defensive play.

In the coming days, there will be many reasons and conspiracy theories bandied about as to why Brodin was overlooked, namely:

-Defensive skill isn’t considered.

-Voters only look at the raw statistics such as Goals, Assists and +/- (Ugh!).

-”East Coast Bias”, with writers ignoring the affairs of Western Conference teams other than the “un-ignorable” President’s Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks.

 

Whatever the real reason is, I’m going to take a look at each nominee, along with Jonas Brodin and analyse their regular seasons performances.

  • Firstly, a bit of background information on each player:

Jonathan Huberdeau

Apr 25, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) before a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the BB

Huberdeau was picked 3rd overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2011 entry draft, and joined the league this year after leading the Saint John Sea Dogs to the QJMHL championship last year (alongside Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips). At the beginning of the regular season he was rated by many as the #1 prospect to watch.

…According to ‘Hockey’s Future’:

“As the Panthers have struggled with injuries and inconsistent performances, Huberdeau has on many nights been the team’s best player on the ice. His poise, dazzling offensive skills, and highlight reel goals set him above not only the rest of the Panthers pack, but most prospects worldwide.”

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/89677/many-top-prospects-for-florida-panthers-starting-to-come-of-age/#more-89677

Brendan Gallagher

Apr. 11, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

A 5th round pick in the 2010 draft, Gallagher has exceeded all expectations in his development. A lot of this is down to his fierce work-rate and competitiveness. He left the WHL at the beginning of the season and spent the first half of the year with the Canadiens AHL affiliate,  the Hamilton Bulldogs, before joining the big club after the lockout.

…According to ‘Hockey’s Future’:

“Gallagher has performed way above his projected potential by making the Canadiens this season after the NHL lockout and has forced himself onto the one of the team’s top lines. He has become the Canadiens heart when they are behind late in the game. The little spark-plug will not quit or give up until the final buzzer and is almost hyper in his efforts to score or make things happen for his team. The rest of his teammates seem to follow his lead and attack the opposition as well.”

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/89405/montreal-canadiens-prospect-awards-feature-diverse-skilled-group-of-players/

Brandon Saad

Apr 22, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad (20) reacts to a clip by Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler (not pictured) during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Saadd was a 2nd round pick, 43rd overall, in the 2011 entry draft, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. A prototypical power-forward, Saad has risen through the ranks quickly, making his NHL debut last year and solidifying his place on the Blackhawk’s top line this year.

…According to ‘Hockey’s Future’:

“Given the opportunity to open the 2013 NHL season on the Blackhawks’ top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad has shown just why he is considered the club’s top prospect. Not only does he have the skill to keep up with two of the league’s top offensive players, but he has also succeeded in bringing a physical, north-south style to the line as well. He plays well around the net and does not shy away from battling in the corners or around the goal mouth.”

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/86011/chicago-blackhawks-rookie-brandon-saad-remains-organizations-top-prospect/

Jonas Brodin

Mar 25, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) clears the puck during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Wild defeated the Stars 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jonas Brodin was the Wild’s 1st round pick in 2011. After 3 years in Sweden’s top division, this year Brodin made the jump to North America and adapted extremely well to the AHL, before joining the Wild early in the regular season. He has spent the whole year as Ryan Suter’s defensive partner, and together they have shone. His responsible defensive game, based on elite skating ability, great positioning and awareness and amazing hockey IQ has been the perfect compliment to Suter’s North-to-South game.

…According to ‘Hockey’s Future’:

“Brodin’s offensive numbers do not really impress but his on-ice intelligence is truly exceptional. He found ways to get shots on net and on the whole demonstrated a complete skill set, with positional awareness, smooth and conservative skating, good stickwork, and an ability to outlet pass. Calder voters may be swayed by the argument that Ryan Suter’s presence on the back end would help any player look confident. Observers of Jonas Brodin may have also noticed that the teenaged Brodin’s play contributed to Suter’s peace of mind as well.”

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/89997/group-of-nhl-rookies-spotlighted-in-minnesota-wild-prospect-awards/

 

  • Secondly, let’s look at the basic regular season statistics for each player:
Ps Ag GP G A P PIM S/S% Hits Blck TOI/G TOI/PP TOI/PK
Huberdeau C 19 48 14 17 31 18 112/12.5 33 19 16:55 2:21 0:01
Gallagher RW 21 44 15 13 28 33 117/12.8 44 33 13:51 2:21 0:00
Saad LW 20 46 10 17 27 12 98/10.2 41 12 16:27 1:31 0:51
Brodin D 19 45 2 9 11 10 51/3.9 17 60 23:12 1:18 2:00

-Blocked shots and hits aren’t the most telling of stats as they usually are much higher for teams with poor puck possession numbers due to the amount of time spent without the puck. But it’s worth noting that Brodin hasn’t thrown many hits but has blocked an extremely high number of shots. This correlates with his playing style, which is based around good positioning rather than brute physicality.

-Huberdeau tied Nail Yakupov at the top of the rookie scoring charts this year with 31 points.

-Gallagher played fewer minutes per night than the others and missed 4 games, yet managed to have the highest shot total.

-Brodin led all rookies in TOI/G, and played far more PK time than any of the other rookies here.

 

  • Now, here are some of each player’s advanced statistics:

 

Off Zone Start % Quality of Comp Corsi Rating Corsi Rel
Huberdeau 62.9 0.413 Positive 6.4
Gallagher 66 -0.726 Positive 16.1
Saad 56.5 -0.564 Positive 9
Brodin 46.9 0.397 Positive 4.9

-Huberdeau was the shining light on a bad team, beset by injuries that finished bottom of the league. His numbers show that he played tough competition and put up nice Corsi numbers with very little help, though his heavy offensive zone usage benefited him.

-Gallagher played fairly protected minutes, not facing the other team’s best competition and being deployed mostly in the offensive zone, and he took advantage of this to post an excellent +16.1 Corsi Rel.

-Saad played tough minutes on his team, though he did it almost exclusively alongside Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews (pretty decent as far as linemates go) and posted a solid +9 Corsi Rel. It’s hard to say how much this was affected by having two top quality linemates, but I can vouch that whenever I watched him this year, he looked like an integral part of the team and not just a passenger.

-Jonas Brodin took on the highest percentage of defensive zone starts, and the other team’s toughest competition throughout the season and yet posted +4.9 Corsi Rel, the highest from a defenceman on a bad puck possession team. His numbers demonstarte the amazing amount of faith his coach had in him all year.

(For info about Corsi Rel: http://www.anaheimcalling.com/2013/2/20/4008038/cam-fowler-advanced-stats-corsi-relative)

  • Finally, here are each players advanced statistics in visual form as Player Usage Charts:
(I highly recommend that you right-click on each of these and view them in a new tab so that you can see them at full size.)

 Huberdeau:

-Florida Panthers: Forwards: 40 Games Played:

 

Gallagher:

-Montreal Canadiens: Forwards: 40 Games Played:

 

Saad:

-Chicago Blackhawks: Forwards: 40 Games Played:

 

Brodin:

-Minnesota Wild: Defencemen: 40 Games Played:

 

(All Player Usage Charts courtesy of SomeKindOfNinja.com. For more visit: http://somekindofninja.com/nhl/usage.php?f1=2012_s&f2=5v5&f3=&f5=&f4=&f7=&bubbleType=corsiRel&yAxis=qoc&update-filters=Update+Results)

 

In conclusion, looking at all the data I have assembled here, my 3 nominees would be:

  1. -Brodin
  2. -Saad
  3. -Huberdeau


Gallagher played a great season, but my reasons for excluding him are that he played reasonably well-protected minutes compared to the others, he had the lowest average ice time and, at 21, he is older than the others. He still put up great points and a fantastic Corsi Rel number, but I feel that Brodin, Saad and Huberdeau are more deserving.

Saad and Brodin both showed that they could play the toughest minutes and earn their respective coaches’ trust, and though they played alongside star players, they thrived and didn’t just play a complimentary role.

Huberdeau played tough minutes mostly due to the fact that his team was run down with injuries and lack of quality forwards, but to give him credit, he thrived in a bad situation and is a great young player.

Picking a final winner out of the 3 is nearly impossible and they all had great seasons. I can see merit in all of them. If I had to choose, I would pick Brodin, on the basis that he was playing on a team that struggled and was hot and cold all year, yet his performances never slipped. He was consistently excellent game in, game out even when the rest of the team played poorly.

Saad was excellent, but the Blackhawks were so good as a whole this year and were rarely put under any pressure, so it is hard to make a proper judgement. Hubredeau would be a worthy winner, but I pick Brodin ahead of him because he was more consistent and played nearly 6 minutes more per night (Also I’m a complete homer).

Topics: Brandon Saad, Brendan Gallagher, Charlie Coyle, Chicago Blackhawks, Jonas Brodin, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Ryan Suter, Wild

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