The 2015-16 Calder Trophy finalists were announced last night and in the running for Rookie of the Year are Chicago Blackhawks‘ Artemi Panarin, Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere. I wrote about Ghost being a potential Calder trophy finalist back in January and was met with some fair skepticism…
…yet here we are. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a realist. I understand that Shayne Gostisbehere has an uphill battle at this point to beat out the Bread Man and McJesus to win the award. Panarin ended top 10 in the entire league with 77 points on the season in 80 games. Connor McDavid 1.07 points per game were only bested by Jamie Benn’s 1.09 and Patrick Kane’s 1.29. Obviously Gostisbehere’s 46 points in 64 games this season were crazy impressive especially considering he’s a defenseman, but statistically speaking I think the other two nudge him out. But here’s what I said separates Ghost from Panarin in January and I’m still gonna stand by it today.
The Chicago Blackhawks would be perfectly fine without Panarin in the lineup. Not the same team and maybe not 1st in their conference, but they’d still be okay. In terms of being a catalyst in changing the mindset and fortune of an entire team goes, Ghost is right up there at the top of the discussion. The Flyers are much better offensively with Ghost in the lineup. They are a better possession team with Ghost in the lineup, more so than the Sabres are with Eichel on the ice or the Red Wings are with Larkin on the ice. And as a fan who has been dealing with some shitty Flyers teams lately, the team is so much more fun to watch when he’s in the lineup.
That’s the thing. The Chicago Blackhawks were reigning Stanley Cup Champions. They were supposed to be in the playoffs this year. If anything, they underachieved this season. The Edmonton Oilers were reigning #1 overall draft pick havers (just pretend that’s a word for now). They were supposed to suck dick this year because they suck dick every year because they’re the Edmonton Oilers and they are a disgrace to the game. So what happens this year? They end up with the #4 overall pick in the draft. So yeah, maybe Connor McDavid helped elevate them from the very bottom of the basement but it’s not like he was a real difference maker. But then that’s when you get to the Flyers. And that’s when you get to see what Shayne Gostisbehere has been able to do for this group.
There was a stretch of the season between October and November when the Flyers only won 1 game in their last 9. 8 losses in 9 games and the team was already starting to think about what the depth chart would look like with Auston Matthews in the mix. Then comes November 14th against the Hurricanes and Shayne Gostisbehere makes his season debut. What does he go ahead and do in his first game with the team this year? Sets up the overtime game winner and gives this entire city just a little bit of hope. From that moment on, he changed this team. They were able to be a little more offensive-minded since the forwards didn’t have to worry so much about getting back on D to help out the Flyers’ atrocious blueline. It allowed other defensemen on the roster to hang back a little since they didn’t need to be the catalysts to turn defense into offense. He went on a nice little 15 game point scoring streak during which he had 18 points. He gave this team confidence and was one of the major reasons why the Flyers overachieved this year and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sure, he didn’t have the greatest performance against the Caps in that series but the experience was great for himself and the younger guys on the roster. Shayne Gostisbehere took the Flyers from a team who could potentially end up with a top 6 pick in the draft lottery to a team that took the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals to 6 games.
So yeah, statistically speaking I think that Ghost comes in 3rd to Panarin and McDavid. But this isn’t the Rocket Richard Trophy. In terms of being an actual difference maker for his team, the voting has to come down to Gostisbehere and Panarin. And if Ghost isn’t the 1st Flyers player to win the Calder this year, well then I know a guy who may be able to garner that award next season.