clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Case For Filip Forsberg: Why He Should Win The Calder Trophy

New, comments

Everyone's favorite Swede has been dazzling hockey fans and frustrating opponents all year long, but some think his grip on the Calder Trophy is slipping. Well, it isn't.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach the end of the regular season and prepare for the playoffs, the ballots will soon be prepped for the end of the year awards. While they don't officially submit anything until after the regular season ends, there are some pretty obvious front runners for each category. Carey Price seems a lock for the Vezina Trophy (sad face) and has a damn good case for the Hart Trophy as well. The Art Ross Trophy will likely be either Sidney Crosby or John Tavares. Alex Ovechkin is pulling away from the pack and will probably win his third "Rocket" Richard Trophy in a row. And I think it's clear that Zac Rinaldo has the Lady Byng Trophy on lock down.

And then there's the Calder Trophy. Don't act like you haven't been at least a little worried about our dear Prince.

For about 60 games this year, Filip Forsberg was dominating the race for Rookie of the Year. It was a beat down, honestly. He led all rookies in goals, assists, points, and plus/minus for most of the year. For the Predators, not only was he the most consistent player on the team night after night, he was a huge reason why Nashville eventually built a 4-point lead over every other team in the league in early February.

And then came the fall. We all know about the recent struggles with the team, and Forsberg has not been immune to those struggles. Adding to that, Johnny Gaudreau is continuing to put up excellent numbers, albeit on a barely-contending Calgary team. And Aaron Ekblad is apparently the best 19-year-old defenseman that anyone has ever seen, and has been a huge reason why Florida is making a playoff push.

But really, the race is all but won. Forsberg should win the Calder. Hands down.

Despite the last 10-15 games (and despite Sunday night's blunder), the case for Forsberg winning the Calder is iron-clad. Below is a comparison between Forsberg and the five other players in the Calder Trophy running as of late: Johnny Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Anders Lee. I do hereby submit to you, the NHL watching audience, the reasons why Filip Forsberg is the most proficient rookie of this 2014-15 season and should win the Calder Trophy.

(All stats are as of 3/29/15 and are obtained from NHL.com, War-on-Ice.com, and Hockey-Reference.com)

Scoring Production

Rookie

G

A

P

G/60

A/60

P/60

Filip Forsberg

23

36

59

1.05

1.65

2.70

Johnny Gaudreau

21

37

58

0.98

1.67

2.65

Aaron Ekblad

11

24

35

0.41

.90

1.31

Mark Stone

19

34

53

0.96

1.66

2.62

Mike Hoffman

26

21

47

1.52

1.17

2.69

Anders Lee

23

16

39

1.39

0.97

2.35

Forsberg has essentially led all rookies in scoring for the duration of the year and that hasn't really changed. His rates have dipped as of late, but he still maintains the lead. Gaudreau's Calder push has been gaining steam, but Forsberg and Gaudreau have basically the same raw scoring numbers. As for the other guys... Mike Hoffman has maintained an insane 1.52 G/60 rate in the second half of the season to lead all rookies with 26 goals. Ekblad's position and role obviously hurts his case in this department, but later you'll see why he actually has the best chance to challenge Forsberg. Lee and Stone have good cases too, but they've come on rather late and their overall package just isn't enough.

Possession/SAT/Corsi

Rookie

5v5 SAT %

5v5 SAT Rel

5v5 SAT Close %

5v5 SAT Close % Rel

Filip Forsberg

56.6

5.5

57.2

6.0

Johnny Gaudreau

47.1

3.2

48.9

4.9

Aaron Ekblad

53.2

3.4

52.3

3.2

Mark Stone

52.9

3.5

52.3

4.0

Mike Hoffman

51.9

2.0

51.1

2.3

Anders Lee

55.2

3.2

57.5

5.5

Forsberg is clearly the better possession player of any of these guys. Ekblad having a 53% 5v5 SAT for an 18 year old top line defenseman is pretty incredible. And Lee's numbers are higher than I would have thought. But Forsberg is generating and suppressing shots at rates considerably higher than these other guys. And relative to his teammates, Forsberg is clearly making a bigger impact on the Preds than these other guys are on their own teams. As for Gaudreau, it's obvious his weakness is in the puck possession game, and it's a big weakness.

The 5v5 Close numbers add to the argument. All of these players are on teams in the midst of tight playoff runs. When the game is close (when his team is either up 1, down by 1, or the game is tied in the 3rd period), Forsberg steps up his game. Notice that Stone, Hoffman, and Ekblad all take slight dips in possession play when the score is close.

But that's not all. Let's get graphical.

Aaron Ekblad is doing his part to produce and suppress shots, but is doing it against lesser opponents. Anders Lee leads all of the Calder front runners is helping to generate shots for his team, but John Tavares is a huge reason for that. Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman's possession numbers are good, but not up to par with the others. Johnny Gaudreau is clearly the worst possession player in the group.

Prince Filip is facing the toughest competition of all the rookies, leading all of them in puck possession, has the highest possession rate relative to his team, and is second only to Anders Lee at generating the most shots for his team while on the ice. In short: Forsberg is the best rookie out there at producing offense and preventing shots, and is doing it against better competition than the other rookies. All these guys are good, but Forsberg is just better.

National Recognition

It is important to note that people (if you can really call professional hockey writers people) are the ones that vote on most of these awards. Ultimately, it is a subjective vote they are casting. Things like media attention, league recognition, and "time in the spotlight" have to play some roll. So let's take a look.

Here are the NHL "Rookie Of The Month" winners from this year so far:

October

Tanner Pearson

November

Filip Forsberg

December

Johnny Gaudreau

January

John Klingberg

February

Anders Lee

Obviously we are still waiting on March's Rookie of the Month, and to be honest it's hard to see it going to anyone other than Johnny Gaudreau, who has notched 6 goals, 9 assists in March. But then again, they gave it to John Klingberg in January, because I guess they felt like Stars fans were sad. As well they should be.

But what about other media attention? There have been countless media articles since November, such as herehere, here, and here, all naming Forsberg as the front runner. There was even this one which compares our Forsberg to another Forsberg. Then you started seeing articles like this one indicating the race had tightened. And ones like this indicating that Ekblad is Forsberg's main competition, which surfaced in February. Or this one, where Luke Fox of Sportsnet dogmatically exclaimed the following:

Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman and the Islanders’ Anders Lee have all passed the 20-goal mark, making for a deep class of freshman forwards. They deserve high-fives and a mention, but not the hardware, and hopefully writers enchanted by point totals alone will split the vote.

Ekblad plays more minutes for a weaker team at a more important position than all of them. Plus, he’s younger.

What a a fine-tuned, brilliant statistical analysis there, Luke! Ekblad playing more minutes is a coaching decision. Or even just a matter of Florida having no other options to throw out there. I excluded time-on-ice from the usage charts because it's irrelevant to the argument. It's what the rookie does when he's on the ice that matters. That's what makes him more proficient that other rookies. And age? Really? Ekblad is 19, Forsberg is 20, and Gaudreau is 21. Hardly a smoking gun.

Ultimately, the point here is that Forsberg has received just as much, if not more, attention as a rookie as these other guys over the course of the year. He has been on the radar a long time. This matters when it comes to hockey writers putting names down on ballots.

Point Shares

I will keep this one brief, only because it doesn't tell you much. There are a lot of factors that go into point shares, but think about it like win shares in baseball. These numbers represent the number of points that each player has contributed to the team in the standings.

Rookie

Point Shares

Filip Forsberg

7.7

Johnny Gaudreau

6.8

Aaron Ekblad

7.7

Mark Stone

6.5

Mike Hoffman

7.1

Anders Lee

5.8

Again, it's clear that all of these rookies are doing wonders for their teams. Just for reference, Sidney Crosby has a 9.7 point share number this year. Alex Ovechkin has an 11.4. Goalie point shares attempt to measure the same thing (but with even more factors to consider). Pekka Rinne's is at 12.7 and Carey Price's is at 15.8 (highest in the league). For giggles, Olli Jokinen's is at -0.1.

Filip Forsberg and Aaron Ekblad are in a dead heat here. Tie goes to the Swede.

Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic (HERO) Comparisons

You've probably seen these nifty charts generated at OwnThePuck by now. So let's see what they have to say.

Filip Forsberg

Not much new here. Forsberg excels in nearly every aspect of the game that a top line forward should. He generates shots and points and, as we saw above, does it against top competition.

Johnny Gaudreau

If it came down to Forsberg v. Gaudreau, this chart would be the knockout punch. It is clear that Forsberg is a better overall player and a more proficient rookie than Gaudreau, who struggles to balance scoring with possession.

Aaron Ekblad

First of all, wow. As a rookie defenseman, this is impressive. But these numbers are adjusted by him being a blue-liner, so this obviously can't be directly compared with the forward charts. Top line defensemen aren't expected to produce scoring at the same rate as top line forwards. His usage adjusted rates as a defenseman are excellent. But he plays a very different position with a very different role, and don't forget that he regularly faces weaker competition on the ice than any of the other rookies.

Mike Hoffman

Hoffman and his production jumps out even more than Gaudreau's does, and he does it in far less minutes played.

Mark Stone

Similar to Hoffman, Stone hasn't been getting the minutes. Another great young player, but remember that Hoffman and Stone were doing all of this against lesser competition.

Anders Lee

Yet again, another case of not getting enough time on the ice.

Some other notable arguments:

  • Forsberg has put 222 shots on net. That's 40 more shots than the next closest candidate, Anders Lee. And when a guy is facing top competition all year and still managing that many more shots on net, that says something about his proficiency on the ice.
  • Forsberg is 2nd among these Calder candidates in plus/minus at +15. Yes, yes, plus/minus is stupid, but with Gaudreau's at 6 and Ekblad's at 11, that says something. In a small way, this reflects even more how much better Forsberg is at not only generating shots, but suppressing them.
  • PDO, except for Mike Hoffman, isn't a factor here. Forsberg is at 101.93, Gaudreau is at 101.74, and Ekblad is at 100.56. Stone's is slightly elevated at 102.25 and Hoffman's is an unsustainable 104.60.

Finally, let's talk about slumps

Every player has them. Every rookie has them. The longer they occur, the less likely a rookie is to remain in the running for the Calder, simply because other talent passes him by. But should it matter when those slumps occur?

From 2/24 to 3/24, the Predators went 5-8-1 in 14 games and Forsberg had 2 goals, 4 assists. Johnny Gaudreau only scored 2 goals in a 23 game span from 1/9-3/3 for the Flames. During a particularly brutal stretch for the Panthers from 1/13 to 2/14, where they went 4-8-2, Ekblad was collectively -9 and put up only 7 points.

Forsberg's slump has been the most recent, but should it be that detrimental to his Calder winning chances? His body of work speaks wonders. The Calder Trophy goes to the best rookie of the NHL season, not the best rookie in March or April.

Conclusion

Forsberg has been leading the race for the Calder trophy all season. The race has recently tightened, but really shouldn't be. I think Ekblad provides the most challenge, but when you consider the entire body of work from October to present, there should be no other option that Forsberg for the Calder. I will finish by quoting the official Calder Trophy requirement prerequisite:

The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.

Given the reasons above, there is no player other than Filip Forsberg that has been more proficient this year. He produces at both ends of the ice and has been arguably the most important reason for the success of the Predators outside of Pekka Rinne. And when he wins it, he will be so happy.