The 2015-16 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Award winners? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but there is no harm in getting our predictions in now.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s goaltender who is adjudged to be the best at this position. At the end of each season, the thirty NHL general managers vote to determine the winner.
Predictions For The 2015-16 Vezina Trophy
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: 63 GP, 36-22-4, 2.26 GAA, .918 SV%., 5 SO
Jones spent the past two seasons behind Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, and had some very solid numbers in those two limited seasons. When he was traded to the Boston Bruins at the NHL Entry Draft, then flipped to the Sharks, it was going to be exciting to see if he could handle a full season workload as a starter.
The verdict is in: Yes, he can indeed. Now his GAA and SV% are weak, which is why he is an honourable mention and not a sure fire candidate, but his first year as a starter has been impressive and one has to wonder, who made the playoffs, Jones or the Sharks polarizing offense (4th overall in goals for in the NHL)? If he can put up these numbers in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as well as next year, then Jones should be a top nominee for the Vezina in short order.
The good news is that the Sharks have finally found a good goalie after Evgeni Nabokov left and will be counting on Jones for years to come. He may not be a shoo-in to win the award this year, but Jones may be a goalie to keep an eye on in the future.
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks: 57 GP, 35-18-4, 2.32 GAA, .926 SV%, 7 SO.
Another year, another great season for the Hawks and Crawford. This is his 3rd consecutive 30+ win season and his 5th in six full seasons. He has been synonymous with the Blackhawks since taking the crease from Antti Niemi in 2010-11 and has been the starting goaltender since, no questions asked. With two Stanley Cups under his belt, it is easy to see why Crawford is Chicago, and vice versa.
But the real question is why has he only ever won the William M. Jennings trophy? Although he has won it twice, in 2012-13 with then Hawks goalie Ray Emery and in 2014-15 , Crawford has been an amazingly consistent goalie for his team, leading them to the playoffs each of the six seasons he has played. While it is true that his numbers have not been as great as some past Vezina winners, what matters is that he has been outstanding and that is the award description.
It may be hard for Crawford to knock Holtby off his mountain this year, but if Crawford was going to win, this would be the year to do so. His 35 wins are a career high, he leads the league in shutouts, and he is in the top 10 for every other major goalie statistic, despite being injured with an upper body injury since March 14th.
Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils: 57 GP, 26-25-6, 2.17 GAA, .923 SV%, 4 SO.
It is not often you see a goalie who is on a team that will not be making the playoffs on the Vezina ballot, and in fact there has only been one Vezina winner since 1982 who did not make the playoffs that season (Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2012-13). But in Cory Schneider’s case, he definitely deserves to be in the voting for the trophy.
The Devils just do not have a great team and the club not making the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season does not fall on Schneider, but rather management for not making the proper moves. However, that is a story for another time.
Schneider has been giving the Devils every chance to win since coming over from the Vancouver Canucks in the summer of 2013 and this season has been no different. He put up a winning season, and while the Devils did as well, they just do not have the offense to match Schneider’s talent, scoring a league worst 176 goals thus far. He is also tops in goalie statistics for both GAA, SV%, and shutouts while not ranking in the top 10 for wins. He’s been consistent for the team and will continue to be so. As my colleague Ben Kerr said, “New Jersey would be in the same spot as the Toronto Maple Leafs without Schneider.”
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals: 64 GP, 47-9-6, 2.20 GAA, .922 SV%, 3 SO.
In 2014-15, Holtby put up his first 40-win season, after back to back 20+ win seasons. Last season, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price’s dominating numbers overshadowed Holtby’s success and he was not talked about as much. He obviously used that as motivation for this season, as he is just one win away from tying an almost 10-year-old record, most wins in a season by a goalie, which is held by Martin Brodeur. With the New Jersey Devils in 2006-07, Brodeur accumulated 48 wins in 78 games played, while Holtby has 47 wins in just 63 games, 15 games less than one of the greatest goalies to play in the modern era of the NHL.
Washington still has three more games left to play in the season, so it is entirely conceivable that not only could Holtby break the record but he could become the first goalie in league history to record 50 wins. Of course the Capitals are leading the NHL with a 55-17-7 record and there is 12 points separating the Capitals and second place Dallas Stars. So they could play Holtby for just one game and leave the remaining two to back up Phillip Grubauer, which would rest Holtby for the playoffs.
Regardless which direction they go for the remaining games, Holtby’s success this season makes him the clear front-runner for the Vezina Trophy. He has given the Capitals a chance to win just about every game he has started and has displayed world class goaltending throughout the season. Having a dominant goalie is one of the most important ingredients for the recipe to build a Stanley Cup winning team and having Holtby in the crease is giving the Capitals the best chance to win it all this spring.
Stay tuned for our predictions for the Norris Trophy coming tomorrow.