The 2018-19 NHL Rookie of the Year award, the Calder Memorial Trophy, seems to be a two-man race between Vancouver Canucks Center Elias Pettersson and St Louis Blues Goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Pettersson was the favorite to win the Calder Trophy for most of the 2018-19 season. Then Jordan Binnington entered the picture in the second half of the season, winning NHL Rookie of the Month honors for February.
If I had a vote on this award, it would decisively go to Jordan Binnington. The position of goaltender is one that requires great mental fortitude, the memory of a goldfish when you give up a bad goal as well as athleticism, cat-like reflexes and skill. Goaltender is the hardest position for a rookie to flourish coming in fresh into NHL.
But let’s look at this closer for the sake of the argument.
Elias Pettersson’s Canucks failed to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Jordan Binnington’s Blues were floundering before he got called up from the minors in December. The Blues were dead last in the NHL in the standings on January 2nd with 34 points. Binnington went 24-5-1 and almost single-handedly pushed the Blues into the playoffs. And also note that the Blues finished 2 points away from winning the Central Division.
Elias Pettersson had a fine rookie campaign, scoring 28 goals and 66 points. He’ll be a star in the future if he stays healthy. But his goal total and point total have been bettered by 22 other Calder Trophy award winners in the past. Nothing extremely noteworthy for the annals of hockey history.
As for Binnington, the knock on him winning the award is that he didn’t play a full season. But how many rookie goaltenders have accomplished what he has done in such a short time frame?
How many first year netminders pushed their team into the Stanley Cup Finals? Far fewer than 22. For the loneliest position in the world, Binnington’s name is in the midst with names like Frank Brimsek, Bill Durnan, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall, Cam Ward, Antti Niemi and Matt Murray.
Jordan Binnington is one win away of joining this elite, lonely of the loneliest club. He is excelling in the toughest environment for a rookie in the Stanley Cup playoffs at one of the toughest positions mentally. Chicago had “Air Jordan” for NBA basketball. St Louis has “Ice Jordan” for NHL hockey.
This vote should be a no-brainer if Binnington backstops the St Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup Finals in over 49 years. Yes, I know that the voting was already supposed to have been conducted and based on the regular season. But this type of voting is “fluid” in other sports in case of scandals and some writers turn their ballots later if they are on the fence. I’ll be in St Louis for Game 6 to see the Blues can close this series out.