The Calder Memorial Trophy is the annual award given to the NHL Rookie of the Year. It has a long history of illustrious winners including Alexander Ovechkin (over Sidney Crosby in 2006), Evgeni Malkin, Brandon’s teammate Patrick Kane and others.
This shortened NHL season has seen a strong crop of potential candidates for the award. While you can find out more information on those candidates, if I had a vote it would go to Blackhawks starting Left Winger, Brandon Saad.
Why? While Brandon stats speak for themselves: He's fourth on the Blackhawks in goals (10), fourth in assists (16), tied for fifth in plus/minus (+16). He’s only committed 6 penalties all season long. Sydney Crosby has committed 1 more penalty in 36 games compared to Brandon’s 45.
Brandon’s stats against other rookies are even better. He’s 5th in goals (only 4 behind #1), 2nd in assists (1 behind), 3rd in points (2 behind) and 1st in plus/minus.
Brandon’s success doesn’t stop there. He plays on the #1 line across Jonathon Toews and Marian Hossa on the #1 team in the NHL, the Blackhawks already won the President’s Trophy for most points in a season. He’s played there since game 1 and hasn’t lost his position.
For those who don’t play, watch or coach hockey my last paragraph wouldn’t make much sense. Let me take a moment to explain why “the last” paragraph alone should merit the award. When you play on the #1 line on the #1 team, you face every other teams “very best” players. You play against their elite defenseman, their shutdown forwards and the other teams #1 scoring line.
No coach in their right mind would put a rookie on the top line unless he whole-heartedly deserved to be there. Not only has Brandon earned his spot, he kept it, excelled at it and continues to be one the reasons the Blackhawks are the #1 team. Coaches are paid to win games. Hockey owners are notorious for firing coaches for sneezing in the wrong direction, there's no room for experiments or error.
When you put together your #1 line, you place your best players on that line. Chicago has a ton of elite talent. In addition to the #1 line, the roster has incredible forwards which include Patrick Kane, Viktor Stalberg, Bolland, Sharp to name a few. Through all of this, Brandon still plays on the #1 line.
My final comment on why Brandon Saad should win the Calder Trophy lies in the how the season’s progressed. Those who follow hockey know that every NHL player will tend to play their best hockey and give 110% towards the end of the season. The NHL Playoffs can end up being equivalent to 25% of the regular season and with 16 out of the 30 teams making the playoffs, the end rush is generally what matters.
Brandon has faced his opponents #1 talent during this mad rush to the end, while those players are playing their best. Through all that, he’s had a monster March with 15 points in 14 games. Look at the other Rookie of the Year candidates. Their numbers have dwindled, some plummeted, in March and April.
There’s a lot of reasons why Brandon Saad deserves to be Rookie of the Year. But when the game’s on the line and the season’s accolades are at stake, the Blackhawks kept Brandon at the tip of the spear and he delivered against the NHL's elite talent. None of the other rookies can say that.