This has been bugging me for a little bit and I need to get this off my chest.
There seems to be very little doubt that Connor Hellebuyck is one of, if not THE front runner for the 2020 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. Major media outlets have him near the top of the list, fan polls (even those based in the US where there is a greater chance of people voting for goalies from American based teams) consider him one of the favorites to win, and of course his own teammates figure he’s a lock for the award.
But as you read through the various pitches as to why Hellebuyck should take home the goalie hardware, a common phrase can be seen in almost every single one.
“Hellebuyck is easily the most important reason for why the Jets are in a playoff spot.”
“Where would the Jets have been without Hellebuyck, considering the losses they suffered on defense?”
From Mark Scheifele…
“Our team wouldn’t have won as many games as we did this year without his play.”
This isn’t “best goalie” talk, this is “most valuable player” talk and it leaves me wondering why Hellebuyck isn’t getting more consideration for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player.
Every one of these summaries is almost the same when it comes to talking about Hellebuyck. They lead off with the obvious statement of how the Jets wouldn’t be anywhere close to a playoff spot without him, and then some numbers are tossed around to help flesh out the argument. The funny thing about that is Hellebuyck’s numbers – while they are pretty damn good – aren’t the best across the board. Wins? Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa has more. Save Percentage? Boston’s Tuukka Rask is higher. Goals Against Average? Hellebuyck isn’t even in the top ten. (Which is maybe one of the best arguments why GAA is kind of a lame stat, but that’s another post for another day, or maybe just check out other people’s argument against the stat.)
The Vezina is supposed to go to the goalie who is deemed “the best at this position”, so the “Jets wouldn’t be where they are without him” chatter is honestly irrelevant to the conversation, but it’s constantly brought up as one of the reasons Helle should be the leading candidate.
Yet, the moment you get into Hart Trophy talk from the same people, there is nary a mention of Hellebuyck despite that. I don’t quite understand.
I get the argument that by the very nature of the position, you could award the league’s MVP to a goalie every single season which is what leads to bias against doing just that and leaving the Vezina as a somewhat defacto most valuable goalie award. That type of thinking actually kind of makes sense in a league where the awards are almost all skewed anyway. The Hart is supposed to go to the “most valuable” and not the league’s “best player”. The Norris Trophy is typically given to the defenseman who put up a lot of points. The Calder trophy is nothing much more than a “which rookie had the best stats” award. The Mark Messier Leadership Award is…
Wait, why is there a Mark Messier Leadership Award again?
My #HelleForHart pleas will go unheard for the most part as others will go on about how Leon Draisaitl (Can you be the most valuable player on a team where you’re not even the best player?) or Nathan MacKinnon should win. (For what it’s worth, even if Hellebuyck was to have more consideration for the Hart, I feel like MacKinnon should be the clear cut winner.) Hellebuyck himself has said that individual awards like the Vezina are nice, but ultimately isn’t the trophy he truly covets. And regardless how this crazy 2019-20 season ends, at some point there will be awards handed out and Hellebuyck will at the very least be in as a finalist if not outright Vezina winner.
It just feels kind of wrong he isn’t in consideration for the league’s most valuable player, when every argument made for him is how valuable he’s been to the Jets this season.