The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 04/07/16 at 11:52 AM ET
I get that Sabres fans love what they've seen from Jack Eichel this season -- count me in that group -- but some of the reaction over the phenom not getting serious consideration for the Calder Trophy has reached ridiculous levels.
It's been pretty clear for most of the season, at least since Connor McDavid's injury, that Artemi Panarin has been the frontrunner for top rookie. Against a tidal wave of scrutiny from a portion of Buffalonian twitter followers, I took the bold step on a few occasions of merely bringing this up. Many writers and broadcasters near the top of the media totem pole have felt the same way. And king of them all Bob McKenzie last night said he surveyed 21 NHL GM's and got 18 votes for Panarin, 2 for McDavid and 1 for Dylan Larkin.
Between that nugget and a twitter poll of hockey fans showing Eichel not listed in the top 4, you'd think from the response here that Buffalo is on the short end of the biggest conspiracy since No Goal.
Folks, it's OK to love Eichel AND be simultaneously and humbly appreciative that there are some other very, very good candidates out there as well. There's no law against that.
And, to be perfectly honest, most of those other rookies are more deserving.
My Calder ranking goes like this, from 1 to 5: Panarin, McDavid, Shayne Gostisbehere, Eichel, Larkin.
The funniest argument I hear against Panarin is that he gets all of his points because he plays with Patrick Kane. I really believe most people who say that never watched one entire game the Russian played, other than when he was facing their favorite team.
Even if it were true, so what? Should we deny Barry Trotz the Jack Adams because he coaches Ovechkin? Does Jamie Benn get a lifetime ban from the NHL Awards as punishment for spending too much ice time every year on the same line as Tyler Seguin?
In any event, the theory is flawed. If playing with Kane is such an easy path to riches, why aren't Artem Anisimov's numbers any better than usual? His 42 points are nothing special compared to his 44 and 36-point seasons in New York and his 39-point season playing in Columbus.
I'll tell you why -- because Kane has been the beneficiary of that line combination more than Panarin has.
The notion that the 24-year-old should be denied merely because of his age is rather silly and defeats the purpose of even having qualification rules in the first place. If the requirements are flawed, then change them in the offseason.
As far as McDavid goes, all you need to know about the "he didn't play enough games" argument is he has 6 fewer points than Eichel despite, incredibly, playing in 35 fewer games. The kicker about this oddball anti-McDavid thought process is that these same people would've given his potential Calder nomination more serious consideration if he had the same point total over 70 games instead of 44. How does that logic make any sense?
Gostisbehere has been a huge story this season and has helped turn the Flyers around. Rookie defensemen just don't put up 16 goals and 43 points on non-playoff teams (if Philly sneaks in, scratch this part from the record) very often in this era of the NHL.
Look, this isn't to tell you Panarin is my favorite player, because he's far from it. I could use a lot less of the diving, for starters. But you can't brush aside 75 points just because he's five years older. And as far as his "pro experience" goes, stop acting like the KHL is some kind of all-star league. He didn't play with Kharlamov, Tretiak and Fedorov, folks. It's barely a step above AHL hockey over there. And if you're disqualifying guys for playing in lowball "pro" leagues, Auston Matthews will never win the Calder regardless of what he does.
In the grand scheme of things, Eichel missing out on the Calder is meaningless. Going into the season, he wasn't expected to win. Start obsessing about much more important things, like whether or not Tim Murray will be able to add enough help for Eichel to get the Sabres into the playoffs no later than next season.
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About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]