The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has been snubbed a chance to repeat.
Hellebuyck Somehow Left off the List
The three-man-slate, revealed Tuesday morning, was just as notable for who wasn’t on it as who was.
All three had excellent seasons, but Hellebuyck — who was a key reason the Jets made the playoffs in a season where many wrote them off before it began — was the leader in a number of major statistical categories that one would think would bag him at least a nomination.
As the Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Billeck notes above, Hellebuyck was first in shots against, saves, minutes, and games played.
Basic Stats Don’t Tell the Whole Story
While it’s true Hellebuyck’s GAA (2.58) and SV% (.916) were not as good as any of the three finalists, there are many more advanced stats that should go into determining which goalie is “the best at the position.”
Such stats include Expected Goals Against Average, which indicates how often a goalie stops pucks that should, by all means, find twine. In this state Hellebuyck shines over Grubauer and Vasilevskiy.
Hellebuyck ranked second in the league in Goals Saved Above Average (13.72) and Wins Above Replacement (8.9), compared to Grubauer ranking 13th in the league in GSAx (4.26) and 14th in WAR (2.5), the Twitter account All Sportlytics noted.
Hellebuyck was better than all three finalists in WAR, in fact. He had more Quality Starts than Vasilevskiy (25 to 24) and his Goalie Points Share (9.1) was better than Grubauer’s (7.4) and Fleury’s (8.0.)
The defense in front of Hellebuyck was far weaker than that of the Avalanche, Golden Knights, or Lightning. Hellebuyck’s numbers would have been even better if he played for one of them.
Why Did GMs Not Recognize Hellebuyck?
We can’t say for certain what was in the minds of the league’s GMs as they made their selections, but a number of factors could have come into play.
One may be a perception that the North Division was weaker than the others, even though it had the highest average total goals scored per game at 6.71 (no other division was even above 6.0.)
The North Division also had more star power than any other — goalies had to deal with heavy doses of Brock Boeser, Elias Petterson, Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Tyler Toffoli, and other high-end talents.
It’s also possible American GMs just weren’t paying attention to the North Division at all, because their teams didn’t have to head to Canada during the shortened season.
A second reason may be that Grubauer was nominated simply because of his outstanding 30-9-1 record, even though the outstanding team in front of him made many of his nights quite easy.
A third reason may be that Fleury got some votes due to recently moving into third place all-time in career wins and for never having been nominated for the Vezina before.
Fleury had a good story as well: the 36-year-old wasn’t pegged as the starter this season, but stole the crease from the newly-extended Robin Lehner and made 36 starts.
Hellebuyck Will Use the Snub As Motivation
Hellebuyck said after being nominated for the Vezina last season that he was honoured, but that his main goal is to win the Stanley Cup. He has a chance to do just that: the Jets will begin their second-round series with the Montreal Canadiens tonight after sweeping the heavily-favoured Edmonton Oilers in the first round. He was rock-solid against the Oilers, posting a 1.50 GAA, .950 SV%, one shutout, and only allowing eight goals.
The ever-confident goaltender always plays with a chip on his shoulder, and it should be even bigger now.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.