Comparing Couture to Past Calder Candidates

Not many Sharks win trophies for individual achievements. In fact, in the team's 20 year history, just five players have won any of the NHL Awards for individual excellence. Three of those were captured in the same year; in 2005-2006, Joe Thornton won the Art Ross and the Hart Memorial while Jonathan Cheechoo earned himself the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy. Tony Granato (Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy Winner, 1996-1997) and Evgeni Nabokov (Calder Trophy Winner, 2000-2001) have also brought trophies to San Jose.

The Sharks have had candidates for trophies over the years; Dan Boyle and Evgeni Nabokov were recently in consideration for the Norris and Vezina, respectively. However, there have been few players who have been far and away the leader for a seasonal award.

Perhaps that's why so much excitement surrounds Sharks rookie sensation Logan Couture, who is the obvious front runner for the Calder Trophy 35 games into the season. At this point, he looks to be one of the best players to ever come out of the Sharks' system.

No award was ever handed out midway into anything (just ask Plank's girlfriend). But Couture's early season numbers are amazing to say the least, and warrant the discussion which has become a mainstay in press conferences, in the locker room and among fans of the team.

Couture not only leads all rookies in goals with 18, but he's also tied for fourth in the league in overall NHL goal scoring. Let that sink in for a moment.

There, he finds himself in the company of much more established goal scorers and NHL stars such as Rick Nash, Daniel Sedin and Eric Staal. Not a bad group to be associated with. If he keeps scoring goals at this pace, he'd have 42 regular season goals by season's end. Only three Sharks have eclipsed the 40 goal mark in a season in the team's history (Patrick Marleau [44 in 2009-2010], Jonathan Cheechoo [56 in 2005-2006], and Owen Nolan [44 in 1999-2000]).

Although the sky remains the limit for Couture, it's important to note that with his shooting percentage at a high 15.6% he's not likely to continue to score goals at this clip. We wouldn't put anything past him at this point, though. And even if he doesn't get to the 40 goal mark, his career shooting percentage would put him around the 30 goal mark if he continues taking shots at the current rate. That would well exceed the previous San Jose record for goals scored by a rookie; Pat Falloon had 25 tallies and 59 points in the team's first season in 1991. If you were wondering, Patrick Marleau had 13 goals in his rookie season.

It was a different game back then, though. So instead of comparing Couture to Falloon (or even Marleau) as a rookie, I thought I'd take a look at forwards who recently competed for the Calder trophy and see where Couture would end up among them if he were to continue at his current pace.

Alexander Ovechkin* 2005-2006 81 52 54 106 0.63 0.64 1.27
Logan Couture 2010-2011 35 18 7 25 0.51 0.20 0.71
Bobby Ryan 2008-2009 64 31 26 57 0.48 0.41 0.89
Sidney Crosby 2005-2006 81 39 63 102 0.48 0.78 1.26
Evgeni Malkin* 2006-2007 78 33 52 85 0.42 0.67 1.09
Jonathan Toews 2007-2008 64 24 30 54 0.38 0.47 0.84
Matt Duchene 2009-2010 81 24 21 55 0.30 0.26 0.68
Kris Versteeg 2008-2009 78 22 31 53 0.28 0.40 0.68
Patrick Kane* 2007-2008 82 21 51 72 0.26 0.62 0.88
Nicklas Bäckström 2007-2008 82 14 55 69 0.17 0.67 0.84

(Sorted by G/PG)

*Player won Calder Trophy in respective season

Now, comparing Couture to these players doesn't indicate that he should win the Calder in 2010-2011; he'll be evaluated against his peers. But it's an good to look at Couture alongside players who have competed for the honor post-lockout. Here's what can be gleaned from these numbers:

  1. Couture's goal scoring sets him apart. At his current goal scoring pace (0.51 G/GP), he's second to only Ovechkin's 2005-2006 Calder Trophy winning season. That's amazing, and surprising, if only because he's always been billed as a playmaker.
  2. The assist totals may hurt him. With just seven assists in 33 games, Couture sits last among the ten players chosen for this study. His point total will suffer accordingly, but the goals may be enough to get him the votes he needs.
  3. This will be a better year than last for rookie forwards. Duchene led a pretty weak class of rookie forwards last year. With Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Jeff Skinner, Derek Stepan and Couture (among others) all having solid years to date, this crop of rookies should put up better numbers.
As we've said before, the season isn't over yet. It's not a one man race, either, as the aforementioned Eberle and Hall (among others) will give Logan a run for his money (winning the Calder would bring any Rookie a nice bonus). In addition defenseman P.K. Subban and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky have had good seasons, but Subban has struggled this year and Bobrovsky is part of a three way goal tending tandem for the time being.

Couture is definitely the leader right now, but as we saw recently when the Oilers came to San Jose, they have their share of talent as well. Nothing's set in stone, but that makes it all the more fun.

"It's a great time to be a fan," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan before the game against Edmonton. I couldn't agree more.