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Has Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko unjustly fallen out of the NHL’s Vezina Trophy conversation?

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Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
1 month ago
Thatcher Demko was putting together a fine season before going down with a knee injury that sidelined him for a full month.
Demko exited during the second period of the Canucks’ 5-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets back on March 9th, and is expected to return this Tuesday when the Canucks take on the Calgary Flames. The number one priority for both Demko and the Canucks, and for good reason, is getting back in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are set to begin on April 20th.
But another thing that Canucks fans will at least be thinking about is where Demko will finish in this year’s Vezina Trophy voting.
The Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goaltender, is one of few awards that the Professional Hockey Writers Association doesn’t vote on. Instead, NHL general managers vote on which goalie will take home the honour.
The Canucks’ starting netminder was in a neck-and-neck race with Connor Hellebuyck for most of this season, but Demko’s injury seems to have cost him any real chance at winning the award.
According to The Action Network, oddsmakers agree that Hellebuyck is the heavy favourite, while most view Sergei Bobrovsky as the new runner-up for the award.
But is that a fair way to look at the Vezina conversation?
Bobrovsky vs. Demko
Bobrovsky has appeared in 57 games played for the Florida Panthers this season, amassing a .914 save percentage and a record of 35-17-4. Bobrovsky also has a league-leading six shutouts this season. Demko has 49 games played, and is tied for second in the league with five shutouts.
Just three goaltenders around the league have appeared in more games than Bobrovsky: Juuse Saros (62), Alex Georgiev (61), and Connor Hellebuyck with 58 starts this season. Meanwhile, Demko is tied with Philadelphia’s Samuel Ersson for the 16th-most starts in the league with 49.
Save percentage and overall record are Demko’s best case
Demko’s save percentage of .917 ties him with Seattle’s Joey Daccord for the second-best SV% of all goaltenders with at least 40 starts this season. A winning record has often proven to be a requirement to take home the award, and this might help explain why Demko has never finished higher than seventh in Vezina Trophy voting in the past. This — among other things — likely keeps Daccord out of the top three, despite him being one of the NHL’s better goaltenders this season. On the contrary, Bobrovsky’s 35 wins will help him earn recognition for the award.
Demko is at 34 wins on the year — just one win less than the odds-on favourite Hellebuyck. Demko also has the fewest losses (incl. OT) of any NHL goaltender with at least 40 games played.
Further, the Canucks’ lack of success following his injury should only strengthen Demko’s case for the Vezina. Demko has missed 13 games so far, with the Canucks going 6-5-2 over that stretch and having been outscored 39-36 in the process. They still maintain top spot in the Pacific Division, but their lead over Edmonton — which was up to 22 points at one point this season — has been whittled away to just four points.
If that doesn’t show Demko’s value to this team, it’s hard to say what will.
Looking at the competition and the oddsmakers’ predictions at this juncture, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Demko finish as a top-three finalist, even if he doesn’t take home the award. Whether that’s as the runner-up or third place remains to be seen, but it’s hard to deny what Demko was able to do while he was healthy this season.
It’ll be surprising to see that he’s fallen out of the conversation to win the award, as his save percentage and overall record should keep him right in that conversation with Hellebuyck, even with the time he’s missed. Demko’s 34-13-2 record absolutely holds up against Hellebuyck’s 35-19-4 record. It’s hard to poke holes in Hellebuyck’s .920 save percentage, and he’s absolutely been instrumental in the Winnipeg Jets’ success this season.
We’re not trying to say that Hellebuyck doesn’t deserve to win the award, but is a bit surprising that it seems like such a foregone conclusion at this juncture. And Bobrovsky emerging as the widely agreed-upon runner-up with his 35-17-4 record is maybe even more surprising.

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