Are Calder Trophy nominated NHL goaltenders cursed?

Jun 26, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Edmonton Oilers are far from the cup contenders everyone expected them to be this season. Goaltending, which has realistically never been a strength for Edmonton in the Connor McDavid era, is the biggest culprit.

Both Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner have struggled mightily to the tune of 4.50 and 3.99 goals against average, respectively.

The Oilers put Campbell on notice by putting him on waivers. With four years left on his $5 million a year contract, there were sure to be no takers.

Skinner is the reigning Calder Trophy runner-up. Once we realized that, we started noticing a pattern. Are Calder-nominated goalies cursed?

Being nominated for the Calder Trophy seems to be an NHL curse.

Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers has had a pretty bad start to his season. Like other goaltenders nominated for the Calder trophy, post-nomination struggles seem to be a trend.

Since the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, there have only been five goalies nominated for the Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie. Steve Mason, then of the Columbus Blue Jackets, was the only winner during the 2008-2009 season.

Going back to 2000, there have only been two additional nominees, both winners, with Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks during the 2000-2001 season and Andrew Raycroft of the Boston Bruins in 2003-2004.

For those wondering, 2006 Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward was not a Calder nominee. Ward’s ascension happened during the Carolina Hurricanes playoff run. The Calder winner that season was Alex Ovechkin.

The five post-lockout goaltender Calder nominees are the aforementioned Mason and Skinner, Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues, and Alex Nedeljkovic, then of the Carolina Hurricanes.

All have struggled in the seasons since being Calder nominees. The lone exception appears to be Jimmy Howard, who had a pretty successful career in Detroit finishing with a career 2.62 goals against average and a 0.912 save percentage.

Steve Mason played on some pretty bad Columbus teams before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the franchise-altering Sergei Bobrovsky trade before finishing his career with the Winnipeg Jets in 2017-2018.

Nedeljkovic was a stabilizing influence in the Carolina crease during the shortened 2020-2021 season before being traded to Detroit in a contract dispute and spending time between Detroit and the AHL as a result of his inconsistent play. He finds himself with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.

Jordan Binnington is a mixed bag. He led the Blues in their famous “worst to first” turnaround in the 2018-2019 season that ended with the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.

Every season since then has seen his number decrease, although early returns from 2022-2023 aren’t as bad.

Binnington has also developed into a rather controversial player, earning enemies around the league. St. Louis signed him to a six-year contract this offseason after we all thought might be their franchise goaltender after their championship run.

When we expand our sample size from “post-lockout” to “post-2000”, the two additional entries both have different career stories. Nabokov is a San Jose Sharks legend but his career included a post-lockout stint in the KHL and several years with the New York Islanders and never played in a Stanley Cup final.

Raycroft’s career achievement is not being a Calder finalist but being part of one of the worst trades in NHL history that sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs while the Boston Bruins ended up with Tuukka Rask. Raycroft would only play 39 games over two seasons for Toronto.

There’s still time for the Oilers and Skinner to turn their season around but the clock is ticking. Skinner seemed to be the goaltender Oilers fans have been waiting for.

His minor league years with the Bakersfield Condors even showed promise before he earned an NHL promotion. Hopefully, Skinner regains his last season form, if not, any future goalies beware. There just might be one NHL trophy you guys don’t want to win.

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