BILLECK: Hellebuyck snubbed when it comes to Hart, even if he doesn’t think so – Winnipeg Sun

This isnt a shill job or a homer reporter trying to argue a case that has no legs to stand on. If anything, the foundation of this debate is ironclad, wrapped in titanium and perfectly level.

Connor Hellebuyck deserved to be a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy this season as the leagues best player and theres oodles of research to back up this claim.

From his .922 save percentage this season and his league-leading six shutouts to some of the underlying numbers, which only cement his case further. A whopping 14.33 goals-saved above average, the fact he faced more shots (1,458) than anyone by a country mile 5-on-5, the most high-danger shots against (412) by the same measurement and the most rebound attempts against (186), again, by a long shot.

The definition of the Hart, too, only further supports Hellebuycks case. Awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team, keen observers would be hard-pressed to slot him anywhere but in the top three, if not the No. 1 spot itself.

Simply put, Hellebuyck dragged the Jets, at times, kicking and screaming out of the jaws of defeat and into the winners circle.

If the Michigan man is to win the award, it wont be this year. Edmontons Leon Drasaitl, Colorados Nathan MacKinnon and New Yorks Artemi Panarin are the final three in the running. And they are all deserving in their own right.

But Hellebuycks exclusion feels like a snub, even if the man himself doesnt see it that way.

No, not necessarily, Hellebuyck said Wednesday when asked if he felt brushed off. Those are three great players so they all deserve it themselves so for me to say I deserve more than them would just be very selfish.

Its a classy way to address the matter, and Hellebuyck is likely heading home with the Vezina Trophy this season after being named a finalist for the leagues top goaltending award for the second time in three years.

The exclusion of Hellebuyck still seems off, much in the same way that John Gibsons exclusion from the Vezina race during the 2018-19 season was seen as a slight as well.

There are several similarities between Anaheims starter and Winnipegs in terms of the analytics. In the end, Gibson got screwed because the Ducks were a tire fire and were so far from the playoffs that theyd have to enlist the Hubble Telescope just to see the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference in that particular season. That wasnt on Gibson though, who had stellar statistics that were simply overlooked by many.

Goalies have it tough when it comes to the Hart, and if your name isnt Dominik Hasek, its not an easy code to crack.

Its very difficult for you to put up the kind of numbers you need to and not play behind a really good team, said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, who naturally felt his No. 1 should have been a finalist. So the disqualifier is hes got great numbers but look at the team he plays behind. Youre going to need a guy, for a goalie, who plays on the perception of a weak team but still puts up those numbers that are off the charts, which is hard for him to do. I think for goalies, sometimes the goalies, their performance on great teams actually gets overlooked. I remember Dominik Hasek when he was in Buffalo and he got recognition for being a great goaltender, and probably wasnt fully appreciated for how good he was until after he left Buffalo. And then normal goaltending, and it wasnt even poor goaltending that came in, it was normal goaltending that came in.

Theres some really great goaltending performances each year that we probably dont validate as much because they have powerful teams in front which, again, goes into that goalie having that great year.

Hellebuyck did play behind a poor team for a good portion of the season. Winnipegs defensive game was in shambles for quite some time. You only have to look at that night in San Jose where was here, there and everywhere making 51 saves in a game the Jets won 3-2 but had no business winning.

He was the best player on the ice by far and I think we got outshot bigtime and he allowed us to win that hockey game, and there were plenty of games like that throughout the course of year, said Jets defenceman and alternate captain Josh Morrissey.

Like Maurice, naturally, Morrissey also felt his goalie should have been in the final three.

I dont think we would have been where we were at without him, thats for sure. Hes been our rock all year, hes been so solid for us. I think he should have, but again theres so many good players and when its not a cut-and-dried statistic-based award, thats the conversation were going to have. But Im pretty sure in most guys minds in our room, hed be in those three players.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice feels winning the Hart Memorial Trophy is less about one great season and more about multiple elite years strung together.

I think all of these Hart players, they put a number of years together before you can have a good year, but you need put together two or three of those kinds of years together before you start to get your name out there, Maurice said.

Perhaps tipping his cap to who he would choose out of the final three, Maurice pointed to Central Division foe Nathan MacKinnon as a prime example. And he feels Connor Hellebuyck is following that trend.

Connor is moving into the time where his name will start coming up in that, Maurice said. If its not this year, its next year or the year after. This playoff push will have a lot to say in that. Always felt that Hart Trophy wasnt necessarily for the guy who had the aberration great year. Its a great player that then had a great year. You need to have a little bit of that foundation of a number of elite years under your belt before you get where a great year isnt just an aberration everybody just understands thats how good a player you are.

sbilleck@postmedia.com

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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BILLECK: Hellebuyck snubbed when it comes to Hart, even if he doesn't think so - Winnipeg Sun

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