Calder Trophy Analysis: Two-horse race — Bedard vs. Faber 


The trade deadline has passed and the NHL season is in its final sprint toward the regular season finish. To that end, there are individual awards at stake: The Hart Trophy for league MVP, the Art Ross Trophy for the scoring title and many more still at large. 

Yet, if you are a fan in the great state of hockey, Minnesota, or in the Windy City of Chicago, the race for the Calder Trophy, the league’s top rookie, has become a hotly contested debate between Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber and Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard.

Now, if you are not a frequent flyer on X, the artist formerly known as Twitter, I dare you to take a peek after putting the words, “Bedard” and “Faber” into the search field. The arguments between Chicago and Minnesota fans as to why “my guy deserves it” began with validation and now are approaching the comical. Hey, I love the passion of both fan bases, but it is getting to the point where either fan base is attempting to discredit the other player to enhance an argument. The reality is, there are 16 regular season games to play, both of these rookies are absolutely outstanding and either one has “earned” or “deserved” (whichever term you prefer) taking home the Calder Trophy in a typical year for the award.

What makes it difficult to decipher between the two candidates is it truly is an apples-to-oranges argument. Faber, a puck-moving defenseman, logs minutes versus top-line opponents and is an asset to his team. Bedard, an 18-year-old phenom leading a team with a brutal roster in scoring at near a point-per-game pace, is also eye-popping. 

Calder Trophy Analysis: Two-horse race — Bedard vs. Faber 

Brock Faber currently leads all NHL rookies with 32 assists. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Hockey Magazine)

The plus/minus take 

The main point of contention that keeps coming to the forefront between fan bases is an antiquated statistic that will likely have zero bearing on the eventual Calder result, and that is plus/minus. I will preface this by saying that I actually am a believer in plus/minus as a statistic…for defensemen. For a defenseman to be in the plus, as Faber currently is with a +6 rating, it means he is doing his job and doing it at an above-average rate, by definition. It can be a testament and is for him. That said, plus/minus, particularly if you are a forward and not a defenseman or third-line center, is often misleading and completely dependent on the players and team around you. If it was a telling and valuable stat for forwards, then there would be quite the buzz about rookie plus/minus leaders Connor Zary (+17) and Ridley Greig (+16), both centers playing for the lowly Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators, respectively. Both have had very solid rookie campaigns, but you do not hear a lot about them, and they certainly will not be Calder candidates. So, those who are out there suggesting that Connor Bedard’s -36 versus Brock Faber’s +6 (currently eighth amongst Calder eligible rookies) will be a factor need to look elsewhere. Plus/minus is not even something that is considered for the Norris Trophy to the league’s best defenseman. If it was, Boston Bruins rearguard Hampus Lindholm would have ran away with the award in 2023, and he was not even a finalist. Erik Karlsson won the award with 101 points at a -26. There is zero precedent for plus/minus being an indicator for an end-of-the-year award. And again, this is not to say that Faber’s plus/minus is not a good thing; it just is not an argument that will win him the hardware over Bedard. Fair or not, that is how it goes.

In individual vacuums, there are no real arguments against Faber or Bedard, for that matter. People should stop seeking the notion of “this is why this player should not win the Calder.” It is a zero-sum game. Ultimately, there are only reasons for why one will win the award over the other. 

The argument for Faber 

Faber is a horse. As a young defenseman, he is a budding star. He is a great skater, stays D-side of the puck and can play on either special teams unit. His 25-plus minutes of ice time per game is astonishing for a 21-year-old rookie defenseman, and it has been admirable how much of an asset he has been considering the injuries to the Wild blue line. Faber is currently leading NHL rookies with 32 assists (Bedard is second with 31) and has six goals to boot. As of this moment, the Wild are on life support in the Western Conference playoff race, six points out of a playoff spot with one more game played. It is not completely unrealistic for them to get in, but at least one of the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators or Vegas Golden Knights will have to take a significant tumble, and that is hard to imagine. With this in mind, should the Wild make the postseason, Faber will likely be a major reason why, and simply stated because he will have to be brilliant over the next 16 games for this to become a reality. While the Wild have talent on their roster, they are relying very heavily, perhaps too heavily, on a young defenseman for important minutes. Many knew that Faber was a compelling NHL prospect, but few believed that the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher would be this valuable early on. 

The argument for Bedard

When Bedard was sidelined in January with a broken jaw, it originally seemed that he was eliminated from Calder contention. Despite being the youngest ever NHL All-Star, being sidelined for six weeks seemed too long. Now, he is back and on an absolute tear. Just this week, he has tallied eight points over two games, both of which the Hawks have won, which is a rarity this season. Before the season began, the big debate, or DraftKings bet, if you will, was whether or not Bedard could tally 70 points in his first season. Currently with a rookie-leading 51 points (in just 52 games), he is 19 points away from that mark with 16 games to go. The idea that Bedard can come near to 70 points and be a point-per-game player after missing 14 games, while playing on this Blackhawks roster, is astonishing. Currently, he is on the scoresheet for 51 of the team’s 144 goals (35%) and the Hawks have the lowest goals-per-game average (2.18) in the league. His game continues to improve and he is wise beyond his years. Chicago’s schedule before the end of the month is somewhat favorable, with five of their next eight games against teams out of the playoff picture. So, there is a good chance Bedard will stay hot heading into April. Despite those who want to discredit him, he is a generational talent, and what he is doing as an 18-year-old is nothing short of remarkable. 

Calder Trophy Analysis: Two-horse race — Bedard vs. Faber 

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard is nearing a point-per-game pace and earlier this week has tallied eight points in two games. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks)

How Faber wins

If the Wild can stay in the playoff picture, the better Faber’s chances are, and as aforementioned, he will need to be a huge contributor down the stretch for them. Should the Wild somehow make it into the postseason and Faber reaches 50 points, then his Calder argument increases significantly and rightly so. Perhaps it is somewhat unfair that his Calder chances are tied to his team success, as is not the case with Bedard, but given his role on the team and what he brings to the table, that may be the reality of it.   

How Bedard wins

If Bedard hits 70 points, this could be a done deal regardless of Faber and the outcome of the Wild’s season. For a teenager to be a point-per-game player on a team that has the lowest goals-per-game ratio to date is insanity. It is likely that he will lead all rookies in goals, assists and points and will do it without the supporting staff (namely Taylor Hall and Corey Perry) that Chicago once thought would help him out. He does have the name and the marketability, that is for sure, but nobody can ignore the impact this young man has had for Chicago and for the league. 

Sixteen games to go

If you are a Blackhawks fan, this is a no brainer. If you are a Wild fan, same thing. And yes, I am a Hawks fan and I am partial, but there are games to play and those tilts will be meaningful for this award. Regardless of who takes home the hardware, all should agree that both are “deserving.” There are no arguments against either talent, whose NHL futures shine bright. Keep in mind that the Wild and the Hawks square off on April 7 in what their respective fan bases will deem much more important than it probably is. Regardless, congrats to both of these stellar rookies and it will be fun to see how this finishes.

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