With the 2021 regular season coming to a close a number of trophies will be voted on by their respective parties. For NHL GM’s that’s the Vezina Trophy. I’m here to make the case for New York Islanders shot-stopper Semyon Varlamov to be awarded the Vezina trophy.
I’m not going to make the case that he should be a factor for the top goalie award. He should win the thing. I know guys like Andrei Vasilieveskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury are getting a lot of attention for the award, both of them are great goalies and are having great years, but Varlamov should win it. No questions.
Here’s the case.
New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov deserves to win the Vezina
When it comes to any award, numbers matter. How a player ranks compared to the field for a few key categories matters a lot. This isn’t just an eye test thing. Yes, a goalie has to pass the eye test, but he’s got to have the numbers to support it.
As far as the eye test goes, it’s an easy pass for Varlamov. The Islanders goalie has been a rock for them between the pipes all year long. On repeated occasions, Valrmov is the only reason the Islanders are competitive.
He’s not a showy shot-stopper a-la Dominik Hasek or Jonathan Quick, but his solid positional play and read of the game allows him to be at the right place at the right time to make a stop. He’s been exceptional for the Isles since the puck dropped on the season.
And look, the numbers absolutely back that up. Here are a few key goalie stats, and where Varlamov ranks against his goaltending peers*.
*Rank vs. goalies who played at least 20 games.
**Data from NHL.com except for GSAA which is from hockey reference.
The only stat where Varlamov isn’t in the top two is in wins, something GMs use heavily for this award. Which is ridiculous.
Last I checked this is a team game that isn’t won by a single person. Goalies certainly have a big say in a game thanks to being out there for the full-60, but wins is not a stat that should judge the quality of a goalie’s performance over a season.
Outside of wins, Varlamov is in the top two for every other worthwhile statistical category.
Carolina Hurricanes Alex Nedeljkovic is the only goalie ahead of him in more than one category. The Hurricanes shot-stopper has a better SV% (0.932) and GAA (1.90) than Varlamov. But has played 12 fewer games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy tops Varly’s 21 GSAA (goals saved above average) with 22.
The Islanders starter has been perfect seven times this year (more than any of his peers). He’s top ten in wins. His GAA and SV% are only bested by a goalie who’s shared the load with two other vets. And only the Vezina winner from 2019 is stopping more goals above the average shot-stopper.
I understand that over the last few years GM’s have put more stock in the number of wins than anything else.
- Last year, Hellebuyck was given top goalie honors with a 14th in SV% and 7th in GAA. He was second in wins with 39.
- In 18-19, Vasilevskiy won the award with a league-leading 39 wins but held the ninth and sixth-best save percentage and goals-against average.
But as I said to start this. Wins area team metic and not an individual stat. They should not be used to judge an individual’s performance. When you look at Varlamov’s individual numbers compared to his peers, there’s no question that he deserves this award.