Toronto Maple Leafs: Matthews and Bunting Deserve NHL Awards

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 17: Michael Bunting #58 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 17, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Penguins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 17: Michael Bunting #58 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 17, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Penguins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 16: Michael Bunting #58 of the Toronto Maple Leafs  .(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Calder Trophy

The NHL Awards are extremely stupid because they all come with weird definitions, while strange interpretations are just pretty much taken from granted and assumed to be baked into the evaluation process.

For example, the rookie of the year doesn’t just go to the best rookie.  No way , that would be far too simple.

There is a long and complicated definition of what constitutes a rookie.

Then after that, people still factor in age, professional experience, linemates, team strength, usage  etc.

Michael Bunting fits the technical definition of a rookie, he leads rookies in total scoring and is one off the goal scoring lead.  He is miles ahead of everyone in advanced stats.

So he should win the rookie of the year easily, right?

Not so fast.

The NHL Rookie of the Year Award considers pedigree.  Bunting is just some no name loser who came out of nowhere.  He’s not a sexy first round future superstar like Trevor Zegres, who is like seven years younger and has only a couple points less.  (Like playing first line on the NHL’s best team is somehow a detriment, but here we are).

What about the fact that Moritz Seider plays as his team’s #1 defenseman, a harder position?

You can find a number of reasons to discount what Bunting has done, but in my opinion he fits the definition of rookie that the NHL has had a hundred years to get right, so he should win the award, because no one is even close to him.

Now, usually when someone says “it’s not even close” they are just being lazy and saying that in place of an argument, but in this case it’s actually true.

Bunting has 23 goals and 60 points, but remember, he isn’t on his team’s first power-play unit, which means that if he was, he’d easily bein the 30+ 75+ range.

Bunting has a whopping 5 points on the power-play and is fifth in league scoring at 5v5, and has more points than Draisaitl or Kaprizov.

He is among the NHL leaders in GAR (Goals Above Replacement) and is having one of the best 5v5 seasons of any player since the NHL began tracking advanced statistics.  He should be an absolute slam-dunk, unanimous choice for the Calder Trophy.

In fact, there isn’t a single NHL trophy this year where the winner is more obvious.