The ‘Ghosts’ of Flyers Calder Candidates past


No Philadelphia Flyers rookie has ever won the Calder Trophy. It is not that they have not had their share of viable candidates over the years. They've had a few top-end finishers in the balloting and  their fair share who've earned NHL All-Rookie Team selection honors after the season but never an NHL rookie of the year.

Could Shayne Gostisbehere make history as the Flyers' first Calder winner? It's possible, especially if he continues to deliver in clutch situations over the remainder of the stretch drive. However, he has two factors working against him (and, no, being a Flyer is not one of them).

First, Gostisbehere is competing in a tough field of Calder candidates. He faces tough competition from the likes of Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks), Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings), Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) and possibly even Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) despite the fact that McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

Secondly, just as the missed time more likely than not will take McDavid out of the running among the Calder voters in the Professional Hockey Writers' Association,  the fact that Gostisbehere has only played 50 games to date due to starting the season in the American Hockey League (he was not recalled to the NHL until Nov. 14) and a brief injury-related absence could wind up hurting his candidacy just enough to push him down a notch or two on some ballots.

Whether he wins the Calder Trophy or not, Gostisbehere has undeniably had a spectacular rookie season. If he doesn't win the Calder, at least he'll be in good company among past Flyers candidates. Arguably, Bill Barber in 1972-73, Brian Propp in 1979-80, Dave Poulin (an older rookie at age 24 but still a Calder qualifier) in 1983-84, Ron Hextall in 1986-87 and Mikael Renberg in 1993-94 had the most Calder-worthy seasons among the field of contenders during their respective rookie seasons.

Second-place finisher Barber in particular probably should have won out over New York Rangers forward Steve Vickers, while 1986-87 Calder runner-up Hextall won the Vezina Trophy but lost out in the Calder vote to LA Kings forward Luc Robitaille. Propp was fourth in the 1979-80 voting, won by Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque. Poulin placed fourth, behind Buffalo Sabres goaltender Tom Barrasso, Detroit Red Wings center Steve Yzerman and Hartford Whalers winger Sylvain Turgeon. Renberg set a still-standing Flyers rookie scoring record and a strong two-way game, but finished third to New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and Edmonton Oilers center Jason Arnott.

In 1992-93, Eric Lindros missed 23 games his rookie season due to injury but still posted a big impact season (41 goals, 75 points, plus-28 in 61 games). That just so happened to be the same season that Winnipeg Jets Teemu Selänne exploded into the NHL with his 76-goal, 132-point rookie campaign, rendering the Calder race a landslide. Lindros finished fourth in the Calder vote behind Selänne, Boston Bruins center Joe Juneau and Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Felix Potvin.

The greatest Flyer of them all, Bobby Clarke, was also a fourth-place finisher for the Calder in 1969-70, trailing Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito, New York Rangers forward Bill Fairbairn and Blackhawks defenseman Keith Magnuson.

Goalie Doug Favell earned the highest Calder finish — third place in the Flyers' inaugural 1967-78 season — among Philadelphia players in the early years of franchise history. Playmaking center Andre Lacroix finished fifth in 1968-69.

In 1975-76, Mel Bridgman finished fifth in the Calder race after the Flyers made him the first overall selection of the 1975 NHL Draft. Flyers' defenseman, Behn Wilson finished fourth in 1978-79.

Flyers goalie Pete Peeters was third in the 1978-80 vote, one spot ahead of Propp. Ron Flockhart placed seventh in 1981-82. Pelle Lindbergh was fifth in the Calder vote and seventh in the Vezina Trophy race in 1982-83. Pelle Eklund took fifth place in the 1984-85 vote. Mike Ricci came in ninth in 1990-91. Finnish defenseman Janne Niinimaa was fourth in 1996-97.

As the 2000s arrived, center/winger Simon Gagne finished in fourth place in the 1999-2000 vote while teammate Brian Boucher placed sixth for the Calder Trophy and ninth for the Vezina. Both players earned NHL All-Rookie Team honors. In 2003-04, defenseman Joni Pitkänen finished seventh in the Calder vote. Jeff Carter placed in an 11th-place tie and Antero Niittymäki was tied for 15th in 2005-06, while neither Mike Richards nor 20-goal scorer R.J. Umberger placed in the vote tallies (it takes at least a fifth-place selection to earn a voting point). Claude Giroux earned a single fifth-place vote to tie for 19th in the 2008-09 vote.

In the 2010s, James van Riemsdyk received three fifth-place votes to tie for 11th in the 2009-10 race. The next year, Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky finished seventh in the Calder vote on the strength of four votes for second place and one for third. In 2011-12, 25-year-old Matt Read took fourth place in the Calder vote (including three selections for first-place) while Sean Couturier, who was 18 at the beginning of the season, placed ninth overall on a single first-place, three picks for third-place, a single fourth-place and nine fifth-place selections. Brayden Schenn did not place.

The NHL All-Rookie team honor came into existence in 1982-83. Among the Flyers rookies who did not place in the Calder vote in their respective rookie seasons, there were two who still managed All-Rookie Team honors: defensemen Thomas Eriksson in 1983-84 and Chris Therien in the 48-game 1994-95 season.

Roman Cechmanek, at age 29, was too old to qualify for the Calder Trophy in his first NHL season (2000-01). However, he finished second in the Vezina Trophy race and fourth in the Hart Trophy balloting for NHL most valuable player.

Among current Flyers, goaltender Steve Mason won the 2008-09 Calder Trophy as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was also the first runner-up for the Vezina that year.

Bill Meltzer is a columnist for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @billmeltzer.

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