Hawks Insider

2023-24 Calder Trophy debate: Blackhawks' Connor Bedard or Minnesota's Brock Faber?

NBC Universal, Inc.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

There are less than two weeks to go in the 2023-24 NHL season, and the Calder Trophy debate between Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard and Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber will not die. That's because two passionate hockey fan-bases believe their player has a stronger case over the other.

On Sunday, Bedard and Faber clashed at the United Center for their final meeting of the season, and while it was an uneventful show, the discussion will probably grow over the next couple weeks before the voting closes.

Let's start with Faber. He has a very strong case, and in any other year he's probably the runaway favorite.

The 21-year-old blue liner has seven goals and 36 assists for 43 points, which ranks second among rookie defensemen. Most notably, he's averaging 25:01 of ice time, which would be the highest of any rookie since the NHL began tracking ice time in 1997-98.

Faber's ice time average also ranks sixth among all NHL defensemen this season, which is no joke. He's been awesome for the Wild, and they've needed him to be.

"I don't care if Bedard's in or not," Wild GM Bill Guerin told Minneapolis radio station WCCO-AM in January. "With [Jared Spurgeon] being out, we've had to rely on him and he's stepped up to the plate. He's got the 'it factor.'

"He just gets it, he knows what to do, he's got confidence. He's got the right amount of swagger and a great amount of humility. The way he approaches not just the game but the professionalism, how he treats people, this kid's a star in many ways."

On the other side, Bedard has been under a microscope for years, and he was one of the most-hyped prospects in NHL history. Not only has he met expectations but he's exceeded them. And he's done so while playing the entire season at 18 years of age.

Bedard leads all rookies with 22 goals, 37 assists and 59 points despite missing 14 contests because of a fractured jaw. His 82-game pace is 78 points, which would be the second-highest total for a rookie in Blackhawks history.

In the last 30 years, only Alex Ovechkin (106), Sidney Crosby (102), Mathew Barzal (82) and Evgeni Malkin (85) have scored more than 78 points as a rookie. Pretty decent company Bedard would have been part of.

Let's get to the elephant in the room, and that's Bedard's -38 rating. It would be the worst rating by a rookie since 1993-94 when Alexei Yashin finished -49 and Alexandre Daigle was -45.

I have several responses to that.

The first is that Patrick Kane had a -23 rating in just 54 games with the Blackhawks last season, and Jonathan Toews had a -31 rating. Those are two of the greatest players in franchise history, and I believe those numbers are a byproduct of the overall team, not the individual. The same can be said about Bedard this season.

The second is that Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy last season with a -26 rating. That's right, he was voted the best defenseman. It obviously didn't impact his standing.

The third is that the Blackhawks have allowed eight shorthanded goals this season and they've given up several empty-net goals during 6-on-5 opportunities. Those counts as minuses for Bedard.

My fourth rebuttal is that Bedard is on the ice all the time on a team that's still near the beginning stages of its rebuild. He didn't step into a great situation like Kane and Toews did. It's probably one of the worst situations a No. 1 overall pick has ever stepped into, if we're being honest.

Bedard's average ice time of 19:46 is the fifth-highest average of any rookie forward since the NHL started tracking ice time in 1997-98. The only other four players to average more ice time than Bedard in their rookie season: Ovechkin (21:37), Anze Kopitar (20:32), Crosby (20:08) and Dany Heatley (19:53). There's still time for Bedard to surpass Heatley.

And finally, how about this: When Faber is on the ice during 5-on-5 action, the Wild have a +2 goal differential, per Natural Stat Trick. When he's not on the ice, they have a -2 differential. That's a difference of only four goals.

On the flip side, when Bedard is on the ice during 5-on-5 action, the Blackhawks have a -26 goal differential. When he's not on the ice, the Blackhawks have a -53 differential. That's a 27-goal difference.

Chicago scored only 20 goals in 14 games when Bedard was out of the lineup for a goals-per-game average of 1.43. In the 62 games with him in the lineup, the Blackhawks have scored 148 goals for a goals-per-game average of 2.39. That's almost a full goal per game more.

The Blackhawks go as No. 98 goes, and I'm not sure the same can be said for Faber and Minnesota. Please don't me wrong though: Faber is so deserving of the attention he's gotten this season. Anyone that says it's no contest isn't being fair to Faber. He's been incredibly impressive and he should be getting significant recognition.

Two things can be true: Bedard is deserving of the Calder Trophy and Faber is having a sensational campaign.

My final point is this: If Bedard and Faber swapped teams, I imagine Bedard's numbers, especially his +/-, would look exponentially better and Faber's would probably take a bit of a decline. That's just the reality of the situation. Bedard is the only reason the Blackhawks have remotely stayed afloat offensively.

"That’s automatic, right?" Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson joked of Bedard's Calder chances. "I mean, his production offensively is great but now that you’re adding better and more conscious responsibility away from the puck, I think that shows a lot of maturity in a young player. And when you have the point production still coming when you’re doing that, that’s a sign of a real solid player that’s going to be here for a long time doing this."

Click here to follow the Blackhawks Talk Podcast.

Contact Us