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Kieser: GMs Have Some Explaining After Juuse Saros’ Vezina Snub



Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros did not make the cut as a Vezina Trophy finalist. 

Instead, Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders and Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins were the top-three vote getters on ballots submitted at the end of the season by the NHL general managers, who just may need to take a deeper look at how well some of the league’s top net-minders have truly performed.

Speaking to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts podcast on Feb. 8, Saros admitted that goals-saved above expected was his favorite statistic — one that he led the NHL in this season (46.7). In fact, Saros’ GSAA was four goals better than Ullmark, the next-closest goalie (42.4), and significantly higher than both Sorokin (38.7) and Hellebuyck (30.8).

Additionally, Saros also led the NHL in expected-goals against (217.67), consistently keeping the Predators in games they probably shouldn’t have been in. His 33 wins in 2022 is the second-most of his career, and his 1,928 saves was just six shy of matching his career high from last season.

“[I’m] really proud of the guys with how we pushed in the last 20 to 25 games with all the trades and injuries,” Saros said during the team’s end-of-season media availability. “I think we all came together and pulled the same rope, so that was a lot of fun and battling for the playoffs.”

Although his teammates and head coach John Hynes will argue he should win the Vezina, Saros actually shared who he believes should win the award this year.

“Ullmark for sure is going to win with those numbers,” he said. “I’m happy to hear that from the other guys that I was Vezina-caliber, it means a lot to me.”

Saros was the Predators’ MVP, and it’s not particularly close. In fact, it could be argued if not for Saros, who led the NHL with 14 stolen wins (23 percent of his starts), Nashville would be drafting a lot higher than 15th overall instead of battling for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Forty-two of Saros’ 63 starts were quality starts this year, according to Prashanth Iyer, formerly of The Athletic. I’ll hear your case for Roman Josi, but don’t tell me Saros isn’t the team’s MVP.

The 28-year-old Finn has two years remaining on his contract, and with Yaroslav Askarov in the pipeline, the Predators need to decide which goaltender is the team’s long-term starter.

Soon-to-be general manager Barry Trotz has a vitally important first offseason this summer, but one of the things he doesn’t have to worry about is the guy between the pipes, who’s playing on a team-friendly $5 million-per-year contract. Fortunately for Trotz, he still has some time before he needs to decide between Saros or Askarov.

Perhaps at some point, when casting their Vezina ballots in the future, NHL’s GMs will start considering more meaningful analytics that paint a better picture of a goalie’s contributions to his team than just wins and losses.

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