Brandon Pirri (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
The NHL Cy Young award isn’t an official award, but it’s one of the league’s most fun. The Cy Young, named after MLB’s award for best pitcher, goes to the NHLer who posted the largest gap between goals and assists.
There’s a lot of factors that go into which hurlers win the MLB’s Cy Young award as their league’s best pitcher, but in the NHL, the “award” is pretty cut and dry.
In NHL parlance, the Cy Young award, a fictional honor based solely on statistics, goes to the player who scored the most goals while piling up next to no assists. In making the case for who the winners should be, though, it takes a bit of figuring. After all, a great MLB pitched is probably winning roughly 20 games while losing somewhere between five to ten games. So, to calculate who the truest Cy Young winners were in the NHL, some guidelines have to be set.
First, only players who scored more than 10 goals qualified. The fewest wins by a pitcher (non-closer) to win the Cy Young since 1967 is 13, which has happened twice. So that sets the goal total. As for assists – which would be losses for a pitcher – the most since 1967 is 16, but generally speaking those who win have lost fewer than 10 games. So the parameters for the NHL Cy Young are players who scored 10 or more goals while registering 10 or fewer assists.
In 2014-15, 21 players qualified. Here is the top 10:
10. Luke Glendening, Detroit Red Wings – 12G, 6A
Glendening got his first taste of full-time NHL action this past season and he found himself in the goal column much more often than he did the assist column. After notching one goal and seven points in 56 games with the Red Wings during the 2013-14 season, Glendening managed his first 10-plus-goal season, including his first career power play goal.
Two of his goals this past season were game winners, and Glendening became somewhat of a bottom-six cult player for Detroit this past season. He could be the next generation of fan favorite in the same vein as Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby.
9. Brian Boyle, Tampa Bay Lightning – 15G, 6A
In his first season in Tampa Bay, Boyle was the perfect addition to a Lightning club that already had a skilled top-six. He played third- and fourth-line minutes, was a penalty killing machine, scored three short-handed goals and, somehow, found all the right times to find the back of the net.
Of his 15 goals, five were game-winners. That’s a third of his output. His 24 points were the third highest of his eight-year career. Boyle was a first-round pick in 2003, 26th overall by the Los Angeles Kings, and while he’s not your typical first-rounder, Boyle has carved out a niche for himself as a big, bruising grinder.
8. Brett Connolly, Boston Bruins – 12G, 5A
Technically, Connolly did all his work as a member of the Lightning, but he was a trade deadline acquisition for the Bruins and spent the last five games of his season in Beantown before an injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
Connolly, like Boyle, is also a former first-round pick, selected sixth overall in 2010 by the Lightning. The Bruins obviously like what they have in Connolly, as they gave up two second-round picks to get him, but they probably want to see his goal and assist totals level out over the next few seasons.
7. Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings – 12G, 4A
Pearson started out on fire and was the early frontrunner for the Calder Trophy, but then the 22-year-old winger fractured his left leg and was forced to the sidelines for 40 games, missing the entire back half of the Kings’ season. Many expect Pearson to be a big part of the Kings next season, though, and it’s hard not to believe he can be a threat for 20 goals and 40 points next season.
Since breaking into the league in 2013-14, including post-season, Pearson has played 92 games, racking up 19 goals and 16 assists. Not shabby.
6. Dmitrij Jaskin, St. Louis Blues – 13G, 5A
Jaskin got his first extended look in the NHL this past season and it went well for the 22-year-old. In 54 games, he managed 13 goals and 18 points while playing third-line minutes for the Blues. This coming season, he’ll probably be an everyday NHLer and could even see his ice time increase with the trade that sent T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals.
On the power play in 2014-15, Jaskin had a knack for finding the back of the net, scoring three of his 13 markers with the extra man. Like Boyle, Jaskin also managed to score timely markers: four of his 13 goals were game-winning tallies.
5. Shawn Matthias, Vancouver Canucks – 18G, 9A
The 27-year-old Matthias had the best year of his career at exactly the right time, as he managed to set his career best point total the season before heading into unrestricted free agency. It paid off for Matthias, too, as he got himself a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Maple Leafs. If he can repeat his output from last season, he might be getting a bigger deal next off-season.
At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, Matthias has the frame to be a good power forward in the NHL, so if he’s finally hitting his stride, it could mean a few more Cy Young seasons could be on the horizon.
4. Matt Beleskey, Anaheim Ducks – 22G, 10A
Beleskey just squeaks in under the parameters, registering 10 assists in what was a career year for the 27-year-old. Like Matthias, Beleskey parlayed his big year into a nice, shiny, new contract, but he headed East to play for the Boston Bruins next season. The five-year deal will pay Beleskey $3.8 million per year, which isn’t a bad price should he maintain his scoring touch away from Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
More than a third of Beleskey’s goals were game-winners, something that he kept going in the post-season. Of the eight playoff goals that Beleskey scored, three were of the game-winning variety, including a memorable overtime winner against the Chicago Blackhawks.
3. Michael Raffl, Philadelphia Flyers – 21G, 7A
In Raffl’s first season in the NHL in 2013-14, he had a respectable season, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 68 games. That’s not a bad total for a then-25-year-old free agent who had come over to the NHL after playing several years of pro hockey in Austria. But he took things to the next level in 2014-15.
In 67 games, the Austrian winger notched 21 goals and 28 points, scoring in just about every fashion possible. Two of Raffl’s goals came on the power play, one came shorthanded and two were game-winning markers. It’s unlikely that Raffl repeats the feat, but if he does somehow become a steady 20-goal man in the NHL, it’ll be a pleasant surprise for the Flyers.
2. Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild – 21G, 5A
Zucker, the 23-year-old Californian speedster, cracked the Wild roster as a full-timer for the first time in his career and made the most of his first full year in the league. Over a span of 51 games, Zucker blew his previous NHL career high of five points out of the water with a 26-point year. Were it not for an upper-body injury, Zucker likely would have been a 30-40 point getter in his first full NHL season.
With speed to burn, Zucker was a great fit on the power play and penalty kill, and scored on both during the season. He also notched two game-winning goals, while average second- or third-line minutes over the course of the year. If the NHL handed out two Cy Youngs, like the MLB does for the American and National leagues, Zucker would be the Western Conference recipient.
1. Brandon Pirri, Florida Panthers – 22G, 2A
The Cy Young winner for 2014-15 -- both overall and in the Eastern Conference -- was Pirri, but what’s most remarkable about Pirri isn’t the disparity between his goal and assist totals. What’s incredible is that Pirri scored 22 goals in 49 games, which would have made him a near-40 goal scorer if he maintained that pace. Not bad for a 24-year-old who the Chicago Blackhawks traded away for third- and fifth-round picks.
Seven of Pirri’s 22 goals came with the extra man and he posted two multi-goal outings over the course of his injury-shortened season. What’s hard to believe is that Pirri was a healthy scratch in 14 games this past season. It’s a safe bet that after his performance to end 2014-15, he’ll get every chance to recreate it this upcoming campaign.