Following Pekka Rinne‘s retirement last offseason, the spotlight was on Saros having to carry the heavy load of being the Predators’ franchise goaltender. He devlivered on that by receiving his first career Vezina Trophy nomination last week.
Joining Saros for awards nomination is Roman Josi as both a Norris Trophy finalist and a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award for Most Outstanding Player as voted by member of the NHLPA.
The Nashville Predators have always been a franchise that leans heavily on their goaltenders, even from the inaugural season in 1998-99 with Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun. But when Rinne took over, the Predators enjoyed generational elite talent at the position.
Saros has all the tools to replicate similar achievements that Rinne did. Saros had the most starts in the NHL with 67, with the nex closest being Connor Hellebuyck with 66.
Nashville Predators continue to rely heavily on their goaltender
On top of the heavy usage, Saros also faced the second-most shots in the NHL with 2,107 shots against, while still managing a commendable .918 save percentage.
Simply put, without Saros this Predators team probably doesn’t even sniff the playoffs and would’ve been battling with Arizona and Chicago at the bottom of the division.
The unfortunate lower-body injury that Saros suffered against Calgary with two games left in the regular season put his importance to this team at the forefront.
Despite the heroic efforts from Connor Ingram in Game 2, and quite frankly the entire series against the offensive juggernaut Colorado Avalanche, we’ll just never know for sure what difference Saros would’ve made. Maybe he steals a game, or the Predators at least keep it more competitive, but the Avalanche are still winning that series rather easily.
Now the task at hand for the Nashville Predators front office is to keep building around Saros and bringing up more of the promising young talent that’s both in the prospect pool and that has already logged NHL minutes this past season, like Tanner Jeannot, Philip Tomasino and Alexandre Carrier.
Bringing it back to Saros in regards to his first career Vezina Trophy nomination, it should be the first of many. This isn’t his year to claim the award as Igor Shesterkin is the clear winner with some astounding numbers despite having 15 fewers starts than Saros.
Saros has a bright future ahead of him and has a high likelihood of eventually winning a Vezina Trophy. He’s just 27-years-old and has three seasons lef ton his current contract with the Predators.
Better goal support for Saros is paramount for this franchise to get over their first round playoff woes that’s plagued them since Saros became a regular on the roster in 2017-18 as Rinne’s backup.
Among goaltenders with at least 20 games played, Saros was 24th in the NHL in Goals For Average at 3.07. For perspective, one of the other finalists Jacob Markstrom was ninth in the NHL in goal support at 3.46, while Shesterkin got slightly less goal support at 2.98.
It can’t be argued that Saros is currently a top-five goaltender at minimum, while the NHL has several rising young goaltenders who will make the Vezina Trophy a difficult one to claim in future season.
Saros is right up there in that class and showed that this past season, despite some late season struggles and the injury.
It’s just a matter of when, and not if, for me. Saros will win a Vezina Trophy in the next five years.