Nashville Predators: It’s Close, but Juuse Saros Snubbed from Vezina Nomination

Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators tends the net during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on December 21, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators tends the net during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on December 21, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Awards races always get fans fired up if their favorite team’s player doesn’t get represented, but in this case Nashville Predators fans have every right to be asking “how did that happen?” in regard to Juuse Saros.

The NHL released their three nominees for the 2023 Vezina Trophy, as picked by the league’s 32 general managers. Saros gets left out from getting his second-straight nomination.

The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the goaltender “adjudged to be the best at his position.”

Was Saros Really Snubbed, or are the Voters Justified?

First off, before I go on a tangent here, the NHL is loaded with incredible goalie talent right now. It doesn’t make narrowing it down to just three nominees very easy.

All you have to do is read the comments under the above tweet to know that Predators fans aren’t the only ones up in arm that their goalie didn’t get picked.

Dallas Stars fans are upset about Jake Oettinger, and understood. There are some Wild fans chirping about Filip Gustavsson (not enough starts). You’re even seeing love for Linus Ullmark‘s backup, Jeremy Swayman.

Ullmark will undoubtedly take the hardware home, despite his rocky performance in the first round of the playoffs which ended in the Boston Bruins being massively upset by the Florida Panthers.

Ullmark’s 1.89 GAA is something you just simply cannot overlook, despite him also being on an insanely great team that gave him plenty of goal support. Not to mention having 15 fewer starts than Saros and 17th overall among NHL goaltenders.

Ilya Sorokin and Connor Hellebuyck were both workhorses for their respective teams, as was Saros for the Nashville Predators. Sorokin finished third in the NHL in save percentage among goalies with 30-plus starts:

Save % Leaders Among Goalies with 30+ Starts

  1. Linus Ullmark- .938
  2. Filip Gustavsson- .931
  3. Ilya Sorokin- .924
  4. Connor Hellebuyck- .920
  5. Jeremy Swayman- .920
  6. Juuse Saros- .919

So save percentage clearly hurt Saros among the voters, along with his team not making the playoffs. Gustavsson, who looked great for the Minnesota Wild down the stretch and even in the first round of the playoffs, just didn’t have enough starts.

Here’s where everyone, including myself, is going to beat the drum for Saros. How does a goalie who led the NHL in a very important metric of Goals Saved Above Expected not even get a nomination?

Saros had a Goals Saved Above Expected of 46.7, over four goals more than Ullmark in second place. Sorokin and Hellebuyck come in at third and fourth in this metric, respectively.

This analytical category that has become popular over the past couple of years to really track just how important a goalie his to their team’s performance should hold more weight than I guess it really does in the grand scheme of things.

You can see it through the eye test as well when watching Saros during almost any Predators game last season. That team comes nowhere close to the playoffs without Saros, and if anything, would’ve been having its own watch party during the draft lottery in hopes of getting Connor Bedard.

More weight was put onto save percentage and overall team performance it appears. Although, Sorokin’s New York Islanders also get ousted in the first round.

Saros also faced the most shots in the NHL by over 100, with the next goaltender being John Gibson. Hellebuyck comes in at third-most in this category.

To put it in basic terms, no goaltender was relied on more heavily to produce at near perfect almost every night than Saros.

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Now I’m not saying that Sorokin and Hellebuyck aren’t Vezina Trophy worthy goalies, because they are. It was an insanely tight race for Vezina Trophy even to narrow it down to three. Several snubs were inevitable.

Maybe I’m just clouded by my bias that I can’t help, but Saros should be in over Hellebuyck simply because Saros had to save his team’s bacon on far more occasions with 16 more goals saved above expected. And yet the Winnipeg Jets finished just three points ahead of Saros’ Nashville Predators in the standings.

You can justify Hellebuyck being snubbed more so than Saros. Both deserve to be in there, but Saros more so. I’ll give you Sorokin and Ullmark as the other two over Saros.

It’s just unfortunate to see Saros get left out. He’s still young and I have a strong belief that a Vezina Trophy, if not multiple, will happen for Saros eventually. Again, it comes down to being an era of some many outstanding goaltenders in the NHL right now.