InGoal Introduces the “Bunny,” a New Award for NHL Backups
In the midst of the most closely contested Vezina race in years, the NHL’s elite starters have been in the spotlight. Bobrovsky. Holtby. Price. Talbot. Dubnyk. Crawford. Names that deserve the praise they’ve received for strong performances this season.
There’s a tier of unsung performers, however, that have earned recognition for their contributions: these are the NHL’s backup goaltenders. The game is evolving, and it demands far more of goaltenders than ever before. The speed of today’s game increases the risk of fatigue and injury, meaning that teams are risking a lot by riding a single goaltender into the ground. Only two goalies started more than 65 games this season, meaning that even teams with elite starters rely on their backups to gain standings points in 15-30 starts. Teams are no longer content to ice a placeholder: they want a player.
Chicago’s Scott Darling had an excellent season behind an elite starter in Corey Crawford.
This season featured several superb performances by backup goalies, some of whom showed more quality than the men ahead of them in line, and we can expect this trend to become even more pronounced as the intensity of the NHL season increases year after year. These excellent and indispensable performances should not go unrecognized, and from now on, they won’t.
Introducing a New Award
We are proud to introduce the “Bunny” Larocque Trophy for backup goaltending. The “Bunny” Larocque Trophy is an annual award given to the backup goalkeeper adjudged to be the best in this role, as voted by the staff of InGoal Magazine.
The award is named in honour of Michel “Bunny” Larocque, paragon of the backup goalie. Coming into the league at almost the same time as Montreal Canadiens star Ken Dryden, Larocque spent his career with the Habs in the legend’s sizeable shadow. Despite never claiming the starter’s role in Montreal, Larocque’s career is studded with team accomplishments, including four Stanley Cups, and four Vezina Trophies (at the time, shared between goalies playing 25 or more games on the team allowing the fewest goals). Because his name is synonymous with excellence in a supporting role, making the award his namesake was an obvious decision.
The powerhouse Washington Capitals owe some of their success to the solid play of backup Philipp Grubauer.
– Goaltenders must have started (not merely played in) between 15 and 30 games. Below this, and the significance of their contribution is hard to measure. Above it, the goaltender is moving into tandem territory, sharing starts rather than truly backing up.
– Goaltenders must be true backups, not career starters who fall into the appropriate range of games started because of injury.
– Goaltenders will be judged by the significance of their positive impact on the team. Did they make a real difference with their play?
Each member of the InGoal staff will rank their top three choices at the conclusion of the regular season. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one. The goaltender earning the most points wins. In the event of a tie, the goaltender with the most first-place votes wins. If still tied, the winner is the goaltender with the most second-place votes. If still tied, the goaltender with the most minutes played is the winner.
The three finalists will be announced at the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs, and the winner will be declared at the end of the second round.
Who deserves to be honoured with the inaugural “Bunny” Larocque Trophy? Have your say in the comments below.