Analysis

Calder Snub? The value of Adam Fox

Over the course of the past week the NHL has begun announcing the finalist for the 2019-20 NHL awards.  Among the finalist were some old friends (John Tortorella and Alain Vigenault) for the Jack Adams Trophy, and our favorite Russian Rockette, Artemi Panarin for the Ted Lindsay Award.  But a notable Ranger blue liner seemed to be missing from the nominations.  First year standout Adam Fox was not named one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie, a perceived snub.

Despite his exceptional freshman campaign, Fox did not seem to get the mainstream attention as fellow defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, or as much as Chicago’s sniper Dominik Kubalik. All three were fantastic this season and deserve some praise, but were they better than Fox? It is certainly worth the discussion.

As the assistant coach of a college team (and the guy who runs the defensemen) I love showing clips of NHL D-men in the film room. And in the offensive zone, Makar and Hughes are a coaches dream.  But when it came to both sides of the ice I showed the most clips of Fox.  Playing on such a poor defensive team, he stood out very early to me as a guy whose ability to break up a play, make a breakout pass, and add to the rush.  By the end of October he became my favorite Ranger to watch and take notes on.  Here are 3 of the clips I showed this past season (all in one video).

  • Clip 1: Fox faces a 3 on 1, stays on his feet, breaks up the pass, and head mans the puck the other way.
  • Clip 2: Fox starts the play below goal line supporting the puck. As puck is moved up ice, he reads the play and jumps up to add to the rush, creating an odd man chance. He supports the puck on both ends of the ice and he is not “The Rush” but he “Adds to the Rush” and puts himself in perfect position to get his first NHL goal.
  • Clip 3: Absorbs a hit and maintains puck possession.  He gets up and does not panic.  He then head checks to see where the forechecker is and moves the puck to his partner who head mans the puck.  The Rangers keep puck possession and move up the ice on a rush.

In addition to video, there’s the data. JFresh Hockey on Twitter did a fantastic write up on who should win the Calder based on their advanced metrics. The three finalist made his top five, but at number one was (yes you guessed it) Adam Fox.

According to JFresh, Fox is already one of the NHL’s top two-way defensemen.  His data, which adjust for quality of teammates, has Fox with a higher expected goals for and expected then any of the other nominees. He also had better shot suppression metrics (all at even strength). That said, Fox certainly is not as sexy of a player as Hughes or Makar, but his Harvard mind is as elite as they come.

It’s not just that review either, most of the other notable and trusted stat names have Fox at the top of their Calder list.

These are just some of the folks that noted Adam Fox was a snub in the Calder voting, and will be one of the premier two-way defensemen in the league for years to come. TIt’s expected since Fox isn’t the sexy pick and didn’t get the PR. Either way, the Rangers gave up just a pair of second round picks for Fox, which is already shaping up to be a steal of a trade.

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  • your data makes a compelling argument for Fox being nominated. I would make the case Kubalik should have been odd man out as he is 24 years old and he has 2 more years of play under his belt. Sadly these awards are mostly about offense (point totals)and in my opinion that’s the only reason Fox didn’t make the list as he was tied for fourth in rookie scoring.

    We know how good he is and we are lucky to have him. i’ll live with that

    • Honestly, we did not need the data to know that this kid belongs in the Calder conversation.

      Don’t get me wrong, Hughes is a tremendous player, but he’s also a benefactor of the NHL hype machine, so he gets preferential treatment when it comes to awards.

      It’s BS, plain and simple. I’m glad we have who we have.

  • To look at this another way, it takes away an accolade that Fox could use when he negotiates his next contract

  • Really enjoyed this article as Fox is my favorite Ranger to watch. Phenomenal rookie d-man.

    Might the “snub” be a reflection of Fox spurning Carolina and Calgary and forcing his way on the Rangers. Maybe ruffled a few feathers in the league?

    • “Maybe ruffled a few feathers in the league?”

      Doubt it.. Kevin Hayes popularity made out just fine. He snub an actual original 6 team, Chicago.

      Hughes alone>Fox.
      It’s like comparing a good steady top 3 D man to Karlsson.

  • how about the value of Adam Fox’s performance bonuses?

    Top 4 D TOI
    >25 assists
    >40 points
    >0.49 PPG
    Top 3 D +/-
    Top 2 D blocked shots

    Basically the only Schedule A bonuses he didn’t hit are 10 goals and selection to the All Star Team. Fox should have earned a big portion of his potential 850K performance bonus.

  • I know this blog likes to pump Adams tires and he definately has displayed a lot of promise in his rookie season.

    But calling him elite is a bit of a stretch. While he makes nice passes, I wouldn’t at least at this juncture, put him in the Zubov category.

    Yes he makes heady defensive plays, but his skating isn’t exactly electrifying.

    Anyhow I think it’s important to keep it all in prospective. No point building him up only to tear him down, should he struggle in his sophomore season.

    • … he IS an elite d-man who will only get better. Analytics show Fox is outstanding in defensive zone exits and maintaining puck control going into the offensive zone. So basically he’s great in getting the team out of trouble and subsequently putting the opposing team in trouble.

      Look at the above charts he is amazingly good. I’m very happy he wanted to come here.

    • Fans are most of the time homers. I agree kid played 1st year in NHL and people starting want him to have Norris coming season

  • Tony D. Is good! It took him more than a few years to get there… Adam Fox is just as good or better and it only him 30 or so games. Kid is special.

  • Fox looks to be the real deal….There is a reason that many teams wanted the kid. Not surprising that he has taken off, and will only improve.

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