Expectations were low for the Winnipeg Jets entering the 2019-20 season.
Their defense looked to be in shambles, they were playing in a tough division, and it just seemed to be a team that may have missed its window as a contender. Simply making the playoffs seemed like it would be a challenge.
But instead of going in the tank, the Jets ended up exceeding pretty much all preseason expectations and were in constant competition for a playoff spot all season. The biggest reason they were better than expected?
The play of starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
On Monday he was rewarded for that performance by winning the 2020 Vezina Trophy, as awarded to the league’s top goalie.
The award is voted on by the NHL’s 31 general managers.
Hellebuyck is the first Jets goalie to ever win the award.
He finished the season with a 31-21-5 record, while also posting a .922 save percentage. This was the second year in a row that Hellebuyck finished as the league’s leader in shots against and saves. He also finished the season with a league-high six shutouts.
It is not just the fact that Hellebuyck played an exceptionally high level this season that made him so valuable. It is that he did so while taking on a huge workload and helping to make up for all of the losses the Jets had on defense from the previous season as Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot all moved on. Add in the fact that the Jets always seemed to have multiple injuries on their blue line and it was a makeshift unit for much of the season.
Hellebuyck has emerged as one of the league’s top goalies over the past three seasons, and now he has a pretty significant piece of hardware to back that up.
Here’s how the NHL’s 31 general managers voted on the award: