April 07, 2011
The Professional Hockey Writers Association is voting now for the NHL's Most Valuable Player, and there's no question that the player most valuable to his team at this moment is Corey Perry(notes) of the Anaheim Ducks.
He's taken a commanding lead in the goal-scoring race, and he has 22 points in his last 10 games as the Ducks hang on to a playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Of course, the 14 games in November, in which he scored six goals, are worth just as many points in the standings as the 14 games in March, in which he scored he scored 15. But the urgency of the playoff race makes his efforts seem all the more valiant.
Which is to say momentum is on his side. Yahoo! Sports' Nick Cotsonika acknowledges that his performance lately could put Perry over the top. Scott Burnside penned a Perry-for-Hart column for ESPN.com.
Lambert made the case against Perry recently, but conditions and momentum have changed. I'm fine with either player winning, but still intend to cast my vote for Daniel Sedin. Here's why.
1. First Goals
My pet project harbinger of a player's value to his team.
This season, Daniel Sedin leads the NHL with 12 "first goals," two more than Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) and three more than Jeff Carter(notes), Sedin's teammate Alex Burrows and Patrick Sharp(notes). He sets the tone for his team, which is important, because the Canucks are 40-2-6 when scoring first -- best in the NHL.
His 10 game-winning goals, while a bit of a nebulous stat, aren't bad either.
For comparison's sake: Perry has seven "first goals" and 11 game-winners.
2. Ice Time
Daniel Sedin has scored 100 points while averaging 18:31 TOI per game. Perry has 97 while averaging 22:08, which is a significant gap. Part of the disparity is the fact that Perry plays on the penalty kill (1:34) while Sedin doesn't (0:05). But we're not buying that a forward playing shorthanded is indicative of anything but the coach's philosophy on their use; unless you believe Pavel Datsyuk(notes) (0:41 TOI shorthanded) isn't Selke worthy because of it.
So Sedin had done more with fewer minutes on ice.
3. Penalty Time
Perry (104) leads Sedin (32) in penalty minutes by an enormous margin. Since the lockout, no player has won the Hart with over 100 PIM; hell, make that in recent memory. Even Pronger only had 92 when he won in 2000.
Everybody views the MVP in different ways. The fact that Perry leads his team in minor penalties (37) by 12 over the next guy is a check-mark in the negative column.
Put it this way: He's fourth in the NHL in minors, tied with … wait for it … MATT COOKE.
4. The Getzlaf Absence Factor
Henrik Sedin(notes) didn't do Daniel any favors by winning the Hart based partially on the narrative that he excelled while his twin was injured. Indeed, Henrik had 17 points in 18 games without Daniel, while Perry scored 15 in 14 games without Ryan Getzlaf(notes). He averaged 1.24 PPG with Getzlaf and 1.07 without him.
Sedin, of course, didn't have Alex Burrows for the first month of the season, but good luck trying to spin that in his favor, because, after all, Burrows isn't Getzlaf. All Daniel Sedin did without the twins' regular linemate was, oh, score in every single game in October. So both players do OK for themselves and their teams when their lines are broken up due to injury.
5. Finally, Juggernauts Trump Bubbles
If the Dallas Stars lose on Thursday night, it'll pretty much cement the Ducks as a playoff team. As it stands, they have a 94.8 percent chance of making it.
Which means, however, that there was still a 6 percent chance of Anaheim placing ninth in the West as of April 7. And how many MVPs have come from non-playoff teams in the NHL, say, in the last 30 years? Here, let me help: None.
If the Ducks were five points worse than they are now, you'd have a multitude of writers kvetching about whether Perry could still win the Hart on a non-playoff team. And the majority of them would say, "Of course not," because what is "value" in the NHL if not being a playoff team?
Sedin, on the other hand, has been the most statistically dominant and consistently impressive player on a team that's going to finish with 113 points at a minimum. His contributions could still help Vancouver lead the league in goals for, against, on the power play and not allowed on the penalty kill, becoming the first team to do so in the expansion era (since 1967).
He isn't just the best player on the best team, like the hollow MVPs in other sports often are. They're the best team because he's been their best player.
Again, if Perry wins then Perry wins, and I'm fine with that. But I'm voting for Daniel Sedin to win the Hart Trophy, and not just because the back-to-back twins thing is a hell of a story for the NHL. Even if it is.
Two things we can all agree on: The welcome lack of EAST COAST BIAS! crying when one of these guys wins; and that, in our hearts, we know this award would have been Sid's.