April 29, 2010
Neither Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres nor Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes are up for the Hart Trophy this season, which speaks to two things about the majority of the Professional Hockey Writers Association voters:
1. That they're comfortable with the awards' ghettoization of goalies because they have their "own award" in the Vezina and thus don't merit MVP consideration. We've heard that a goalie "can win the Hart every season" because they're intrinsically the most valuable player on the ice. Ken Dryden and Billy Smith and Ron Hextall and Patrick Roy and Bill Ranford and Mike Vernon and Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Cam Ward should all thank the hockey gods there's no postseason equivalent of the Vezina.
2. That goaltenders are held to a different standard. We've heard from other votes that Miller and Bryzgalov didn't have the amazing stats that previous Hart-winning goalies like Dominik Hasek had. Which is, of course, a "player of the year award" argument that also speaks to how many writers view the Hart.
Are we frustrated by this double-standard? Yes. Are we embarrassed by it? No, because we don't write hockey in Philadelphia and hence won't cry over spilled ballots.
So no goalies for the Hart, given to "the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team." Instead, it's an interesting battle between Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, who has won the award two years running.
(The vibe at the Verizon Center after Game 7, by the way, was that Ovechkin wasn't going to be among the three finalists. But the support was there, evidently.)
So it's Sidney vs. Ovie vs. Henrik. Who wins the Hart?
Why Sidney Crosby Deserves The Hart. The skinny, from the NHL:
Crosby the playmaker became Crosby the shooter in his fifth NHL season. The winner of 2007 Hart Trophy, Crosby is completing a remarkable calendar year that began with his winning his first Stanley Cup in June 2009, included scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in February and scoring 50 goals in an NHL season for the first time. With 51 goals, Crosby tied Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the League lead, capturing his first Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy. Six of Crosby's goals were game-winners. His 109 points ranked second in the NHL to Vancouver's Henrik Sedin and marked the fourth time in his five-season career that Crosby had eclipsed 100 points. He led the League in face-offs taken (1,791) and won (1,001) and ranked eighth in winning percentage (55.9) among players who took at least 1,000 draws. Named the youngest captain in NHL history on May 31, 2007, Crosby has since led the Penguins to a 139-83-24 record, two appearances in the Final and a Stanley Cup.
Great on faceoffs, eight shootout goals (for what that's worth) and the undeniable leader of a defending Stanley Cup champion. The way he modulated his game to become not only a goal-scorer but one that can snipe as well as he powers to the net was nothing short of extraordinary.
Why Alex Ovechkin Deserves The Hart. The skinny, from the NHL:
Seeking to become the first player to win three straight Hart Trophies since Wayne Gretzky won a record eight straight from 1980-87, Ovechkin scored 50 goals for the third straight season and the fourth time in his five-year NHL career. Seven of his 50 goals were game-winners. Despite missing a career-high 10 games due to injuries and a suspension, Ovechkin finished three points behind NHL scoring leader Henrik Sedin and one goal behind co-goals leaders Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. He led the League in shots on goal (368) for the fifth straight season and his plus-45 rating was second best in the NHL to teammate Jeff Schultz' plus-50 and tops among league forwards. Ovechkin's 185 hits were at least 50 more than any of the NHL's other top 30 scorers. He was named captain of the Capitals Jan. 5, 2010.
Ovechkin's points per game (1.51) and goals per game (0.69) led the League.
If the Hart Trophy is about value and leadership ... well, you know Ovechkin's numbers, and then there's this: The Capitals went 30-4-7 after Ovechkin was given the captaincy.
Why Henrik Sedin Deserves The Hart. The skinny, from the NHL:
With 112 points -- 30 more than his previous career-high -- Sedin became the first player in the 40-year history of the Vancouver Canucks franchise to win the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion. Should he win the Hart Trophy, he also would become the first Canuck to do so. Sedin easily led the league with 83 assists, 14 more than runner-up Joe Thornton of San Jose. Five of Sedin's career-high 29 goals were game-winners. Henrik Sedin flourished in 2009-10 despite having to play 19 games without his twin brother and career-long linemate Daniel, who missed a large chunk of the season with a broken foot. With a plus-35 rating, Henrik Sedin has been a plus player in every one of his nine NHL seasons with the exception of his minus-2 rookie year.
He had 19 points in the 19 games Daniel Sedin missed due to injury.
Just go read Jason Botchford's Jerry Maguire moment with Henrik and the Hart. It's the best case made for his candidacy and, if he wins, his victory.
Who Wins The Hart? Sedin. Massive support from the Western Conference, one assumes, and some historic numbers to back up his case. Yes, the large chunk of secondary assists that padded his stats can be maligned. But there was a huge push for his candidacy right around the time of the voting, and his winning the Art Ross clinches it like it did for Thornton in his dogfight with Jagr for the Hart a few years back.
We were honored to have a vote for the Hart Trophy this year, and voted thusly:
1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
2. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes
The rationale: Miller had better numbers than Bryzgalov while facing more shots on a team that wasn't playing Dave Tippett's system. All three of our finalists helped their teams to division titles; Crosby led a defending Stanley Cup champion to fourth place and Bryzgalov did the same for the Coyotes.
Yes, Ovechkin's suspensions were detrimental to the team. But when he was on the ice, he was the engine for the best regular season in franchise history and a President's Trophy.
Both he and Crosby are incredibly valuable to their teams and we're fine with both earning a nomination. But Ovechkin's team was a No. 1 seed while Crosby's was eighth overall among playoff teams. We value players who lead their teams to division titles or drag their teams into a playoff berth more than we do a player finishing second in his division. Simply our own criteria for the award.
And, lucky for Ovechkin, the playoffs don't factor into it.