Last night on VERSUS, Pierre McGuire said he "truly believes" that Jonathan Toews(notes) should be in the MVP conversation this season, which is about as bold a statement as one saying they "truly believe" Antipasto should be on the menu at a trattoria.
Of course he should be. Since Jan. 16, Toews has gone scoreless in a Chicago Blackhawks' game just four times, with the 'Hawks going 1-2-1 in those games. When he's scored at least a point, they're 13-4-3. When he scores multiple points, they're 7-3-2.
On Jan. 16, the Blackhawks were 24-18-3; after last night's 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks, they're 38-24-8, have 84 points and sit just six points behind the Detroit Red Wings (who have a game in-hand).
So clear out some mantle space at the Toews' cave for a regular season MVP to go along with that Conn Smythe, right?
Not so fast, according to the punditry.
Yours truly was one of the two first-place votes for Toews; an admission that's intended to laud his efforts in 2011 and to clarify that I'm not, in fact, the loon who picked Ovechkin for the Hart. (And shame on all of us for our inherent goalie bias against Tim Thomas(notes) and Carey Price(notes), who didn't make the cut despite his heavy lifting.)
Toews isn't going to catch Steven Stamkos(notes) of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the goal-scoring lead; we'd wager no one will. Toews isn't going to catch Daniel Sedin(notes) of the Vancouver Canucks for the points lead, although Stamkos and/or Marty St. Louis have a shot; we'll assume Henrik Sedin(notes) doesn't, since many of his points are also Daniel's.
It's not like Toews won't have impressive numbers; he'll finish with well over 30 goals, 80 points and a plus/minus over plus-20. But look at the history of the Hart Trophy winners, and then look at the history of the Art Ross and Richard winners. Unless you're a goalie or Chris Pronger(notes), it's usually the winner of one (or both) of the scoring awards taking the Hart.
As Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province wrote about Daniel Sedin and the Hart Trophy race:
The Hart is supposed to be awarded to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team, but it never works that way.
Instead, the criteria are some mix of individual accomplishment coupled with team standing and, according to the standard I'm familiar with, that player is Daniel Sedin.
Daniel Sedin was second on my ballot. I think Henrik's MVP season last year, when Daniel was limited to 63 games, was more impressive. But the Professional Hockey Writers are going to cast their lot for a stats-leader, and if it's still Daniel Sedin, I'd wager he'll win, what with the Lightning no longer in the division lead.
Even if others are equally, if not more, deserving.