Sidney Crosby won his first and thus far only Hart Trophy back in 2006-07. That's crazy. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, Joe Thornton won it the year prior for a season he split between Boston and San Jose. Plus America had still never had a black president.
Sidney Crosby's second Hart trophy is long overdue. He remains, after all, the best player in the game, and now that he's finally coming into a season healthy, and it seems downright unlikely that his bad luck when it comes to injuries will continue, he's the safe pick to win it all this year. Pretty much everyone is picking Crosby for Hart, well, except for Leahy. At this point, even before he's played a game, I'd say it's his to lose.
But he still might. It seems unlikely that a healthy season from Crosby won't yield a Hart trophy, but there are some other NHL superstars that could, conceivably, put off Crosby's second Hart for another year. Here are five:
Of course. Ovechkin won his third Hart trophy last season on the strength of his 32 goals, many of which came late in the season and helped the Capitals surge from the bottom of the pack back into the playoff picture. Another high-scoring season from Ovechkin, and one in which he leads his Capitals to a Metropolitan Division win over Crosby's Penguins -- could be all it takes. I wouldn't bet against Ovi. After all, he was named to two all-star teams last year. That's impossible and he still did it.
Two things have to happen in order for Stamkos to have a shot at the Hart. First, he needs to score a bunch of goals. Seems reasonable. It's sort of what he does. But I'm talking more than sixty, his career-best from the 2011-12 season. Stamkos has it in him to near 70, in my opinion, and if he can do that, his Hart candidacy will be difficult to ignore. If he manages to push the Lightning back to the playoffs in the process, it's his.
Tavares hit a point per game in the 2011-12 season, and he replicated the feat in last year's shortened season, but where he took a massive step forward was as a goal-scorer. His 28 goals in 48 games were only 3 off his total from the last full season, and between the spike in mesh-tingling and the Islanders' triumphant return to the postseason, Tavares earned his first Hart nomination. Another's in the works if he can improve on his totals -- 90 points? 100? -- and get the Islanders back to the postseason in his first year as captain.
It's about time that Toews began to factor into the Hart discussions. In terms of what it's supposed to be -- the player most valuable to his team -- he definitely applies. Captain Serious is unquestionably the most important Blackhawk. The problem is Toews' contributions aren't always on the scoresheet. He's registered more points than games just once in his career. It was during the shortened season. But if he can do that again, maybe hitting the 90-point plateau while continuing to win faceoffs, lead the penalty kill, shut down the opposition's top player, and maybe guide the Blackhawks to another Presidents' Trophy, common sense might have to prevail here.
I know, I know. There's already a trophy for standout defenceman. Karlsson is my pick to win it. Like Crosby, his bid for a second trophy was put off due to injury, and now that he's healthy, he's a safe pick for the Norris. But if Karlsson returns to something near a point per game pace, and the difference he makes when he's on the ice for Ottawa remains as unmistakable as it's been in the past, even with a healthy Crosby just Crosbying it up, I could see Karlsson making a case to be the first defenceman to win the Hart since Chris Pronger in 1999-2000.