Hart Trophy Finalists: Kane vs. Benn vs. Crosby

(Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL announced Saturday that Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby were finalists for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded annually “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”

The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

So which one of these guys will win The Hart?

Why Jamie Benn Deserves The Hart

From the NHL:

Benn ranked second in the NHL with 89 points and third with 41 goals – both career highs – in 82 games to lift the Stars to their first division title since 2005-06 as well as their first conference crown since 2002-03. He became the first Dallas player to reach the 40-goal milestone since 1993-94 (Mike Modano: 50). Benn also set career highs and shared second place in the NHL in both power-play goals (17) and power-play points (30); his 17 power-play goals were the most by a Stars player since 1993-94 (Modano: 18). Benn, who in 2014-15 became the first player in franchise history to win the Art Ross Trophy, is the club’s first-ever finalist for the Hart Trophy.

Benn proved his value to the Stars late in the season. After Tyler Seguin’s Achilles injury put the speedy center out the rest of the NHL’s regular season, Benn led the Dallas to an 8-2-0 record and helped them win the Central Division.

To go along with his offensive accomplishments (finishing second in the NHL in scoring with a career-high 89 points) Benn averaged 1:34 of ice-time on the penalty kill and the Stars were often comfortable putting him on the ice in all situations. During the regular season, Benn held a plus-1.69 CF% Rel and 53.74 CF% 5-on-5.

Why Sidney Crosby Deserves the Hart

From the NHL:

Crosby finished third in the NHL with 36-49—85 in 80 games, including a League-best 27-31—58 during the calendar year (44 GP), to guide the Penguins to their 10th consecutive postseason berth. He picked up at least one point in 20 of his final 21 outings of the campaign (11-18—29). Crosby also was the only player who registered multiple point streaks of 10-plus games, doing so Jan. 12 – Feb. 8 (12-10—22 in 11 GP) and Feb. 29 – March 20 (6-14—20 in 12 GP). The former included a seven-game goal streak (Jan. 21 – Feb. 8: 10), a career high and tied for the longest by any player in 2015-16. Crosby is a Hart Trophy finalist for the fifth time; he won the award in 2006-07 and 2013-14.

Crosby was the most important player in Pittsburgh’s second-half revival this season, rediscovering his scoring touch to be the NHL’s most dangerous offensive player down the stretch.

After the Penguins fired Mike Johnston and brought in Mike Sullivan, Crosby’s game took off, both scoring wise and from a puck possession perspective. His CF% was 58.6 and CF% Rel was a plus-5.3 in those contests. He also had 66 points after the change.

After Evgeni Malkin suffered an injury on March 11 that knocked him out the rest of the regular season, Crosby led the Penguins to a 13-2-0 record, and second place in the Metropolitan Division. Crosby had eight goals in 14 games after Malkin’s injury.

Why Patrick Kane Deserves The Hart

From the NHL:

Kane posted career highs in goals (46), assists (60) and points (106) to capture the Art Ross Trophy and power the Blackhawks to their eighth straight playoff appearance. The Buffalo, N.Y., native notched at least one point in 64 of his 82 contests (78.0%), highlighted by a 26-game streak Oct. 17 – Dec. 13 (16-24—40) – a franchise record, the longest by a U.S.-born player in NHL history and the longest by any player since 1992-93 (Mats Sundin: 30). Kane, who became the first U.S.-born player in League history to win the scoring title, is Chicago’s first Hart Trophy finalist since 1990-91 (Ed Belfour) and is vying to become the first Blackhawk to win the award since 1967-68 (Stan Mikita).

No player matched Kane’s scoring numbers this season. He had 17 more points than Benn. Also his 26-game point streak was arguably the most prolific offensive mark reached in the NHL this season.

But most importantly, on a team full of superstars, Kane stood out. His 106 points were 29 more than Artemi Panarin’s total of 77 points, which was second place on Chicago.

Teammates Jonathan Toews (58 points) and Marian Hossa (33 points in 64 games) suffered down years. Defenseman Duncan Keith missed 15 games this season because of a knee issue and a suspension. Kane and his line with Panarin and Artem Anisimov carried the team offensively.

Who Wins The Hart

Kane. His numbers were overwhelming. Even though the Blackhawks had some of the top talent in the NHL, the team may not have made the playoffs without Kane. The Blackhawks fell off big time from a puck possession perspective this season, down to 50.7 5-on-5 CF% this year from 53.6 last season. They would have been far worse without Kane’s line.

Who Should Win The Hart

Kane. His year was dominant from beginning to end and put up numbers that were more prolific than the competition. But Benn’s all-situation ability, and how he led his team to the divisional crown, without Seguin down the stretch, should at least serve notice.

As with every year, the there are questions about Hart snubs. Some names who did not make the finalist cut included San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.

Thornton was a puck possession ace for the Sharks with a plus-6.6 CF% Rel 5-on-5. He also had 82 points in 82 games. Holtby led NHL goaltenders in wins with 48, which tied the league record. Bishop had a 2.06 goal-against average and a .926 save percentage.