Nominees for the Hart Trophy have been announced: the NHL’s marquee award for the most valuable player of the league.
Without the nominated players, their teams would not have been able to succeed. They would have been disasters – terrible – like the Leafs (I have to learn to laugh about these things or it’s just depressing).
So who are the finalists?
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, with his 39 wins, 1.97 GAA, and .930 save percentage, makes sense as a rare goaltending nominee. Despite Marian Gaborik playing a full 82 games for the first time (ever) and signing marquee UFA Brad Richards during the off-season, the Rangers weren’t the most offensive team in the league. Their 226 goals puts them in the middle of the pack, and yet they finished as the top team in the East, and that’s largely because of goaltending. Without Lundqvist, there is no way they do that. That’s valuable.
Next up is Evgeni Malkin, who carried a largely “Sid-less” Penguins into the playoffs as the fourth seed. Without Crosby, the Penguins aren’t the same team, but Malkin’s career-high 50 goals and league leading 109 points made sure they were still a dangerous team. Without Malkin (and the other guy), the Penguins would definitely have slipped out of the playoffs altogether. That’s valuable.
Our last nominee is Steven Stamkos, the top goal scorer in the league with a staggering 60 goals and 97 points. He’s without a doubt one of the most dangerous players in the league. He had 10 more goals than the closest guy to him (which was Malkin). It’s obvious that without him, the Tampa Bay Lightning would have been…..further out of the playoffs. That’s valuable?
Wait, so why is Stamkos nominated? Don’t get me wrong, he has fantastic numbers and had a great season, but the Lightning didn’t. Shouldn’t the league’s most valuable player be the one that most contributed to his team’s success? When was the last time a player won the Hart Trophy when his team didn’t make the playoffs? Seriously, if you know tell me, because I couldn’t find it.
Why is Stamkos a nominee when there at least a couple other guys out there that deserve to be.
Claude Giroux had 93 points this season (only four behind Stamkos), nearly 30 more than anybody else on the Flyers. We’re seeing just what kind of player he is during these playoffs (I know, I know, playoffs aren’t supposed to count for Hart voting). He doesn’t have the 60 goals that Stamkos can boast about (Giroux scored 28) but he is a huge reason Philadelphia is where they are, which is still in the playoffs (where Tampa couldn’t get). Without Giroux, the Flyers aren’t one of the cup favourites going into the playoffs, and they definitely don’t drop Pittsburgh in the first round. That’s valuable.
Then we have a young Swedish defenseman named Erik Karlsson. He finished eleventh in league with 78 points. Let me just list some of the big name forwards he had more points than: Hossa, Thornton, Gaborik, Kopitar, St. Louis, Staal, Parise, Zetterberg, Iginla, and Daniel Sedin. I’ll stop listing there, that’s enough. I know the Senators got good goaltending from Craig Anderson and an 84-point season from Jason Spezza, but they got where they were largely due to Karlsson. How many times have defensemen put up that many points? Nicklas Lidstrom, widely considered the best defensemen of this generation, topped 78 points only once in his career, and even then only by two points. Just think about that for a second. Erik Karlsson did, at the age of 21 and only in his second season, what Lidstrom could only do once in his career.
Without Erik Karlsson the Ottawa Senators don’t even get close to doing what they did this season. In fact, I think they’d be a lottery team without him.