The Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player) finalists are in – Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and our very own Sidney Crosby. A couple notables were excluded, including Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, but all three forwards were obvious choices. Who deserves the award, and who is going to win it?
Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy with 112 points (29 goals, 83 assists), which is certainly no small feat. He finished +35 and led the Canucks to the Northwest Division title. Because he plays in the Western Conference, it’s tough for us East Coasters to see Sedin in action for ourselves. In this case, the numbers don’t lie. I did a little digging via and found these numbers: Sedin had the most even-strength points (83) since Jaromir Jagr’s 95 in the 1995-96 season. Even more amazing, Sedin was only 38th among forwards in per-game ice time (source). That’s impressive.
Pens’ fans are quite familiar with Ovechkin. He had 50 goals and was second in the league with a +45 rating. Ovie also led the league in points per game (1.51) and goals per game (0.69). Keep in mind he missed 10 games this season. Most importantly, he led the Caps to the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best regular-season team. The team’s playoff failure does not factor into the voting as it was done before the post-season began. Ovechkin is going for his third straight Hart, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Gretzky in the 1980s.
As for Crosby, his 51 goals gave him a share of the Richard Trophy with Tampa’s Steven Stamkos. His 109 points was second in the league. A couple other notable stats: he led the league in face-offs taken and won, and finished eighth in face-off winning percentage. For what it’s worth, he also had eight shootout goals, which in the grand scheme of things is a big deal.
It’s hard not to be biased. I think Crosby deserves the award. The way he transformed himself into an elite goal scorer and a master of the shootout is admirable. He’s the best leader in the game. His tireless work ethic and hustle is an inspiration to his teammates. The man does it all and does it well. That said, the Pens did not win the Atlantic Division, and his +15 rating is far behind both Sedin and Ovie.
Love him or hate him, Ovechkin is the most dynamic offensive player in the game. His physicality is impressive. The man is a force to be reckoned with every time he’s on the ice. However, he plays wing, a far less demanding position than center. His questionable hits and his suspension are a stain on his resume. And Ovie had the best supporting cast among the finalists. Nicklas Backstrom was fourth in the league with 101 points; Alexander Semin was 13th with 84 points. Mike Green had 76 points. Take Ovechkin out of the lineup, and the Caps are still a playoff team this year.
Sedin was the driving force behind the Canucks’ success this season. Take him out of the lineup, and Vancouver struggles to make the post-season. One major thing that must be considered is the fact Sedin plays in the Western Conference, which was much better than the East this season. Ottawa, Boston, Philadelphia and Montreal would not have even made the playoffs if they played in the West.
Personally, I would have given the award to Miller, who had a spectacular season. He led a mediocre team to a division title and finished second in goals against average and save percentage. Among the finalists, I would give it to Crosby…but that’s because I get to see every one of his games. I think the winner will be Sedin, who put together an amazing campaign while leading his team to a division title in a tough conference. Ultimately, whether fair or not, I think the Pens’ failures against Washington and New Jersey will hurt Crosby. I think Ovechkin’s suspension and the fact the Caps play in the league’s weakest division will hamper his bid for a three-peat.