Taylor Hall over Connor McDavid for NHL MVP hinges on meaning of ‘valuable’
This is the first year the Professional Hockey Writers Association decided to make season-ending awards ballots public, which brings no complaints from this corner.
I take the voting process seriously. I spend some time poring over numbers before I fill out my ballot. I reflect on conversations I’ve had with players about their opinions of their peers. I try to filter out biases as best I can. This is my honest attempt at picking the best candidates for each award. No reason to hide it.
Of course, reasonable people will disagree on these matters. Feel free to register your (hopefully polite) complaints or questions via the Facebook commenting system or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.
HART TROPHY (MVP)
1. Taylor Hall, NJ
2. Nathan MacKinnon, COL
3. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
4. Anze Kopitar, LA
5. Nikita Kucherov, TB
Actual results: 1. Hall; 2. MacKinnon; 3. Kopitar; 4. Claude Giroux, PHL; 5. Connor McDavid, EDM
The rationale: I feel comfortable saying McDavid was the most outstanding player in the league last season, and I could construct a definition of “most valuable” that would put him at the top of the list. Something like, “Gold has inherent value, no matter how you use it. McDavid has inherent value, no matter how far his team was out of the playoff picture.” But that sort of thinking felt too cute by half.
Traditionally, the Hart Trophy goes to a player who made valuable contributions to a successful team’s success. Someday down the road, we’re probably going to be comparing McDavid to the game’s all-time greats, and one of the metrics we’ll use is how many times he won the Hart Trophy. Until someone instructs voters otherwise, he should be held to the same standard Gretzky, Lemieux, Crosby, Ovechkin, et al have been held to all these years.
And if you’re not voting McDavid first, you can’t throw him in fourth or fifth. The definition of valuable doesn’t change further down the ballot.
Leaving McDavid off didn’t make the choice any easier. I picked Hall because he was the most consistently dangerous player I saw this season. If you’re playing the Devils, you must account for him at all times. And he helped an also-ran climb back into the playoff picture, which scores points when you’re judging on the word “valuable.” The same case could be made for MacKinnon, of course, and I might be guilty of East Coast bias by picking Hall. I assumed West Coast voters would have a similar bias in favor of MacKinnon and it would even out. Kucherov and Malkin dropped a tier due to inconsistency. Kopitar bumped Girouz from my ballot due to his two-way game.
NORRIS TROPHY (Top defenseman)
1. Victor Hedman, TB
2. Drew Doughty, LA
3. Shayne Gostisbehere, PHL
4. Roman Josi, NSH
5. Seth Jones, CBJ
Actual results: 1. Hedman; 2. Doughty; 3. P.K. Subban, NSH; 4. Jones; 5. John Carlson, WSH
The rationale: The numbers match the eye test. Hedman is the best defenseman in the game, so it felt right to vote him first for the Norris. I guess I like Gostisbehere more than most. He’s just so mobile, and in 2018, that’s the name of the game. I think Josi’s all-around game gets underrated sometimes.
CALDER TROPHY (Rookie of the year)
1. Mathew Barzal, NYI
2. Brock Boeser, VAN
3. Kyle Connor, WPG
4. Will Butcher, NJ
5. Yanni Gourde, TB
Actual results: 1. Barzal; 2. Boeser; 3. Clayton Keller, ARZ; 4. Connor; 5. Charlie McAvoy, BOS
The rationale: If Boeser didn’t get hurt, this might have been a close race, but Barzal is a magician. He deserves a trophy. Leaving Keller out of my top five might have been my biggest regret on the ballot. I just like Butcher and Gourde a lot and wanted to get them in there.
LADY BYNG TROPHY (Sportsmanship and gentlemanly play)
1. Aleksander Barkov, FLA
2. William Karlsson, VEG
3. Ryan O’Reilly, BUF
4. Marc-Eduord Vlasic, SJ
5. Henrik Zetterberg, DET
Actual results: 1. Karlsson; 2. O’Reilly; 3. Barkov; 4. Anze Kopitar, LA; 5. Jared Spurgeon, MIN
The rationale: This often comes down to who scored the most while taking the fewest penalties. I voted for Barkov because he scored a lot and took few penalties while still playing tough defense.
SELKE TROPHY (Top defensive forward)
1. Sean Couturier, PHL
2. Aleksander Barkov, FLA
3. Patrice Bergeron, BOS
4. Anze Kopitar, LA
5. Mikko Koivu, MIN
Actual results: 1. Kopitar; 2. Couturier; 3. Bergeron; 4. Barkov; 5. Koivu
The rationale: This is a tough award because it’s so impacted by reputation. Like, at this point, Bergeron could spend a year playing defense like a traffic cone and he’d still probably make my top five. So I looked at some goals against, shots against and shot attempts against numbers, balanced that with my own observations and decided on Couturier. Could have been any of the top five, really.