Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hart Trophy candidacy


This is going to start more as a rant than an argument. Well, maybe both.

As the season draws to its conclusion, arguments over who should win what trophy have already begun. One line of thinking makes little sense to me. The one that says goalies shouldn't win the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

The rationale is that goalies have the Vezina Trophy to win. To which I say: Bulls---.

OK, goalies have the Vezina to win. Defensemen have the Norris. You know what? Forwards have the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals, the Art Ross for most points, AND the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward. Forwards have three trophies up for grabs compared to one for goalies.

Alright, there's also the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed, but that's more a team award because multiple goalies can have their names go on the hardware. Plus, how many times is the Jennings Trophy cited among a goalie's accomplishments? Tim Thomas is the 2009 Vezina winner, not the co-winner of the 2009 Jennings Trophy (along with Manny Fernandez.)

There aren't many players more valuable to their team than Ilya Bryzgalov of Phoenix or Buffalo's Ryan Miller. One possibility is Henrik Sedin, who carried Vancouver when everyone expected the Canucks - and Sedin - to falter when Daniel Sedin missed time with an injury.

Sidney Crosby could be a finalist but shouldn't be. Neither should Alex Ovechkin, who absolutely was the MVP the last two seasons but isn't close to being most valuable this season. You shouldn't be named MVP when you get yourself suspended twice in one season, nor when you have another teammate scoring 100 points, nor a third who put up over 70 points as a defenseman, nor yet a fourth teammate who's near 40 goals.

Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alexander Semin should hurt Ovechkin's campaign for the Hart. Hopefully the voters don't give it to Ovechkin just because he finishes first atop the goals and/or points list. He has an awful lot of support on that team, which won games by counts of 6-2, 8-2 and 7-3 when Ovechkin missed four games with a suspension. That doesn't count the 4-3 comeback victory against Chicago in which Ovechkin was ejected early.

The fourth of Ovechkin's suspended games was an overtime loss. So the Capitals went 3-0-1 in those games.

All Bryzgalov has done in the desert is get his team home-ice advantage while the team was mired in all kinds of off-ice trouble and surrounded by little offensive talent on the ice. Phoenix's leading points producer - Shane Doan with 54 - isn't even in the top 70 overall in the league. He ranks 75th as of Saturday night. The Coyotes' leading goal scorer is Radim Vrbata with 24 and he isn't in the top 50 in that category.

Bryzgalov is third in the league in wins (42), seventh in goals-against average (2.30) and eighth in save percentage (.920) for a team that has 106 points, twice as much as most people probably predicted it would get. He's also second in the league with eight shutouts. And he might not even win the Vezina Trophy. Ryan Miller (40 wins, 2.23 GAA, .928%, the latter two being second in the league, and five shutouts) seems to be the favorite for that.

Take Bryzgalov away from Phoenix and the Coyotes would be competing with Edmonton for the first overall pick. Remove Ovechkin and the Capitals still win the woeful Southeast Division.

Regardless, the notion that goalies shouldn't win the Hart Trophy because they have the Vezina to win is nonsense. The award is value to a team. Goalies are fairly important to a team. It's not like voting for a designated hitter in baseball to win the MVP. Goalies are on the ice for 60 minutes and teams aren't going to win without a good netminder.

But voters are swayed by personal stats. Plus Bryzgalov playing on the west coast will likely hurt too. He'll be a Vezina finalist, maybe even win it, but he's also the most important part of a playoff team.

No comments: