There’s an interesting race brewing for the NHL’s most coveted individual award. Penguins superstar, Sidney Crosby, and Edmonton’s saviour, Connor McDavid, both find themselves on top of league scoring and are considered early favorites for the league’s Most Valuable Player. Who will come out on top?
History of the Hart
Before digging into their 2016-2017 performances, let’s look at some patterns in the awarding of the Hart:
- Since 1990, 21 of 26 recipients of the award have been forwards (with 13 of those 21 being centres). Barring any big surprises, it can be reasonably assumed that one of the two centres will win be crowned MVP.
Note: Wayne Gretzky won an incredible nine Hart Trophies between 1980 and 1989; these numbers would have skewed the data, hence the 1990 starting point.
- Of the last 26 recipients, 22 of them were skaters (one defenceman, Chris Pronger, was awarded the Hart in 2000). 12 of the 22 skaters led the league in scoring the same year they won. However, there seems to be a recent trend when voting for the Hart: nine of the last 14 Hart Trophy winners also won the Art Ross Trophy.
- Staying within 1990 to 2016, all 26 winners were players on a playoff team. In regards to making the playoffs, Pittsburgh and Edmonton, while still probable, will need to continue their high level of play to secure playoff positions.
- Important note: Sidney Crosby is the winner of two Hart Trophies (2007 & 2014).
Of course, we need to look at the 2016-2017 season. Crosby and McDavid find themselves tied for the NHL’s scoring lead with 60 points a piece. However, Sid the Kid has only played in 46 games as opposed to McDavid’s 55. Their stat lines are as follows:
- Crosby: 46 GP, 30 G, 30 A, 60 PTS, +16, 19:26 TOI
- McDavid: 55 GP, 18 G, 42 A, 60 PTS, +15, 21:16 TOI
While leading the league in goals, Crosby owns a 1.30 PTS/Game average, which is tops in the league. In 2006-2007 and 2013-2014 (Crosby’s two Hart Trophy winning seasons), the Penguins star held 1.52 and 1.3 PTS/Game averages. You can say Sid is scoring at a nominal ‘Hart Rate’ this season.
McDavid’s vision and playmaking ability puts him on top of the NHL’s assist leader-board. He owns a 1.09 PTS/Game and logs more ice time than Sidney Crosby. He is 5th among forwards in TOI, trailing Patrick Kane (1st) by 17 Seconds/Game.
While a good reference point, the above stats don’t tell the whole story. Let’s dig deeper into situational stats:
Home & Away:
Home: 24 GP, 13 G, 16 A, 29 PTS, +8 Record: 19-3-2
Away: 22 GP, 17 G, 14 A, 31 PTS, +8 Record: 11-8-3
Home: 25 GP, 6 G, 17 A, 23 PTS, +6 Record: 13-9-3
Away: 30 GP, 12 G, 25 A, 37 PTS, +9 Record: 16-9-5
Wins & Losses*
Wins: 30 GP, 25 G, 23 A, 48 PTS, +29
Losses: 16 GP, 5 G, 7 A, 12 PTS, -13
Wins: 29 GP, 12 G, 27 A, 39 PTS, +24
Losses: 26 GP, 6 G, 15 A, 21 PTS, -9
*Includes OT Losses
- Both Crosby and McDavid enjoy productive nights playing in opposing teams’ arenas, which is contrary to the norm. Going up against the other teams’ top lines seems to bring the best out of both candidates.
- Unlike McDavid, Crosby’s production doesn’t share a direct correlation with the Penguins’ success on the road. Furthermore, the Pens have a sparkling home record; one that doesn’t seem to heavily rely on 87’s production as much.
- McDavid has a PTS/Game average below 1.00 at Rogers Place this season, which is odd in theory. One would believe McLellan, with the last-change, would deploy 97 in favorable matchups. McDavid’s direct correlation in both home/away production with team success indicates the Oilers’ reliance on their franchise centre.
- The Oilers pivot also seems to be more productive than Crosby in losses, which means McDavid truly gives his team a chance to win every night. It is worth noting that McDavid and Crosby score at a 0.81 and 0.75 PTS/Game marks, which are very good numbers in these circumstances.
Quoting NHL.com, the Hart Memorial Trophy is “given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” It is the highest honor an NHL player can receive during regular season play.
My early-bird pick for the 2017 National Hockey League MVP: Connor McDavid.
While Crosby is scoring at an incredible rate, I believe his 19.9 Shooting% is unsustainable; his career average is 14.8%. This would ultimately lead to a decrease in goals and point production over the second-half of the season. Additionally, Crosby’s Penguins have shown that they can win with less production from 87.
Meanwhile, Connor McDavid’s production seems to be correlated with team success; this emphasizes the importance of the Ontarian’s point totals. Furthermore, he has shown the ability to put up points in bunches and should see a slight increase in production during the second half (mainly due to maturity and experience). Thus, the end-of-season statistics should be closer than what they are sitting at right now and a little easier to choose a winner.
- In my opinion, Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the world. However, considering the definition of the Hart, I just see Connor McDavid fitting the description better.
- I believe Sidney Crosby will win the Ted Lindsay Award as the best player voted by the players at season’s end.
- Sidney Crosby leads all active players in PTS/Game. He is 5th all-time in this category behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Bobby Orr. Incredible!