by PuckStopsHere on 12/03/10 at 12:55 AM ET
I have been tracking the leaders in the MVP race as the season progresses. I have been picking Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning as MVP since the latter part of October. Now that he has been passed by Sidney Crosby in points (44 to 40) and tied in goals with 21, I think it makes more sense to pick Crosby as MVP.
Crosby and Stamkos both have most of their value from their offensive play. Neither is used in much of a defensive role with his team. Stamkos plays against slightly tougher opposition, but Crosby is the better defensive player. Stamkos may develop a bit in the future, but Crosby is the better of the two defensively, though neither is a Selke candidate.
A lot of people will cite their faceoff numbers as evidence of this, but that is overrated. Crosby is a better backchecker and plays better positional defence and that is a bigger difference than the faceoffs.
Crosby also plays in a tougher division and thus more frequently plays against tougher teams. The Southeast Division has five of the six top scorers in the NHL and that is a function of the lack of overall quality in the division leading to more games against weak opposition for its players. Crosby has 44 points and no other player outside of the Southeast Division has more than 29 points.
The other player worthy of mention in the MVP race is Tim Thomas. He has an incredible .956 saves percentage and 1.44 GAA. Both are better than any goalie has been able to record in recent history (the saves percentage would be the highest single season ever recorded - although records do not go back to the beginning of NHL history). The problem in Thomas’s case is that he doesn’t play as much as some other goalies because Tuukka Rask is a solid backup. Rask could be a starter in most cities in the NHL, but has taken a back seat to Thomas since he is playing so well.
I think Crosby has been more dominant than Thomas, although it is a close race. Crosby is significantly outscoring the rest of the league and by a significant margin over anyone outside of the Southeast Division. Thomas has been dominant as well, but Crosby has ten more games played right now. That is too large a margin to be overcome in an MVP race. Right now Crosby is the best player on the hottest team in the league and is the current MVP frontrunner.
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