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Current Season’s MVP

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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Thomas has quietly been awesome again.

One question

Neither is used in much of a defensive role with his team.

Crosby doesn’t kill penalties that often, but I’d bet he has a heck of a lot of defensive zone starts, just based on what I see.

Checked behindthenet.ca and, if I’m reading this right (I’m admittedly somewhat new to taking interest in this stuff), the only other Pittsburgh forward who is even close is his linemate, Dupuis.


Posted by StevieSteve on 12/03/10 at 02:31 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The meaningful number in terms of defensive zone starts is defensive starts - offensive ones.  Otherwise you conclude that the guy who plays a lot of minutes usually leads in offensive, defensive and neutral zone starts.  Crosby does have 15 more defensive zone starts than offensive ones.  Stamkos by comparison has 11 more offensive zone starts than defensive ones.  Neither are too outstanding numbers.  Daniel Sedin for example has 92 more offensive zone starts than defensive ones (both Sedins have had very easy roles this season - it maximizes offense from them but is not so impressive when compared to players like Crosby or Stamkos who dont have the same luxory).  On the flip side a guy like Jarred Smithson in Nashville has more 82 defensive zone starts than offensive ones.

Crosby and Stamkos are both in the middle ground where nothing is too dramatic.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/03/10 at 02:45 AM ET

GoPens's avatar

Nice write-up, but I would quibble with this:

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.

Crosby’s OPCT is 47.2% right now. Furthermore, he does player against tougher competition than Stamkos when you look at Corsi QOC. Corsby’s OPCT is enough to indicate he’s used defensively, and Stamkos skates really easy minutes, since his Corsi QOC is bordering on -2.

Posted by GoPens on 12/03/10 at 02:45 AM ET


Crosby and Stamkos are both in the middle ground where nothing is too dramatic.

Makes sense.

Do you know if there’s a site that lists TEAM total offensive, defensive and neutral zone starts, or would I have to sort by centers and add those up manually to get a guesstimate? I’m curious to see how much more often Pittsburgh starts in the offensive zone vs. say Vancouver.

Posted by StevieSteve on 12/03/10 at 03:00 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

No I do not know of such a site.  Sorry

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/03/10 at 03:03 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I think I’d have to go with Thomas here. 

I know he has 7 fewer games played than league leader Carey Price and has only played in slightly less than 3/4th of Boston’s games so far, but he’s on pace to play enough games to qualify for postseason awards and right now he has a save percentage that would be historically the highest of all recorded time.

If we’re talking about which pace between Crosby’s and Thomas’ will be more likely to keep up for an entire season, and that’s the basis for your MVP argument, then yes, I would have to say Crosby is the early front-runner, but if we’re looking at it from a perspective of what if the pace does keep up over 82 games, Tim Thomas would be looking at preventing more goals than an average goaltender than Crosby is likely to even score (right now, Crosby is pacing at 133 points and 64 goals); the margin would become significantly wider if Thomas would be given more starts, which is likely as the season goes on. 

Like I hinted above, I don’t think Thomas can keep up this level of play over an entire season, but based on the numbers to-date, if you take Thomas’ 82-game pace (giving him 58 starts) and Crosby’s 82-game pace, that would be a hell of a tough decisions.  Of course, even in that case, I think Crosby would win it as voted by the hockey writers because the Vezina is basically the MVP for goaltenders while the Hart is for forwards.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/03/10 at 12:00 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

the “used defensively” makes me laugh.  hockey isn’t like football where you have an offense and a defense.  EVERY PLAYER is used defensively.  EVERY PLAYER plays defense EVERY SHIFT.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 12/03/10 at 12:14 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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