by PuckStopsHere on 02/04/11 at 09:26 PM ET
In early December I began to pick Sidney Crosby as the current season MVP. Crosby was the top scorer in the league. He held that position until a concussion knocked him out of the line-up almost a month ago. Since then Crosby has been passed in the scoring race by Steve Stamkos and Daniel Sedin. While I would still argue that Crosby has been the top forward in the league so far this season, he is no longer the MVP.
The current MVP is Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Thomas leads the NHL in saves percentage (.945), goals against average (1.82), wins (25) and shutouts (7). He is tied for the league lead in the final two categories. Thomas is clearly having a very good season but I have been hesitant to call him the MVP for a couple reasons.
Thomas plays behind a very good defence than limits the quality of shots he faces. Last year his backup goalie Tuukka Rask led the NHL in saves percentage. The year before that it was Thomas. While Rask and Thomas are both good goalies, the constant is the Boston Bruin defence that keeps shot quality and quantity down allowing their goalies to do well statistically. This is not to say that Thomas is only a product of his defence, but some portion of his numbers should really be credited to the defence in front of him. Superficially one might look at Thomas and see he has a league leading 25 wins, while Rask has only five and argue that of course Thomas has been much better. This argument shows the weakness of wins as a stat to evaluate goaltending. Rask has played well and has a .922 saves percentage, which is among the best in the league. The biggest statistical difference between the two is likely that Boston has not provided the same goal support for Rask.
Thomas also has a limited number of games played. He has played in 37 of his team’s 52 games. This puts him on pace to play 58 games. This is the lowest games played total for a Hart Trophy winner in decades. At that time, there were significantly fewer games played in a season. A lack of games played is an argument against Tim Thomas winning the Hart Trophy. Obviously he has no value in the games he doesn’t play. He has to make up for that by being more valuable in fewer games than players who play far more games.
With Sidney Crosby’s time lost to injury Tim Thomas has taken over as the MVP. Thomas is having a great statistical season. His statistics are outstanding, which is in part due to a great performance from Thomas and in part due to a strong defence behind him. This season is going a long way toward making Tim Thomas a Hall of Fame candidate. If he continues the year at this level, he will be a two time Vezina Trophy and one time Hart Trophy winner. Hall of Famers have credentials like that. The problem is that Thomas has had a relatively short NHL career. Thomas will play his 300th career regular season game this season. That is a low total for a Hall of Famer. Given that he will be 37 later this season, he doesn’t likely have many years left in his career. With a strong enough finish to the season (essentially maintaining his great start through season’s end), I think Thomas could be Hall of Fame worthy by the end of the season.
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