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Early Season MVP

I liked to track the leaders for the NHL awards as the season progresses.  It is interesting to see the progression of award leaders as the season progresses.  At what point does the eventual winner become the front runner?  At what point do the surprise players who were not expected to be in the race fade away? 

In order to do this I must pick award leaders as soon as they become clear.  With that in mind today I am picking the first Hart Trophy leader for 2011/12.  He is Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars.  Lehtonen has been the best player in the league so far this season.  He leads the NHL with a .966 saves percentage and is second with a 1.30 GAA.  This is despite the fact he has more saves than any other goalie in the league and he has three games played while a few other goalies have four.

The Dallas Stars are an easy whipping boy so far this season.  The big story surrounding them has been their efforts to satisfy the salary floor.  Little is expected of Dallas this season, but they are currently in the Pacific Division lead.  This is despite the fact Dallas has allowed the second most shots per game so far this year.  It is Lehtonen who has kept Dallas in their games and allowed them to win.  This is an MVP.  Despite facing high shot totals, Lehtonen lets Dallas win and even has one of the best goals against averages in the league.

Kari Lehtonen is not the kind of guy who might be expected to be an MVP.  He was a high draft pick (second overall in 2002) who has struggled through injury in his NHL career.  He has been a slightly below average starting goalie in his last few years.  At age 27, he still has a chance to step forward to the level that was expected when he was drafted, but most likely this streak is not sustainable.

Kari Lehtonen is off to a very good start at this early point in the NHL season.  He is the early season MVP.  It is hard to expect that he might keep this up all season, however if he does it will be an incredible season.  Dallas does not have a lot of talent.  They have been badly outshot so far this season, but they lead their division.  The reason for that is Lehtonen’s play.

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Comments

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‘I must pick award leaders as soon as they become clear.  With that in mind today I am picking the first Hart Trophy leader for 2011/12.  He is Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars.’

Theoretically how can they possibly become clear in the first 3-5 games of the season?  The sample size is so small that for someone who is fond of arcane over built statistics I would think you could see the double issue of picking an outlier, and also of picking somebody you are now invested in a candidate on the thinnest sample set.

That is not to say I disagree with a tracking attempt, but honestly 10-15 games for every team seems like a minimal data pool.

Posted by paulklos on 10/14/11 at 04:03 PM ET

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sorry just to add:

“but they are currently in the Pacific Division lead’

Having played 4 games and the Sharks just 1?

Posted by paulklos on 10/14/11 at 04:07 PM ET

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In order to do this I must pick award leaders as soon as they become clear.

How can a leader possibly be clear this early in the season, especially when some teams have played FIVE TIMES as many games as some others?

Posted by Garth on 10/14/11 at 04:22 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

It became clear to me in the preseason that Valtteri Filppula would be league MVP. So, count It!

Posted by Keyser S. on 10/14/11 at 04:55 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

TPSH, don’t try so hard.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 10/14/11 at 05:33 PM ET

Bossy_Rules's avatar

I think TPSH is well aware that its far too early to predict the MVP race.  He’s just saying that the very early leader is Lehtonen.  What’s so hard to understand about that?  And what’s wrong with posting on it?  We know its too early to tell anything but nevertheless it is interesting that Lehtonen has been MVP so far.

Posted by Bossy_Rules on 10/14/11 at 06:33 PM ET

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“At what point does the eventual winner become the front runner?  At what point do the surprise players who were not expected to be in the race fade away?”

explains

“In order to do this I must pick award leaders as soon as they become clear.”

It’s basically logging hot streaks. Tells us in the future when we can say “the current leader will probably win”

Posted by Ralph on 10/14/11 at 08:25 PM ET

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Posted by Bossy_Rules on 10/14/11 at 04:33 PM ET

The point is that San Jose has played 1 and seven other teams have only played 2, while the Pens have played 5 and nine other have played 4.

Is it really so difficult to understand that there games played is nowhere near even and thus it is far to early to even pretend there can be a frontrunner?

Hell, Johan Hedberg has a comparable save percentage and better goals against than Lehtonen and is on track for an 82-win season.  Why isn’t he the MVP?

David Legwand is on track for a 191 point season.  Why doesn’t he get an mention?

Get it?

Posted by Garth on 10/14/11 at 11:45 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

If we wait until the point has passed that everyone agrees it is meaningful to pick an MVP (i.e. the guy we are picking might actually win the award) than we miss a lot of information namely exactly when that point occurs and how we know that and what happens before than point.

Garth

If you wish to make a serious argument that David Legwand or Johan Hedberg has outplayed Lehtonen so far this season, by all means do so.  For the record Hedberg cannot possibly be on pace for an 82 win season when his team is 2-1 on the season.  I think you are just naming other names because you like to make comments and you don’t believe these guys have outplayed Lehtonen so far.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/15/11 at 12:26 AM ET

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Value also accumulates. MVP generally isn’t on a per-game basis (else Crosby would have won unanimously last season). It’s your body of work over the entire season. This favors players who play more games. Ovechkin would have likely taken the 2010 Hart on a per-game basis (he was on a per-82 pace of around 56-66-122), but since he missed some time and Crosby missed some time, Henrik Sedin won.

Posted by Ralph on 10/17/11 at 02:08 AM 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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