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MVP So Far This Season

One surprising thing this season is that it is January and there isn’t a clear choice for the current Hart Trophy leader.  The scoring race gives us six players within three points of the scoring lead.  Henrik Sedin currently leads the league but has only ten goals.  Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel and Daniel Sedin are next.  They are followed by Evgeni Malkin and goal scoring leader Steve Stamkos.  On defence, the last MVP I selected in Shea Weber of Nashville is out with a concussion.  I think he has been the top defenceman so far this season, but if he stays out he will likely soon be caught by Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom.  Tim Thomas is the top goalie this season followed by Henrik Lundqvist.  This is a sizeable group of candidates and no one player has a significant lead.

At this point I pick Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Stamkos is the NHL goal scoring leader with 26 goals.  This is as sizeable a lead as any player has in any significant statistical category.  He has his team lead in +/- with a +12.  This is a significant lead where only six other players on his team have positive ratings and Martin St Louis at +4 is the next player who plays a regular shift against all levels of competition. 

Stamkos is one of only three players on the Lightning with a double digit goal total.  He is excelling on a team that is providing him little support.  Stamkos is able to lead the league despite little support from his team.  That makes him the current season MVP at this point.

I don’t think that Stamkos would be the likely winner among the sportswriters if a vote was taken right now.  Usually players on non-playoff teams are not considered serious contenders.  A player on a non-playoff team must be a runaway leader to be selected as Hart Trophy winner.  It looks like Tampa Bay will miss the playoffs as they are currently in 12th place in the East Conference. 

I argue that Steve Stamkos has been worth the most wins to his team.  That is the best definition of MVP.  Stamkos is the league leader in goals.  He is close to the point leader.  He is doing this on a team that is providing him with little support.  Should things continue this way, I think Stamkos may be seen as a Hart Trophy contender but i doubt he would win because his team is not performing well.

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I am sorry but once again I simply cannot see how Tim Thomas can be an MVP. The fact is he is once again trending toward playing hardly more than half of Bostons games.

First of course this gives him an advantage of Howard, Rinne, Quick , Kiprusoff and Ward just to name a few who play day in and day out for their teams

But second and far more important is that Rask has better numbers and there is no reason to think that if Tim Thomas vanished into a black hole today that would change.
I can’t see any argument to that makes Tim Thomas an MVP. As goal tenders go Lundqvist is a better name to drop but I really cannot understand you fixation on Thomas.

Posted by paulklos on 01/02/12 at 05:35 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Tim Thomas plays against the tougher opponents than Rask does.  That helps to explain how rask can have a slightly better saves percentage.  You are incorrectly trying to normalize a goalie’s performance to that of his backup.  Rask is a very good backup.  He is the best in hockey today.  That fact does not make Thomas a better or worse goalie.

It would make Thomas a better MVP candidate if he played more games.  However games played alone does not make one an MVP.  The goalie must play very well in those games.  I argue that goalie has been worth as many win shares (note I am not arguing wins which is a flawed stat for individual analysis) as Thomas has.  I would argue some of the goalies you name like Ward and Kiprusoff are not even in the correct ballpark.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/12 at 05:44 PM ET


Win Shares is that the aroma of silly stats I smell?

Look MVP is most valuable player to his team and Rask is not just a back up in the past he has played more games than Thomas (was he only playing weak teams that year as well?) and all the post season play 2009/10.

There is no reason to think Rask could not run out the season as good as Thomas could at this point and frankly since that would force Thomas to play more games than he ever has I bet on Rask.

As fro correct ballpark you seem to want to only allow allow players who are otherwise in the running for another award to be MVP/Hart although nothing in the definition demands it.

The point remains Thomas is simply not as valuable to his team no matter how good he is than several other goal tenders are to their teams who clearly have no other alternative..

Posted by paulklos on 01/02/12 at 06:00 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The idea behind win shares is it is the number of wins a player is worth to his team.  Tim Thomas is worth a certain value for the games he has played so far and that number of wins does not change regardless of what Rask did in games Thomas did not play.

Your motivation is to show Howard has been the best goalie in the league despite his inferior numbers to Thomas.  Howard has a bad backup and Thomas has a good one.  Thus you falsely compare a goalie to his backup.  Essentially your method claims Conklin is equivalent to Rask.  The reality is Thomas is worth more wins to his team than any other goalie and that statement has nothing to do with Rask or Conklin.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/12 at 06:04 PM ET


Your motivation is to show Howard has been the best goalie in the league despite his inferior numbers to Thomas.  Howard has a bad backup and Thomas has a good one.  Thus you falsely compare a goalie to his backup.  Essentially your method claims Conklin is equivalent to Rask.  The reality is Thomas is worth more wins to his team than any other goalie and that statement has nothing to do with Rask or Conklin.

Umm no. Am I Detroit fan - sure. What you are ignoring is that the reason I mentioned Howard is the same reason I mentioned the others they are all clearly on pace to play the vast majority of thier teams games.

It is disingenuous to call Rask a backup he was not in 2009/10 and in general Thomas is on track to play hardly more than half his team’s games. He is thus protected from over use, a day he feels bad, etc that cannot be said of say Rinne.

On balance I really don’t care what win shares supposedly say about what he might do if played 60 or 70 games because he never has and so far he will not this year. I mean on that basis you can award the scoring title to somebody who only played 55 games if there projected total beat the actual finalist who played 82 games.

So I guess I would say when judging goal tenders I am taking a hard line on those like Thomas who play and have had played a lot less hockey than others.

My method is not saying Conklin is equivalent to Rask that is in fact your method in order to be dismissive of Rask as essentially an equivalent starter to Thomas.

Posted by paulklos on 01/02/12 at 06:28 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


We are not talking about 2009/10.  We are talking about this season.  So far this season Thomas has 24 games played and Rask has 13.  There should be an argument about which one is the starter this year.  The answer is obvious.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/12 at 06:38 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

Your motivation is to show Howard has been the best goalie in the league despite his inferior numbers to Thomas…..

Shutouts .....Thomas =4   Howard=4

G.A.A…......Thomas=1.94   Howard=1.93

Save %......Thomas=.939   Howard=.929

....and of course the most meaningless of goalie stats…..

Wins….Thomas = 16   Howard = 23

Now I’m not trying to make a case for Howard for MVP ( he should be among the favorites)

only pointing out how silly your above statement as to Howard’s stats being inferior to Thomas’s is.

Posted by Down River Dan on 01/02/12 at 06:50 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


You clearly showed you have a poor understanding of goaltending stats.

All the numbers you cite are team dependent.  The least team dependent and hence most useful of the numbers you cite is saves percentage.  All the other numbers depend upon the quantity of shots the goalie faces (which is team dependent) or the number of goals a team scores (in the case of wins).  Saves percentage is not perfect.  It depends upon the quality of shots a goalie faces.  That is a problem of all the other stats as well, so it doesn’t give any of the others an advantage over saves percentage as a stat to evaluate goalies.

When we look at the most useful number, Tim Thomas is ahead by a reasonably significant margin.

In no way does that mean Jimmy Howard is not a good goalie, but he has not been as valuable as Tim Thomas.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/12 at 08:52 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


To really drive through how poor your argument is, let’s compare Pavel Datsyuk and Scott Hartnell.  There should be no question that Datsyuk is better but…

Points Datsyuk 39   Hartnell 35
+/-      Datsyuk +13 Hartnell +21
PIMs   Datsyuk 10   Hartnell 38
PPG   Datsyuk 2     Hartnell 7

Just like your goalie analysis we threw up a bunch of random stats with no attempt to justify why those numbers were chosen.  We have an explicit assumption that each number is equally meaningful (so we can claim Hartnell wins 3 stats to 1).  And just like the goalie analysis, the better player (in this case Datsyuk) leads in the most meaningful number (in this case points).

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/12 at 09:43 PM ET


I think sometimes people do not realize how sensational a near-.940 save percentage actually is. It lets Thomas accrue “win shares” or value very, very quickly.

Posted by Ralph on 01/04/12 at 07:29 AM ET


Win shares whatever - at a basic level you are still allowing a projection of Thomas stats to make him MVP. Right now in the real world of 39/40 games played Howard and Rinne are on a pace to play 70+ games. Sure they have back ups (who when they do ever play are protected as well and have performed poorly). Thomas as usual is once again on pace for only 55 games or so. That is likely an over estimate since in the last 15 games Boston has split Thomas and Rask 50/50 vs the opening 15 where Thomas played the majority of games. Thomas is protected from over work and there is no reason to think Boston would not be completely OK if he was out for the season.

Thus my problem with win shares for MVP and value to his team. How many win shares do Linback or Conklin have? There is not plan B at Detroit or Nashville otherwise their goalies would not have plated 34 games plus already.

Give Thomas the Vesna nod right sure - but I don’t think being the Vesna winner makes you the MVP goal tender.

Posted by paulklos on 01/04/12 at 01:22 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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