by PuckStopsHere on 06/23/11 at 05:41 PM ET
The Hart Trophy goes to the player who is adjudged most valuable to his team. This often creates an incorrect semantic argument where a player who is less valuable is more valuable to his team because his team is worse. Without him on his team, his team would really suck. Thus some people try to pick the best example of a one man team and give the award to that one man even though he is less valuable than players on other teams.
The example I like to give is two boxes of diamonds. Which is more valuable? A million dollar diamond in a box of $100 k diamonds or a $700 k diamond in a box of gravel? If you think it is the $700 k diamond,is worth more, you failed basic math. 1 million > 700 k. The million dollar diamond is worth exactly $300 k more. If you think the $700 k one is worth more how much more do you think it is worth?
With those preliminaries aside, let’s discuss hockey.
The most valuable player in the NHL last year was Tim Thomas. He finished fifth in the actual voting and that is ridiculous. Thomas was the second goaltender in the Hart Trophy voting as Pekka Rinne of Nashville was fourth. Thomas was better than Rinne by essentially any statistical measure you can imagine. Thomas beat Rinne in the Vezina and All Star voting and quite significantly, but because Rinne is perceived as playing with a weaker team (their teams were separated by four points in the standings and Nashville has the defenceman who came close to the Norris Trophy) he got the nod from the voters.
It is hard to understate how good a season Tim Thomas had, but the voters did. Thomas set a record for the best saves percentage on record with a .938. That is a tremendous achievement. Perhaps it can be downgraded a bit because saves percentages have been slowly improving leaguewide over the past 20 years, meaning that with an era adjustment Thomas does not see quite as good. Thomas also plays behind a top defence that helps increase his saves percentage by keep shot quality down. The top Boston goalie has had the top saves percentage in the league for the last three years. Last year it was Tuukka Rask who had the league leading saves percentage. Thomas did in the other two. Though both goalies are very good, the Boston defence is a constant that helps their goalies get top saves percentages. The other anti-Thomas argument is that he only played 57 games, which is a low value. Had a forward or goalie had a truly exceptional year, Thomas could have been beaten, but no such season occurred.
Among the players actually nominated for the Hart Trophy, Daniel Sedin is the best candidate. A look at puck possession stats (+/- or Corsi) shows that Sedin better drove the puck possession on his team than Perry did in Anaheim (Visnovsky and Getzlaf beat Perry significantly) and St Louis was not among his team’s leaders. Daniel Sedin scored more than any of the players in question. He did so in the tougher West Conference (this only catches St Louis) and he showed much better puck possession numbers. Daniel Sedin was the most valuable.
The voters seem to have been stuck voting for the final month of the season. Perry was the best player in the last month of the season. Thomas’s best point in the regular season was in the first half. Sedin was most dominant around the middle of the season. Perry was playing his best hockey right at the point when the voters voted. This play level didn’t last over the whole season, but in the “what have you done for me lately” mindset of the voters, the earlier majority of the season was undervalued. Perry had a good season. After all he led the league in goals, but he was not the best player all season.
Corey Perry actually more relied upon teammates Lubomir Visnovsky and Ryan Getzlaf for his success than Tim Thomas or Daniel Sedin (and yes I know about Henrik) did. Puck possession numbers show this. The voters messed up here. In fact in a top 50 player ranking this summer, I think Corey Perry will be the lowest ranked player to win the Hart Trophy since Jose Theodore. While that hints that Perry may have been a mistake, it doesn’t guarantee it as the Hart Trophy should be for the most valuable player in a season, even if that one season was a clearly unrepeatable success.
The Hart Trophy this season was poorly decided. Corey Perry was not the best player in the league. Tim Thomas was, but he seemed to lose out due to an aversion to vote for goalies. Perry was selected because he was the hottest player at the point when voting occurred and not the most valuable player in the season. That was a mistake.
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