Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Who gets the Hart?

Since everyone else is doing doing it, I figured I’d throw my hat in the “who’s your MVP” mess.

And if you were looking for a divergent, out-of-the-box opinion, you’re going to be disappointed, because my vote, at this point, goes to Jaromir Jagr.

I realize picking the NHL’s leading scorer for the Hart Trophy is hardly a brash selection, but I can’t think of a more important player to his team than Jagr has been to the Rangers this season. Take him off that team, and they’re not even a playoff club. He’s the straw that stirs the drink on that team, the one who everyone feeds off of. Even if he isn’t a leader in the classical “rah rah” sense of the word, he leads with his play.

If I had to cast a vote today, it would be:
1. Jaromir Jagr
2. Alexander Ovechkin
3. Eric Staal
4. Daniel Alfredsson
5. Joe Thornton

Ovechkin is the best player in the NHL this season, and so he deserves consideration, but I’d have a hard time giving the Hart to a guy who’s team is a bottom feeder. Staal might be number two, behind AO, and he’s truly taken that team on his back. Alfredsson was my pick a few months ago, but he’s fallen out of the lead due to his injury and then some inconsistent play. And “Jumbo Joe”’s turnaround, and the subsequent one the Sharks made with his acquisition, is nothing short of miraculous.

As far as the Norris Trophy goes, I’m inclined to agree with James Mirtle that Nicklas Lidstrom is the right choice, but I’m not sure I think it’s the slam dunk James does. There are a whole bunch of other blueliners who are worthy of the hardware, among them Sergei Zubov, Wade Redden, Bryan McCabe, Zdeno Chara, and Scott Niedermayer. How I’d rank them, I don’t know, because after Lidstrom, they’re all incredibly close.

For the Vezina, I’d say it’s a toss up between Miikka Kiprusoff and Tomas Vokoun, with Marty Turco, Dominik Hasek and Henrik Lundqvist trailing them. Which one wins depends on who finishes the season strongest, I think, because at this point, it’s too tough to call.

If I have him finishing second for the Hart, obviously, Ovechkin is my pick for the Calder, with Dion Phaneuf and Sidney Crosby the runners up. It’s worth noting, for the 100th time, that the guys who aren’t even in the picture, the Andrej Meszaros and Tomas Vaneks of the league, would be winners in previous years.

12 Comments:

At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Zamboner said...

Hart
1. Jagr
2. Kipper
3. Ovechkin
4. Thornton
5. Alfredsson

Norris
1. Lidstrom (by a lot)
2. Chara
3. Zubov

Selke
1 Brind'amour
2. Alfredsson

Vezina
1. Kipper
2. Lundqvist
3. Vokoun
4. Hasek

Calder
1. Ovechkin
2. Lundqvist
3. Phaneuf/Crosby

 
At 1:59 AM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Hmmm... all forwards in the running for the Hart? I hope not.

The only thing going against Mr. Ovechkin is that his team is well out of the playoff running, and as far as I know, no one has won the Hart when their team has missed the playoffs. (But he'll definitely have his backers.)

Here's what I got:

1. Miikka Kiprusoff
2. Jaromir Jagr
3. Nicklas Lidstrom
4. Alex Ovechkin
5. Joe Thornton
6. Alfredsson/Staal

 
At 6:06 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

You have to have Lundqvist in the top 3 in the Calder race. For rookie of the year I would go with:

1 Ovechkin
2 Lundqvist
3 Crosby
4 Phaneuf

Those are your top 4. After that there is a crowd of players that include Meszaros, Svatos, Jussi Jokinen, Prucha, Vanek and Boyes that could go in almost any order.

Here are my top 5 for the MVP.

1. Staal
2. Jagr
3. Lidstrom
4. Kipprusoff
5. Thornton

I chose Staal because he is the main difference between the 2003-04 Hurricanes and this years. A big part of the Rangers improvement also has to be attributed to Lundqvist so we can't give Jagr as much credit for the Rangers turnaround as Staal gets for Carolina's. Thornton isn't higher because a true MVP should have gotten more out of his time in Boston.

Here are my top 5 for the Norris:

1. Lidstrom
2. Zubov
3. Pronger
4. Niedermayer
5. McCabe

I had a tough choice for #4 and #5 but went with the two guys I thought would get the votes. I also considered Kaberle, Chara, Redden and Visnovsky. I didn't chose Redden or Visnovsky because they play 5 minutes per game less than the other guys and I think the best defensemen in the league should be able to play 27-28 minutes per game. I didn't take Chara because I don't think he is having quite as good a year as he did in 2003-04 but he could have easily been in the #5 spot over McCabe (and yes, maybe my bias stops me). I originally had Kaberle there because Kaberle is the guy who much of the Leafs offense revolves around and is the guy who sets up McCabe for his booming shot. But since McCabe is going to get more votes I put him on the list.

Vezina

1. Kipprusoff
2. Lundqvist
3. Vokoun
4. Turco
5. Luongo

If Hasek didn't get injured he'd might have been tops on my list. If Florida makes the playoffs Luongo moves into 3rd spot.

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Pronger? I don't even see him as a top 10 this season.

 
At 8:45 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

Lidstrom will run away with the Norris this year. If he doesn't win it, something is very much wrong.

And don't give the Selke to Brind'Amour just yet. Lehtinen is having another great season and is just as worth of it.

 
At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Rand said...

Turco?
He had a nice run a few months ago but he's been dradfully inconsistent and bordering on dismal at times.
He in no way evenb remotely deserves consideration as a Vezina candidate at this point, indeed looking at the season as a whole he hasn't been considerably better then his backup in Hedberg.
Any of the goalies mentioned above deserve the Vezina infinitely more then Turco.

On another note- Brind'amour is the most obvious choice for any award this season the Selke should be virtually locked up at this point.

He's doing everythig imaginable for them. Leading all forwards in ice time by a mile, and shifts per game. On the ice more then most top D-Man. Even strength, PP, PK, trailing late in the game, trying to hold a lead when the other team is pressing. Winning all the important faceoffs. Blocking shots etc etc.
Brind'Amour leads the NHL with 1090 wins in just 65 games, almost 17 a game. If you watch a Hurricanes game closely, you'll often see coach Peter Laviolette sub the veteran centreman in to take a draw. Amazingly, he's taken 44.4 per cent of the team's faceoffs, more than 8% better than the 2nd place Thornton and Sundin.

These are the kind of stats that should really come into play for the Selke Trophy. He averages 24 minutes a game, 4:17 of which comes while shorthanded, and plays a shutdown role every night.
The way he's played this season it will be an absolute crime if he doesn't win the Selke, no forward has provided anything comparable to his play for Carolina... including the possible Hart nominee in Staal.

I can honestly say as a resident of NC, and someone whose favourite team is not Carolina that he's had one of the absolute finest two-way seasons I have ever witnessed.


My picks for the awards- who SHOULD win- not necessarily who will win.
Hart: Jagr
Selke-Brind'amour
Norris: Lidstrom
Vezina: Lundqvist
Calder: Lundqvist (No slight to Ovechkin, but Lundqvist is the best goalie in the NHL this season. Ovechkin whilst amongst the top few is not the absolute best forward)

 
At 8:17 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Upon futher review I probably have Pronger too high but I do think he is among the group after Lidstrom and Zubov. I think Lidstrom is easily the top defenseman and then Zubov would be a little behind him and then there is another gap after which there is a whole crowd of players of which could probably be ranked in almost any order.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger steve said...

Chris - with all due respect - you should taking this opportunity to be pimping Alfredsson out there as a legitimate Hart contender instead of an also-ran. It is almost embarassing that people that don't follow the team and only look at the stats think that Heatley is the mvp of our team.

DavidJohnson's list is of course devoid of sens players. I don't think you should dock Chara or Redden if they have fewer minutes played - they play a little less because we have such a solid defense corps and there is no use in over tiring them. I say if you are judging who the best defenceman is, then judge them primarily by how much value they bring in the minutes they play. Putting McCabe & Pronger above those two is ridiculous.

 
At 4:13 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Steve,

I was doing so all season long, but I no longer think he's the best candidate. If he finishes strong, it's still possible.

But I agree that the idea Heatley is the team MVP is absurd.

 
At 4:16 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Chara plays 28 or so minutes per game and Redden plays 23 or so minutes per game. And elite defenseman should be able to play ~28 minutes per game. Redden doesn't so should not be considered for the Norris. If you want to say he doesn't get the minutes because he plays on a good team then you have to also accept that he also benefits greatly because he is on a good team. Would Redden have 47 points on a team with lesser offensive ability?

As for Chara, he has the lowest +/- of any Senator defenseman and his 41 points well behind the league leaders despite the fact he plays a lot of minutes for the leagues best offense. Considering he is ~20 points behind McCAbe, Visnovsky, Kaberle, and others he has to provide a lot of other stuff to make up that difference. I am not sure he does that this year.

Comparing Chara to Pronger, Pronger has 6 more points on a team which has scored 48 fewer goals than Ottawa. Pronger is tied for the best +/- among defensemen on his team, Chara is the worst +/- among defensemen on his team. Is Chara having a better season than Pronger? I am not sure he is.

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

As for Chara, he has the lowest +/- of any Senator defenseman

It's important to remember Chara plays against the top line every game though. This isn't to say Lidstrom or Zubov doesn't, nor am I suggesting Chara is more worthy than they are, but a lot of the other guy's being mentioned don't do that (McCabe, Visnovsky).

and his 41 points well behind the league leaders despite the fact he plays a lot of minutes for the leagues best offense.

Again though, his role is different. He and Phillips are the shut down guys. Providing offence is not what Chara is there for. That's why they don't have he and Redden on the same pair.

 
At 5:18 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

McCabe plays a lot against the top line of the opposing team and spend an average 4:20 per game killing penalties. That isn't as much as Chara (5:47), but still significant. Quinn doesn't very often match lines, but he frequently matches a defense pair against the oppositions top line. It is pretty hard to play nearly half a game and not play against the opposing teams top line a fair bit.

 

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