As the season nears its conclusion, so does the race for the Hart Memorial Trophy. The Hart Memorial Trophy is given annually to the player "judged to be the most valuable to his team."
This year, the two front-runners for the trophy are Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Malkin seems to be the favorite to win the trophy; however, in the NHL anything can happen. By comparing a variety of statistics crucial to an MVP, I will attempt to determine who should win the Hart Memorial trophy this year.
Scoring goals is the best thing a hockey player can do for his team. Both Malkin and Stamkos are renowned scorers in the NHL. This season, they hold the top two spots in the goal scoring department.
Currently, Stamkos leads Malkin in goals scored with 56 compared to Malkin's 48. Therefore, Stamkos must be regarded as the better goal scorer this year.
A Hart Trophy recipient must not only score many goals for his team, but he also must set up his teammates for goals. A player who helps his team score 10 goals and scores zero goals is more valuable than a player who scores nine goals, but assists on zero goals. Currently Malkin is leading Stamkos in assists with 54 compared to Stamkos's 34.
Every time a player scores a goal or gets an assist on a goal, he is awarded a point. Therefore, points can be used to determine how much a player has helped his team score. Right now, Malkin is leading Stamkos in points with 102 compared to Stamkos's 92.
A player's plus-minus reveals how valuable a player is to his team offensively and defensively. A coach once said to one of his players, "I don’t care if you can score 100 goals. If opposing teams score 200 when I put you out on the ice, you’re going to sit on the bench."
Currently, Malkin has a plus-15 and Stamkos has a plus-5.
Some may argue that Stamkos has played on a significantly worse team. Therefore, it would make sense that he would have a significantly lower plus-minus rating. However, when he is on the ice, he usually plays with solid linemates such as Martin St.Louis and Teddy Purcell and the relatively solid defensive pairing of Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman.
Malkin's typical linemates are James Neal and Chris Kunitz. Due to injuries and the constant tinkering Dan Bylsma does to his defensive pairings based upon the situation, it is difficult to select a defensive pairing Malkin usually plays with. In my opinion, the unit Stamkos plays with is comparable to the one Malkin plays with. Therefore, Malkin gets the edge.
The recipient of the Hart Memorial Trophy typically has a knack for coming through in the clutch. While there may not be a way to directly measure how clutch an athlete is, game-winning goals and shootout goals provide evidence of one's ability to rise to the occasion.
Currently, Stamkos has 11 game-winning goals, with five of them coming in overtime. Malkin has nine game-winning goals, with one of them coming in overtime.
As of now, Stamkos is 1-for-4 (25 percent) on the shootout this year, while Malkin is 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) on the shootout. Furthermore, Stamkos has zero game-deciding goals in the shootout this year, while Malkin has three.
Contrary to NHL rules, I believe that a game-deciding goal in the shootout should be factored into a player's total number of game-winning goals because they reflect the same outcome. Therefore, in my opinion, Malkin has 12 game-winning goals, while Stamkos has 11 game-winning goals.
Officially, Malkin has more shootout goals than Stamkos, but fewer game-winning goals. However, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that game-deciding goals in the shootout should be considered game-winning goals, since they denote the same outcome. Therefore, using my system, Malkin has more game winning-goals than Steven Stamkos. Since Malkin leads in both of the statistics brought up on this slide, he gets the edge.
This statistic, combined with the goals scored statistic, determines who is more valuable to their team when it comes to scoring goals. Stamkos has scored 25.4 percent of the Lightning's goals this season, while Malkin has scored 18.8 percent of the Penguins' goals this season. Both of those numbers are impressive. However, Stamkos boasts the higher percentage.
Some will argue that Stamkos has a higher percentage simply because he plays on a team that has less depth than the Penguins do scoring-wise. Therefore, he is relied upon more to score by his team, and consequently is given more opportunities to score. While this may be true, the fact of the matter is that he is statistically more valuable to his own team than Malkin is to his when it comes to scoring. Therefore, Stamkos gets the edge.
This statistic will demonstrate who is more valuable to his team's overall scoring. Stamkos has figured into 41.8 percent of the Lightning's goals, while Malkin has figured into 40 percent of the Penguins' goals.
Again, people will argue that Stamkos plays on an less offensively talented team. Therefore, he is relied upon more to score and set up others. Consequently, it is easier for him to factor in on goals than it is for Malkin.
To those I ask: Remember when Jordan Staal and Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby were all out of the lineup? Malkin was basically the go-to man during those times. Therefore, it would be unfair to say that he had less of a chance than Stamkos to figure in on his team's goals.
The winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy must help his team be successful. Therefore, looking at Malkin and Stamkos's respective team's records will allow us to determine who has been more effective at helping his respective team achieve success.
As of now the Penguins have a record of 48-24-6 (102 points). The Lightning currently have a record of 36-35-7 (79 points).
Some may argue that the Lightning have a less talented team. Therefore, the team's respective records are irrelevant when determining who is more valuable to their team. As I mentioned earlier, a Hart Memorial Trophy recipient must help his team achieve success. Therefore, the winner should come from a team that is successful.
This explains why, historically, winners of not only the Hart Memorial Trophy but recipients of MVP awards in general usually come from extremely successful teams.
As mentioned in the previous slide, a Hart Memorial Trophy recipient must help his team achieve success. By determining the differential in winning percentages of the Penguins and Lightning when they have their respective superstar in the lineup compared to when they do not, we can see how valuable each player really is to their respective team's success.
This statistic, combined with the record of Malkin and Stamkos's respective teams, illustrates how valuable each is to their team's overall success.
According to James Conley, the Penguins are 4-2-1 (9 points) this season without Malkin in the lineup, and 44-22-5 (93 points) with Malkin in the lineup. Without Malkin in the lineup, the Penguins' win percentage this season is 57.1 percent. With Malkin in the lineup, their win percentage is 62.0 percent. The Penguins win 4.9 percent of the time more with Malkin in the lineup.
Stamkos has played in all 78 of the Lightning's games this season. Therefore, it is impossible to calculate the differential in win percentage from when he is in the lineup compared to when he is not.
Due to Stamkos playing in all of the Lightning's games this season, it is impossible to compare the two players in this manner. Therefore, neither player gets the edge in this category.
With Malkin going 5-3-1 in the statistical categories I presented, I must currently declare him the more deserving recipient of the 2011-2012 Hart Memorial Trophy. However, it is important to note that Malkin and Stamkos remain relatively close in a few statistical categories, so the award is still very much up for grabs.
Based upon my findings, I believe that Malkin will end up winning the award, but like I stated earlier, in the NHL anything can happen.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @ryan_tactac.