What the NHL's Hart Memorial Really Means
Every year, members of the National Hockey League gather for the association's annual awards ceremony, which is naturally held in Toronto.
However, this year, the proceedings will be taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, the entertainment capital of the world. I believe this is great for the game of hockey.
At each ceremony, we see the same awards dealt out to honor the greatest players in the league. We see the Norris handed out to the best defenseman, the Vezina for the best goalie. But the point is that as the trophies continue to get handed out, we get closer to the one award that everyone has been anticipating for the entire night.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is considered the most prestigious award in all of hockey, yet many don't have the clearest picture of what it means. There are plenty of people that just assume that it's for the overall "best player" in the NHL, but that's erroneous.
This esteemed awarded is to be given to “the player adjudged most valuable to his team.” So no matter what a player's stats are, it is what a guy contributes to his team that determines his possible nomination for this award.
In my opinion, the best way to find top-notch nominees and an eventual winner for the Hart is to take a few candidates and then imagine those men's teams without them. The player from the team that would suffer the loss the most should be the recipient of this award.
To give a clear-cut example of this method:
Sidney Crosby is in the top three in points in the NHL. No doubt about it, the kid is a talent and is in the upper-upper echelon of the league.
But the Penguins captain has been somewhat plagued by the injury bug this year, and yet the Pens are in the Playoffs. And in the 2007-2008 season, without Sid the Kid, the Penguins went 13-6-4; not too shabby.
So even though Crosby is a great player, is he the most "valuable" to his team?
Now take a look at a guy like Roberto Luongo. He's considered one the best goalies in the league, but just how valuable is he to the Canucks?
With Luongo out of the lineup this year, the Canucks are a brutal (for their standards, at least) 9-12-3 with a team GAA of 3.04. Vancouver isn't the most offensively gifted team, so giving up three goals a game is not generally going to end up in a victory.
I’m not suggesting that Roberto Luongo should the recipient of the 2009 Hart Memorial Trophy, but I am suggesting that people need to pay more attention to what the award really means.
And just for the record: my choice for this year's Hart is Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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