Is there another trophy in all professional sports with a more convoluted voting criteria than the NHL's Hart Trophy?
Player judged to be the most valuable to his team?
I mean, seriously—who makes this stuff up?
How on God's green earth do you objectively measure one player's worth to his team?
Was Zach Parise more valuable than Scott Clemmenson to the New Jersey Devils this year?
Perhaps someone wants to argue that it would be okay for the Detroit Red Wings to lose Henrik Zetterberg or Niklas Lidstrom this year, but to lose Pavel Datsuyk would have been catastrophic.
Honestly, in light of the change in play for the Penguins after December, I would almost have to argue that the MVP of the Penguins is not named Malkin or Crosby but either Gonchar or Bylesma.
When you get right down to it, the Hart Trophy in the NHL is decided on by the wrong people—the writers, not the GMs—and the wording handicaps the award from being given to the league's most outstanding player. You are always going to get some dumb nut that feels that Steve Mason was more valuable to his team than Malkin or Ovechkin were to theirs.
There are certainly times that the Hart Trophy candidate is obvious and therefore the wording of the award doesn't prevent the award from going to the rightful winner. I am going on record today as saying that this year is not one of them. Evgeni Malkin is the clear and deserving winner of this year's award, but he is almost certain to lose out on the award to countryman Alex Ovechkin.
Due to the unnatural wording of the award, I cannot offer a rock-solid case for picking Malkin over Ovechkin. Remove either of them from their team and the impact would be immediate and fatal for the team. What I can do is systematically eliminate every reason not to pick Evgeni Malkin as the winner.
Argument No. 1: Ovechkin's Washington Capitals clinched their division and finished with the number two-seed in the conference.
This might have held some water until you consider that this is exactly the same scenario as last season only in reverse. Last season it was Ovechkin with more points, and the Penguins holding the number two seed.
Granted, the Caps ended up third last year but it's worth noting they needed every last game in the schedule just to get in. One more loss and they don't even make the playoffs.
For all the reasons that Ovechkin won last year, there is absolutely no reason that Malkin couldn't win this year.
Argument No. 2: Malkin has Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, and Sergei Gonchar, while the Caps only win if Ovechkin scores.
I constantly hear this argument, and it still boggles my mind. The four players for the Penguins listed above basically come out in a wash when compared to Alexander Semin, Niklaus Backstrom and Mike Green. To argue that one player has benefited more from the surrounding cast is pure insanity.
Green is a potential Norris trophy winner this season, Backstrom was top five in scoring for most of the season, and Semin was leading the league at the start of the season before he cooled off.
If someone is going to exclude Malkin because of the talent that he plays with, they would likewise have to exclude Ovechkin.
Argument No. 3: Alexander Ovechkin is a more complete player than Malkin.
If we are giving the award to the most complete player in the NHL, this is probably a toss-up between Jarome Iginla or Mike Richards. Ovechkin is reckless when he hits, I applaud his enthusiasm but you cannot legally leave your feet to deliver a check.
Ovechkin is also a left winger, whereas Malkin is a center. What this basically means is that we will never know just how much a liability Ovie is in his own end, because he has almost zero responsibility while back there. The centerman has responsibility in the defensive zone and the offensive zone. Malkin led the league in takeaways played in short-handed situations and put up points on a consistent basis.
I don't know that anyone can make an argument that a guy who puts up 60 goals a season is a complete player. He is a hell of a goal scorer, but in a one-goal game in the third period is Ovechkin out there killing the penalty for his team? Didn't think so.
Unfortunately, I just don't think Malkin is going to be given a fair shot to win this. I know the award doesn't go to the player with the most points—that is the Art Ross trophy. But I do feel you have to at least start with that player and through process of elimination either give him the award or move to the next guy.
I think the award needs to be rebadged in order to better quantify who should be the winner. An award for the League MVP, or simply Most Outstanding would probably better serve the cause.
As for Geno, I can only hope that his eyes on are on the real prize. The Pens were so close last season, so hopefully lifting Lord Stanley's Mug at the end of the playoffs will let Malkin forget all about the Hart Trophy he should have won.
The Lester Pearson trophy is given to the best player in the NHL as voted by his peers, I have no doubt that he will win that award, which is probably the true MVP award anyways.
The Hart is given out by a bunch of beat writers who are left to craft their own version of "most valuable" to his team.