He was the unanimous favorite for the Hart Trophy at the time of his injury, but if Crosby misses the regular season, will anyone build a strong enough resume to win the award over the NHL's most popular player? Furthermore, will/should missing a quarter of the season hurt Crosby's chances of winning he Hart Trophy?
Let's tackle the first question right away because there are a few players who will have impressive Hart Trophy resumes at the end of the year.
Here's my list of the top five Hart Trophy candidates as of April 5:
- Sidney Crosby (PIT): He leads the NHL with 41 assists and 56 points. His team has the best record in the Eastern Conference.
- Jonathan Toews (CHI): The Blackhawks captain has 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) in 36 games, a plus-22 rating, a 60.5 faceoff percentage, a league-leading 47 takeaways and plays a major role on the power play and penalty kill.
- Ryan Getzlaf (ANA): The Ducks captain has 43 points (13 goals, 30 assists) in 37 games with a plus-15 rating. He's also excelling defensively and on special teams.
- Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ): The Blue Jackets goalie has a 13-8-6 record, ranks second in GAA (2.09), fifth in save percentage (.930) and he is carrying a mediocre team that ranks 30th in goals scored with the fifth-worst power play in a playoff race.
- Patrick Kane (CHI): Kane leads the team with the NHL's best record in scoring with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 36 games. His defensive improvement has also been impressive.
Unfortunately for Steven Stamkos, his Tampa Bay Lightning probably won't make the playoffs this season. He also hasn't performed at a high level defensively, so even if he wins both the Art Ross and Maurice Richard trophies, the Lightning star probably won't be a finalist for the Hart.
Alexander Ovechkin was the last player to take home both of those awards in 2007-08 and he also won the Hart Trophy, but his Washington Capitals finished third in the East standings.
Bobrovsky's situation is an interesting one because the Blue Jackets would not be one point from a playoff spot without a remarkable season from their No. 1 goalie.
The 24-year-old netminder is 10-2-3 in his last 15 starts and in 10 of his losses this year, Columbus has scored just one goal or fewer. Even if the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, it's hard to imagine Bobrovsky getting an invitation to the awards ceremony despite the fact that he would be very deserving of the award.
With that said, there is only one player with a chance to steal the Hart Trophy from Crosby, and that's Toews.
Crosby's scoring production this season has been phenomenal, but the Penguins have enough offensive talent to survive without him, which is why they ranked first in goals scored and finished with the second-most points in the Eastern Conference standings last season despite Crosby missing 60 games due to injury. ESPN Stats and Info recently tweeted about the Penguins' success without No. 87:
Despite the fact that Crosby was playing at a level far higher than anyone else when he was healthy, if the Penguins keep winning and finish as the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, it will hurt his case for the Hart.
If Crosby misses the rest of the regular season and Toews continues to score at his current rate (1.05 pts/g), he will finish with 50 points, which would be six behind Crosby. It's possible that Crosby could have finished with 76 points if he continued to put up points at his 1.55 pts/g rate, but voting on what might have occurred is unfair to the process.
Where Toews really shines in the Hart debate is when you look at his defensive stats. As the clear favorite for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded to the league's best defensive forward, no player is making more of an impact on his team's success at both ends of the ice than Toews.
|Player||Takeaways||FO%||PK TOI/G||Team PK%||SHG|
The Blackhawks star leads the NHL in takeaways, ranks second in faceoff percentage among all players who have taken 250 or more draws and is a main contributor to the NHL's sixth-best penalty kill unit.
In addition to having a tremendous season defensively, Toews would also be on pace to set career highs in goals and assists if we were in a normal 82-game season.
Patrick Kane is also having a spectacular season in Chicago, but Toews is the engine that runs the Blackhawks in all three zones. There's no reason Kane's success should take away Hart Trophy votes from Toews or diminish the strength of his resume.
Toews does everything well for the Blackhawks, who started the season with a record 24-game point streak and will likely finish the season with the league's best record.
The final thing to consider about Crosby's Hart Trophy candidacy is his games played total. The last player to win the award in a season that he played in 85 percent or less of his team's games was Penguins legend Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. He tallied 161 points (69 goals, 92 assists) in 70 games (2.3 pts/g) that year.
If he doesn't play in any more regular season games, Crosby will have missed 12 games, or 75 percent of this shortened 48-game season. You have to give a lot of credit to guys who play in all, or almost all of their team's games and still have enormous success at both ends of the ice, especially when you consider the intensity and the physical/mental stress that this shortened season has had on all players.
In fairness, missing a quarter of the season shouldn't hurt Crosby's chances of winning the Hart. If he missed a quarter of a normal 82-game season (about 21 games), then it would be easier to understand why some people might be hesitant about giving him a first-place vote.
But since he played in 36 of 48 games this season (assuming Crosby doesn't return until the playoffs) and could still finish among the league's top three scorers, games played shouldn't be a huge factor in the 2013 Hart race.
Will Crosby win the Hart Trophy if he doesn't play in another game during the regular season? The Penguins star will certainly be one of the top candidates, and if he wins, it will be difficult to argue against the voters' decision.
Crosby has arguably played the best hockey of his career in 2013, but if Toews keeps performing at a high level at both ends of the ice and the Blackhawks finish the season with the President's Trophy, he will have a strong chance of winning the Hart Trophy.
Unless the Penguins lose a lot of games over the final few weeks of the season and their offense fails to score goals consistently, it's very likely that a player like Toews, or even someone like John Tavares of the New York Islanders (if his team makes the playoffs) could become serious contenders for the Hart.
Before Crosby's injury, there was no race for the Hart Trophy because he was going to win the award by putting up incredible numbers on what is arguably the NHL's best team.
However, his absence from the final quarter of the season would make the race very interesting because there are a few players with a great opportunity to make a late-season push for the award much like Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry did during the 2010-11 season.
Crosby is no longer a lock to win the award, which will make the Hart Trophy race much more exciting.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All salary information courtesy of CapGeek.