Each year the NHL awards the Hart Memorial Trophy to the "player judged most valuable to his team."
But since when did the Hart become a trophy awarded to the best player in a NHL season rather than the most valuable?
Don't get me wrong, Sidney Crosby has undoubtedly been the NHL's best player this season. Despite having not played for Pittsburgh since late March, Crosby is still leading the NHL in points (in only 36 games Crosby has recorded 56 points, one more than Tampa's Martin St. Louis) and his play has also substantially benefited linemate Chris Kunitz, who has 49 points in 44 games this season.
But does that make Crosby the player most valuable to his team throughout the league this season?
No. Even without Crosby, the Penguins' top six comprises of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow and the afromentioned Kunitz—a top six that is more complete and frankly better than what the majority of NHL teams can offer. It's also easy to forget that Pittsburgh has statistically the 10th-best defence in the league, as well as a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes.
Pittsburgh is a deep, well-rounded team that doesn't rely solely on one player. Since Crosby went down to injury, the Penguins have gone 7-2-0 and clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Who should win the Hart?
So should the Hart be going to Crosby or someone who's more consequential to his team's results?
In my personal opinion, players such as the Islanders' John Tavares, the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin or even the Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky have just as much of a claim as Crosby does to the Hart trophy and are, for different reasons, more valuable to their teams.
None of these teams possess the depth of the current Pittsburgh team or as much offensive firepower or defensive clout, meaning they rely on their top players a whole lot more. It's plain to see that without Tavares' 45 points in as many games and 20-plus minutes per game of ice time, Ovechkin's league-leading 30 goals or Bobrovsky's .930 SV% and 2.03 GAA, the Islanders/Capitals/Blue Jackets would have struggled to enjoy the success and (current) playoff berths they have had this season.
Take those three out of their teams and you'd begin to see what a difference they make and how valuable to their teams' causes they actually are.
I'm not advocating any of those three to win the Hart—there are many just as deserving candidates—I'm suggesting that just because Crosby has been the league's best player this season, it doesn't automatically make him the league's most valuable. The Hart should not be "his to lose."