The Hart Trophy goes to “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team," where the winner is selected by a poll from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
While the winner will be announced at the 2010 NHL Awards on June 23 in buzzing Las Vegas. As before many big choices, we’ll speculate the potential outcome.
Of the three finalists, two are usual suspects in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but this year there is a new dark horse.
Fresh off a contract extension, Henrik Sedin avoided that post-signing slouch and put up big numbers this year for the Vancouver Canucks. He finished the 2009-2010 campaign with 29 goals and 83 assists for 112 points on the season.
Here is a breakdown of why each player could receive this most honorable award.
While being in the running for the Hart year after year, Crosby, once known for his playmaking ability, has balanced his game and turned into much more of a goal scorer. He had to be because he didn’t have the same supporting cast that both of the other candidates for the award did (Nicklas Backstrom and Daniel Sedin, for example).
He tied Steven Stamkos for the league lead with 51 goals on the season, obtaining his first Maurice Richard Trophy. Of the 51, six of them were game-winners.
He finished with 109 points, second only to Sedin.
He also led the league in number of face-offs taken with 1,791 and in face-offs won with 1,001 for a 55.9 percent faceoff percentage, also good for the league lead.
He was accountable for 42.4 percent of his team's scoring, and with Evgeni Malkin missing significant time due to injury, he had to be that player.
Year after year, Sid the Kid makes a case for the Hart Trophy with unbelievable consistency—guess that’s why he’s widely considered the best player on the planet.
On top of being one of the most exciting players in the world to watch, Alexander the Great knows how to put up big numbers—and on a regular basis. His name comes up every year at this time, and every time he has the potential to take an award home.
Despite missing 10 games due to a suspension, he registered 109 points, three back from the leader Henrik, with 50 goals, much like that of Crosby, but did it in nine games fewer than Sid did. Seven of the 50 were game-winners, and he rounded out the year with a plus-45 rating.
Ovechkin brings a different element to his game than the other two finalists, not being afraid to throw his body around and rough it up. Watch any Capitals game and you’ll see Ovechkin dropping some of the league’s best. He ended up with 185 hits, 50 more than any of the league's top 30 scorers.
After finishing the season leading the NHL in points (29 G, 83 A, 112 PTS), Henrik Sedin was an obvious candidate for the Hart Trophy. Amazingly, his point total this year outdid his previous career-high point total by an astonishing 30 points and was a big reason for much of the Canucks' postseason position.
He also led the league in assists by a long shot, 14 ahead of Joe Thornton in second place.
He set another career-high in goals, scoring 29 over the course of the year, five of them turning out to be game-winners.
He put up these huge numbers while missing his long-term line mate and brother Daniel, who was out for 19 games with a broken foot.
At a 36-plus, it makes it even harder to argue with the fact that he’s a shoo-in for the award.
But much of Sedin’s impact on his team was not his own personal success, because we all know in hockey you can’t do it alone—you rely on your teammates, your family. Henrik didn’t just rely on his teammates; he made them better so everyone was able to rely on him.
Take Mikael Samuelsson and Alexandre Burrows, for example. Before this year Samuelsson’s career high in goals was 25, and he broke the 30-goal mark this past season playing alongside Sedin. Burrows, on the other hand, made the transition from a gritty, grinder-type player to a 35-goal man.
Oh, and I almost forgot—of those 35 goals, Sedin assisted on 23 of them.
So who will take home this year’s Hart Trophy? If I were to pick, it’d be Henrik Sedin. He has all the makings to win this award, and on top of his vast improvement from last season, he also makes everyone around him that much better.
It should be a lock for Henrik.