NHL Power Rankings: Jonathan Toews and the Top 10 MVP Candidates

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2011

NHL Power Rankings: Jonathan Toews and the Top 10 MVP Candidates

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    As we get past the trade deadline and the sprint to the finish begins in the NHL, some players begin to separate from the pack as the best in the game.

    Without wasting much time telling you what makes a player valuable, we'll instead look at why each of these 10 players is deserving of the Hart Memorial Trophy when the NHL hands out its annual awards in Las Vegas this summer.

10. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Games Played: 44

    Points: 66 (32 goals, 34 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +20

    Consider that Crosby has missed a quarter of the season, and he's still tied for eighth in the league in scoring! He was also winning over 55 percent of his faceoffs, and the Pens were in strong playoff position when he left the ice with concussion symptoms.

    Since Crosby left, though, Pittsburgh has been 13-14. This certainly builds the (obvious) case for Crosby to be one of the league's most valuable players.

    But the simple reality is that he has already missed a quarter of the season and may not return until the postseason. No player has, or should, win the MVP award for half of a season's work.

    Is Crosby great? Absolutely. Arguably the best player in the game. But missed games keep him off the stage.

9. Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

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    Games Played: 68

    Points: 66 (30 goals, 36 assists)

    Plus-Minus: -1

    For the 10th consecutive season, the amazing Iginla has passed the 30-goal plateau, and the Flames are right in the middle of things in the Western Conference. He's been one of the game's best power forwards for a generation and now plays against kids that grew up idolizing him.

    If the Flames hang on and make the playoffs this year, Iginla has to be considered for the Hart Trophy.

8. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

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    Goals Against: 2.12

    Save Percentage: .929

    Wins: 23

    You cannot consider the Nashville Predators as a playoff threat without Rinne on the ice. He currently ranks second in the league in both goals-against average and save percentage, and has saved the Preds.

    Consider Nashville ranks 27th in the NHL in goals scored per game (2.43), yet they're challenging for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Why? Pekka Rinne.

7. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

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    Games Played: 68

    Points: 79 (16 goals, 63 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +20

    We're putting Henrik on the list over brother (and league-leader in points) Daniel because Henrik has a track record with the Hart Memorial Trophy, and his 63 assists are 11 more than anyone else in the NHL.

    If Vancouver locks down the top seed, Henrik might get another invite to Vegas. This year, however, the best player in Vancouver might not be either Sedin brother.

6. Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Games Played: 64

    Points: 58 (29 goals, 29 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +4

    Nash is one of the hardest players to talk about in this discussion, because he's the face on the poster for the "define valuable" argument. Columbus, on paper, doesn't have pieces to compete in a stacked Western Conference, and it's a wonder Nash has been able to find someone other than himself to score a goal enough times to have 29 assists.

    Without Nash, there are no Columbus Blue Jackets. If we're talking about "most VALUABLE," it's hard to find one player that means more to his team than Nash.

5. Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Games Played: 68

    Points: 54 (10 goals, 44 assists)

    Plus-Minus: Even

    Yandle might be a quiet frontrunner for the Norris Memorial Trophy, but should be considered for the league's MVP as well.

    Phoenix is right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race, and Yandle is their leading scorer from the blue line. He leads all defenseman with 44 assists, and his defense has been unquestioned. Also without a shadow of a doubt has been his leadership on a roster that doesn't have many names that jump off the paper.

4. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Games Played: 66

    Points: 79 (41 goals, 38 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +7

    When the dust settles in April, Stamkos will probably be the league leader in goals and could be the points leader as well. Tampa is also fighting for a division crown, with their restricted free agent-to-be leading the way.

    The biggest drawback with Stamkos is that he's mediocre in faceoffs, winning only 47 percent of his draws this year. He might be in Vegas and will probably win at least one or two awards, but the Hart isn't likely to be his.

3. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

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    Goals Against: 1.97

    Save Percentage: .939

    Wins: 29

    Rinne is giving him a strong push late in the year, but it would take an epic collapse for Thomas to not run away with the Vezina this year. His save percentage is historical, his goals-against average is stunning and he's also among the league leaders in wins.

    And to think he supposedly lost the starting job in Boston last year.

    A case could be made for Thomas to be the Comeback Player of the Year, the Vezina Trophy winner and the Hart Trophy winner. This has been an incredible year for Thomas and Boston.

2. Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

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    Games Played: 68

    Points: 59 points (33 goals, 26 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +21

    Vancouver fans have known it for a while, but this year the numbers are bold enough on the offensive end of the ice that Kesler is not only a leader for the Selke Award, but has forced his way into the discussion for the Hart.

    Not only is he scoring at a career-high rate, but he continues to be a stud at faceoffs, winning 56.9 percent of his draws this year. It's hard to imagine someone eclipsing both Sedin brothers, but Kesler has done it this year.

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Games Played: 65

    Points: 65 (27 goals, 38 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +22

    Toews has been at the center of the Blackhawks resurrection since the middle of January and has been putting up numbers that are almost laughable since the All-Star Break. Consider these splits since he played in the All-Star Game:

    Games Played: 17

    Points: 25 (10 goals, 15 assists)

    Plus-Minus: +15

    That's unbelievable, and by far the best numbers in the league. Add to that the reality that he's winning 57.4 percent of his faceoffs—and has taken the fourth-highest number of faceoffs in the league. He was the Most Outstanding Forward in the Olympics and the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 postseason... not he's the regular season MVP as well.