We’ve now reached the halfway point for all teams in the National Hockey League. There has been exciting storylines and great individual performances during the season. Through these contenders for awards have started to emerge. Last Word on Hockey has made their picks for each, and here are the final results of our internal vote for the Hart Trophy, which required a tie-breaker.
Last Word on Hockey’s Mid-Season Awards: Hart Memorial Trophy
The Hart Memorial Trophy has many different definitions, depending on who you ask. Some will say it’s for the best player in the NHL, or the NHLer who is having the best season. Sometimes great seasons by teammates split the vote, and sometimes a truly spectacular performance gets overshadowed by a sentimental story.
By the letter of the law, the Hart is awarded to the player deemed “most valuable to his team.”
Taking all this into consideration during Last Word on Hockey’s poll for the Hart, the vote ended up split right down the middle between two players, with a clear third place very far behind.
A meeting of the site’s brain trust was called, and the splitting of hairs began. At the end of it all, a winner was declared. Here are the results for Last Word on Hockey’s 2016-17 mid-season voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
Connor McDavid: 28 points (tie)
While McDavid is one of a handful of NHL players having truly remarkable seasons, it was ultimately what he’s done for the Edmonton Oilers which put him over the top in our vote.
Even though McDavid just turned 20 last week, the 2015 first overall pick is leading the NHL in scoring with 55 points through 47 games and sits third behind Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos in points per game.
While McDavid’s goals have been down a tick this year, (0.36 per game to 0.32, in two more games than his rookie season), he’s taken leaps forward in assists per game (0.71 to 0.83) and points per game (1.07 to 1.15).
His possession numbers and increasing ice time seem to indicate that this level of offense can only improve as McDavid matures.
Already having one of the best seasons in the NHL this year, and clearly in the “Best Player in the World” debate alongside Crosby, it’s what McDavid has done for the Oilers which gave him the hardware.
A bottom of the barrel team last year with McDavid missing half the season has suddenly (and finally) taken not just a small step forward, but a giant leap. The team is just six wins away from matching their total from last year.
Powered by McDavid, who’s is not only lifting his linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon but also the entire franchise, the club has lost just thrice in regulation since December 13, 2016 and currently sits third in the Pacific Division.
For his sublime scoring prowess, for his status among the game’s best, and for his ability to revive a long dead franchise, McDavid has won the mid-season Hart.
Sidney Crosby: 28 points (tie)
McDavid may have ever so narrowly beat out Crosby here, but there’s no argument that the now 29-year-old “Sid the Kid” is having one of his best seasons.
Despite sitting four points behind McDavid in the NHL’s points parade, Crosby’s 1.32 points per game leads the NHL, and if that number stands he will surpass McDavid by season’s end for the scoring title (assuming health by both players). In fact, it would be the sixth time Crosby has lead the league in points per game.
But more impressive is his goal scoring, an underrated but deadly tool in his arsenal. This season Crosby is producing at his highest goals per game rate since the lockout-shortened 2010-11 season (during which he scored 32 goals in 41 games, after his only 50-goal season the year before).
With 27 goals through 38 games this year, Crosby is not only on pace for his second 50-goal season, he’s also on pace for his second Rocket Richard Trophy, which would end Alex Ovechkin‘s four-year run.
The only thing holding Crosby back in the mid-season Hart vote was the incredible season of teammate and fellow future Hall-of-Famer Evgeni Malkin, who is tied for second in league scoring and split the vote with Crosby.
Sergei Bobrovsky: Six points.
McDavid and Crosby are clearly the cream of the crop when it comes to high octane forwards and subsequently got the standard Hart love, there’s also been some incredible goaltending performances in the NHL this season.
Among the best is Bobrovsky, who is back in Vezina form and leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to new heights. Bobrovsky has been the backbone of a powerhouse Blue Jackets squad which has surged to second overall with 64 points, just two back of the Washington Capitals with a game in hand in the race for the President’s Trophy.
The club is recording its highest points percentage in franchise history (.727), and it’s no coincidence that their second highest, .573 in 2012-13, was the year Bobrovsky won the Vezina.
Appearing in 36 games, Bobrovsky leads the league with 27 wins and sits third in save percentage (.932). His goals against average (1.97) is also third, while he has a respectable three shutouts, which ties his for fifth in the NHL. Should his save percentage and goals against average stand, they’ll set new franchise records, while Bobrovsky should also easily set a new club wins record, needing just six more to catch Steve Mason.
On a team with a solid stable of youth and veterans, Bobrovsky is the star, the player capable for catapulting the Blue Jackets closer to a championship than ever before.
What Bobrovsky has done for the Blue Jackets this year is impressive but Minnesota Wild starter Dubnyk has been right there with him.
Dubnyk has made a remarkable return from NHL purgatory, and that has continued this season. He currently leads the NHL in save percentage (.936) and goals against average (1.88) to help push the Wild to the top of the traditionally tough Central Division.
Dubnyk’s division rival Kane isn’t far behind the other top forwards in the league and could garner his second Hart trophy in as many seasons with a strong second half.
Kane currently sits fourth in NHL scoring with 47 points in 47 games, one of just five NHLers to have played more than 17 games and recorded more than one point per game this season. He also sits second in the league in assists with 33.
What Burns is doing from the blueline for the San Jose Sharks this season has been remarkable. He is the only regular defenseman to average more than one point per game this season, and he sits first among blueliners in goals (19) and points (47).
Since 1986, when Paul Coffey set the record for most goals in a single season for a defenseman with 48, only two others have even been able to hit 30: Kevin Hatcher with 34 in 1992-93 and Mike Green with 31 in 2008-09.
With 19 goals through 46 games, Burns is on pace for 34. He’s also on pace for 84 points. The last time a defenseman scored more than 84 points was in 1995-96, when Brian Leetch recorded 85.