Thursday, 28 April 2011

A Little Guy With A Big Hart

The NHL announced the nominees for the Hart Trophy today, with Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin and Martin St-Louis being the finalists for league MVP. The general consensus is the award will go to either Perry or Sedin while few have mentioned St-Louis.

While Steven Stamkos had another great year in Tampa Bay, save for the final 28 games in which he had five goals, that was due in large part to St-Louis. The winger assisted on 25 of Stamkos' 45 goals, a whopping 55.6%. And other than Stamkos, coach Guy Boucher had few others he could put on the ice to produce any offense. Vincent Lecavalier had a decent season with 25 goals and 54 points in 65 games, but the majority of his totals came at the very end of the season when he totaled 17 goals and 33 points in the final 32 games. Other than that spurt, he was largely invisible this season with eight goals and 31 points in the other 33 games while missing 17 due to injury including 15 in a row from Nov. 12 to Dec. 11 with a hand injury.

The Bolts have other guys to help out, but they were big this season in name only. Simon Gagne had 17 goals in five more games than it took him last year and he looked nothing like the 30-goal scorer he used to be. Ryan Malone had 14, down from 21 and Steve Downie's 10 was less than half his production from last season.

Sedin had a lot more to work with, including his brother Henrik who won the Hart Trophy last season. Ryan Kesler tied Sedin for the team lead with 41 goals and since they don't play on the same line it means there was even more offense because they weren't getting all their points together. Alex Burrows had 26 goals and while Mikael Samuelsson's 18 goals were down from the 30 he scored last year, that total represents an anomaly as he has only reached the 20-goal mark one other time and he averages 17.6 goals every 82 games.

Perry has the benefit of playing on the best line in hockey with Ryan Getzlaf (76 points in 67 games) and Bobby Ryan (34 goals, 71 points). He also has the legendary Teemu Selanne (80 points in 73 games) and Lubomir Visnovsky (68 points, leading all defensemen) to provide support.

St-Louis's offense was also way more important to his team as Tampa's goaltending situation was much shakier than that of Anaheim and Vancouver. The Lightning had four goalies combine for a 2.73 goals-against average and .903 save percentage, while the Canucks' Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider combined for a 2.14 GAA and .928 sv % and the Ducks had five goalies combine for a 2.72 GAA and .915 sve % and those stats would have been better had Hiller not missed 33 of the final 34 games, including the playoffs with vertigo.

Both St-Louis and Sedin were consistent all season while Perry had half of his points in the final 30 games (25 goals, 47 points). While those totals are impressive, I would like to see the MVP be consistent all season, not just have one good stretch. Had Perry played better in the beginning of the season, they wouldn't have been in such a fight to make the playoffs in the first place.

Sedin had the best team around him and it shows in points percentages when these players didn't score. When St-Louis was held without a point, the Lightning went 7-11-3, taking 17 of 42 possible points for a .405 points percentage and Perry had a very similar number as the Ducks went 10-15-1 taking 21 of 52 points for a .405 points percentage. Sedin's Canucks had a much better record when he didn't score, going 8-10-0, taking 16 of 36 points for a .444 points percentage.

The most valuable player is the one the team simply can't afford to loose. Each of these players played an important role, but Sedin had others around him who could get the job done when he didn't and Perry was really only good for a portion of the season. Those two can make some cases, but St-Louis is the only one who consistently shows unmitigated value to his team. Last year it should have been Ryan Miller or Sidney Crosby. This year it should be St-Louis.

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