Our writers have picked a winner for the Hart Trophy, but it’s far from a unanimous decision.
As the regular season comes to an end this season, hockey writers will soon be tasked with submitting their award ballots.
We know the voting for the Norris will be controversial. We know the Calder will be difficult to judge because Connor McDavid, the best rookie, only played 45 games. And we pointed out yesterday that the Vezina race is wide open.
But what about the most prestigious award of all, the Hart Trophy? It looks to be a close vote, too. Our writers have picked a winner but it’s far from unanimous. Here are our picks for the Hart:
He’s going to win the scoring title by at least 10 points and the closest teammate is liney Artemi Panarin, who is almost 30 points off Kane’s pace. For me, the Hart should go to a player on a playoff team (because how valuable can you be if your team doesn’t go anywhere?) and Chicago certainly qualifies. Kane will be the only NHLer to crack 100 points in the past two seasons and one of only two to do it in the past three (Crosby had 104 in 2013-14). He has been dominant. (Ryan Kennedy)
Patrick Kane edges out Sidney Crosby and Jamie Benn for the award. Sid made a great late charge, but Kane’s past couple weeks really solidified it for me. No Corey Crawford, no Duncan Keith, and Kane pulls out the stops with some of his best performances of the year, including a hat trick that vaults him to his first 100-point season. Kane faded in the second half but was still plenty good. For the vast majority of the year, he was the game’s most dominant offensive player and thus its most dominant player. He dictates the play with his speed and hands and creativity. He’s a lightning rod for controversy and criticism, but if we’re just evaluating the season he had in a vacuum, Kane’s was the best. Without him, Chicago might have missed the playoffs. (Matt Larkin)
The Hart Trophy is kind of a floating target when it comes to criteria for winning. Does it go to the best player in the NHL? Or should it go to the player who has been most valuable to his team? And this year, that distinction is going to come into play in a big way. If you’re picking the best player, it’s almost impossible not to go with Patrick Kane. But if you’re going with the latter definition, and I’m big on this one, it’s absolutely impossible not to go with Sidney Crosby. And when the race is this close, I’m going with the guy who has been most valuable to his team. You could make the argument that the Blackhawks wouldn’t be as good as they are without Kane. But they’d still be really good. Without Crosby this season, the Penguins are without a doubt a non-playoff team. Crosby has done his damage this season carrying the primary burden for offense on the Penguins while Evgeni Malkin has been out twice with injuries. He has scored 12 goals and registered 29 points on goals that have put the Penguins ahead in games this season, he’s above 50 percent in faceoffs again, has eight goals that have put the Penguins ahead for good in games and, most importantly, gotten hot at just the right time. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. (Ken Campbell)
Patrick Kane’s offensive output likely means he wins the Hart Trophy, but Joe Thornton deserves to take home the hardware this season. Kane has been impressive, but he’s admitted he’s not sure if he’s even the MVP of the Blackhawks this season given the way goaltender Corey Crawford has played. On the Sharks, though, Thornton has easily been the most valuable player to wear teal.
Thornton ranks fourth in the league in scoring with 19 goals and 81 points, and his 55 points since Jan. 1 are second to only Sidney Crosby. On top of his scoring prowess, Thornton has been dominant at 5-on-5 on both sides of the puck. While he’s on the ice, the Sharks have scored 71.9 percent of the total goals and he’s been a dominant possession player with a 56.5 percent shot attempts for percentage. The Sharks wouldn’t have hung around in the race for the Pacific Division title were it not for Thornton. (Jared Clinton)