LAS VEGAS – The Edmonton Oilers drew a metaphorical line between two of their first-overall picks, Taylor Hall and Connor McDavid, with a memorable trade in 2016. On this night in June 2018, two different voting bases drew another line between Hall and McDavid. The Professional Hockey Writers Association awarded Hall the Hart Trophy as league MVP, while the NHL Players’ Association named McDavid their most outstanding player via the Ted Lindsay Award.
In many years, the MVP and Lindsay votes have sparked debates over the awards’ definitions. Does the MVP truly go to the league’s most valuable player or the best player? Does it represent the same honor as the Lindsay or are they two different things? This year’s votes were a victory for semantics. Technically, the Hart is supposed to go to “The player judged most valuable to his team.” Hall finished ninth in the NHL with 39 goals and sixth with 93 points, but he helped hoist the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs by amassing 15 goals and 41 points more than his closest teammate. He also showcased remarkable consistency and reliability with a 26-game point streak, which included 18 goals and 36 points. Hall narrowly edged Nathan MacKinnon in the vote, but MacKinnon, who had 97 points, also had superior linemates in Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Hall took his team on his back more than any other player and thus fit the literal definition of the Hart.
“If there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s to be the first Devil to win MVP,” Hall said. “At the start of this season, people wrote us off. People wrote me off, and it feels pretty good standing up here now to have the MVP and to have had a successful season in Jersey. I’m just super excited to get back there next year.”
Hall is the first to win the Hart after being traded mid-career since Joe Thornton in 2006. Hall was very candid with media in the weeks and months after the Oilers and GM Peter Chiarelli dealt him straight-up for Adam Larsson in June 2016. It was thus natural for a reporter to ask Hall Wednesday night if winning the Hart post-trade gave him extra validation. Hall sidestepped the question slyly, insisting the trade didn’t make the award any sweeter, but something he said minutes earlier may have hinted at his feelings about the Oilers or at least his feelings on how the Devils have treated him relative to his original team. Hall’s answer, when asked how he improved season over season:
“That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot, and there’s certainly things you change from summer to summer. As a player, as a person, you mature, but in saying that, I was top-10 in points on my entry-level deal. I was a good player for a long time. What brought me to the next level was being in Jersey, playing with my teammates, drafting Nico (Hischier) No. 1 overall, getting to play with him as a centerman all season long. Probably the biggest reason I’m up here today is No. 13 on my team and the trust (GM) Ray Shero and (coach) John Hynes put in me. So I’m honored to represent them as a group.”
The NHLPA’s Ted Lindsay Award doesn’t technically go to the MVP. It goes to the player judged as “most outstanding” by his peers. In choosing McDavid, the PA thus honored the definition of its award, too. McDavid’s 108 points were six more than any other player, and he joined Wayne Gretzky as the only players in NHL history to win two scoring titles by age 21.
“I don’t want to bash on the media or anything like that, – the Hart is obviously a very important trophy – but to have players vote for (the Lindsay), it means so much,” McDavid said. “It’s so special to know they have that respect and feel that way about me. So it definitely means a lot.
“I definitely didn’t think I was going to win it, just because everything was made about not being in the playoffs and whatnot, but it was extra special.”
Missing the playoffs likely knocked McDavid out of the Hart debate, but it didn’t change his peers’ opinion that he’s the best player in hockey, period.
HEDMAN, RINNE END LONG DROUGHTS
After several seasons of flirting with hardware, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne finally have their long-coveted awards.
Hedman, 27, had finished top-10 in Norris Trophy voting three of the past four seasons, including third a year ago. He walked away with his first Norris Wednesday, earning 94 of 164 first-place votes from the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He joins Nicklas Lidstrom and Erik Karlsson as the only Swedes to capture the Norris.
“I was hoping (magician) Darcy Oake was going to come out and get rid of me, but it’s an unbelievable feeling and I’m very proud being the third Swede and first Lightning to win this award,” said Hedman, who admitted to being very nervous onstage accepting his trophy. “It’s very special.”
Meanwhile, Rinne, 35, has his first Vezina Trophy after being a finalist three other times in his career, including runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2015. Rinne is the third Finnish Vezina winner, joining Miikka Kiprusoff and Tuukka Rask.
FULL LIST OF 2018 NHL AWARD WINNERS
Ted Lindsay Award: Connor McDavid, Oilers
William M. Jennings Trophy: Jonathan Quick, Kings
James Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman, Lightning
King Clancy Trophy: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Canucks
Calder Trophy: Mathew Barzal, Islanders
Lady Byng Trophy: William Karlsson, Golden Knights
Bill Masterton Trophy: Brian Boyle, Devils
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar, Kings
Jack Adams Award: Gerard Gallant, Golden Knights
‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
Mark Messier Leadership Award: Deryk Engelland, Golden Knights
Vezina Trophy: Pekka Rinne, Predators
NHL General Manager of the Year Award: George McPhee, Golden Knights
Art Ross Trophy: Connor McDavid, Oilers
Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award: Darcy Haugan, coach, Humboldt Broncos (posthumous)
Hart Trophy: Taylor Hall, Devils