The Hart Trophy is given to “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”
That is the definition taken from the NHL’s website. If we look at the recent winners of the award, we can clearly see that that is not how the PHWA votes on the award.
If they would have voted on by the definition, then Connor McDavid would’ve been a runaway winner of the award for the last 3 years because he won the scoring race in 2 of the last 3 years and finished 2nd to Nikita Kucherov last year while playing for shitty Oilers teams that lacked any kind of depth beyond him and Leon Draisaitl.
There was no player that was more valuable to his team than McDavid in those three years because the Oilers would have been nothing without him. The gap between him and the next closest player on his team was huge in those years.
McDavid won the Hart in 2017 when the Oilers made the playoffs. He did not when they missed the playoffs.
The league ought to change the definition of the award to something along the lines of this:
“The Hart Trophy is awarded to the player that is deemed to have had the largest impact on his team’s success.”
That’s how the PHWA votes on the award. Nikita Kucherov won last season, and he had two line mates that scored over 90 points. Tampa Bay won the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the league last season because they have a wealth of depth at all positions, and they have the best goaltender in the game right now. Kucherov won the scoring race, and he was on the best team; but without him, that team would have still been fantastic.
Taylor Hall won the award in 2018 on the legs of a 26-game point scoring streak. His Devils limped into the playoffs because of Hall’s performance and because Keith Kinkaid came up big for them in goal that year. Hall was 6th in the scoring race. McDavid won the scoring race by 6 points over the next closest man, but since the Oilers sucked that year, he didn’t win the award.
Connor McDavid won the award in 2017. That was the year he won the Art Ross Trophy by getting 100 points, and the Oilers lost to the Ducks in game 7 of the 2nd round. Winning the Art Ross Trophy on a playoff team pretty much assures a player of winning the Hart. There have been exceptions to that rule, but they have been rare.
Fast forward to 2020, and Leon Draisaitl is winning the scoring race by 13 points over the next closest player, one Connor McDavid. He has 16 more points than Boston’s David Pastrnak, who sits in 3rd place right now. The Oilers are currently in 2nd place in the Pacific Division. That means that they are in a playoff spot if I’m not mistaken.
Leon Draisaitl will be the 2020 Hart Trophy winner. Period. End of story.
Yet I look at my Twitter timeline, and all I see is debates over whether or not Leon deserves to win the Hart. ARE YOU KIDDING ME PEOPLE??
“Leon plays with McDavid, he wouldn’t be doing nearly as well if not for McDavid.”
Leon has been playing on his own line ever since New Year’s Eve. He has 46 points in 25 games ever since that night! That’s 1.84 points/game. He had 61 points in 41 games prior to New Year’s Eve. That’s 1.49 points/game.
Oh yeah, McDavid’s points per game of 1.63 since New Year’s Eve is actually lower than Draisaitl’s mark in that time. Don’t fucking tell me that McDavid has been responsible for Draisaitl’s success this seaosn! That’s bull shit.
Sure, Draisaitl’s line mates have been playing well recently. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is 4th in the league in points/game since New Year’s Eve, and Kailer Yamamoto is over a point per game since being called up and placed on that line.
Kucherov had two line mates with over 90 points last year… he had a little bit of help too, and he won the Hart Trophy. Having good line mates hasn’t stopped guys from winning the Hart Trophy before. It shouldn’t stop Draisaitl from winning it this year!
Who is Leon’s competition?
David Pastrnak is leading the league in goals right now on a Boston team that is 1st in the NHL standings. He’s also 3rd in points. That’s cool. He’s not lapping the field like Draisaitl is though. Leon is only 4 goals behind Pastrnak now. Boston has also been a deeper team than the Oilers have been all season. It’s only been since Yamamoto’s call-up and the trade deadline that the Oilers have been able to claim that they have any sort of team depth.
Artemi Panarin is 25 points clear of his next closest team mate on a Rangers team that is only 4 points out of a Wild Card spot in the East. He is having the Connor McDavid type of season from the last two years, except he isn’t going to win the Art Ross. He is by far the best player on his team. That makes him more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. I advocated for McDavid to win the Hart based on that logic in the last two seasons, but that’s clearly not how the PHWA votes on the award.
If the Rangers were to sneak into the playoffs, then there would be a legitimate case to be made for Panarin. It would be like Hall winning the award in 2018. However, the difference in 2020 is that the Art Ross Trophy winner is likely going to be on a playoff team.
Pastrnak and Panarin would be worthy Hart Trophy candidates in most years, but Leon Draisaitl is dominating the NHL on a team that is in a playoff spot. He has more points per game than any player since Mario Lemieux in 1996-97. This performance from Draisaitl will be shiny enough to distract the PHWA from any other reasonable case that could be made for another player.
Enough with the debates already. Leon Draisaitl is going to win the Hart Trophy this season whether you like it or not, and he is absolutely deserving!