Thursday, June 18, 2009

OK, so we ran out of time...

...but there are a few other prognostos to go for the awards:

Calder Trophy

The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.


Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks
Kris Versteeg, Chicago Blackhawks

Who will win: Steve Mason
Who should win: Steve Mason

Pearson Trophy

The Lester B. Pearson Award is presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players' Association.


Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Who will win: Go read the Hart Trophy prognosto.
Who should win: Alex Ovechkin

Selke Trophy

The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season.


Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers

Who will win: Pavel Datsyuk
Who should win: Ryan Kesler

Lady Byng Trophy

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

The Finalists:

Pael Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Who will win: We don't care
Who should win: We don't care

Awards -- The Hart Trophy

The Hart Trophy citation reads…

The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.

The Finalists…

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

The Tale o’ the Tape

We’ve said this before, the award is not for the “best” player – that’s the Pearson. This award is for the player who is “the most valuable to his team.” It is not even a league-wide MVP award, although it serves in that capacity. But back to the point. We’re here to consider who among these finalists (or other league players) was “most valuable to his team.”

The Case for Pavel Datsyuk…

Pavel Datsyuk is the most accomplished two-way player in the game. Fourth in scoring, third in plus-minus, fourth in the league among forwards (50 games, minimum) in Corsi rating, ninth in points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, tops in the league in goals for/on ice per 60 minutes, best differential among the finalists in goals for/goals against per 60 minutes. He was second among the league’s forwards in takeaways and had by far the best ration of takeaways to giveaways among the three finalists for this award (1.78 to 1.16 for Evgeni Malkin and 0.56 for Alex Ovechkin). He – ugh… -- tied for second in game deciding goals in the Gimmick and was tied for eighth in total Gimmick goals. He was by far the top scorer for the Wings in victories (67 points in 50 wins in which he appeared, almost as many as the total points recorded by Henrik Zetterberg (73) and Marian Hossa (71)). Against the 17 teams in which he skated more than once, he was a “minus” player against only four of them. He was worse than minus-1 against only one team he played against (Pittsburgh, minus-2.). He recorded double-digits in points in every month of the season, except April, in which he had six points in six games. He led his team in points, assists, plus-minus, power play scoring, and tied for the team lead in shorthanded points. He is the most complete player among the three finalists.

The Case for Evgeni Malkin...

Malkin is the best all-around offensive talent in the game. First in assists, first in points, third among all forwards (50 games, minimum) in goals scored per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, first in primary assists per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (19 percent better than second place Marc Savard), tops among the finalists in penalties drawn per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. He led his team in goals, assists, points, power play goals, power play points, tied for first in shorthanded goals, and was second in plus-minus. He tallied points against every team he faced more than once. He had 32 multi-point games and had five games in which he had at least four points (Ovechkin had three and Datsyuk one). He had 79 points in Pittsburgh’s 45 wins; compare that to third leading total scorer Chris Kunitz, who had a total of 53 points in 82 games.

The Case for Alex Ovechkin...

Ovechkin is the most dynamic, game changing talent in the game. First in goals, first in even-strength goals, second in power play goals, third in game-winning goals, 22 percent more total goals than second place Jeff Carter, 27 percent more goals-per-game than Carter, fifth in power play assists (second among wingers), tops in power play scoring, second in first goals scored in games, eighth in hits among forwards (neither Malkin nor Datsyuk are among the top 150 forwards). After dealing with a family loss that likely contributed to a slow start (2-3-5 in his first nine games), he finished 54-51-105 in his last 70 games – a 123-point scoring pace. In those last 70 games, he went consecutive games without a point only once. He closed with a rush – his 7-13-20 in his last ten games equaled the combined scoring of the other finalists, Malkin (3-8-11) and Datsyk (3-6-9).

This isn’t as cut-and-dried a race as last year, mainly because the finalists’ negatives complicate things. In the case of Datsyuk, he has a more varied game than either of the other two finalists (he is also a finalist for the Selke Trophy), but there is a certain “managed” element to his game. He finished 46th among forwards in average ice time, a product of the team around him being so talented and so deep. He didn’t have to log 20-plus minutes a night; he played more than 20 minutes 27 times in 81 games. In fact, no Detroit forward averaged 20 minutes (Henrik Zetterberg average 19:52 a game). The flip side of this, however, is that Datsyuk might be the most economical, most efficient player in the game with as much production he gets out of so little comparable time.

In Malkin’s case, he played – and perhaps always will play, whatever his own statistical results – in the shadow of Sidney Crosby. Crosby generally draws the best defensive opponents, which gives Malkin the opportunity to be more productive. One could argue that Malkin put up large numbers in Crosby’s absence in 2007-2008 when Crosby was injured. Well, this isn’t an award for 2007-2008. Then there is the matter of defense. The edge many give Malkin over, say, Ovechkin is that Malkin plays at both ends of the ice. Well, maybe, but the matter might be more complicated than that. Against teams in the East that made the playoffs, Malkin could score – in 34 games he was 12-22-34. But in those 34 games, he was -10 and had “plus” numbers against only Montreal and the Rangers. The flip side of that coin is that Malkin beat up on the bottom feeders. In 14 games against Buffalo, Atlanta, and the Islanders – all playoff watchers – Malkin was 10-25-35, +25. Against the rest of the league, he was 25-53-78, -8. Good, but Hart Trophy worthy?

We said in our look at the 2008-2009 season that Ovechkin “slipped a notch” this year, and it wasn’t because he ended with “only” 56 goals. There were clear flaws in his game, in both numbers and style. He was viewed by some as being a little too focused on the offensive end of the ice. There was the decrease in his plus-minus numbers. There was the fact that his differential of goals for/goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was worst among these finalists. And, if you look at the ranks of the finalists for this award in various statistical categories among NHL forwards, Ovechkin and Malkin are side by side…

These are immensely gifted players, and each has his own case to make that is quite different from the others. They also have their shortcomings, either in talent or in production. In the end, we think that the vote will come down to what the Hart really does reward – the most valuable player to his team. And if you were to take any of these players away from their teams, the most telling effect would probably be felt by Washington, as much for the energy Alex Ovechkin brings to the rest of the team as his numbers. We think that tonight’s winner of the Hart Trophy will be…

Alex Ovechkin

…but to tell the truth, if we had a vote? For the most valuable player to his team? We’d vote for Columbus' Steve Mason.