Hart Trophy Watch: Is Sidney Crosby an MVP lock?

Rory Boylen
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We’re past the trade deadline and heading down the stretch drive of the season. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf has held the lead in our Hart Trophy Watch in each entry this season, but though he’s still very much in the conversation, he’s stepped down off the pedestal this week.

Here is my top 10 ranking of the MVP candidates today. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

1. Sidney Crosby
The Penguins captain has a 14-point lead in the NHL scoring race, which is hard to ignore when trying to decide who should hold top spot in this ranking. So, while my gut says Getzlaf, my head says Crosby and there’s a good case to be made for a player who’s posted these totals on an injury-depleted team. James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have all missed 10 games or more, but Crosby has continued to pile on the points. There have been 15 games this season in which Crosby did not record a point, but he’s only been shutout in back-to-back games twice this season. Crosby averages 22:05 of ice per game, which is second among all NHL forwards.

2. Ryan Getzlaf
At 29 goals, Getzlaf is now four past his career-high, but he still has work to do to equal his career high of 91 points. Where the big Ducks center really stands out is on the penalty kill, where he averages 2:16 of ice each game. This total is significantly higher than any other MVP candidate on this list – it’s nearly a minute more PK time than Jonathan Toews gets. Getzlaf may not win even half of his faceoff draws, but he’s the driving force down the middle of one of the most dominant lines in the NHL. And, though it doesn’t help his Hart consideration, Getzlaf centred and was the driving force of Canada’s best line at the Olympics. It was difficult for me to put him at No. 2. I actually think of him and Crosby as 1a and 1b. The race should be closer than the point totals make it seem.

3. Jonathan Toews
Captain Serious may be the third-highest scorer on his own team, but he’s the most well-rounded player on a loaded Blackhawks team. By Corsi, Toews is the best forward Chicago has and he actually leads them in even strength points. Toews may not have the best point total, but he brings so much to the table that isn’t instantly recognized by the eye test.

4. Phil Kessel
Fitting: in the same season Dallas’ Tyler Seguin is putting his name on the MVP map, Phil Kessel is doing the same in Toronto. With the third-most goals in the league (33) and in a tie for second-most points (70), Kessel has made himself one of the premier offensive players in the NHL. Kessel has 19 power play points, but has really excelled at even strength, where he’s posted 51 points, which is just behind Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf. And the Leafs have really needed Kessel’s offence. since their defense is one of the worst in the NHL.

5. Ben Bishop
When the Lightning traded for Bishop last year in exchange for Cory Conacher many, including your truly, thought the Ottawa Senators made out like bandits in picking up a recent American League MVP and Calder candidate. One year later and Conacher has been waived, while Bishop is putting up MVP numbers. Of goalies who have seen at least 30 games, Bishop leads with a .930 save percentage and is third with a 2.08 GAA. The Lightning team is relatively the same, outside of some young and rookie additions, but after missing the playoffs the past two years, they’re in the hunt with a three-point lead on the competition. That’s the valuable difference Bishop has made.

6. Carey Price
At .925 and 2.33 totals, Price is right behind Bishop in the major goalie stat categories on a team that allows the 12th most shots against per game. Price had a stretch of bad games just prior to the Olympic break, but even broke out of that before heading to Sochi. He’s been injured since getting back, so he hasn’t played post-gold medal – during this time the Habs have three wins in seven games and in each of those wins they needed to score at least four goals. With an average goalie instead of Price, the Canadiens wouldn’t be in the playoffs by six points.

7. Tyler Seguin
Now Dallas has something to thank Phil Kessel about. Since being made a center on Jamie Benn’s line, both Benn and Seguin are having career years and Seguin has launched himself into the top five league scorers. His 29 goals are equal to Crosby and Getzlaf – among others – and his 215 shots rank eighth in the league. Seguin has five games in which he’s scored at least four points this season. It happened fast, but Seguin has become one of the most dangerous NHL producers in the league and this surge has elevated the Dallas Stars into the playoff picture.

8. Ryan Suter
The big Wild defenseman is less than 10 seconds away from playing an average of a half game every time he steps on NHL ice. His 35 points aren’t the offensive totals Norris winners have been getting lately, but Suter brings so much more to the table. Minnesota, in a playoff spot by seven points and highly likely to stay there, are built on a defense that plays behind the 24th-ranked offence in the NHL – and Suter is, far and away, the most important piece of it.

9. Patrick Kane
Tied with Seguin (and John Tavares) at 66 points, Kane leads the powerful Hawks offense on a line with less star power than Toews’. But, in my eyes, what hurts Kane is the same factor that hurts Kessel and Seguin: a lack of PK time. Kane averages precisely zero seconds in shorthanded time and that will hurt you on my ballot every time. While Getzlaf, Crosby, Kessel and Seguin are all still top 10 scorers at even strength, Kane drops to No. 13 when just looking at 5-on-5.

10. Joe Thornton
OK, so Jumbo Joe doesn’t score a ton of goals and he doesn’t even lead his team in scoring, but he’s a force down the middle and one of the better “fancy stat” players in the NHL. Thornton’s 52 assists are second only to Crosby (55) and though Joe logs a ton of power play time, he still gets a favorable amount of points while at even strength. Patrick Marleau was on Team Canada, Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in points and Logan Couture is the rising star, but without Thornton, methinks the Sharks would miss him more than it may appear.

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