Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn and Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s three top scorers, have been selected as finalists for the Hart Trophy. Kane and Benn are first-time finalists, while Crosby is a finalist for the fourth time. He won the Hart in 2006-07 and 2013-14.
Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn have a chance to double up on major trophies at the NHL Awards in June, but Sidney Crosby will be standing in the way of either becoming first-time Hart Trophy winners as the league's most valuable player.
It was announced Saturday afternoon that Kane, Benn and Crosby have been selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association as the finalists for the Hart Trophy. For both Kane and Benn, this is unfamiliar territory as neither has been named a finalist for the award before, but Crosby is a finalist for the fourth time and is looking to add a third Hart to his ever-growing trophy case.
Kane, 26, has the greatest offensive season of the three players. He led the league in scoring with 106 points, finished second in goals with 46, third in assists with 60 and led the NHL in power play points. It was the best offensive season of Kane’s career, too, surpassing his previous career-high of 88 points. His fantastic scoring season was bolstered by a 26-game point streak that began on Oct. 17 and continued through until Dec. 16 when Kane and the Blackhawks were shutout by the Colorado Avalanche.
Kane has never finished better than sixth in Hart voting, and even though he may be the odds-on favorite because he led the league in scoring by 17 points, that doesn’t mean he’ll take home the hardware.
The leading scorer has usually been the clearcut frontrunner for the award post-lockout, but three times in the past 10 seasons a player who finished outside the scoring lead has taken home the award. In 2008-09, Alex Ovechkin’s 56 goals helped him win the award even though Evgeni Malkin led the league in scoring by three points. Corey Perry’s 50-goal season in 2010-11 earned him the Hart, but he finished six points off the scoring lead. And Ovechkin again won the award in 2012-13 for a superb 32 goals in the lockout-shortened season even though he was four points away from the scoring title.
Benn was the runner-up to Kane in scoring, but, as noted, finished 17 points back of the Blackhawks winger. The Stars captain scored 41 goals and 89 points to improve on his career-best 87-point season in 2014-15, and he helped lead the Dallas Stars from a post-season miss in 2014-15 to a first-place finish in the Central Division and the Western Conference’s top seed in 2015-16. Benn averaged 20 minutes of ice time per game, played on the power play and penalty kill and is the heart and soul of a Stars franchise that has undergone a rebirth in the past few seasons.
Even though he led the league in scoring in 2014-15, Benn wasn’t a finalist for the Hart, finishing 12th in voting in large part due to the Stars missing the playoffs. But even though he finished second in scoring and got Dallas into the playoffs this time around, he may end up being the second runner-up for the Hart because of the play of Crosby in the back half of the season.
To the surprise of no one, Crosby, who won the Hart in 2006-07 and 2013-14, was nothing short of incredible as the season wore on. From Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season, Crosby was the league’s leading scorer with 27 goals and 58 points in 44 games as the Penguins turned their season around. Crosby not only led the league in scoring over that time, he went on two separate point streaks that were longer than 10 games. The first one, from Jan. 12 to Feb. 8, saw him score in 11-straight games, which was followed by a 12-game streak from Feb. 29 to March 20.
Crosby’s play was a big reason why the Penguins turned their season around, too. At the start of 2016, Pittsburgh was 18-15-4 and fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, but the Penguins’ coaching change combined with Crosby’s next-level play saw the club go 30-11-4 in their final 45 games to finish second in the Metropolitan.
The Hart Trophy-winner will be named at the NHL Awards, which take place June 22 in Las Vegas.