We're somewhere around 70 percent of the way through the Flyers' season, and it's been quite an interesting one. Pick a player on this roster, and chances are at some point this season he's had a stretch of a few weeks where he's looked like a high-end contributor and has had another stretch where he's looked, well ... not as good. With very rare and potentially non-existent exception, everyone on this team has been a bit streaky. (Which, in fairness, is true of most hockey players, not just the Flyers.)
So here's a question: of the 26 guys to dress for at least one Flyers game this season, which one of them is most responsible for their current standing in playoff position? Who's their MVP, in other words? Is it Claude Giroux, the superstar center who looked quite pedestrian for the season's first month but has been unquestionably outstanding since then? Is it Steve Mason, the goalie who's defied all expectations and helped the team tread water in the first couple months when they weren't playing as well? Is it Wayne Simmonds, the winger who some would say has been the most consistent over the course of the season? Is it one of the team's defensemen (haha)? Is it someone else?
Last week, CSN Philly asked this question to the Flyers' fanbase. I immediately knew what my answer was, but I figured it was the kind of question that would get some variety from the Flyers' fanbase. So what we did was threw the question around in an email chain for most of a day or so and gave our own answers to the question. Somewhat surprisingly, we reached a bit of a consensus, which is a bit less interesting than you'd hope, but hopefully you'll find our various reasons for it all interesting.
That email chain, more or less in its entirety, is below. [Ed. note: this email chain took place last week.]
So as inspired by CSN Philly's lunch break tweet earlier today, where they asked if Wayne Simmonds was the Flyers' MVP so far this year, I asked Twitter this afternoon (in a sort of indirect way) who they thought was this season's Flyers MVP to date. I asked knowing a lot of people would say it was Steve Mason, and that's fine. Guy was awesome through the first two months of the season, and even despite the drop-off in December and January, he's been pretty solid on the whole this year. All of that acknowledged, I still think you're really hard-pressed to not pick Claude Giroux. I think his struggles from the first three or four weeks of the season get a little overstated given how good he's been in the three months since.
But yeah. I think it's one of those two (Giroux or Mason), but I lean towards 28. Your thoughts?
I'd agree with you, Kurt. I think Giroux has been hands-down the most important player this year, particularly the last few months. He seemed to react to the Olympic snub in a way polar-opposite to the way in which Cherry Hill Native Bobby Ryan reacted; since the snub he's been an absolute monster. Angry Giroux is a fun Giroux, it seems.
If we're starting from the premise that it has to be either Giroux or Mason (which it seems we are), I think the case could be made for either one. I'm feeling a bit more dispassionate than usual about selecting an MVP, just because I feel like that kind of exercise is a hell of a lot more fun when the team is solid. Anyway, since I'm somewhat indifferent about it, here's my reasoning for each guy:
Giroux: Well, like Kurt said, Giroux has been pretty amazing lately. I think you could also make the case that how the team does is largely dictated by how he is doing personally -- i.e. it's no coincidence that the team was slumping when he was. That being said, I think the perception of how a player is doing now is based on ingrained expectations. For example, remember when Giroux had a "bad season" last year despite being at roughly a point per game? Right now he's not performing at the level he was two years ago, so he's out of the MVP conversation. Does that make sense? No, but you have to believe that's how people assess the situation.
Mason: Going off the same perception idea from above, I'd say Mason could reasonably get the MVP. Yeah, his average performance this year has been short of spectacular, but did anyone really expect that he'd play the way he has? Plus, if you remember back in the dark days of October 2013, Mason was one of the few bright spots. That horrible stretch for the team is going to be remembered more than their current average play, so it only makes sense that Mason would be perceived as the best player on the team for the whole season. Plus, it's not like we've had solid goaltending recently.
If I were forced to pick, though, I'd have to go with Giroux. While this is admittedly crude, I'm basing this on the fact that there are 16 goaltenders in the NHL with a better save percentage than Mason, but there are only 10 players with more points than Giroux. So it basically comes down to the rarity of a replacement.
TL;DR - Jay Rosehill is the MVP.
I guess we aren't necessarily starting from that premise, though. I've seen Simmonds' name mentioned in multiple places. Though obviously I can't fault you for picking Rosehill. #leadership
Count me in as agreeing with the premise that you're really only looking at Giroux or Mason in the MVP discussion. If I had to pick I'm going with Giroux. Giroux started off terribly but has been his usual ginger self ever since. Mason was bookended two poor months with some fantastic play of his own (although this closing has bookended is short, but growing). Simply put, as others have alluded to, I feel like Giroux's strong play has coincided with winning more than Mason's.
And as we all know. Correlation implies causation.
That premise makes sense to me, though. Maybe I'm being a little picky here, but it seems to me that all the conversation about Wayne Simmonds is centered around him doing really well since mid-December, which seems totally arbitrary. How about we see who has done the best since the beginning of the season since we're picking the season MVP? If you do that, I don't know how you could make the case for Simmonds.
I'm with you, Albert. Over the course of the season Simmonds doesn't even enter into the conversation for me.
I think you can make a really good case for Mason. To me, MVP is purely a performance-based award, so I don't really care whether past performance is sustainable in the long-term when thinking about the title in the here and now. I have no idea whether Mason can keep this up, but he's got an overall save percentage of 0.918 this season when the league average is about 0.911*, and the Flyers are paying him backup goalie money this year for that performance. He had the poor stretch late December into January, but it coincided with poor play from the team as a whole (and the defense in particular) so I'm not sure how much of the blame I place on Mason there.
Still, I lean Giroux. I think, in the end, Giroux's play is what drives this team. He takes the most minutes out of any forward, plays in every situation, and has been a point scoring machine since the early slump. For the leadership folks, he's even got the late October playoff guarantee when the Flyers were at their worst which he totally backed up with his play.
Also, I don't think his power play prowess can be ignored either. The fact is, this isn't a very good team at 5v5 (not Giroux's fault, as they're good when he's on the ice), so in order to consistently score goals, they need to succeed on the power play. The Flyers 2nd PP unit isn't all that good, and the entire first unit runs through Giroux. Yet the Flyers' PP is now ranked in the top 10 in the NHL. I credit that resurgence mostly to Giroux.
* Ed. note: League-average save-percentage this year is .914. This was later pointed out/corrected.
Kevin's "bookend" point makes me wonder...
If we'd had this conversation on January 27th, would anybody have given Mason serious consideration? Coming off of a month at .904 and a month at .882?
Since then, Mason has played five games. If you wouldn't have considered Mason two weeks ago, how much weight are you giving those five games? (Oh, and by the way, Giroux has ten points in that span.)
I have to imagine expectations are skewing people's perspectives. Giroux had one month where he wasn't anything more than an average forward. You need your top line to do better than that for the team to win, but it's not a bad performance in any objective sense, and he's been torrid for three months since then.
In contrast, Mason had two great months and two months where he was...well, something much less than an average goalie. I don't see how he could come out ahead.
And it's worth remembering that Giroux's also only getting $3.75M this year. I don't think contract value normally plays into an MVP discussion, but it'd help Giroux just as much as Mason.
We've got six votes and it looks like we're all slowly but collectively inching towards Giroux as the choice here. Do we want to take a stab at least valuable while we're here, or is that a discussion for another day?
I have a feeling all of you are going to answer this by overlooking a certain pugilist's #leadership qualities here and make me cry.
Don't worry Kurt, I'm already logging off. You don't need to tell me.
Yeah, least valuable is too easy, despite the #leadership ;)
Via Eric: "I have to imagine expectations are skewing people's perspectives. Giroux had one month where he wasn't anything more than an average forward. You need your top line to do better than that for the team to win, but it's not a bad performance in any objective sense, and he's been torrid for three months since then."
Think this is what does it for me. I'll take Giroux's one month of .47 PPG and three months of 1.14 PPG over Mason's Oct-Nov of .930 and Dec-Jan of .893. I don't know how you'd be able to look at a goaltender coming off a two-month average of .893 and say "Yep, he's our MVP." I just can't. And I still have the same mindset re: Mason as I did coming into the season.
But let's look at it the other way: If Mason's coming off a two month average of .930 and Giroux has 7 points in his last 15, are things a little bit trickier?
Apparently I need to check my email more frequently.
ALL THE GOOD OPINIONS WERE TAKEN. YOU GUYS SUCK.
This is true.
A few quick thoughts:
* Regarding Collin's point, I don't think it should go unnoticed that the one mediocre month Giroux had (October) was also really the only one month this year where the team was really, really bad. Ever since he's kicked it into high gear, the team's treaded water at worst and been pretty good at best. When Mason had his two rough months in December/January, the team still went 14-10-4 in that time. It's cliche, but "as he goes, the team goes" is pretty close to true for 28. If the opposite were true -- i.e. if Mason's good play coincided with the Flyers clawing their way back into the playoff race, and his bad play was in line with the Flyers' struggles -- I think he'd have more of a case.
* I agree that expectations are definitely a part of the whole thing, and I think that's a small part of the argument. Not enough of one to push Mason over the edge, of course.
* Oh, and Albert/Kelly, regarding LVP, I wouldn't pick Rosehill. Sure, I don't find much value in a guy who plays six minutes every third game and occasionally engages in facepunching, but I feel like the title of "least valuable" is reserved for guys out of whom something is/was actually expected.
Well now I'm dying to know who your least valuable is...
I think everybody can guess who my least valuable is. He's been super, super depressing.
If I had to choose a non-facepunching LVP, I'm probably going Vinny. He just doesn't seem to fit on this team and has been a real let-down.
Unfortunately, at that point, the email chain died. So you all will have to take your guesses as to who our LVPs are. (You may be seeing an article about it in the near future, in fact!)
But as for the question at hand: do you agree with our collective opinion that Claude Giroux is still the Flyers' MVP? Or are we wrong?