Now that the 2019-2020 regular season has officially come to a close, we here at Broad Street Hockey are putting ourselves in the shoes of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, among others, and voting on the league’s individual awards. The panel has submitted first, second, and third place votes for the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Selke, and Calder trophies, as well as the Jack Adams, and General Manager of the Year awards.
Up first is the Hart Memorial Trophy. The Hart is voted on by the PHWA, and is awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his team. In recent years, this trophy has been the most widely debated NHL award, with it not only being the biggest individual award, but maybe the most subjective. How do you define value? Does the recipient’s team need to make the playoffs? How much do you punish a player for a good surrounding cast, and how much do you reward a player for propping up a lesser team? All of these questions come into play.
Nikita Kucherov is the most recent winner, following his rather ridiculous 128-point campaign. But are points enough to win the Hart this year?
Our nine-person panel consisted of Kelly, Ryan Q., Jason, Kyle, Drew, Mike, Maddie, Kurt, and yours truly, Brad. I’ve asked that one of them join me for each of these posts to explain why they picked the winner, and we’ll then wrap up by touching on second and third place.
Six names were brought up for the Hart, with our finalists being Leon Draisaitl, Artemi Panarin, and Nathan MacKinnon. With six first place votes, and 24 out of 27 total possible points, our pick for the Hart Memorial Trophy is Artemi Panarin.
Drew: If you’re solely looking at offensive production, then there should be no question that Leon Draisaitl should be the winner. However, we already have a trophy for that, the Art Ross Trophy. I think that to win the Hart, you have to go above and beyond simply scoring a ton of points. That’s why it was fairly obvious that Panarin should be the winner.
After January 1st, the Rangers had played 40 games, roughly half of a full NHL season. They were 19-17-4, and were only six points above the last place Devils. Now, putting aside the changed playoff format, the Rangers would not be a playoff team, but they were certainly in the conversation had a standard format been kept, and Panarin is perhaps the main reason why they went from dead in the ground to kicking with life. He’s nearly singlehandedly dragged the Rangers back into relevancy. His 95 points puts him at third most in the league, and since the midway point of the season, he’s scored the fourth most points (four behind his teammate Mika Zibanejad, who has also been huge for the Rangers).
MacKinnon, our runner-up, had a great season in his own right. His case is helped by how many games his big name teammates missed; Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nazem Kadri all missed at least 15 games, while rookie sensation Cale Makar missed another 13 contests. However, his offensive impact just lagged a bit behind Panarin this season, and he did benefit from having better linemates. While injury troubles did plague the Avs this season, his two most common linemates were still Landeskog and Rantanen. Panarin, on the other hand, played most of his minutes with Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast. Still, a season worthy of Hart consideration is mightily impressive, even if he doesn’t come out on top here.
He scored a lot of points, but didn’t score enough of our votes to take home the Hart — Draisaitl takes third. Like MacKinnon, Draisaitl played with a higher tier of players for over half of his minutes; some guy named Connor McDavid. Heard he’s pretty good. Truthfully, what hurts his case for the Hart more than his franchise-changing teammate is the defensive side of his game. Not only does his defensive impact look poor by the underlying numbers, but the actual goal results are much more favorable for our winner and runner-up. He is our lone finalist with negative shot impacts at five-on-five, and the public statistical models agree that his defensive performance was lackluster. That’s not to say Draisaitl didn’t have an impressive season, because he did. That’s why he’s in this conversation after all. And in the end Draisaitl probably does end up winning the Hart, because points have a massive hold on who walks away with the honor.
Other players who received a vote were Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Boston’s David Pastrnak, and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck.