As the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season comes to a close, it is once again time to decide who should get recognized for their individual achievements. Professional Hockey Writers' Association members, like myself, get to vote for the Hart, Norris, Calder, Byng and Selke awards.
When it comes to judging candidates for the Hart Trophy -- awarded to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team -- voters have historically placed a huge emphasis on selecting players who score lots of points for a team that reaches the postseason. Since the lockout season of 1994-95, every forward who won the Hart has ranked in the top three in terms of points scored. Of those 13 forwards, 10 have won the Art Ross Trophy for the most points in the league, two have come in second and one -- Corey Perry, who won the Rocket Richard Award for most goals in 2010-11 -- came in third in the scoring race.
The challenge with this method for voting for the Hart Trophy is that it doesn't fully illustrate how much a player impacts his team's success, which is why I go beyond traditional statistics like goals and assists and take into consideration advanced metrics such as GVT (a player total value stat similar to baseball's WAR), Fenwick percentage (a proxy for puck possession) and how a player's linemates fare with the candidate on and off the ice.
For example, Sidney Crosby currently leads the league in points with 56 despite playing only 36 games. However, since he underwent surgery to repair a broken jaw, the Penguins have gone 8-3. Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, had just nine goals in 25 games before being reunited with Nicklas Backstrom and scoring 22 goals in the 21 games after. Is the sum greater than the individual parts in Washington? Even in Chicago, there could be a debate as to who is more valuable to the Blackhawks' success: Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane?
That's not the case on Long Island, where clearly the team's most valuable player is John Tavares, who is the top choice on my ballot for the Hart Trophy.