“It’s Nikita Kucherov for MVP, he’s having an unreal season, and led in points practically the whole way.”
“No way it’s Nathan McKinnon, he’s the only thing going for that Colorado team and he’s had the most points per game of anyone.”
“Oh you want to talk about carrying a team? You gota give the MVP to Taylor Hall. He has __ more points than anyone else on the team! And a 30 game point streak? Cmon.”
“Where’s the love for Evgeni Malkin? He basically willed the Penguins back into the playoffs the second half of the year. And he’s competing for the league lead in points AND goals. He’s a beast.”
That’s what I imagine the nutshell version of the NHL MVP conversation to have sounded like this season. For a year where the race for the award is as up for grabs as any in recent memory, all the talk seems to involve one of four players: Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nathan McKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils, and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And there are definite arguments for each (you literally just read them, albeit in made up bar-room argument form.) But there’s one thing that baffles me.
WHERE THE BLEEP IS THE LOVE FOR CONNOR MCDAVID?
For the majority of the past year, there has been a startling lack of hype over the season Connor McDavid is having. And what a season it is. Let’s just take a peek at the stat line, shall we?
Games Played: 79
TOI per Game: 21:33
How is that dude not the clear cut favorite to win? My best guess is that it’s because of two minor marks against McDavid, neither of which hold water in my opinion.
First, McDavid hasn’t had a world beating stretch of hockey dominance until just recently. Three of the players on the aforementioned MVP short list have been all the league could talk about at one point during the season. They’ve each had their time hogging the spot light. The first two plus months belonged to Kucherov. Then Malkin went on a January/February tear. By March’s start, Hall was in the midst of his 30 game points streak. And although McKinnon never got a his time to shine by himself, the points he put up when he came back from injury were enough to catch attention. McDavid, on the flip side, hasn’t had any monster stretches until recently, but what he has been is unbelievably consistent. (more on that later)
The second thing going against him is bad-team prejudice. Those who vote for the MVP are resistant to give it to someone on a bad team. And lets face it, the Oilers just aren’t good. They will miss the playoffs this year, and have more points than only 6 other teams. But that is no fault of McDavid.
Despite these two porous arguments being used against him, both of those marks should actually be plusses for McDavid’s case. First, he has single handedly kept the Oilers relevant in games. He scored 103 points (and counting) with virtually zero help. And as for the lack of dominant stretches, it makes the numbers he has managed to put up that much more eye boggling. Especially now that he appears to be finishing out the season on fire at or past the level that all of the other candidates were playing at earlier in the season.
Before a current two game pointless streak, McDavid had put up 13 goals and 28 points in 15 games in March. That’s almost 2 points PER GAME, an unheard of streak. Take that back two more games into February and you get 1 more goal and 4 more points for 32 points in 17 games. Get the picture? He’s been killing it even if you haven’t heard about it.
Here’s another point to consider. McDavid is the only member of the Hart Trophy front runners that has the majority of his points at 5on5. In an era where special teams points are often looked at as inflating stats more than justifying them, McDavid ranks 57th in the league in power play points. This isn’t because McDavid isn’t a force on the power play. It’s because Edmonton is so bad they don’t get many power plays. However, that means that 85 of his 103 points are at even strength. That is unreal. The next highest player in even strength points is LA’s Anze Kopitar with 64. For those of you at home without calculators, that’s a 21 point lead on the rest of spread!
I get it. MVP awards in any sport are subjective. Like Oscars and Grammys, the award is about more than just who plays the best. It’s about media attention, over all team success, and even a little bit of campaigning for your cause. So, it stands to reason that, due to the subjective nature of the award, it is very likely the Hart trophy will go to someone other than Mr. McDavid. But those who don’t vote for him will have to look themselves in the mirror and know that, whoever they did pick for whatever myriad of reasons, they probably were less deserving than the 21 year old in Edmonton. He’s been the best player for any team this season. It’s that simple. And he deserves some love.