Have a Hart: Time for NHL defenseman or goalie to win MVP?
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith can understand why the NHL’s Hart Trophy is traditionally awarded to offensive-minded forwards.
”They score the goals, and that’s what people see. They see the red light go on,” Keith said during the NHL All-Star festivities in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend. ”It’s not easy to make that red light go on.”
And yet, Keith wondered, why do defensemen traditionally get overlooked in the MVP discussion?
”How did Lidstrom not win a Hart Trophy?” Keith asked, referring to Niklas Lidstrom. The former Detroit Red Wings blue-liner won seven Norris Trophies from 2001-11, and was the 2002 MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
”It’s a good debate and a good question,” Keith said. ”But I think it’s also tough to argue with whoever wins it.”
Chris Pronger, with St. Louis in 2000, was the last defenseman to win the Hart. Before that, it was Bobby Orr’s three-season reign from 1970-72.
As for goalies?
Montreal’s Jose Theodore was the last to win in 2002. And Buffalo’s Dominik Hasek (1997 and `98) is the only other goalie to win the Hart in the NHL’s post-expansion era.
”I’m a little biased toward goalies,” said Florida Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo. ”I think goalies are the most valuable players on every team to be honest. … We can’t have an off night or it’s an automatic loss.”
Some of the leading candidates for the NHL’s top individual honors as the league comes out of its All-Star break:
HART TROPHY (MVP): Nashville defenseman Shea Weber deserves to be a leading contender along with forwards Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), John Tavares (Islanders), Rick Nash (Rangers) and Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay). Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne was in the conversation before spraining his knee two weeks ago. Then there’s Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.
NORRIS TROPHY (top defenseman): Weber is playing a key role for the Predators, who own the NHL’s second-best record. Also in the mix are Calgary’s Mark Giordano and St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk. Giordano leads NHL defenseman with 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) and is part of a Flames team in contention to snap a five-season playoff drought.
Don’t discount Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, especially if the defending Stanley Cup champs secure a playoff spot after an inconsistent start. Doughty ranks second in the league in 29:22 of ice time per game.
VEZINA (top goalie): All eyes will be on how Rinne looks in his return in the coming weeks after being hurt on Jan. 15. Halak has been a stalwart on Long Island, where he finally found the right fit after being a member of three teams last season. There’s also Montreal’s Carey Price, whose 2.15 goals-against average is third among players with 30 or more games.
CALDER (top rookie): Nashville’s Filip Forsberg leads rookies with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists), and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau is second. Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the No. 1 player selected in the draft last summer, is suddenly making it a three-way race. Among rookie blue-liners, Ekblad is first with 25 points (six goals, 19 assists), and second in averaging 22:03 ice time and a plus-7 rating.