Recently the three finalists for the 2016 Hart Memorial Trophy were announced. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins have all had amazing season and are worthy MVP candidates. However, a couple of key names have been left out and should be recognized. The Hart Trophy description of the winner reads, “the player judged most valuable to his team.” While these three forwards are extremely valuable to his team, there may be a couple players that were more valuable this season.
To start, it should be noted that Patrick Kane will easily win this award. Finishing with 106 points, 17 more than the next best (Benn) and being the first U.S. born player to lead the NHL in points sets up the perfect resume. The Blackhawks lost two top forwards in Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, and Kane had to raise his offensive play to a new level to make up for their departures. While Kane has been the most valuable to his team this year, there are players just as or more deserving of at least being nominated than Benn and Crosby.
Last season, Carey Price became the seventh goaltender to win the Hart Trophy in its 92 years of existence. This season, no goaltender is even recognized. The goalie is more responsible for a whole half of the game (not giving up goals) than anyone else on the ice and is arguably the most valuable position in hockey. Not many goalies have won the award because they are not producing points and aren’t usually as flashy as the centers and wingers on the best teams. However, tying the record for most wins ever in a season as someone did this year should be noted. Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals had an incredible season, accounting for 48 games of the team’s 56 victories. He has been more valuable than Alexander Ovechkin, who led the league with 50 goals but had a career low 21 assists. The Capitals finished with 17 more points than any other team in the Eastern Conference (the Florida Panthers) and 11 more than the leader in the West (the Dallas Stars). The “best player on the best team in the regular season” argument certainly favors Holtby, and he should have at least been recognized as a finalist.
A defenseman is rarely recognized for MVP, but there is one player this year that should have been a finalist. The Ottawa Senators narrowly missed the playoffs this year, but defensemen Erik Karlsson did everything he could to get them there. He led the league in assists (66) and in average time on the ice per game (28:58). He was tied for fourth in the league in points and only finished 3 points behind Sidney Crosby with the same amount of shots. As a defenseman, that is extremely impressive. There is no doubt he will win the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the league’s top defenseman. However, he deserves recognition as being one of the most valuable players more than bigger name and more flashy player Crosby.
It is difficult to argue against Jamie Benn being recognized as a finalist for the MVP. Using the same argument as Holtby, he is the best player on the best team in the conference. His play towards the end of the season propelled Dallas into the top spot in the west. While he only had 7 more points than Karlsson, he did enough to make a good team into a great team. Holtby and Benn are close in resumes, and they should be the second and third finalists, with Kane being the first American born player to ever win the Hart.