Thursday, January 31, 2008

What Is The MVP?

1) This is a perennial question that doesn't just derive controversy in hockey, but almost all organized/team sports. What does MVP mean? For some/many it simply goes to the player who has the best overall season regardless of how his team fared. To others its the player who had the biggest impact on a successful team. So which is it?

2) In our opinion the award SHOULD go to the player who has the most positive impact on a winning team! Therefore the Art Ross winner should NOT be automatically given a slot among the Hart Finalists. Simply being the league's leading scorer, although a tremendous feat, does NOT mean that player necessarily helped his team succeed. Much like a home run champ on a last place baseball team, its a great individual accomplishment, but unless it was accompanied by W's/team success it doesn't warrant Hart/MVP consideration.

3) Here is where it gets even more interesting/difficult. One of our frequent/regular contributors VLAD THE IMPALER. who almost always advocates/some say exaggerates the importance of goaltending, made a very interesting comment on a previous blog post. His assertion was: Since a team's goalie was the most important position (no argument from us there) the Hart/league MVP should almost always be a successful team's goalie. Show us a good team, probably with very few exceptions, that team has an outstanding goalie supporting them. How could anyone else be considered?

4) Its a compelling argument. We haven't seen too many goalies in recent years actually win the Hart Trophy. The last being Jose Theodore in 2002. Dominick Hasek won the award back to back in 97 and 98 backstopping his undermanned Sabres to the playoffs, and from there you have to go back to Jacques Plante in 1962! A couple of goalies won it before Plante, but in the 82 year history of the award, it has gone to a mere 6 goalies! Its difficult to imagine that so few of the players from the most important position weren't worthy.

5) For instance, Bobby Clarke, one of our least favourite folks in the league won 3 Harts in the early-mid 1970's. Not taking anything away from his ability. He was one of the better players of his day, BUT would the Flyers have won ANYTHING if not for Bernie Parent? We'd say not on your life. Yet Bernie, not once of those 3 instances was the one deemed 'most valuable'. Certainly in that instance/example we could see Vlad's point.

6) In today's game, with a premium on scoring, the difference between being a great/high seeded playoff team, and being a low seeded team/out of the playoffs is who you have in net. Ask the Coyotes. They have the same personnel/coaches as they did before they obtained Bryzgolov, but just the inclusion of a good/consistent goalie changed the Coyotes from a losing team to a playoff contender! Guess who their team MVP is? Therefore Vlad has convinced us that at the very least one, probably 2 goalies SHOULD be among the Hart finalists every year, and many MORE tenders should win the prestigious award!

7) With that in mind here is our current list of Hart Candidates:

  • Marty Brodeur- Where would the Devils be without him? Likely NOT in contention for a playoff spot, let alone the division title.

  • Roberto Luongo- Ditto the above!

  • Ilya Bryzgalov - As previously mentioned. Since his arrival Phoenix has risen from the ashes of another crappy season to a playoff contender!

      VLAD THE IMPALER said...

      Thanks for the credit of the idea. I think it is high time that goalies got the credit they deserve. Like faux says here, everyone seems to agree its the most important position, but somehow at the end of the day they aren't looked at as an MVP worthy. Strange. I think the way things are run now should be reversed. Goalies should be the league MVP at least 75-80% of the time.
      Why won't it happen? Defense and goaltending isn't sexy. No or very few people go see a hockey game because of the goalie. They want to either see some goals by their favorite guys or maybe see a fight or two.

      Shmee said...


      If the Caps make the playoffs, and he breaks 60 goals, he absolutely deserves it.

      Hooks Orpik said...

      Vlad and faux, I look at it like baseball looks at pitchers: they have their own MVP award, it's the Cy Young. Goalies have their own award, it's the Vezina.

      Of course the position of goalie is the most valuable one; but the award goes to the most valuable PLAYER.

      So, for the same reason a goalie can not be named a captain/alternate captain (they're not skaters) I don't think they should be Hart Trophy eligible. There's always the exception to the rule like some seasons that Brodeur has had but for the most part I think the Hart should go to a skater.

      Perhaps the NHL should take action to make the Vezina as prestigious as the Cy Young Award is to baseball. I don't disagree the importance/impact/value of goalies, I just don't think it's possible to grade them on the same curve as skaters. Give them something exclusive and prestigious.

      This year's MVP, so far, to me is Nik Lidstrom. It's unbelivable what he does for the league's best team....Ovechkin and Alfredsson would be my finalists, at this juncture.

      Jibblescribbits said...

      While I agree with all the analysis, yes goalies should always be the MVP, because they are always the most important player on a team.

      However, the real solution is a goalie only MVP (which they already have, the Vezina) and a skaters MVP. The point is to recognize a non-goalie anyways.

      Also, the way the schedule is set up now there needs to be a west and east, because they play each other so few times like in baseball. The West has lower point totals, and therefore most MVP voters (who reside in the East) forget about how well a player is playing.

      Saying that Goalies (East):
      1) Tim Thomas
      2) Broduer
      3) Huet

      Goalies (West):

      Skaters (for lack of a better word) (East):
      1) Alfredsson
      2) Ovechkin
      3) LeCavalier

      Skaters (West):
      1) Lidstrom
      2) Iginla
      3) Zetterberg

      FAUX RUMORS said...

      1) With due respect to Jibble and Hooks: Skaters also have other trophies: Ross, Richard, Norris, Selke. Awards goalies ca not win.
      2) The Hart does not say its to the most valuable position player, but THE most valuable player, period
      3) The pitcher argument isn't effective here since goalies, unlike pitchers play 2/3 or 3/4 of a team's games if not more. A baseball pitcher will at most start 30-35 of 162 games, and finish very few of those!

      FAUX RUMORS said...

      1) May we add that we have NOTHING against any of the other skaters(Ovechkin, Alfredsson, Lidstrom etc) They are great players/leaders and deserve Hart consideration for what they are doing for their team's chances this season

      Hooks Orpik said...

      Valid point upon goalies having more impact than any 1 ace starting pitcher.

      And you're correct, as the rules are written now, the Hart does say to the most valuable player. Perhaps that's what should change (the wording).

      But it's so hard to judge because a guy like Luongo or Brodeur is so good at one thing, and guys like Ovechkin and Alfredsson totally different, and then you've got guys like Pronger and Lidstrom doing something different from that. All this diversity makes it an impossible task, because it's a team sport.....How valuable would a goalie be without a servicable defense or goal-scorers to support them? Every position is reliant, in differing measures, on the other.

      A lot of people (myself included) were pissed that Pronger won the Hart over Jagr in 2000. But it's hard to say, since they contributed different values in different ways.

      In truth, you could probably make a case for 10-15 players a year for the award. It's a philisophical point of view, I suppose. Surely all the goalers you mentioned deserve the highest of praise for their efforts this season.

      The Dark Ranger said...

      In your MVP goalie consideration, I throw Chris Osgood into the running, even moreso than the regular Elite goalies -- because he was/is positioned as secondary and just signed a long-term extension to his contract. He is truly a Red Wing. Not about the money. A team guy.

      Otherwise, Ovechkin makes my MVP. Cynthia Crosby should be considered only if he launches them into the stratosphere post 'IR'. On second thought, I take that back. :)

      The Puck Stops Here said...

      In baseball, it is possible to assign win shares to players. This is a value calculated from their statistics that show how many wins a player produced. The total wins of a team match up very well with the total win shares of all the players. This is the picture I have in mind when I discuss MVP.

      Now in hockey, we don't have the techniques or statistical record to work out any win shares formalism, but it is still a useful picture to keep in mind.

      The player who deserves the MVP is then the player who produces the most win shares. In principle this player could be on a good, bad or average team as long as he produces the most win shares.

      With that in mind, we can look to the NHL. First we can look at goalies since that is one position you advance in your article. With goalies, out of all NHL positions, we are the closest to being able to statistically determine how many wins they produced. One can compare a goalie's saves percentage to that of the league average and determine how many extra goals he prevented or allowed. One can modify this for shot quality (although the data for shot quality in the NHL is sometimes flawed). From this figure or extra goals prevented or allowed, one can calculate how many wins this would likely have produced. Of course its not a perfect figure. It removes all contributions a goalie makes to a game other than saving the puck (breaking up dump-ins, passes that start rushes, intercepting passes etc). But we do know roughly how many goals (and hence wins) a goalie produced. Typically the number of goals saved by a goalie (vs. the average NHL goalie) is less than the number of goals produced (something that can be roughly calculated from goal and assist totals) of position players again relative to average. This is not always true. Hasek in his prime was an exception. There are no exceptions right now in the NHL.

      Of course, a position player does a lot more in a game than just produce goals, he also prevents them. This goal prevention is very hard to calculate and further many aspects of goal creation are only roughly accountable for statistically. Position players are harder to account for.

      Nevertheless, we can look right now and see a scoring race that is tight. Several players within a few points of one another. The leader Alexander Ovechkin plays in the highest scoring division (the southeast scores more goals per game against itself than any other division does in its inter-division games) and likely has nothing in his defensive game to set him apart from the field. Likewise, there isn't any other clear candidate for MVP among the forwards right now.

      However, on defence, Nicklas Lidstrom is the top scoring defenceman in the league. He is also a very good defensive player. He leads the NHL in +/- by a sizeable margin (of course this is partly a team effect). I think its very likely that Lidstrom would lead the NHL in win shares this year and hence in MVP.

      Or if you want to play your slightly wrongheaded game, where would Detroit be without Lidstrom on defence? Probably they would be a playoff team, but not anywhere near the league leader. That is as big a contribution to a team as any player makes. That is what makes an MVP.

      FAUX RUMORS said...

      1) While Lidstrom SHOULD and will get Hart consideration IF, as you put it, the Wings were without him they would still be a playoff team. Probably even still winning their division by a wide margin.
      2) Can the same be said for the NJ Devils, Vancouver canucks, NY Rangers IF their starting goalie were replaced with a goalie with median/average puck stopping skills? We say unlikely

      VLAD THE IMPALER said...

      Puck, as a Wings fan I love Lidstrom. I will have an argument all day long with anyone who wants to listen on how he is among the top 2-3 defensemen of all time. However I don't think this is even his best season. Let alone a Hart season. Another Norris is in the bag already. He'll probably be one of the Hart finalsts with the eventual Ross trophy winner. However, that will neglect a player or two who will be even more instrumental in helping his team succeeed. The best goalie!

      The Puck Stops Here said...

      As I showed, it is likely true that Lidstrom contirbuted more wins to his team then any other player did in the league so far this year.

      Faux has the completely point missing standard that Detroit would still be good without Lidstrom (duh of course they have Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Rafalski even Osgood made the all star game). Following faux's faux logic, even if Lidstrom contributed the most wins to his team, he is less valuable than a guy who plays on a weaker team who contributed less wins.

      And when we look at his goalie candidates, something is lacking. The one having the best season of the bunch is Luongo. If the season ended right now, Vancouver would miss the playoffs - and thats with Luongo in net. So its not even consistent with the previous piece of poor logic.

      For the record, I think Tim Thomas has been the best goalie in the NHL this season. I would vote for him for Vezina. I think he has contributed more wins to his team than any other goalie - and less wins then Lidstrom (or Ovechkin, Iginla, LeCavalier...)

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