Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Henrik Sedin's Case for Hart Trophy

Sure, Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby would be the expected picks. Poster boys for the NHL since their entry into the NHL a few years ago. But neither of these two are leading the league in scoring. Nope.

That honour - at least for now - belongs to the Vancouver Canucks' Center Henrik Sedin. Should Henrik be considered for the Hart Trophy? Let's make the case for him.

Henrik leads the league with 104 points after 76 games, three points ahead of Alexander Ovechkin.

Henrik has points in 59 of 76 games this year.
Henrik has 33 multi-point games this year.
Henrik has 13 three+ point games this year.
Henrik's longest scoring drought was 4 games, and he has only one 3 game drought.
Henrik has 75 assists - 9 more than his closest competitor - Joe Thornton.
Henrik plays at least 2 minutes per game less than everyone else in the top 10 in NHL Scoring
Henrik is third in the NHL in Plus/Minus

Enough stats for now, let's look at his contributions to the team. Sedin has carried the Vancouver Canucks offensively. Before the season began, questions arose as to how the Vancouver Canucks will score goals. They lost Mats Sundin, Pavol Demitra was injured for over half the season, and Daniel Sedin missed 6 weeks due to injury. Despite this, Henrik Sedin posted impressive numbers and vaulted the Canucks into an offensive powerhouse, second only to the Washington Capitals.

When we look at his likely competition, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, they too have had tremendous seasons and are amazing players. This year however, it is hard to imagine anyone having a greater impact on their team than Henrik Sedin.

Sidney Crosby for example, has an astounding 47 goals this year. No one else on his team has 25. Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal are the only Penguins to have over 20 goals and neither routinely play with Sid. His linemates traditionally have been Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz - who combined have only 32 goals.

Crosby's contributions have been immense to his team's offensive output, but having said that, the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and they've had a decent season that has them about where everyone expected them to be. While Crosby has carried the Pens on his own, I don't think it can be argued that he's made everyone around him better this season as he has in the past.

Nevertheless, Crosby deserves full marks for a tremendous year in keeping the Penguins atop their divsion.

Let's turn to Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin's fans would point to his points per game output, his team's success on the ice, (especially offensively) and how he is widely regarded as the league's best, most dominant player.

However, the Capitals are widely regarded as having an embarassment of riches offensively. In fact, in the nine games that Ovechkin has missed this season due to injury or suspension, the Capitals have a record of 7-2 and have managed to score 43 goals - almost 5 per game.

The Caps have scored at least seven goals in a game five times this season, and three of those games were in the nine without Ovechkin. The other two times, he didn't figure into the scoring. I'm not suggesting that Ovechkin is not an amazing talent, but I am suggesting that the Capitals are a powerful team even without him in their lineup.

One criticism of Ovechkin that should play in Sedin' favour is his suspensions. Not to suggest that his style of play should be held against him, but wouldn't a reliable player who is durable and does not get dinged for suspensions throughout the year be more valuable to an organization than one who misses games for irresponsible acts on the ice?

In any job, you would figure the more 'valuable' member of the team would be the player who demonstrates consistency and reliability. When Ovechkin is in the lineup, he certainly is reliable, and consistently a threat every night, but he is a bit unpredictable.

What's more, Henrik Sedin and his twin brother Daniel have long been credited with being strong defensive players who can control a game with their puck possession and ability to cycle the puck in the offensive zone.

When you add it all up, Crosby offers leadership and offense and Ovechkin offers dynamic offense and passion.

This year however, it is hard to deny Henrik Sedin's impact. Henrik's incredible vision on the ice has him leading the league in assists and posting career high numbers in goals. Not only are his statistics impressive, but he has created two first time 30 goal scorers in Mikael Samuelsson and Alexandre Burrows, and has led his twin brother Daniel to an amazing season as well.

Henrik Sedin has been magic on the ice this year, with a great example coming in tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, in which he had a short-handed goal and two assists.

His no-look behind the back pass has kept defenders honest all year.

With so much media attention on the stars of the Eastern Conference, hopefully Henrik Sedin obtains some recognition for the fairly complete package that he offers. Whether it's a time sapping shift late in the game, a clutch goal in the third period, quarterbacking the power play, or taking a key faceoff, Henrik Sedin has done it all this year. Looking like the Steve Nash of the NHL, no player this year has done a better job of making the players around him better. Henrik should be a favourite for the Hart Trophy this year.

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