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What The Hell Is A 'Hart Trophy'?

Okay, so I haven't posted before. Nor have I commented. I live in Montreal as I study, and coverage of the Canucks here is usually mildly condescending and usually nonexistent. I feel better because the Habs have Scott Gomez, who is super awesome at hockey. Lurking this board for the entire season has quickly made it my favourite among those I follow regularly. Anyhow, I usually read posts as I rush off to class (or in class...) and don't really have the time to think of anything genuinely constructive to say. 

So why the, have I chose now to start posting? Well, when I woke up this morning (early afternoon) I saw that Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy had posted an interesting article on the five leading candidates for the Hart. According to Senor Leahy, they were Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov. None of these are a surprise, and are all are certainly worthy or Hart consideration. But why? What does it actually mean to be a Hart Trophy candidate? I attempt to answer this semi-rhetorical question after the jump!

Here is the page for the Hart Memorial Trophy at NHL.com. This is the first sentence:

The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.

Great. That's an excellent idea for a trophy. This is the second sentence:

The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.

Now, this is not as great. Professional hockey writers make their money because people want to consume the hockey media content they create. This means that the more interest there is in their own markets, more demand will be created for hockey media content, and the more money the writers stand to make. Based on this analysis, it would seem that it would be in the interest of hockey writers to promote their teams' own guys. Furthermore, if one player is deemed as 'better' for the image or marketing of the league, writers stand to gain from promoting him (or her, in the case of certain players - Sidney, here's looking at you).

I'm not saying that all writers choose their votes this way, but it would be naive to think that this doesn't happen. The problem is that this style of voting doesn't really lend itself to deciding which player is most valuable to his team, but which player is most valuable to the league or to the writers. 

I think you all know why I'm going on about this. Henrik Sedin is in heavy in Hart discussions. But does anybody think Henrik Sedin is going to win more votes from writers than Ovechkin? Crosby? Probably not. Yet the Caps have done fine without Ovechkin. The Pens had to 'struggle' through the season without a 100% Evgeni Malkin, and had to tough it out with only Crosby, Staal, Fleury, and Gonchar (without Crosby, they still easily would have made the playoffs). (I'm not going to get into stats here as I am already rambling on and on and on, but the Puck Daddy article has plenty of 'em.) Miller and Bryzgalov are the reasons their teams are where they are, yet because it seems to be impossible for a goalie to win the Hart, they will probably not get the recognition they deserve, either.

So what's the answer? Well, remember that talk about how the NHL should change the names of its awards? Let them do it. Change the names. Then let's take the old names and create a new set of awards. Untelevised. No red carpet. Hell, we don't even have to have trophies or a ceremony! But here's the deal: the players vote on all of the awards. We'll have the Hart, the Lady Byng, the Calder, the Vezina, the Norris, the Selke, and the Adams. And they'll all be decided by the players. Sure, they have some stake in the results as well, but not even close to the same amount as the writers. The players have more respect for what these awards mean, know what's its like to have their shot blocked by the same guy over and over again, know what it's like to run into an unstoppable goaltender, know what its like to have their line matched relentlessly by a feisty coach. They can create a set of honest results that will give fans real insight into what the league is like.

Alright. This is unrealistic, and probably not even that great of an idea, but whatever. It would be interesting, to say the least, and maybe some goalies and western conference players will finally get their due. Also, I promise next time I post something it will be half this long. 

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