On Henrik Sedin and Hart Trophy value

Puck Daddy recently referenced a THN article concerning the case against Henrik Sedin winning the Hart. Ken Campbell opined that the Hart should not go to a player who's point total is skewed more towards assists than goals:

What it comes down to is how much weight you give goals and how much you give assists. I’m of the opinion that, unlike minor hockey, goals and assists are not equal because you can have a goal without an assist, but you can’t have an assist without a goal.

Henrik Sedin has been very good – at times brilliant – for a Canucks team that has surprised many with its ability to create offense this season.

But he’s still not getting my vote for the Hart Trophy.

Unlike the Rocket Richard for instance, the Hart is subjective once you narrow it down to the select few and each PHWA vote has his or her own personal criteria (similar to other awards). It's not always offense-centric either (see Pronger, Theodore and Hasek) but since it overwhelmingly skews towards forwards, let's ignore that for now.

For comparison's sake, take a look at Hank's year next to the totals for all the post-lockout Hart Trophy winners [note: numbers tabulated before Thursday's game against Los Angeles]:

Thornton (2005–06) Crosby (2006–07) Ovechkin (2007–08) Ovechkin (2008–09) H. Sedin (2009–10)
Games 81 79 82 79 76
Goals 29 36 65 56 29
Assists 96 84 47 54 75
Points 125 120 112 110 104
ESG 18 23 43 36 24
PPG 11 13 22 19 4
SHG 0 0 0 1 1
GWG 6 4 11 10 0
SOG 195 250 446 528 154
SPCT 14.9% 14.4% 14.6% 10.6% 18.8%
+/- 31 10 28 8 36

A few things jump out to me, including Sedin's still out of whack shooting percentage. Sedin's total goals will likely put him between Thornton and Crosby at the end of the season. And while Sedin is clearly outmatched on the PP, even strength goals is a different matter: at roughly 83%, this is where Sedin does more damage than the rest (64% for Ovechkin last season, 66% the year before that, 64% for Crosby and 62.0% for Thornton).

In relation to the total amount of points, Sedin's assists represent 72% of his total production, similar to Thornton 76.8% and Crosby's 70%. And barring an injury, it's probable that Sedin will break the standing franchise record for points at 110, which would put him in the Ovechkin realm for point totals the past two seasons.

Even Sedin's +/- stands out (as it should considering how many ESG's he has) in contrast with Ovechkin last season and Crosby. Wouldn't you prefer to have a player out there who can not only score but is on the ice for 36 more goals rather than giving them back to the opposition?

So Sedin's numbers are certainly comparable to the other winners. Let's return to Campell:

The problem with assists is you can look at the totals and never really know how much that player had to do with goals actually being scored. With goals, whether it’s an empty-netter, tip-in or a spectacular deke on a breakaway, there is tangible evidence the player in question was pivotal to the play.

94.6% of goals this season have had at least one assist (h/t Gabe from BTN), which itself is part of a greater trend that has remained fairly consistent for the past several decades. That frequency is tangible enough evidence that the assisting player is pivotal, be it primary or secondary. Are we also going to argue that Gretzky's biblical amount of assists weren't tangible too?

In addition, loose assumptions can be made that the goal scorer was - and often is - lucky: the puck careening off the boards right to his stick, a deflection off a defenseman's skate, a horrible defensive breakdown (Vancouver has thrown up plenty of those this season), a tip-in that takes a Magic Bullet path to the back of the net. We're not even bringing to the table the vital characteristics like gaining the zone, winning along the boards, directing the puck on net, "seeing the ice" and every other element that goes into the murky definition of what a scoring chance is. Campbell ignores all of this in favor of the goal column. I'm not suggesting we get into the weeds to pick an MVP, but we don't have to resort to simple black and whites either.

The conventional wisdom suggests the Hart goes to the player most valuable to his team by subtraction. If that's true, then Sedin still won't win (IMO) and I'd give the nod to Ryan Miller. That's the reality I think Vancouver fans need to accept: Hank is our MVP and quietly deserves more recognition than he receives, but he probably won't be the league MVP either (the presumption that his production is linked to Daniel, that this season is an outlier, that it's Miller's time, that Sedin doesn't make the guys around him better, etc.)

Every Hart trophy nominee has his own success story, but to rule one out based on one statistic feels as weak as Darcy Hordichuk's transition game: neither is a good idea.

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