By Bruce Penton
Most valuable? Or most outstanding?
The National Hockey league recently announced its three finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s Most Valuable Player. One of the finalists was Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, who had an outstanding season but probably isn’t even the most valuable player on his team.
Ask all 30 coaches in the NHL who they would choose if both Draisaitl and Connor McDavid suddenly became available in a trade and it says here that all 30 would choose McDavid, who, as Reggie Jackson used to say about his status on the Yankees, is the “straw that stirs the drink.”
True, Draisaitl won the NHL scoring derby with 110 points. McDavid, in seven fewer games, finished second with 97 points. It’s safe to argue that Draisaitl had a more outstanding 2019-20 season than McDavid. But most valuable? Oilers’ fans cry real tears when McDavid gets injured and is out of the lineup for a few games. If Draisaitl got hurt, there would be great concern, but most fans would say, “well, at least it’s not Connor.”
The Canadian Football League is the only pro loop to eschew the ‘most valuable’ definition in favour of ‘most outstanding.’ There are no arguments in the CFL when the league’s most outstanding player is named because it’s usually obvious. In the NHL this year, Draisaitl would be a worthy choice for most outstanding player, but most valuable? No. The award is supposed to go to the player whose removal from his team would have the largest negative impact.
The other two Hart Trophy finalists, Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado Avalanche and Artemi Panarin of New York Rangers are more worthy candidates, as strictly defined by the term ‘most valuable’. Both of those players are singular stars on decent teams, but their departures would have more significantly negative impacts than the situation in Edmonton with Draisaitl.
Hopefully, the voters will get it right, and not name Draisaitl the MVP. And maybe the powers that be in the NHL will in the future define the Hart Trophy recipient as that season’s best player instead of the vague and debatable ‘most valuable.’
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