2013-14 NHL Awards Predictions: The Hart Memorial Trophy

Daniel Spevak is a writer for The Checking Line - Flyers Edition. This is a part of a multi-part series breaking down the potential finalists for the NHL's annual awards.

The Hart Trophy is awarded to the player deemed to be the most valuable each season.

While a lot of players fit the bill of being good and are capable of putting up statistics, only a handful fit the description of being the most valuable to their respective teams. Here are the players that have been keys to their club’s success.

Honorable Mentions

Phil Kessel - Toronto Maple Leafs

Kessel has had quite the season. He’s tied for fifth in the league with 80 points, and has a career-high 37 goals, which is good for fifth.

Most of Kessel’s points have come in wins for the Maple Leafs this season, and he has consistently averaged more than a point per game against divisional opponents as well.

At even strength, Kessel has been outstanding. He ranks fourth in the league with 60 even-strength points and second with 29 even-strength goals.

While Kessel has been impressive, especially on a very poor defensive team in Toronto, his case for the Hart Trophy takes a serious hit with the current standings.

The Maple Leafs went an abysmal 4-10-1 in March due to an eight game losing streak and find themselves missing the playoffs. Because of this, it’s hard to make a case for keeping Kessel in the Hart discussion.

Tyler Seguin - Dallas Stars

A lot of people have debated which of the Dallas Stars forwards is more suited to be in this discussion: Jamie Benn or Seguin?

Coming to the Dallas Stars this season, Seguin has helped set the pace for the team. With Seguin playing on a line with him, Benn was able to fill into a role that suits him better as a shooter.

The change of scenery for Seguin from Boston to Dallas has been nothing but good for the young center. He has achieved career highs in goals, assists and points, and is currently ranked third in the NHL among all point getters with 82.

The biggest thing going against Seguin (much like Kessel) is Dallas’ positioning in the standings, not to mention he plays alongside Benn who has definitely helped inflate Seguin’s stats this season as a member of the Stars.

Ben Bishop - Tampa Bay Lightning

There’s a bit of a small belief among many fans (and the history of winners shows it) that goaltenders shouldn’t win the Hart Trophy, mainly because of the Vezina award already going to the best goaltender every season. While making a case for goaltenders is sometimes a challenge, there’s no denying Bishop’s credibility in the discussion.

Without even looking at his stats, the importance of Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay is unmistakable.

The Lightning sit at 93 points and coach Jon Cooper has been pegged as a possible Jack Adams finalist, but with the team missing Steven Stamkos for majority of the season, a new player had to step up. Bishop was the man to do it.

Tampa’s goaltender sports both a top ten ranked goals against average and save percentage at 2.33 and .924, respectively, is fourth in wins with 37, and is third in shutouts with five. During the stretch without Stamkos in the lineup, Bishop went 18-13-4 with a 2.05 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

No other goalie on the roster has even close to a .900 save percentage and the team has been only average in games started by anyone other than Bishop. While deserving to be in the discussion, Bishop is still a bit of a long shot from being considered a finalist.

Finalists

Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s undeniable just how good Crosby is. Take a look at any page of offensive stats over the past few years and his name will appear at the top or close to the top of each of them.

Now in 2014, Crosby is once again showcasing why he is consistently considered the best hockey player in the world.  

Crosby not only leads the league in points with 102 (16 more than the second highest scorer), but he also leads the league in assists with 66 and is sixth in the league in goals with 36. The 100-point season is Crosby’s fifth and his first since the 2009-10 season, although this is the first full season he has played since then due to injuries and work stoppages.

There’s no doubt that Crosby is good, but in the case of the Hart trophy, the importance of the player to his team’s overall success is the number one factor to consider. This is where Crosby’s resume stands out the most.

The Penguins have been a team ravaged by injuries this season, quite possibly more than any other team in the NHL. Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Pascal Dupuis, all key players for Pittsburgh, have missed considerable time this season, placing a lot more pressure on guys like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

With these injuries, Crosby has been matched up on lines with unlikely candidates, such as Lee Stempniak, at different points this season. Even so, Crosby has still racked up outstanding numbers and has kept his team motoring for most of the season en route to a second overall seed in the Eastern Conference.

Line mate Chris Kunitz has thrived from the star’s presence. Not only is he ranked eighth in the league in goals, but he has also registered career highs in both goals (35) and points (67), and is just three assists away from tying a career high.

Claude Giroux - Philadelphia Flyers

It’s crazy to think that Giroux could be considered for the Hart Trophy this season, let alone even on a possible list of finalists. In fact, it even seems a little biased coming from a Flyers writer, but a deeper look argues both of those points.

The Flyers captain started the season with just six points in the month of October (all assists) and went a stretch of 15 games before finally scoring a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 8. The scoring drought had many calling for a strip of his captaincy and some even suggested moving him from the top line.

Once that first goal went in, however, a switch was flipped and the center became scorching hot. Giroux registered 39 points in 34 games from December to February and put his dismal start behind him once and for all.

It didn’t stop there for the captain and he had his best month of the season in March.

Giroux was awarded the NHL’s third star of the month thanks to 15 assists and 21 points, which both led the league. He also registered seven multi-point games and at least one point in 11 of 14 games during the month.

The outstanding play from Giroux pushed him all the way to fourth in the league in scoring with 81 points (just one point from a tie for third), fifth in assists with 54 and fourth in the league in power play points with 34. Giroux also has 27 goals, one shy of his career high of 28 set in the 2011-12 season.

Not only does Giroux have some gaudy numbers since his scoring drought, but he has also strapped the rest of the team to his back.

The Flyers boast a record of 20-2-1 when Giroux scores a goal and 33-14-3 when he registers a point. When Giroux doesn’t register a point, the Flyers are 8-15-6, showing just how much the Flyers go when Giroux does as well.

With Giroux’s success, the Flyers jumped from last place in the Metropolitan division to a fight for second with the New York Rangers and find themselves in the playoffs. Not only this, but the team has shown it should be considered among the elite in the NHL, beating teams like the Blues, Penguins and Blackhawks.

Ryan Getzlaf - Anaheim Ducks

While not being the best goal scorer on one of the better teams in the NHL this season, Getzlaf has arguably been the Anaheim Ducks best player at this point in the campaign.

With 86 points and only five from tying a career high, Getzlaf ranks second behind Crosby for the league lead. Getzlaf has already registered 31 goals (a career high), 55 assists (ranked fourth in the league) and seven game-winning goals (11th in the league).

His 25 even-strength goals and 37 even-strength assists place him seventh and fourth in the league, respectively. His 62 even-strength points are second, again behind Crosby.

But Getzlaf’s best contribution to the Ducks comes in more than just his scoring abilities.

Getzlaf uses his big frame to his advantage by playing a physical game and also uses it to block a lot of shots. With 84 blocked shots, he is second among all forwards in this category.

Because of his leadership on the ice and ability to create scoring chances for his teammates, Getzlaf is ranked 12th overall and eighth among forwards in plus-minus. Bruce Boudreau can also count on Getzlaf to eat a lot of minutes in each game as well, shown by his 21:17 average ice-time, third among forwards.

With the Anaheim Ducks leading one of the best divisions in hockey, the Pacific, Getzlaf has been the main reason why as he has shot the puck more this season and proven be a true leader on a talented squad.

Prediction

Winner: Sidney Crosby

Crosby is really good. It’s hard to pick against the only player who will cross the 100-point plateau this season, especially one that has fueled a team suffering from the injury bug as much as the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There are some highly capable players on this list, but all in all, it’s tough to say Crosby won’t be winning his second Hart Trophy to go alongside the Art Ross Trophy in 2014.

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Other awards: Jack Adams

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Daniel Spevak

Staff Writer
Twitter: @Flyrfn144@TCLFlyers