There are a few things we know about the NHL’s MVP award.
First, it creates a stupid yearly discussion centered around the definition of “value” that makes us all dumber for having taken part in it. Just two sides screaming at each other about the subjective meaning of an award that is largely based on opinion, with both sides refusing to give an inch because they know they are the ones that are right.
This happens almost entirely because of the 1988-89 MVP vote when Wayne Gretzky was pretty much gifted the award over Mario Lemieux (seriously, read this ... it is insane to look back on in nearly 30 years later) simply because he went to Los Angeles and saved hockey there, or something.
Because of that particular vote we now know that the award almost always has to go to a player on a playoff team, otherwise Connor McDavid would have won it in a runaway vote a year ago.
It will also always go to a player that is one of the top-five scorers in the league, meaning there has to be some tangible evidence of production here.
For as much as the hockey media loved Jonathan Toews during Chicago’s glory years, they never gave him any MVP love because he didn’t score enough goals or produce enough points.
There is enough precedent here to know this is how the voting works.
So with all of that said, let’s talk about Sidney Crosby’s chances to win a third MVP award because I can see a push starting to develop given the way he has played all season, and especially over the past few weeks as the Penguins scramble to make the playoffs.
Simply put, he has been as dominant as any other player in the league.
With 86 points he is fourth in the league in scoring and on track to top the 100-point mark for the first time in years.
He has become a regular on the team’s penalty killing unit (and an impactful player in that role).
His underlying numbers at even-strength are off the charts good. He’s a 55 percent Corsi player, and top-15 in goal-differential, scoring chance differential, and high-danger scoring chance differential among players that have played at least 600 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time.
If you like the whole “clutch” narrative, he has been at his best over the past couple of weeks and along with Jake Guentzel seems to be trying to carry an otherwise inconsistent and ordinary team to a playoff spot. You can bet there are voters that pay attention to that.
There is also this factor, which kind of ties in everything we just talked about — of the top-six scorers in the NHL this season the only one that is playing on a team that is guaranteed to make the playoffs is Nikita Kucherov.
Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane are way out, and if recent precedent has taught us anything they will have almost no chance to win the award — or perhaps even be a finalist — given where there teams are. And while we are on the subject, I am going to have a lot of questions for every writer that votes for Kane this season, while playing on a slop team in Chicago, that did NOT vote for Connor McDavid last year, who was even more dominant than Kane is this season and was playing on what was probably a worse team. But that is another argument for another day.
Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have been great, but they are on a team that has faded after the first two months and is currently on the outside of the playoff field in a mostly mediocre Western Conference. They will not receive much attention.
There also is not really a goaltender that is single-handedly carrying a mediocre team to the playoffs, like Carey Price did back in 2014-15 when he won pretty much every award a goalie can win,
Honestly, knowing what we know about the way MVP voters think, it is hard to argue that Crosby — assuming the Penguins find a way to get in the playoffs, of course — wouldn’t be one of the top two or three finalists alongside probably Kucherov and maybe Johnny Gaudreau.
It is still probably going to be Kucherov’s award to lose — and honestly, it should be — because he is having the best offensive season the league has seen since Mario Lemieux and peak-years Jaromir Jagr. It is truly incredible what he has done, and he is doing it for a team that is just dominating the rest of the league. It is tough to build an argument against him because he touches every criteria voters want — production, plays on a good team, has helped carry his team. I can tell you that right now he is almost certainly going to be at the top of my ballot.
But Sidney Crosby is going to be right there as well.
I don’t know if he is going to do enough to win it. But it would be a shock if he is not one of the top-three players in the voting.