Handicapping the Hart Trophy is usually not all that difficult. You look at which players are leading the league in scoring, and then look at which ones are on the better teams in the league. However, this season may be different. Nobody is on pace to tally 100 points, and scoring is down throughout the league.
This makes handicapping the league’s most prestigious individual honor a bit more difficult.
But “difficult” is our middle name! (Or is it “top”?) Below, we survey the top contenders and provide odds that each one takes home the trophy based on their performances thus far. (Scroll to the bottom for a concise odds list.)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf is the best skater on the league’s best team halfway through the year. He was able to keep Anaheim dominant while Corey Perry was out with the mumps, and he has nearly 20 more points than any of his teammates. Getzlaf is among the league’s best passers and chips in with goals every now and again. If Anaheim runs away with the Western Conference, Getzlaf should get a lot of consideration.
- Odds: 5/2
Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars)
Tyler Seguin is second in the league in scoring and battling for the goal scoring lead. However, the Stars are a borderline playoff contender and having home games in the hockey mecca of Dallas (sarcasm) doesn’t help his chances. If Seguin can lead the Stars to the playoffs – and look substantially more dominant than linemate Jamie Benn along the way – he is likely to garner a nomination.
- Odds: 4/1
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby is having an off-year by his standards, but is still in the discussion. He ranks top-five in points and the Pens should cruise to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Crosby has shown that he is capable of taking over the league at a moments notice. Like Voracek and Giroux, though, Crosby has his own teammate, Evgeni Malkin, to contend with. Malkin is also top-five in points and, if both continue to play well, neither will look like the team’s saviour.
- Crosby Odds: 5/1
Jakub Voracek (Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers’ Jakub Voracek leads the NHL in points and assists. However, Philadelphia is on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff berth (ten points behind eighth-place Boston). Voracek will reach a career high in points sometime in the next week or two and has already set a career high in assists. That being said, a player who has never been in the MVP discussion before, on a team that isn’t going to make the postseason, isn’t overly likely to emerge victorious.
The fact that his linemate, Claude Giroux, is near the top of the league in scoring also detracts from his chances. The award is for the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team. When a team has two guys in the MVP discussion, inevitably both of their chances suffer.
- Odds: 9/1
That brings us to the netminders. Montreal’s Carey Price and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne have been the two most dominant goalies in the NHL this year. Each could make a strong case that he has been the most integral to his team’s success.
Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)
Rinne has been nothing short of spectacular this season and is the favorite to take the Hart at this point. No goalie has won the award since Jose Theodore in 2001-2002, but offense in the league is down, and Rinne has put the Predators on his back. He leads the NHL in wins, has a 1.96 GAA (best among full-time starters), and tops all starters with a save percentage of .931. Nashville is second to Anaheim in the Western Conference (just three points back with two games in hand), and Rinne is the reason why.
The main concern for Rinne’s Hart campaign is that he’s currently out for three-to-five weeks. This is troubling for two reasons: (1) players who miss substantial chunks of time tend not to win the award, and (2) it remains to be seen how he performs upon his return.
- Odds: 2/1
Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)
If it wasn’t for Rinne, Price would be firmly in the MVP discussion. But when you’re the second-best goalie in the league, you don’t even get a Hart nomination, let alone take home the trophy.
That said, Price has excellent credentials and voters won’t hesitate to lean his way if Rinne struggles when he comes back from injury. The Canadiens have allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference and are firmly in a playoff position despite being 20th in the league in goals-for. Price is among the top five goalies this season in wins, save percentage, and goals against average. He has played great in shootouts and is the reason Montreal can call themselves Cup contenders.
- Odds: 10/1
Overall Odds List for the 2014-15 Hart Trophy:
- Pekka Rinne: 2/1
- Ryan Getzlaf: 5/2
- Tyler Seguin: 4/1
- Sidney Crosby: 5/1
- Jakub Voracek: 9/1
- Carey Price: 10/1
(Photo credit: Sean Russell (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].)