By Jake Greenberg
Hockey, unlike other sports, is heavily focused on team play rather than individual player success. Since early October, 31 NHL teams have been battling against each other every night. This season has been filled with great saves, impressive goals, big hits and selfless interviews. After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley cup in 2012, captain Jonathon Towes was interviewed about the finals. In the same year, only two weeks later LeBron James and the Miami heat won the NBA finals, LeBron being the unofficial captain and best player was interviewed about his respective final series. Patrick Lyster took to twitter to show the difference in selfishness between the two players in their sports. LeBron said “I” 18 times in his short interview, saying “we” none. where Towes said “I” zero times and said “we” 14 times.
The good old hockey game is filled with players that disregard their personal play to praise their teammate’s and their team’s ability to win, but that doesn’t mean the personal play of these players is irrelevant. The NHL most valuable player award, or the Hart trophy is given to the player that performed the best for their team all season long. Who wins this award is normally argued through points scored, team wins, and ability for the team to succeed with or without a certain player. At this point in the season, the race for the Hart trophy is already shaping up to be a good one with twenty-nine players averaging at least 1.0 points per game compared to last year’s eight (hockeyrefference.com). At the dawn of the season, Connor McDavid (22 points), Sidney Crosby (15 points) were the great favourites to win MVP, but now three months in, the league has shown us that there are many other players capable of and pushing to winning the most prestiges award of the year. Steven Stamkos, packing a league leading 31 points is the favourite to win at the moment. His team is playing at an extremely high level, having won 14 out of 18 games, only losing two in regulation. This season it would be hard to argue that the lightening would be playing at the same level if it wasn’t for Steven’s outstanding, MVP caliber play. Nikita Kucherov, who is leading the league in goals with 16 in only 18 games, is not only right with Stamkos in the MVP conversation, but is physically with him in Tampa bay; playing on the same line. Goals have always been seen as more important when it comes to points in the NHL, being the first tie breaker when two players have the same amount of total points. Although leading in goals, his 14 assists bring him to second place in league scoring. The two players are showing an outstanding amount of talent and prove they are top notch every game that the lightening play, but because they play together, it will be hard to settle the argument regarding who is more valuable to the team, sadly hurting both of their chances. (thescore.com) Auston Matthews, the second year California native playing for Toronto is already in company with some of the all time greats after just 98 career games. This year, after 16 games, Auston Matthews had 19 points, and had the the leafs to nine wins out of 16 games. For the Leafs last three games, Matthews has not played due to an upper body injury; the leafs have won all three games. The team showing capability to win with out their star does not help his chances to win league MVP, but if he cant continue to score at a high rate, and help his team continue the winning streak they had while he was hurt, it puts him right back in all conversations had about the topic (nhl.com). Many players like Johnny Gaudreau in Florida and Blake wheeler in Winnipeg, who are carrying their respective teams on their backs have trouble landing their way into people’s every day conversations. This is due to the small hockey market in the city that their team plays. It is easy for someone that is not a die hard hockey fan to turn on their television and awe at the skill of Connor McDavid, or realize how easily a player like Sidney Crosby can take over a game like it is nobody’s business, but that is because they have more nationally televised games. The 2017-2018 season is just staring, and with teams still having to play 66-60 more games, there are many players that can still make a splash in the MVP race, and there is plenty of time for the guys leading to completely fall off. Hockey is known for it unpredictable nature, there is never a disappointing night. Will it be a pre-season favourite like Crosby or McDavid?
Will one of the two lightening stars? Tune in every night and watch the NHL players do what they do best, impress the audience and make this a very hard argument to win until it’s all said and done.