The NHL will announce the winners of its major awards on Saturday night, prior to Game 2 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. Among those trophies set to be handed out is the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s most valuable player. This year’s award completely neglected anyone in the Western Conference, with the trio of finalists including Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and John Tavares.
You could very easily make a case for any of these guys. Crosby is the best hockey player on the planet, and the second half of the season saw Ovechkin return to form and put in goals at an absurd rate. But when you talk about the player that is vital to his team having any sort of success at all on this list, the award has to go to Tavares.
The rumor right now is that Ovechkin is set to take home the award on Saturday night. Which is no surprise. Any way you look at it, the league was going to hand the award to a guy who missed half the season mentally (Ovechkin) or a guy who missed a good chunk of the season physically (Crosby). Tavares never really had a shot. Which is unfortunate, since he’s the most deserving.
Without Tavares, there’s no way the New York Islanders are making the playoffs. The former no. 1 overall pick finally had his breakout year and reached superstar heights. He led a pretty impressive Islanders’ top line, finishing among the league leaders in scoring.
Tavares finished third in the league in goal scoring, just four behind Ovechkin with 28 on the year. He had 47 points per game, which matched his near point-per-game pace that he was on in the 2011-2012 season. Sixteen of his points, including nine of his goals came with the Islanders on the man advantage. He was also an asset in his own zone, playing solid defense from up front and winning about half of his draws.
The fact is, without Tavares, the Islanders aren’t anywhere near the playoffs. He lacks the outstanding supporting cast that Crosby has. The main argument against Ovechkin is that he didn’t really show up until the middle of March, when he went on a crazy goal-scoring run. Tavares made Brad Boyes look like an effective offensive player for most of the year.
In the end, this award probably could have gone in any direction. There are arguments to be made for and against each. But it’s hard to argue the fact that Tavares was the most crucial to his team’s surprising postseason run throughout the entire 2013 season. It’s disappointing that he won’t take it home this year, but he’ll likely be back in this situation again before long.