Should Stamkos win MVP if the Lightning don’t make the playoffs?

Steven Stamkos reached 50 goals on Tuesday for the second time in his four-season career. Photo by Cassie Storring/CM

Tim Kolupanowich: There has been a lot of talk about Steven Stamkos lately and whether or not he should be considered for the Hart Trophy at the end of the season. He is having a tremendous year, he has 10 more goals than the next closest player and has a good shot at reaching 60 goals and 100 points, but the Tampa Bay Lightning still may not make the playoffs. The same issue was raised a few seasons ago when Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals for the Washington Capitals in 2007-08, although the Caps did ultimately end up in the postseason. So let me ask you this, Jeff. Do you think a playoff appearance should be the determining factor in whether a player gets the nod for MVP?

Jeff Blay: It is a great debate, Tim. History shows the majority of the Hart Trophy winners have been on teams that qualified for the post-season. That said, it seems more and more these days that successful teams are able to win by committee (i.e. New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues this year) compared to the days when the first place team (or often Stanley Cup winners) also happened to employ the league’s top scorers. The Hart Trophy is intended to go to the player who is most valuable to their team, and there’s no doubt that Stamkos, on the rebuilding Tampa Bay Lightning, is just that. I think the award should go to the player who fits that description regardless of where their team sits in the standings. Is Stamkos the undisputed MVP? That’s another question… Rangers’ Hendrik Lundquvist would be another solid case for this year’s award as he is a major reason why they are currently leading the Eastern Confernece.

TK: As is Evgeni Malkin. His work in Pittsburgh without Sidney Crosby in the picture has been outstanding; he always seems to be able to step up his game in the absence of The Kid. The Penguins are lucky to have him, most teams losing a player of Crosby’s ilk would be in big trouble. But back to Stamkos. To me, most valuable means which one player has single-handedly been the biggest reason for any success his team has had during the season. Stamkos is the only reason for the Lightning to be anywhere near a playoff birth; their goaltending has been horrible, their defense has been average at the best of times and they’ve had little secondary scoring outside of Martin St. Louis for brief stretches at a time and Teddy Purcell more recently. I definitely don’t think he is undisputed, but he definitely should be the front-runner; just look at the goals he has scored: He’s first with four overtime goals and tied for first with 10 game-winning goals, second in go-ahead goals and tied for second with eight game-tying goals and he is tied for fifth by scoring the first goal of the game eight times. Is there really anybody else in the NHL with that much importance to their team this season?

JB: All very valid points, and to answer your question – no, there hasn’t been anyone as clutch as ‘Stammer’ this season – the closest being the aforementioned Malkin, of course. Stamkos is always in the right place on the ice and he seems to make the most of each opportunity he given, if he’s not busy creating his own. Although his goals significantly outnumber his assists, which some would argue is an important part of being the most valuable to your team, St. Louis is one of the best passers in the league and Stamkos is arguably the best shooter, so his goals are just as valuable as any assists he may notch. The chemistry the two have with St. Louis as the passer and Stamkos as the shooter is probably the best in the NHL at the moment. And, at such a young age, Stamkos not only as the potential to improve even further as his career continues, but more importantly, he has been one of the most consistent scorers in the league for past few seasons. While this year, the scoring seems to be rather spread out and other superstars such as Alex Ovechkin have struggled, Stamkos has been able to stick to his game and play to the best of his abilities. Although both Malkin and Lunqvist do make solid cases, I think you’re spot on that Stamkos should still be ahead of the pack.

TK: You’re right on all accounts. And while Stamkos certainly does benefit from playing with St. Louis, he has only assists on 26% of Stamkos’ goals (13 of 50) this season, a drop off from the 55.6% (25 of 45) from last season. The main point that I want to make here is the Hart Trophy should go to the player who doesn’t have as much to work with. It makes no sense that either Daniel or Henrik Sedin be nominated, as each has in the past two seasons, because they work together all the time and when one scores, the other is usually in on it. They also have a tremendous supporting staff, so if they don’t produce, they still have players such as Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo pulling their weight. The same can be said for Crosby and Malkin, at least when they are both healthy and playing at their top level. They are both top point-producers, can play in any situation and when one comes off, the other is usually going on right after and they can each lead the team when the other one fails to. If players share the value, than neither one of the most valuable. Unless someone is producing at a clip so far above the rest of the league, if they have a teammate who puts up nearly identical numbers or play on a team with so many good parts, they shouldn’t be up for MVP.

JB: Absolutely agree. I had the privilege of watching Stamkos score his 49th and 50th goals against the Boston Bruins live at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this past Tuesday night, and there was no doubt he was the most valuable player on the ice that night. The crowd was electric both times he scored and the Stamkos chants were loud and proud. He is the most valuable to his teammates, coaches and fans, and there’s no doubt he deserves the award.

That concludes this segment of Two For Roughing. Stay tuned for most discussions next week.

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