First, let me start off by saying that if Pekka Rinne is overlooked as the winner of the Vezina trophy for the league’s best netminder, then all off-season awards should be destroyed and never spoken of again.
Now that we have that formality out of the way, let me also put another debate to rest before it starts picking up too much steam: Pekka Rinne should not be considered a Hart finalist. There…I said it.
Now, before you start at’ing me, we need to take a step back and really examine the components of a Hart candidate. First, is the individual up for consideration named “Sidney Crosby?” If, “no,” then your candidate is not worthy in the eyes of the NHL or the hockey writers entrusted with this most delicate of responsibilities. Does said candidate play for an original-6 team or does he score a “bazillion” points in a season? No? Sorry, please take a seat.
In fact, since the turn of the century, only two goalies have won the Hart trophy, and both were from Montreal (Jose Theodore and Carey Price). One just needs to realize that even Corey Perry from the Ducks has a Hart trophy to his name, so this is obviously a sham of an award.
But, I digress. I think before a conversation can be had about the legitimacy of a Hart trophy candidate, one needs to examine what the league MVP award truly entails. Just the definition alone, “the Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the ‘player judged most valuable to his team’ in the National Hockey League,” goes to show this technically shouldn’t even be considered a league award. It’s for a player that is considered the most important on his team.
Which brings me back to Rinne’s credentials for being considered. Is Pekka even the most valuable player on his own team? I would argue that he isn’t. Honestly, I would argue no one on this year’s Predators roster is more valuable than the next guy. Granted, Pekka has won 40 of the 48 games Nashville has won. That’s what you call “insane.” However, the Preds are doing quite well offensively, ranked 7th in the league in goals scored, so there’s not a whole lot of pressure on Pekka to bail the team out of one-goal games. In fact, (yes, I know +/- is considered a lame measuring stick, but I like it) there are only two guys on the team who have a minus rating, so up and down the roster, you’ve got some of the best backcheckers in the league.
You have your number one center with as many goals as Austin “Watch Me Score a Hat Trick” Watson, a defenseman is nearly a point-a-night player, and an overpriced, fluke of a player who has “had just one good season” is leading the team in scoring.
So, how do you take just one player on the best team in the league and call him the “most valuable?” I don’t think you can. For me, the Hart should be reserved for a player who takes a dumpster fire of a team, puts them on his shoulders and says, “C’mon…I’m carrying you as far as I can. This year, that player is Taylor Hall for the New Jersey Devils. I’d be ok with Nathan MacKinnon from the Avs getting a legit look. But, if I’m being completely honest here, if Pekka were to win the Hart and not the Vezina, I might actually find myself a little ticked off. Rinne is hands down the best goaltender in the league. He’s most certainly the heart and soul of the Predators franchise, I just don’t believe he’s the Hart of the league. I’m perfectly fine with that too.