MVP Watch: Patrick Kane Should Be Hunting the Hart Trophy

At 26 years old, Patrick Kane is easily one of the most dynamic and recognizable players in the National Hockey League.

View image | Patrick Kane dons the Superman cape at the all-star game.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft is a 2-time Stanley Cup Champion, a playoff MVP and an annual all-star.

He has a Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year, a Silver Medal for Team USA at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and a highlight tape that’s difficult to match. Alongside fellow superstar Jonathan Toews, he makes up one half of one of the league’s most lethal duos and plays on a team that is routinely a consensus pick to win another Stanley Cup.

But what Patrick Kane doesn’t have is the same thing no Chicago Blackhawk has obtained since the team changed its name to one word back in 1986.

Patrick Kane doesn’t have a regular-season MVP trophy.

In fact, he’s never really come close.

The Case For Kane

As Kane and the rest of the league enter the back half of the season, the winger should be looking for a chance to do what no Blackhawk has done in nearly 50 years: win the Hart Memorial Trophy.

The last time the Chicago Blackhawks took home the Hart Trophy, their name was still the Chicago Black Hawks and they did it four times in a row. Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita each won back-to-back times between 1965 and 1968.

Now skating in his eighth season, Kane has never cracked the top-5 for Hart voting. He finished sixth during the 2012-13 season and 7th in 2009-10.

This season, through 43 games Kane has 20 goals and 27 assists. His 47 points are tied for third-highest in the league with the Flyers’ Claude Giroux.

Kane is skating on arguably the best line he has played on in the regular season for the past three seasons, benefiting largely from the Brad Richards effect and was part of one of the hottest lines in the league before Kris Versteeg’s injury.

Kane’s shootout arsenal often has a paralyzing effect on opposing goaltenders, and while those numbers don’t count towards his overall goal total, they do contribute to the Blackhawks win total. So do his highlight-reel goals in regulation.

Being part of a winning team is often crucial to getting nominated for the Hart, and Kane has been the biggest factor in the Blackhawks success to this point in the season.

 What Makes an MVP? A Brief, Recent History

It’s basically a requirement that you have to play forward to win the Hart. The last defenseman to capture the award was Chris Pronger during the 1999-2000 season; before him, Bobby Orr was the last blueliner to do it, winning his third in a row in 1972.

Six different players have won the Hart Memorial Trophy for league MVP in the past decade, with the entire 2004-05 season wiped out due to a lockout. Over that time, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have dominated the list, winning the award the past two seasons and capturing it five times between the two of them (Ovechkin has won three times).

There’s no exact science when it comes to capturing the Hart, but the table below points out some consistencies among the winners over the past five seasons, namely that leading the league in points and/or goals will usually do the trick.

Year                    Player                         Place          G           A          Points          +/-

2009-10          Henrick Sedin            1ST            29         83           112            +35

2010-11           Corey Perry                 3RD           50        48             98              +9

2011-12           Evgeni Malkin            1ST             50         59            109             +18

2012-13*       Alexander Ovechkin    3RD          32        24            56                +2

2013-14         Sidney Crosby                1ST            36         68           104             +18

* The 2012-13 season was shortened to 48 games due to lockout.

Henrick Sedin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each won the Hart in their respective seasons by being the overall scoring leader that year, by healthy margins for the latter two.

View image | Sidney Crosby has won the Hart Memorial Trophy twice.

Sedin’s 2010 campaign saw a ridiculous pace among some top players for points, and his 83 assists led the league by a comfortable margin. But Crosby and Ovechkin tied for second that season with 109 points apiece and either could have won the award over Sedin.

Crosby potted 51 goals and had a plus-15, while Ovechkin had 50 goals and went plus-45, an insane stat given that the winger went minus-35 last season and his defensive play the past few years has been synonymous with this.

Perry won his Hart as the leading goalscorer with 50 during the 2010-11 season, finishing six points behind scoring leader Daniel Sedin.

Malkin’s 2011-12 award was an easy one, as he lead the league in scoring by double digits with 109 points over runner-up Steven Stamkos, who had 60 goals that season. Malkin missed seven games as well, making his points all the more impressive.

But Ovechkin’s nod in 2013 during the lockout-shortened, 48 game regular season was somewhat of a surprise.

Ovechkin led the league in goals with 32 but finished tied for third overall in points with 56, four behind Martin St. Louis, whose 60 was bolstered by 43 assists. Stamkos was second with 29 goals and 28 assists, while Crosby tied for third with Ovechkin, finishing with 15 goals and 41 assists.

However, Crosby missed 12 games, only playing in 36 of the 48, to reach those numbers, making his campaign all the more impressive in 2013.

To capture his second Hart for the 2013-14 season, Crosby had a much easier time; Ryan Getzlaf finished a distant second with 87 points.

 The Current Picture/How Does Kane Compare?

View image | Jakub Voracek leads the league in points through the first half of the season.

Player                         Games Played       G          A          Points          +/-

Jakub Voracek                   43                  17         35           52               +12

Tyler Seguin                      41                  26          22          48                +3

Claude Giroux                   42                 14           34          48                +8

Patrick Kane                   43                   20          27           47                +9

Evgeni Malkin                   41                  19           28           47                +2

Kane’s 2014-15 campaign thus far has him close to the top of the list in scoring leaders, although his 20 goals are seventh best. Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson, Getzlaf, Vladimir Tarasenko, Crosby and Phil Kessel round out the top ten, with Kessel at 43 points, to illustrate how close the race currently is.

While it’s impossible to predict injuries, goal outbursts or droughts, it’s reasonable to say that Kane is on pace for his best season yet and has a slight, speculative advantage over many of the other scorers on the above list.

Crosby, a victim of the odd mumps outbreak earlier in the season, only has 12 goals at this point, while Getzlaf has 13 goals and has had his own campaign bolstered by his leadership skills to keep the Ducks playing near an elite level despite Perry’s absence due to injury.

Out of the current top 10, Giroux and superstar linemate Voracek should continue to rack up points together by skating on the same line, but unless one creates more separation it’s possible they split votes, which will wind up hurting them both. The Flyers also don’t look like a postseason team this season without drastic turnaround; the same problem plagues Seguin’s Stars and Kessel’s Leafs.

It’s not a requirement that the league’s MVP come from a winning team, but the prior five winners have all played on teams that were at worst the fourth seeded team in its conference when the playoffs started. Last season, following the realignment, Crosby’s Penguins were the top seeded team in the Metropolitan Division under the new playoff structure.

Stamkos, Rick Nash and Nicklas Backstrom all lurk just outside the top 10, and it’s reasonable to believe, given the quality of the teams and the experience of those players, that any of them could finish somewhere in the top 5 scorers by season’s end.

Kane Can Win If…

…he stays healthy. It’s the obvious, first answer to the complicated, bigger picture. Again, it’s impossible to predict injuries and goal outbursts or droughts for every player, but Kane has grown into the go-to-guy more often that not this season for Chicago and he’s on pace to best his career high goal mark of 30 set back during the 2009-10 season.

He’ll need a lot more than 30 to win the Hart, but if Kane can get to 40 plus goals and adds 50-60 assists he should remain one of the front-runners. Given his capabilities and the accolades he’s already racked up, Kane should be up for the challenge.