If you want a glimpse into what the future could hold when the Hart Trophy finalists are unveiled, look no further than Thursday’s announcement of the Ted Lindsay Award top-three, which includes the New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall, Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid.
The award, given to the league’s most outstanding player as voted by the players themselves, is regarded by some as the most meaningful of the end-of-season awards, as the recipient has been recognized by his peers as the league’s top player. And, often times, there’s correlation between the Lindsay and Hart.
It should be said, though, that finishing as a finalist for and going on to win the Lindsay doesn’t necessarily mean the Hart Trophy is to follow. The award has been handed out 46 times since its inception — it was known as the Lester B. Pearson Award back then — but it may come as a surprise that only 30 times has it been paired with the Hart honor, as well. That includes seven times in the past 20 years in which the Lindsay and Hart went to different players, most recently in 2012-13 when the Hart went to Alex Ovechkin with Sidney Crosby winning the Lindsay.
With that in mind, here is the case for each Lindsay finalist:
THE CASE FOR HALL
It could be argued that no player accomplished more with less surrounding him than Hall. In 76 games, he was able to score 39 goals and 93 points, and while we’re sure you’ve heard it before, it bears repeating that he led the Devils in scoring by 41 points. He more than doubled the point total of every single one of his teammates except for rookie Nico Hischier, and Hall’s goal total was at least twice that of every Devil aside from Hischier and Kyle Palmieri. It should come as no surprise then that only six players accounted for a higher percentage of his teams goals and only four who factored in on a greater percentage of his team’s offense.
What really makes Hall’s season outstanding, though, is his remarkable level of consistency. Hall registered at least one point against every team except for the Maple Leafs and Predators, and, while it was broken up by injury, Hall went on a 26-game personal scoring streak that saw him register 18 goals and 38 points. That’s nearly two points per game over that span.
THE CASE FOR MACKINNON
Statistically, MacKinnon has a strong case. He scored 39 goals and 97 points in 74 games, had the second-best points per game of any top scorer. MacKinnon also either fired home or assisted on 38 percent of Colorado’s goals. While it’d be unfair to the efforts of Mikko Rantanen or Tyson Barrie or Semyon Varlamov to say MacKinnon was the sole reason the Avalanche saw such a reversal of fortunes this season, he definitely had the biggest offensive influence.
But why attempt to make the case for MacKinnon when we could have P.K. Subban do it for us? Following the Predators-Avalanche series — a series in which MacKinnon scored three goals and six points — Subban said the Avalanche pivot was the “best player in the league this year,” and continued with the following, according to NHL.com's Tracey Myers: “He’s just come into his own and he’s a phenomenal hockey player. He’s so tough to handle, so fast, strong and shifty…I told him I hope he takes home that trophy that he deserves as the MVP. He deserves it.” High praise from another one of the game’s bona fide stars, and if Subban’s opinion is shared by his peers, MacKinnon will have the Lindsay in the bag.
THE CASE FOR MCDAVID
Debate raged on for the better of the last quarter of the campaign about whether or not McDavid was a worthy Hart candidate, you know, what with the Oilers finishing more than a dozen points out of a playoff spot and in the draft lottery despite being one of the pre-season Stanley Cup favorites. Based on verbiage, though, McDavid seems like the perfect Lindsay candidate because what better word is there to describe McDavid than outstanding?
Not only did he win the Art Ross on the strength of a 27-goal, 62-point second half of the season, McDavid basically singlehandedly saved Edmonton from being one of the league’s laughingstocks once again. He fired home 18 percent of the Oilers’ total offense in 2017-18, had a point on 47 percent — nearly half! — of every goal Edmonton scored, with 35 percent of that total coming by way of a goal or primary assist. Those are mind-blowing totals, and it’s clear only three years into his young career that, save Sidney Crosby, there is no other player in the league who can completely control a game in the way McDavid is able.
WHO GOT SNUBBED?
Given the MVP race is going to be as tight as ever, it’s interesting to see who the players decided to leave out of the running for the Lindsay. There are four players who arguably stand out more than anyone else, too.
Let’s start with Claude Giroux, who had an excellent season for the Flyers after a few down years. After some late-season heroics — which came at just the right time given Philadelphia eked into the playoffs — Giroux climbed into the Art Ross race and even flirted with winning the crown, finishing the season in second place behind McDavid with 102 points. His percentages are up there with Hall, MacKinnon and McDavid, too. While he only contributed 13.7 percent of Philadelphia’s goals, Giroux had a primary 26.9 percent of the Flyers’ goals and a point of any variety on 41 percent. Only McDavid was better in the latter category. Maybe Giroux’s two-way play was seen as more substance over style, though, leading to him falling short in the Lindsay race.
And speaking of substance over style, some might find it surprising that one-man gang Hall got a Lindsay nod while Anze Kopitar finished outside the top three. The Kings captain led his team in goal scoring by seven tallies, had seven more assists than any other player in Los Angeles and finished 31 points clear of the next-best Kings scorer, which was Dustin Brown. Above all of that, though, Kopitar was a monster in all situations, including the penalty kill, and he averaged more ice time than any other forward. He didn’t make many highlight reels, but he was everything to Los Angeles.
Finally, Lightning fans are probably wondering where Nikita Kucherov is, just as Penguins fans are probably surprised Evgeni Malkin didn’t land himself a spot in the top three. When it comes to Kucherov, finishing with 39 goals and 100 points is undoubtedly impressive, but he was part of one of the league’s top attacks. That likely hurt his candidacy, though it’s no fault of his own. As for Malkin, falling short of the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophy meant he was likely going to be overlooked. After all, like Kucherov, Malkin plays on one of the more stacked offensive clubs in the league. His 42 goals saw him finish 11th in percentage of team goals. He also finished sixth and seventh in primary and total points percentages based on team goals, too. Hall, MacKinnon and McDavid each accounted for a greater percentage in both of those categories.
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