Kent, he of the We Are All Canuckleheads Podcast, is looking like a genius right now. I say this because he was one of the first people I saw making a case for Henrik Sedin for the Hart Trophy.
Talk of Henrik being a favorite for the Hart trophy picked up steam earlier this week with an article from Michael Farber over on Sports Illustrated’s website (scroll down about midways) who named Henrik Sedin as his pick for the Hart Trophy. (Incidentally, no mention or love for Kesler in the Selke category. Boo.) Michael Traikos of the National Post also had some love for Henrik Sedin as he also picked him to win the Hart trophy. More recently, TSN’s James Cybulski gave Henrik some love, saying that the Swedish twin is HIS pick for the Hart.
Taking a look at it, I have to say that Henrik has made a great case for himself in the first half of this season to be a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy.
The biggest point in favor of Henrik would be the fact that his brother Daniel went down with injury for a prolonged period of time. There are many people out there who will acknowledge that the Sedins are a great duo, but individually they suffer. That line of thinking took a beating reminiscent of Hordichuk’s tilt with Bissonette the other night as Henrik went on a tear for the Canucks, shouldering the offensive burden without his brother. In the 18 games Daniel was out, Henrik racked up an impressive 10 goals and 18 points, including one hat trick and 2 game winning goals. This is notable given that Henrik has habitually been portrayed as being more of a passer and less of a shooter.
Were that the only argument in favor of Henrik Sedin: that he puts up a lot of points and has been able to play well without his brother, it wouldn’t make for a very convincing argument in favor of the Hart. Heck, Marian Gaborik scored a lot of goals for the Minnesota Wild and is now doing much of the same in New York (and getting talk of Hart nominations due to the spotlight being shone there. More on that in a second.) But no, there is more to Henrik’s Hart and there’s a strong argument that can be made in favor of him.
There’s the fact that Henrik, along with his brother, actually makes players around them better. It’s been a long-running joke in Vancouver that you could take anyone and have them play with the Sedins and they’d be made to look like perennial All-Stars.
As I mentioned in my ‘Third Sedin’ article last month, aging veteran Trent Klatt got driven to the airport due to being a Sedin linemate, Jason King got a ‘Rookie of the Month’ nod for playing with the Sedins, Anson Carter got a substantial pay raise due to being the Sedins linemate and Mattias Weinhandl has been able to take his play with the Sedins back in their SEL days and turn it into, ugh, an Olympic roster nomination.
There’s also Alex Burrows (pictured above), the Sedins current linemate. Prior to playing with the Sedins, Burrows was a fixture on the team’s checking line and wasn’t exactly known for his offensive contributions, having scored 22 goals in the past three seasons. In an attempt to fix things for the Canucks, who were in the middle of a horrible losing streak last season, head coach Alain Vigneault decided to stick Burrows with the Sedins and see what happened. The result? Burrows ended up with 28 goals and 51 points by the end of last season and is on pace for the same amount of goals and 62 points this season. Not too bad for a guy who was playing ball hockey and toiling in the ECHL.
Burrows’ improved play can be compared to the rub Jonathan Cheechoo got from Joe Thornton when they played together in San Jose. Back in 05/06, Cheechoo won the Rocket Richard trophy, the same year that Thornton picked up the Art Ross and Hart trophies. You could also point to Colby Armstrong benefitting from Sidney Crosby when he played with the Penguins, although Armstrong did have his greatest offensive totals while playing in Atlanta.
Henrik’s linemates should also be noted when discussing other Hart trophy candidates. Unlike Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, Henrik doesn’t have the luxury of playing with ridiculously talented forwards like Malkin, Jordan Staal, Hossa, Backstrom, Semin or Norris candidates like Mike Green and Sergei Gonchar. Not to mention guys like Joe Thornton, who get to play with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. While the Canucks are a good team and Henrik doesn’t suffer for lack of quality linemates, Burrows, no matter how driven he is, is a far cry from the likes of Heatley. Basically, not only is Henrik being a great player, he is helping to make other players look great as well.
Honest question, would Alex Burrows’ back to back hat tricks have happened without Henrik Sedin? Probably not, as Henrik (and Daniel) assisted on 5 of Burrows 6 goals. It’s a remarkable example of what Henrik can do for the players that play with him and his brother.
Some other stats to chew on and consider: Henrik is second in icetime amongst Canucks forwards, behind only Ryan Kesler. I’d imagine that Henrik might be leading the Canucks in icetime if they weren’t one of the most penalized teams in the NHL (3rd worst as of last night’s game) as Kesler spends a lot of his time on the PK, something which Henrik isn’t as prolific with.
Henrik’s 4 game winning goals puts him in a tie for fourth, tied with guys like Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Teemu Selanne. His brother Daniel is tied for third with his 5 game winners.
His +/- of +19 ties him with linemate Alex Burrows for fifth overall amongst forwards, behind only Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. Daniel, for that matter, isn’t that far off, as his +17 puts him in a tie for seventh overall amongst forwards.
Did I mention that he’s resting comfortably atop the NHL scoring race with 62 points right now? Should he continue this amazing tear he’s been on for the rest of the season, there’s a very good chance that he’ll be in contention for the Art Ross Trophy. It should also be noted that 5 of the last 6 Hart Trophy winners (Ovechkin, Crosby, Thornton and St. Louis) also won the Art Ross, so being in contention (or even winning!) would be huge for Henrik.
There’s also the accolades he’s been receiving, as he was just named the NHL player of the month for December. He has also led the Canucks in the Molson Cup standings for 2 months now. Although the Molson Cup isn’t an official award, it’s useful because the Molson Cup standings are based on three star selections, meaning that Henrik Sedin has been getting named one of the three stars pretty frequently, which means his contributions on the ice have been significant.
Simply put, Henrik Sedin has been playing amazing. But what about his competitors? Well, let’s take a quick look at some other potential Hart trophy candidates.
Marian Gaborik is essentially a one man show on the Rangers and is third in the NHL scoring race at the moment and was leading the league in goals scored. There’s a good chance that he’ll be able to keep up his rate of scoring, but he’s one groin injury away from being tossed from Hart contention. There’s also the fact that the Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot: they’re only 3 points removed from 9th place Philly and 4 points away from the 10th place New York Islanders. Should they not make the playoffs, that will significantly hurt his chances.
Ryan Miller has been carrying the Buffalo Sabres on his back for most of this season and has been posting impressive goaltending numbers to boot, even when the team in front of him has been less than impressive. It’s been said that members of the media (who vote on the Hart trophy) are reluctant to select goaltenders after Jose Theodore’s Hart win and subsequent fall from grace. That said, Miller is no Theodore and will remain a strong candidate if he keeps it up…especially if he is able to take his play for Buffalo and transform it into Team USA medalling at the Olympics. It’ll have everyone talking.
Sidney Crosby is another favorite and was Pierre LeBrun’s pick for ESPN’s mid-season awards. With Malkin cooling off this season, Crosby has had to pick up the slack and carry the Pens offense and has done so admirably. It doesn’t hurt that Crosby is a one time Hart winner so he has the name recognition that some voters may opt for instead of taking a risk on someone like Henrik Sedin.
Alexander Ovechkin has won the Hart twice now and is another guy who is in the thick of the NHL’s scoring race, this, despite missing some games earlier in the season. Everybody loves Ovi and it’s going to be hard for some sportswriters to resist voting for Ovechkin to make it three consecutive seasons of winning the Hart trophy. The fact that he was just named captain also speaks of how valuable he is to the Capitals organization and will stand out for many.
Joe Thornton is also putting up big numbers and up until last night was tied with Henrik in the NHL scoring race. That said, he’s playing on an absolutely stacked team with a potential Rocket Richard winner in Heatley, has guys like Rob Blake and Dan Boyle on the backend. Not to mention Thornton’s other linemate, Patrick Marleau, who currently leads the league in goals scored. It’s going to be hard to argue that Thornton is having the same impact on the Sharks that he did in 05/06 (when he won the Hart.) Compare Cheechoo, a guy who greatly benefitted from Thornton that season, with Heatley a guy who has absolutely killed pretty much since he’s been in the league.
Assuming that Henrik Sedin manages to continue at the pace he’s set for himself and continues to play at the high level we Canucks fans have been enjoying year round, it’s going to be hard to say that Hank doesn’t stack up against the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin or Joe Thornton. As big of a fan as I’ve been of the Sedins, even I am finding it hard to believe…but it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying this dominance.
Hard to believe that there were folks who thought this team would be better off without the Twins.