Friday, April 14, 2006

The False Reason To Support Thornton For MVP

The MVP race this season has come down to a two man race. Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers and Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. It is a tight race. In fact, last night they tied in points so far this season with 122. I support Jagr in part because he is the far better goal scorer of the two.

There is a poor reason to support Thornton that has increasingly been made. James Mirtle comes close to hitting this poor argument among his reasons to support Joe Thornton for MVP. The story is that San Jose was a listless non-playoff team that was well on its way to writing off this season before they traded for Joe Thornton and then the season turned around and now San Jose is a playoff team. But that scenario isn't exactly true. In 2003/04 San Jose won their division and went to the semi-finals. They had a good young rising team before ever acquiring Thornton. In pre-season predictions San Jose was picked as one of the top teams in the West Conference by all. Then they got off to a slow start in 2005/06. At the beginning of the season, both of their goalies (Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala) had missed time to injury and were off to extremely slow starts. I predicted they would turn things around even before San Jose acquired Thornton. San Jose was a very good team off to a slow start that added Joe Thornton and then they played like a very good team. Creditting this all to Joe Thornton is false and simplistic.

Jaromir Jagr is the other serious MVP candidate. He plays on the New York Rangers who were predicted by most to be bottom feeders. However, the Rangers had a good year and will be a playoff team. There are many reasons for this turnaround. Jagr is one. Henrik Lundqvist is another key reason. Again, hockey is a team game. Team turnarounds are always too complicated to credit to one player. Trying to pick MVPs by this method will lead to mistakes (its like picking coach of the year as the coach of the most improved team).

How should one pick MVPs? Watch the players in question play. Compare the numbers they put up. And as Jes Golbez argues, do not get stuck up in the useless "outstanding vs. valuable" argument.

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