Monday, January 14, 2008

New MVP Selection

I have been picking Vincent LeCavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning as the NHL MVP. When I first selected him, he was several points ahead of the field in the scoring race. Since that point, Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames have pulled to within one or two points of LeCavalier. Meanwhile, Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings has taken the league lead in +/- with a +34 rating and leads all defencemen with 41 points. Not only is he the best defenceman in the NHL, he is also the leading candidate for MVP.

Nicklas Lidstrom is a player I would like to see get some serious Hart Trophy consideration. He has never been nominated for the award, despite having won five Norris Trophies. In my mind he should have been nominated at least a couple times (including last season). It's hard to explain why he has been overlooked. Is it because, as a defenceman, he is never among the top scorers in the NHL? Is it because he is not a North American player and gets held to higher standards than the "hometown" boys? Is it because Detroit has been a perennial top team that usually has more than one solid MVP candidate and that leads voters to ignore the team in favor of squads where there are players who are clearly the only legitimate MVP candidate on their team?

Nicklas Lidstrom is having another excellent season and it is high time that the award voters recognize this with MVP support for him, as long as he continues this season with the same success he has had so far.

1) All this MVP talk goes back to 'what does the MVP mean'? Is it the player who is having the best year in the league OR is it the player having a great year AND helping his team along the way?
2) With the second criteria VL is NO MVP. Would Tampa Bay be lower if he wasn't playing? We prefer your second/more recent choice.
3) Lidstrom has been a perennial Norris winner, but unsung/overlooked as a Hart candidate. He deserves recognition for all he does for that team. Would the Wings win without him? probably, but not nearly as often.
MVP means the most valuable player. The only logical way to measure that is to attempt something like what Bill James does in baseball. To create a statistic (win shares) that converts what a player does on the ice into an equivalent number of wins it produces.

Hockey is too complex a game to actually create such a stat, but one can imagine it existing as a thought experiment.

The MVP is the guy who created the most wins under this stat.

Anybody who says stupid things about Tampa Bay still being a bad team with or without LeCavalierÄ's contribution is completely missing the point. If he created the most wins of all the NHL players he is MVP (I am arguing he hasn't - but I am also arguing that the argument you spell out is stupid).

Any other interpretation of MVP makes no sense. It is the player who happens to be in a lucky situation as well as playing well otherwise. It becomes an award that depends on the quality of teammates and not on the player himself.
1) Not sure what all that means other than MVP remains a nebulous award to even many who vote on this issue. As you write it is difficult to directly quantify 'value' of a player.
2) As such, the mystery remains. Who IS the most valuable player? The guy who wins the scoring race for a last place team, or another who not only performs well for his team and elevates the play of those around him, but also his team actually succeeds. Is that luck or an intangible that should be accounted for?
Nothing 'stupid' about those criteria.
The MVP is the player who contributes the most "win shares". Doesn't matter if his team is 1st, 2nd or 30th.
How can Lecav be the MVP? He doesn't play defense! He gives up a ton of even-strength goals.

I am arguing Nicklas Lidstrom is MVP (not LeCavalier).

However, the fact LeCavlier has the second highest +/- on his team shows that your comment about his defence is a non-issue.
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