Sidney Crosby is the greatest hockey player on the planet, but despite winning the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP this season, he was shut out Wednesday night for both MVP honors.
The Penguins’ captain was a finalist for both the Hart Memorial Trophy — the MVP as voted by NHL media — and the Ted Lindsay Award — MVP as voted by the players — announced at the NHL’s awards gala in Las Vegas. But it was Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid who took home both awards, sweeping the night and leaving Crosby shut out.
This could have been Crosby’s third Hart Trophy, as he previously won in both 2007 and 2014. He was hoping to join an elite class of only eight other NHL players to win three or more Hart Trophies, including Wayne Gretzky (9), Gordie Howe (6), Eddie Shore (4), Bobby Clarke, Mario Lemieux, Howie Morenz, Bobby Orr and Ovechkin (3).
Sid’s got more Stanley Cups than Ovie (three to zero) but it has to be killing him that his rival in D.C. still has more MVPs.
Okay, he doesn’t look so upset in that picture, but he did look less than thrilled Wednesday night. And rightfully so. Crosby had a chance at history in Vegas, seeking to join the list of just three players in NHL history to earn the Hart Trophy the same year they also won the Conn Smythe, given to the NHL playoff MVP. Wayne Gretzky in 1985, Guy LaFleur in 1977 and Bobby Orr in both 1972 and 1970 are the only players to take home both trophies in the same season. Only Gretzky and LaFleur have won the Hart, Conn Smythe and Ted Linsday Award (then called the Lester B. Pearson Award) in the same season.
McDavid led the NHL in points this season with 100, while Crosby was tied for second in the league with 89, the fifth-straight year he’s been in the top four, and the fourth-straight year in the top three in NHL scoring.
While he didn’t win the Lindsay Award or Hart Trophy, there were more trophies for Sid this season. He won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, given to the NHL’s leading goal scorer, with 44 goals. Crosby is just the second player in the NHL to win the award more than twice, behind Ovechkin, who has won it six times since the award was first given out in 1999.
For what it’s worth, many players have won more than two scoring titles in NHL history, led by seven for Bobby Hull. This is a different era of NHL hockey, where 44 goals is a lot. When Lemieux won the scoring title in 1989, for example, he netted 85 goals. Crosby’s 44 goals were the fewest for a Richard Trophy winner in a non-shortened season since 2004.
Statistically speaking, Crosby had kind of an average season, by his standards. His 44 goals were the second-most of his career — he had 51 in 2009-10 — but his 45 assists in 75 regular season games were the fewest since he had 41 in 2012-13…in just 36 games. At even strength he had 34 helpers, the fewest in any season he’s played this many games, and he tallied just 11 power-play assists, the fewest of his career outside of those awful 2011-12 and 2012-13 injury-plagued seasons.
Crosby was a plus-17 in even-strength situations this past season, his second-lowest mark in the last five, and he had just (just) five game-winning goals, four less than last year. Even his average ice time was down about 35 seconds per game from last year, which doesn’t seem like much, but over the course of 75 games it comes out to almost 44 minutes, which is more than two full games of ice time. And still, through all that we-can-only-say-this-about-an-all-time-great-player ‘mediocrity’ this season, Crosby was one of the best players in the league. He just wasn’t the best. But he’ll probably take the back-to-back Stanley Cups over an MVP trophy or two.
McDavid and Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus were the other two Hart Trophy candidates, while Crosby, McDavid and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks were up for the Lindsay Award.
While it’s not time to put a close on Crosby’s career as the game’s best, it could be seen as a bit of a changing of the guard in the NHL. McDavid is just 20 years old, a year older than Crosby was when he won his first MVP, but, like Crosby, in just his second year in the league. He’s an absolute star on the ice, and he’s leading an era of newcomers the NHL is touting as its next great generation. Crosby will turn 30 this summer, so while it’s not like he’s showing any signs of slowing down, losing the MVP to a kid nearly 10 years his junior has got to make him feel old. Or it will motivate him to win another Cup next year. One of those. Perhaps both.