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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Wild: Suter, Staal and Hart

The Minnesota Wild haven’t officially clinched a playoff spot,  but they should later this week, however, their playoff aspirations took a major hit with Ryan Suter’s injury on Saturday. Injuries are brutal at any time of the year, but having your top defender injured in the final week of the regular season is the ultimate stroke of bad luck.

The Wild are a solid, but not spectacular team, and I’m curious to see how they respond this week.

1. Minnesota has been without Jared Spurgeon since he was injured on March 13th against Colorado and now Suter is out for the rest of the regular season and it is unlikely he is ready to start the playoffs. If they were healthy they would have been hard pressed to defeat the Winnipeg Jets, but they have virtually no chance without their top two defenders. Suter plays 26:46/game while Spurgeon averages 24:32. Matt Dumba (23:46) and Jonas Brodin (21:27) will play more, and their other four defenders will be Ryan Murphy (18:55/game and only 17 games played), Nick Seeler (13:22 in 18 GP), Nate Prosser (13:08/game in 52 GP) and Gustav Olofsson (12:46/game in 41 GP).

2. The Wild play four games in six days this week starting tonight versus the Oilers, and then on the road in Anaheim (Wednesday), Los Angeles (Thursday) and San Jose (Saturday). Minnesota is 1-2-3 in their last six games, and they desperately need a win over the Oilers. Lose tonight, in regulation, and their hold on a playoff spot becomes much less stable.

3. I’ve noticed recently many writers have penned articles stating who they think should win the Hart. I don’t recall reading as many in the past, and I’m guessing we are seeing more of these for two reasons: There is no obvious choice, and this is the first year votes will be made public. I’m not going to try and sway other voters to see things how I do, nor do I assume people who vote opposite from me are out of touch. There is no obvious favourite, and it will be a great debate, but we should remember if you vote someone #1 and others #2 or #3, that shouldn’t be looked at as not liking a player. Voters have to select five players in order from one to five. I take voting very seriously and I try to look at every available statistic, but I also realize all voters won’t value the same things, nor should we. This week could decide who wins the Hart, the race is that close. Nathan MacKinnon’s odds could change a lot depending on if the Avalanche make the playoffs or not. It will be a factor, and I understand why making the playoffs matters.

4. Nothing in life is “fair.” Many Oilers fans feel Connor McDavid should win the Hart. I understand why they think that way based on his play. But history tells us many voters will value a playoff appearance more than others. If a team misses by three points, five points or twenty points, they are still in the draft lottery instead of the postseason. Mario Lemieux is the only player to win the Hart without making the playoffs and he scored a ridiculous 168 points when he won in 1988. The Penguins were also a pretty good team. They had the 12th most points in the NHL, but only the top four from each division made it and they finished sixth in the ultra-competitive Patrick Division. The Patrick had six of the top-12 teams in the NHL and the Penguins missed by one point. Lemieux also had 89 more points than Dan Quinn, who was second on the Penguins in scoring. Lemieux did win without making the playoffs, but his Hart winning season was the ultimate outlier.

5. How many Norris or Vezina trophy winners, for best D-man and goalie, have been won by a player on a non-playoff team? None, It could happen, but the winner would need a season as dominant as Lemieux, which will be incredibly hard to match.

6. Here are things I look at. How much of an impact the Hart candidate had on his team. I don’t think you should punish a player for having good teammates, but teammates should be a factor. It has been proven it is more difficult to score without playing with elite players. The great ones still can, but even they can see a dip. Look at Patrick Kane’s production without Artemi Panarin. Kane’s two most productive seasons came when Panarin was on his wing. Panarin didn’t make Kane better per se, but he complemented him very well, and he was able to put Kane in positions to score more.

7. The toughest aspect is trying to value every part of the season equally. We naturally are more influenced by what we see now rather than what we saw in October and November. Nikita Kucherov had the best first half of the season, but if he had that in the second half would he stands out more? Do we value a second half surge more than a strong start? Will Taylor Hall, MacKinnon, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid benefit from having a strong final 40 games?

8. Don’t be fooled into “East coast bias” when it comes to PHWA voting. Looking at the five awards the PHWA vote on: Hart, Lady Byng, Selke, Calder and Norris the winners have been split equally recently. In the past eight years the Hart has seen four players from the West Conference and four from the east win. Same with the Lady Byng and the Selke, although Patrice Bergeron is the only player from the East to win it. The Norris has had five from the west and three from the east while the Calder has had five from the east and three from the west. So over the past eight years those five awards have had a total of 40 winners and the west and east conferences have each won 20.

9. If you wanted to make an argument for “ECB,” then look at the Vezina trophy, which is voted on by NHL General Managers. Since 1994, only two goalies from the Western Conference have won: Calgary’s Mikka Kiprusoff in 2006 and Sergei Bobrovsky in 2013 when Columbus was in the Western Conference, although the Blue Jackets play in the eastern time zone. Since they went to best goalie, not the goalie(s) on the team who allowed the fewest goals, in 1982 no Pacific time zone goalie has won. Only two MST goalies have won: Kiprusoff and Grant Fuhr (1988) with the Oilers, and the only CST goalie to win was Ed Belfour in 1991 and 1993 with Chicago. Granted, outside of Jonathan Quick the PST hasn’t had many contenders, but it is interesting to note in 35 years of voting only five times has the winner come from the Western Conference.

10. The Hart isn’t the only hotly contested award. Do you see a clear cut favourite for the Norris, Selke or Lady Byng? Matt Barzal is seemingly the only clear cut favourite for the Calder. The other four trophies will produce some great debates over who should win.

Anze Kopitar, Sean Couturier, Alexsander Barkov and Patrice Bergeron are in a battle for the Selke, but Bergeron will only play 64 games. Can he win a 5th Selke when he missed 22% of the season?

Drew Doughty, John Carlson, Victor Hedman, Seth Jones, PK Subban and Alex Pietrangelo will be near the top for the Norris. I suspect it will come down to Doughty, Carlson and Hedman, but I won’t be surprised to see Jones as a regular finalist in the future. He’s an outstanding young defender.

The Lady Byng is always difficult to assess and D-men are always overlooked, which makes little sense for me. They are in a position to take penalties for more often than forwards. Oscar Klefbom did receive some first place votes last year, so maybe more voters are realizing D-men can win this award. Ryan O’Reilly, Jaccob Slavin, William Karlsson, William Nylander, Alex Barkov and Anze Kopitar are some of the leading contenders.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 4/2/2018 – 9:30 am MST

  • Alberta Ice

    Lots of chirping today about Taylor Hall as a Hart candidate for that Devils team. (They won again on his short handed goal last night against the Habs.) Now that’s pretty Wild.

  • Aitch

    I can’t or won’t say I speak for other Oilers’ fan, but I don’t buy the “have to make the playoffs” bit for any of the awards. The players’ value to the team didn’t change because of the team as a whole. These are regular season awards and nowhere is there a “*of a playoff team” in the descriptions. Now, naturally, you would think the most valuable player to their team would also be on a better-than-average team, but in today’s age of parity, it’s easy for superstars to play on good, but not great teams as even the best forwards typically play less than 1/3 of the game. (19 forwards with more than 20:00/game and Barkov is tops at just 22:12).

    • Big Nuggets

      I don’t think you need to make the playoffs but when a team is out of the playoff race as early as the Oilers were there is no evidence that there was any value brought to the team. How can a team with an unredeemable season have the most valuable player?

    • Glencontrolurstik

      To your point. McDavid is bar-none the most valuable player in the league.
      Point being, that without him, the team has been absolutely brutal…
      Worse than Buffalo brutal. Can’t argue that? So, he is without a doubt, the most valuable player to his team. Should this team be rewarded anything this year? I say no, nothing, notta… This has been an embarrassing year. I’d even think that McDavid would like to put it behind him?
      The 2017/18 season should not have anything attached to it with Oiler’s written on it.
      It is after all a team sport and McDavid, I’m sure would like to see his effort rewarded by team success, not a chunk of metal?

  • Big Nuggets

    I don’t really care about the Hart trophy. The Conn Smyth has always been the only player award I really cared about.

    Hall is having an amazing season, it would be cool to see him win, I also like Mackinnon. Hall winning would be nice because it would make Chia look bad and some reporter would inevitably ask him about what he thinks of Hall’s season.

    • arab05

      Its crazy that Georges Laraque comments about Taylor Hall being in and out of rehab didn’t get talked about that much. Later Georges says that the information he was given was 100% false. I have said this on Oilersnation a couple times and what Laraque said about hall is 100% true.

      The reason why PC didn’t get as good of return for Hall was because it was known by the GMs that Hall was indeed in and out of rehab.

      • McDavid's Comet

        That would explain the low return for Hall. At the time of the trade I for one was perplexed why PC got such a low in return. However for Hall’s sake PC shouldn’t be expected to explain Hall’s personal demons either. Oilers did him a favour by moving him out of town, if that bit of info had otherwise been leaked-out the fans and media would have crucified him. If what Georges said remains to be true, despite his recent recant.

        I suppose what I still don’t understand is Hall’s need to throw the Oilers under the bus every time the media puts a microphone in his face.

        • Make Another Bad Trade or Signing!!

          PC got such a low return because he accepted it. Period. If good return is not there, don’t make the trade. He made it, he wears it.

          • McDavid's Comet

            That’s fair, however what I was trying to say is if Hall was indeed in rehab PC actually made out pretty good considering the circumstances. It really doesn’t matter now, what’s done is done.

        • Jason Gregor

          He was never in rehab. Stop spreading bullshit to try and defend trade. Laraque was clueless and admitted he was wrong. You’re adding to more BS. Laraque was never accurate stop repeating it. You look like foolish for doing so.

  • VK63

    Brad Marchand should win the Hart.
    Also.
    There is no freaking way Brad Marchand wins the Hart. He is todays version of Ted Lindsay and far too polarizing to have a group as weak minded as sports writers vote for him, although, arguably, his play and contributions merit considerable consideration.
    The reason so many pieces are being written in advance of these awards votes is that sports writers don’t like the thought of having their beliefs and biases exposed, thus, they are writing these pieces to smooth the terrain, sow seeds and essentially, be gutless about it.

  • Jordan88

    This unwritten rule stating a player needs to make the play offs to be considered the most valuable is such BS.

    McDavid transcends the game and without his individual brilliance we could easily be a 31st team this year.

    You’re punishing the player because of terrible coaching and terrible asset management.

    McDavid has put up 103 points while skating with almost every winger in the organization.

    He has been on 45% of the teams total offence.

    He skates against the best defensive players in the game. And frequently makes them look over rated. ( That’s not a knock on them that’s just how good he is.)

    meanwhile he is saddled on a team with the worst special teams in franchise history.

    In fact a division rival in order to won in OT has developed a strategy to keep the puck away from him because on 3 on 3 he has too much ice.

    So a player that puts up league leading points on a garbage team while besting his previous year and reaching century mark doesn’t make him the most valuable to his team I don’t know what does.

    • Clayton

      I agree the unwritten rule is stupid. For me the factor relating to the playoffs is more about team standing. With Connor the Oilers are 24/31 teams. So at best he makes the Oilers 7 positions better. With Connor the Oilers are 19 points from a Wild Card spot. Without him…who knows? But either way they are so far out of it they don’t stand a chance with our without Connor. To me the Hart should go to Nathan MacKinnon. Why?

      1. He is 9 points behind Connor for the league but has played 8 less games than Connor and has a higher points per game than Connor. Pro-rate points over 82 game schedule…Connor = 107 Nathan = 109.

      2. Nathan also has 11 GWG to Connor’s 7. Pro-rated: Connor = 8 Nathan =13. That means Nathan has scored the GWG in 20% of the games he played this year. Connor…just 8%.

      3. TOI – Nathan averages nearly 2 minutes of ice time less than Connor. He is having a larger impact in fewer minutes.

      And oh yea…Avs are in a playoff spot…and 19 points ahead of the Oilers. Not that Connor hasn’t had a great season…and likely could have had a better season if he had better support…but then again wouldn’t any player do better if they had better support? Just the way I see it. Now…if it was for most exciting player…Connor…hands down…no contest…except for maybe Mike Smith…always entertaining watching him ‘handle’ the puck right onto the opposition sticks!

      • Jordan88

        A few weeks ago I would say Mackinnon wins it. However his season has been on the line for the past few weeks and he has not dominated. Over all he has been very streaky. McDavid has been outside the league scoring race since season started and in January it seemed insurmountable considering his individual position and the Oilers overall position. Factor in the power play being what 31st in the league.

        But he has busted his ass and absolutely dominates the league in EV points. Yes MacKinnon was injured.

        But McDavid played through strep, tonsillitis, fever, and puking his guts out.

        Numerous players take time off to deal with illness. He didn’t and he produced. 19 points over that month and tried to get Edmonton back in it. But goaltending was spotty.

        • Clayton

          Yea Nathan’s 12 points in the last 10 games sure is slacking off! Yea, it doesn’t match Connor’s 18 points in his last 10 games but it is different getting points when your team is in the playoff hunt…you have to play Defense not just focus on racking up points like Connor has since January. Just look at Connor’s +/- over the last ten games…a +2 despite 18 points. Nathan has an identical +2 despite only 12 goals! He is playing defensive side of the game too. Watch an Oilers game…take a shot everytime Connor skates lower than the face of circles in his own zone…you will be stone sober by the end of the game! Yes…I get that +/- isn’t the best stat, but it does show how Connor’s focus has been racking up points not winning games!

  • Dan 1919

    Listening to these broadcasters talk about the Hart trophy saying playoffs is a must. What a joke, definition is “player judged most valuable to his team”.
    I don’t disagree that the wording should be changed even to reflect making the playoffs, but as of right now these broadcasters are creating their own narrative. Giving the trophy as a pity party to someone else just because Connor didn’t make the playoffs is a disservice to the award. Media is really circling the drain these past 5-10yrs. Not sure if it’s degrading or just enough info is out there now to show that they’ve always been this disappointing.

    • Oiler Al

      I agree with Dan 1919 comment regarding this creation of a narrative by some of these [spineless broadcasters] who think playoffs are the answer,
      feeling secure in in their choice being shadowed by the sheep.How manmy ofthese voters would turn down McDavid if they were a GM? I think zero…. well maybe ,Charelli.
      PS: How about a title change…Gretzky won it 9 years a row.

  • Heschultzhescores

    No single player can put a team in the playoffs. Give your head a shake, and get off your high horse and vote for McDavid who is clearly the greatest player in the game today. The best player playing on THE worst managed team in the NHL makes him even more amazing to keep his chin up and keep getting the job done Every night!

    • Dan 1919

      No kidding, you should have seen the hockey central panel. Listening to that ego stroking contest just made me lose all respect for the Hart trophy. In addition to their fabricated playoff narrative, they’re saying Ovi and Wheeler play for a strong team so they’re not MVP material. Absolute joke, so if your team is too bad you don’t get a vote, but too good and you don’t fit the threshold. These guys are asked to vote in good faith based on predermined trophy definitions, and instead they pretend they’re the second coming of Nostradamus and completely create their own trophy guidelines.

      The media should be voting on nicest goalie masks and absolutely nothing else. The Cujo award.

  • JayZed

    Come on guys. It’s not really that hard to comprehend. If someone who is voting on the award uses the definition “most valuable to his team” and expands to the thought that making the playoffs is a measure of value, they have every right to do so. Not all will, and personally i don’t think it holds much weight in the decision, but it is definitely an aspect to consider. But if that’s how they get to their vote, then so be it. Who cares. Whining about McDavid being the clear Hart winner this year is wrong. Yes he’s arguably the best player in the league, but that’s not the award. Many deserving candidates this year, McDavid included.

    • Dan 1919

      Sorry I don’t agree. My post wasn’t strictly on McDavid winning it, it was on the whole mockery of the fabricated voting stipulations that all these guys are trying to come up with, instead of just MOST VALUABLE, like they’re suppose to be doing.

      But strictly on McDavid, here is a terrible analogy that they’re essentially trying to convince themselves of:
      Watch McDavid play, he belongs in a different league, he is the most valuable player to his team, and even the entire NHL.
      So if you take a $10,000 dollar diamond from a million dollar home(playoff team) and put it in a trailer park(OILERS!), is the diamond no longer valuable and all of a sudden we’re suppose to pretend the $4000 dollar wooden decoration in a five hundred thousand dollar home(“7th place” playoff team) is worth more than the diamond?

      Pretend all you want, I don’t buy it. And like I said, I don’t disagree that the trophy wording should be changed.

  • 24% body fat

    Stauffer is such a puppet, he is told his opinions by management and only pushes their agenda. Propoganda!

    He should resign for his tweet this morning.

    • McDavid's Comet

      Of course he’s their puppet, he works for the organization. He has no choice but to follow the OBC agenda. If he was still on TSN1260 it would be different Stauffer had a huge following and everyone listened to him, the OBC hired him, to quiet him.

      What exactly did he tweet? I’m not a twitter’r, could you please relay message here? Thanks

      • 24% body fat

        he is saying that chiarelli built the team heavey and thats what all the fans wanted. It came off that he was blaming the fans for his bad moves.

        Yes he is there puppet but you can still come off as less of a tool.

        • McDavid's Comet

          Stauffer was probably instructed to read cue-card. It’s not management’s fault, it’s the fans fault. Classic OBC crap! Next PC presser will start off with “The fans made me do it, that’s why we are failing” with K.Lowe and MacT nodding in agreement in the background. #fireOBCforGordsSake!

  • madjam

    Hart should go to the best player in hockey regardless of team standings . No one else measures up to Connor this year ! If writers want their own trophy and biases then give them a new trophy called the Writers trophy – not the Hart trophy which should be for leagues best player .

    • McDavid's Comet

      Agreed, writers should have no business voting on a prestigious trophy. Hart voting should be left to people whom are directly involved in the game following a more divined criteria. Not based on personal biases.

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    In my mind all the unspoken rules about the Hart Trophy only diminishes its value. I guess the Ted Lindsey is the “better” individual award. Who cares what a bunch of hack writers think, hey Gregor? lol

  • Heschultzhescores

    …and if anyone says McDavid doesn’t elevate his team-mates, They haven’t watched how every guy who plays with him all of a sudden becomes a scorer.

  • Odanada

    Voting McDavid for the Hart throws shade on the fact that many of these sportswriters picked Edmonton to be a favourite to win the cup. They’re covering their mistakes with sawdust, that’s all.