If the Hart Memorial Trophy really is about the “player judged most valuable to his team”, then it should be Connor McDavid winning it this summer.
You can make a case for a number of players to win it, including Sidney Crosby or Brent Burns. But in my mind, the award should go to McDavid, who has been carrying the Oilers all-season, and there are plenty of numbers to prove it.
As of this past weekend, here’s how the Oilers have done with McDavid on the ice and without McDavid at even-strength (5v5) this season. Before doing so, here are the five metrics I include in my analysis.
- Corsi For% (CF%) – The proportion of all the shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against). This is used as a proxy for possession and can predict a team’s future share of goals.
- Fenwick For% (FF%) – The proportion of all the unblocked shot attempts the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Fenwick For/(Fenwick For + Fenwick Against). This is used as a proxy for shot quality and considers shot blocking a repeatable skill. It can also predict a team’s future share of goals, slightlty better than Corsi.
- Scoring Chances For% (SCF%) – The proportion of all the scoring chances (as defined by Corsica Hockey) that the team generated and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Scoring Chances For/(Scoring Chances For + Scoring Chances Against),
- Expected Goals For% (xGF%) – This is a weighting placed on every unblocked shot based on the probability of the shot becoming a goal. This depends on the type of shot, location and uses historical shot and goals data to come up with the probability for each unblocked shot. This has been found to be a better predictor of future goals than Corsi and Fenwick. (Detailed explanation can be found at Corsica Hockey)
- Goals For% (GF%) – The proportion of all the goals that the team scored and allowed that the Oilers generated (i.e., Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against).
Here we see that with McDavid on the ice, the Oilers have at least a 50% share when it comes to all five metrics, which is expected considering his talent. His teammates tend to do better with him than without him, and he’s been the key driver of the Oilers offence this season. If the Oilers make the playoffs, it’ll be largely because of him. Without McDavid, the Oilers are mediocre at best as the club lacks secondary scoring, something that’s vital to have success in the playoffs.
That goal-share is what stands out the most. With him on the ice, the Oilers have a +17 goal differential, close to a 60% goal-share . Without him, the team has a -6 goal differential, a 47.8% goal-share, which would rank them in the bottom third of the league.
And here’s how the Pittsburgh Penguins have done with and without Sidney Crosby, arguably the best players in the world, this season.
As expected, the Penguins are outstanding with Crosby on the ice, posting a 53% share of the shot attempts, a 57% of the scoring chances and a 60%(!!) share of the goals. What’s amazing is that the Penguins still post incredible numbers even without the best player in the world, getting a 58.6% (!!) share of the total goals with Crosby on the bench. There is a drop off in the team’s outputs (i.e., shots, scoring chances, quality shots), but the Penguins still get at least a 50% share across the board.
And because of his offensive production this season, Brent Burns could also be a candidate for the trophy. Here’s how the Sharks have done this season with and without him.
What’s interesting here is that the Sharks do better with him on the ice for most of the metrics, but it’s not as significant as McDavid or Crosby’s impact. What might draw attention, however, is the swing in goal share with Burns on the ice. With Burns, the Sharks have a goal-differential of +25 (63% goal share), and without him, they have a -5 differential (48% goal share). I suspect there’s more at play here, as the rest of the metrics only show a slight improvement with him on the ice (xGF%, share of quality shots, actually improves slightly without him). Regardless, a case can be made for the defenceman, but I don’t think his impact is as great as McDavid’s.
- The Oilers rely heavily on their young captain for offence, as they’re below a 50% share across all five metrics without him on the ice. The team is desperate need of offensive support on their second and third lines, and wouldn’t stand a chance if it weren’t for McDavid. He’s the MVP, the sole driver of offence, and his contributions, and ability to carry this franchise, should not be overlooked.
- The Penguins are scary good right now. They’re second in the very competitive Metro division, with a +43 goal differential. They have success with and without Crosby, something not a lot of teams can do, and will be competing for the Cup. Top teams figure out a way to keep their best players to sustain success, and the Penguins are the best example of that.
- This is by no means a knock on Crosby. If he wins the award, it’ll be well deserved. But if the award is about the player most valuable to his team, then it has to be McDavid. The Oilers aren’t the same team without him, and would be looking at the draft lottery if it weren’t for their captain.
Data: Corsica Hockey