You can’t win the Stanley Cup in October. You can nearly eliminate yourself if you dig such a deep hole that’s too difficult to climb out of. All you can do is try to start the marathon off on the right foot.
The same can be said for the Hart Trophy. Nobody earns NHL MVP honors in October, but it’s certainly possible to drop out of the running if you’re not careful.
Two big names are already doing that. Corey Perry won the award in 2011, lighting the lamp 50 times in the process. And he’s routinely among the NHL leaders in goals. Entering play on October 26, 2014, he was right at the top of the scoring race with nine tallies and three assists. This year? He has one assist.
So let’s go ahead and just drop Perry out of the race for now. And we can probably cross Ryan Getzlaf off the list while we’re at it. Anaheim’s captain has never actually won the Hart, but he always seems to be close. He had three goals and nine assists a year ago at this time but — much like his linemate Perry — he currently has just one assist.
That’s not to say that those two can’t turn things around and salvage their season. Or at least the Ducks’ season. They’ve been two of the most prolific point producers in hockey for the last decade, and we’re still only a few weeks into the 2015-16 campaign. There’s a lot of talent on the roster around them and — assuming everybody wakes up soon — it’s not inconceivable that they right the ship. As far as taking home the Hart though, they’re already in danger of being lapped by some hungry new candidates.
Right at the top of that list is Max Pacioretty, who currently leads the way for a Montreal Canadiens club that looks borderline unstoppable at the moment. He’s not the only reason for his club’s early season success, of course (last year’s Hart winner happens to be in net, which kind of helps). But his seven goals are clearly a major contributing factor to the Habs’ otherworldly 9-0-0 start.
Oh, and he just happened to become the captain too… of the most storied franchise in the history of the sport. He’s quickly building a pretty nice resume.
For whatever reason, Pacioretty — who has 76 goals over the last two years — has always sort of flown under the radar when the conversation shifts to the top offensive weapons in the game. That would finally change if he could keep this going for a full 82 games.
Another guy who seems poised to make an even bigger name for himself this season is Jamie Benn.
The gifted Dallas forward isn’t an unknown commodity to hockey fans, by any means. But he isn’t exactly the face of the league either. Fresh off a year in which he claimed the Art Ross Trophy on the final day, he’s out to a blazing start with eight goals and four assists in his first eight contests. He might play in a “non-traditional” market, but he plays for one of the more exciting teams in hockey. And that only helps his chances.
In fact, one of his Stars teammates could make a push for the Hart as well. On top of making Boston fans cringe every time he touches the puck, Tyler Seguin has put up 37 goals in each of the two seasons that he’s played in Texas. And he did it in just 71 games last year. His 12 points in eight games to begin this season is helping him command the spotlight — particularly because he’s a little flashier than his Dallas linemate.
If Pacioretty, Benn or Seguin were to ultimately be named league MVP, it would mark the fifth time in seven seasons that the award went to a first-time winner. The same could be said if John Tavares took home the hardware, and he’s a very legitimate contender as well.
The New York Islanders captain has been a finalist for the award twice already, so it’s not like he has jump onto the radar of voters around the league. And he appears on his way to yet another highly productive campaign, with five goals and six assists in his first eight games. Not to mention the fact that the Isles — much like the Canadiens and Stars — seem poised for a good all around season.
In other words, there’s a lot of new contenders for hockey’s most prestigious individual award — and we haven’t even uttered the words “Connor” or “McDavid” yet (maybe next year?). Nor have we mentioned Vladimir Tarasenko. Or Steven Stamkos. That said, it wouldn’t be a shock if Alex Ovechkin went on one of his crazy runs and just took home the hardware again. Or if the Penguins figure things out and Sidney Crosby wins it for the third time. And we can’t forget Price, who claimed the award last summer — and somehow looks better this season.
Safe to say the league isn’t hurting for star power right now.