Midseason Awards, Part I: The Hart and The Vezina

Jonathan Willis
January 17 2012 10:11AM

As the NHL moves past the midway mark of the season, it’s time to look back at which players deserve hardware, based on their performance over the first half. To answer that question, we polled writers from across the Nation Network, talking to writers at every site.

This morning, we unveil the first of our midseason awards: our picks for the winners of the Hart and Vezina Trophies.

Hart Memorial Trophy

Description: The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team.

Winner: Claude Giroux

Runners-Up: Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

While most of the races in our midseason voting were tight, this one was not, with Claude Giroux winning in a landslide. Jason Gregor summed things up nicely when he described Giroux as a “dynamic player,” crediting him with “becoming a big leader in Philly.” With 49 points in 39 games, Giroux is just outside the lead in NHL scoring but would probably still be at the front of the pack if it weren’t for missing time to a concussion.

LeafsNation’s Danny Gray offers a different perspective. While he had Giroux second in his rankings, he gave the nod to Phil Kessel for the top spot. “Last season Corey Perry won the Hart for almost singlehandedly dragging the Ducks into the playoffs,” Gray said in his explanation. “Phil Kessel’s performance in the first half is the biggest reason the Leafs find themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. He has been at the top of the NHL’s scoring race since the first day of the season and has finally produced with the consistency that many said he would never possess. “

Also in the mix: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Sedin, Marian Hossa and Daniel Sedin.

Vezina Trophy

Description: The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position.

Winner: Henrik Lundqvist

Runners-Up: Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick

Our voting gave us a tight, three-way race between three players, with Henrik Lundqvist name the eventual winner. It’s a richly deserved honour for Lundqvist, in the midst of his best season – he has consistently been the Rangers’ best player for six seasons now and has never won the award.

Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick both had their share of supporters, though. As Jason Gregor told me when he picked Quick as his choice for the award, “His 1.93 GAA and .934 SV% are outstanding. If he had any goal support he might be leading the league in wins. In his 17 losses/OT losses the Kings have scored a measly 24 goals.” Tim Thomas, meanwhile, continues to dominate the league the way he has the past few seasons, but strong work by his backup means that he gets fewer starts and his starts seem less impressive in contrast than other top goalies.

Also in the mix: Nicklas Backstrom, Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard.

Descriptions courtesy of NHL.com.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Kent Wilson
January 17 2012, 10:32AM
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I would have included Malkin in my Hart considerations, but the Pens still give him some of the cushiest ice time around. Like the Sedins, he faces mid-level competition and his zone start is approaching 70%.

He's crushing things in that role to be sure. But he should be.

To Jason's point about Quick, that's why I voted or him for the Hart as well. All Vezina goalies are technically the most important player on the team but with LA not scoring at all through the first half Quick's incredible performance probably saved their season.

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#2 xis10ce
January 17 2012, 10:19AM
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If Malkin continues to drop 5point nights like he did the other night he might find his odds of winning improving in a hurry.

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#3 DSF
January 17 2012, 10:25AM
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As good as Thomas has been in Boston, Rask has been even better.

Win% Thomas - .667 Rask - .734

GAA Thomas - 1.99 Rask - 1.61

Shutouts Thomas - 4 Rask - 3

SV% Thomas - .937 Rask - .948

While Thomas has started more games...27 to Rask's 18...Rask has been absolutely lights out.

Nice problem for the Bruins to have.

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#5 Pension Plan Puppets
January 17 2012, 10:48AM
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Thomas deserved the Vezina. This is a traveshamockery.

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#6 Rain Dogs
January 17 2012, 10:53AM
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@Kent Wilson

Is that you Kent? A goalie the Hart trophy winner?

@ Jonathan Willis

The thing with Elliot, Thomas and Backstrom is you could argue they aren't showing themselves to be much better than the other guy. DSF went over the Rask argument (who has better #'s over his short entire career as well)

Elliot .946 ev vs Halak .937 ev. - Hitch has them playing tight in front.

Backstrom .935 ev vs Harding .934 ev - Minny is always tight.

However, Jonathan Quick = .935 ev vs Bernier? .888. It's small samples, but Kent and others are right on. Without Quick, it could have been really ugly this year for LA.

Quick is proving a lot of doubters wrong, including myself. He was so raw at first, but is really improving fundamentals quickly. He is a good goalie right now.

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#7 Rain Dogs
January 17 2012, 10:57AM
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@Jonathan Willis

...bah double post

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#8 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
January 17 2012, 11:34AM
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Hart needs to be changed to best player in the league not most valuable to his team.

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#9 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
January 17 2012, 12:09PM
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Hart has to be Malkin IMO, theirs not much left on that roster.

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#10 MAC962
January 17 2012, 12:28PM
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Where is our GDB !! Its hockey night the beginning of a 2 game win streak ! actually ok, maybe not the beginning. You know what i mean...my fingers are too cold to type.

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#11 Sloppy Joe
January 17 2012, 01:12PM
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Picking up Giroux in my fantasy pool as a mid-round pick - good decision.

Taking a flyer on Crosby in the second round at 19th overall - bad decision.

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#12 Shredder
January 17 2012, 01:34PM
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Only 2 awards? What happened?

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#13 Justin Azevedo
January 17 2012, 02:30PM
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@Shredder

"part 1"

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#14 Sheldon Oilers Fan for Life!!!
January 18 2012, 10:45AM
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DSF wrote:

As good as Thomas has been in Boston, Rask has been even better.

Win% Thomas - .667 Rask - .734

GAA Thomas - 1.99 Rask - 1.61

Shutouts Thomas - 4 Rask - 3

SV% Thomas - .937 Rask - .948

While Thomas has started more games...27 to Rask's 18...Rask has been absolutely lights out.

Nice problem for the Bruins to have.

Must be nice to be a fan of the Bear they could be the first repeat Cup winner since who? Detroit!

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