30Johnny Gaudreau Hart
Photo Credit: Aidan Wong/FlamesNation

For Your Consideration: Johnny Gaudreau for the Hart Memorial Trophy

The Hart Trophy is probably the most prestigious individual award in the NHL, and teams that have strong candidates for it are generally among the league’s best – something the now-second-place Flames haven’t been in quite some time.

Their ascent to a legitimate Cup contender this season has several Flames players vying for big NHL awards, and the Hart is among them. Leading the charge is none other than leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau.

The award

Named after Dr. David Hart, the father of Cecil Hart who served as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens for nine seasons in the NHL’s early days, the Hart Trophy was donated to the league in 1923. The original trophy was retired in 1960 and replaced with the Hart Memorial Trophy. It is awarded to the “player judged most valuable to his team.”

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Fifty-six different players have won the award over 92 years starting in 1924. All but three players who have won the Hart and satisfied eligibility requirements have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the winner of the Hart Trophy at the end of the regular season.

Recent winners

  • 2017-18: Taylor Hall (New Jersey)
  • 2016-17: Connor McDavid (Edmonton)
  • 2015-16: Patrick Kane (Chicago)

Last year’s voting leaders

(Voting points awarded on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis.)

Player Voting
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Pts
Taylor Hall (NJD) 1264 72 62 19 4 3 93
Nathan MacKinnon (COL) 1194 60 66 19 11 4 97
Anze Kopitar (LAK) 551 11 11 41 49 12 92
Claude Giroux (PHI) 546 10 10 44 45 21 102
Connor McDavid (EDM) 270 6 5 19 16 32 108

Last year’s Hart race was a neck-and-neck battle between Hall and MacKinnon. Hall ultimately took home the hardware, but MacKinnon would have been a worthy choice as well. Last season, the Devils vastly outperformed their initial season expectations, and on a career year from Hall, earned a playoff berth. That’s basically why he won. Colorado and MacKinnon’s story was near identical, which is why he was also a strong candidate for the award.

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The Hart seems like a pretty easy award to vote on, but there are a few nuances with it. Generally, forwards win this award. Chris Pronger is the only defenseman to win the Hart since Bobby Orr in the ’70s, and unless you’re a terrific goalie on an otherwise mediocre team*, the Hart goes to a forward.

As well, at least recently, the winner of the Hart Trophy has to be on a team that makes the playoffs. This is the one trend that probably makes the least amount of sense, but in the eyes of the voters, if you didn’t get past Game 82, you weren’t valuable enough to be considered.

Usually, the Hart is awarded to a player in one of the following two categories:

  1. A really good player on a really good team that made the playoffs;
  2. A really good player on a team that vastly surpassed expectations and got into the playoffs.

Handicapping Gaudreau’s candidacy

No Flames player has ever actually won the Hart Trophy*, and Jarome Iginla was the last Flames player to receive votes for it in multiple years. The only player after Iginla to earn any Hart recognition at all was Jiri Hudler in 2015, receiving just 16 total award votes. Gaudreau, despite a few excellent seasons leading the Flames in scoring, has never received a single vote for the Hart. This year, he’ll probably be among the finalists.

Currently, Gaudreau has the third most points in the NHL with 73, the fifth most goals with 29, and the sixth most game-winning goals with six. At 5v5, he’s posted a 54.4% CF, and leads the team in iCF, iSCF, iHDCF, shots, and penalties drawn. There’s no question that he’s been the player stirring the Flames’ offensive drink (probably purple Gatorade) this season. He is one of, if not the most, dynamic player in the league, and is able to create an offensive chance on almost every single one of his shifts.

And, on top of all of that, the Flames are a team that has surpassed expectations from the beginning of the season. Even the most optimistic projections had the Flames vying for a playoff spot, not a team in striking distance of the President’s Trophy. In many ways, Gaudreau fits into both Hart categories, which definitely makes him one of the frontrunners for the award.

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In the PHWA’s mid-season award voting, Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning finished in first place for the award, followed closely by Gaudreau. Should the Oilers and/or Ducks make the playoffs, McDavid and John Gibson are also prime candidates for the Hart, who could steal votes way from Kucherov and Gaudreau. Other than those four players though, I don’t really see anyone else as a true horse in the race.

All in all, Gaudreau has as good, if not a better chance of winning the award at season’s end. If he keeps up his pace, and the Flames continue to challenge for the President’s Trophy, there is a good chance Gaudreau’s name could be the next one etched into the Hart Trophy.

* Iginla deserved Hart Trophy was robbed by Jose Theodore in 2002.

    • wot96

      There is a lot of doubt. Gaudreau plays in the West and the votes are out East. In addition, it can and probably will be argued that he is buoyed by a team that has somehow managed to align several career years. All of the Flames big 5 are having career years and it is all because of Johnny.

      On that point, I’m not necessarily convinced he is the most valuable to the team. I think an excellent argument can be constructed that Giordano is actually more valuable than Johnny.

      • Albertabeef

        Okay first Johnny is an eastern USA kid so he gets exposure there. it is my understanding he is all over the news down there.

        Yes and argument could be made for Gio, but I believe his contributions are greater than Johnny’s everywhere but the ice. Johnny has been incredible this season, maybe super hero like even. How many times have we been down and Johnny kicks it up a notch to bring us back to life? No question in my mind. Unless Gio gets at least 5 game winning goals in the next 31 games its not even close.

  • Retire#14

    I think the better choice would be Giordano for the Hart. The Hart is mvp to his team and Gio has controlled the game the most for the Flames and is the cog that keeps the Flames machine turning. Trust me, this hard to say as I’m not a huge Gio fan, but he has been lights out this year!

    • Albertabeef

      Gio needs to worry about the Norris first. He is in for a race with Burns and Rielly, who both look statistically equal or better if you consider GWGs. Johnny has willed this team to win more often than not and to me is the hands down MVP on the team and in the league. Gio has been steady and consistent but Johnny has gone to a cosmic level this season(lol too many comic movies lately). Okay speaking of comic movies, Gio reminds me of Phil Coulson. Total ass kicking leader that everyone loves and gets motivated by but he’s not the superhero Johnny(AKA Captain America) is.

  • FlamesFan27

    Gaudreau has had an amazing year so far. But the definition is “player judged most valuable to his team.”. My argument against Gaudreau winning is based on this definition.

    Calgary has a lot of very good players, and I think Calgary would make the playoffs without him (there is no way of really knowing that). But, without McDavid the Oilers would be even more of a tire fire than they are. If I had a vote, it would go to McDavid, as the Oilers are absolutely nothing without him.

    That being said, I would be thrilled if JG won it!

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      COnsidering his game winning goals, his assists, and his points total, why would you think the team wins without him? Gio gets a lot of assists from JH. PP succeeds because of JH. He makes every player he’s on the ice with better. Also consider the average ice time of McDavid versus JH. When was th last time JH played 25+ minutes? Has he ever?

      • FlamesFan27

        I don’t disagree with you that JG makes everyone on the ice better – he’s been great – no argument there. But, I think the ice time reinforces my argument, as Oilers are forced to play McDavid that much because he is so valuable to his team. If the award is for the Most Outstanding Player (which is what it should be), then I think Gaudreau is right there. But, based on the definition, McDavid should win. The Oilers might not have 10 wins all season without McDavid. In any case, there are still 30+ games to play and it starts tonight!