Thursday, June 11, 2009

Conn Smythe Reboot

Last week, I summarized the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Well, things have changed and you’re probably not going to like it. It was my contention that if Detroit wins the series, the award would go to Chris Osgood or Henrik Zetterberg, and if Pittsburgh wins the series, the award would go to Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Unfortunately, do to the brilliance of the NHL, it might not matter who wins the series. Consider the following explanation of the Conn Smythe voting procedure courtesy of ArmchairGM:

“The vote is conducted during the 2nd period of an elimination game in the
Stanley Cup Finals. If the finals is not over in the game [sic], the votes will
be discarded and the procedures will be repeated until a Stanley Cup winner is

If there's a special procedure for a "game seven", I haven't seen it. If there isn't, then that does not bode well for a Wings player taking home the hardware. Generally, a player from the winning team wins the Conn Smythe Trophy. A player from the losing team has only won the award five times in 43 years. So, if the Wings win the cup, then a Wing will likely win the Conn Smythe Trophy, right? Well, not so much. Since this is a “game seven” and the NHL has condoned a voting system that crowns a playoff MVP before the playoffs are even over, it is quite likely that a Penguins player will win the Conn Smythe even if the Wings win the Stanley Cup.

This is how it could go down…I’m going to error on the side of extreme caution and say that the Wings have a 50/50 chance of winning “game seven”. I realize that the home team is 12-2 in Stanley Cup Finals “game sevens” and the home team has won every game of the series so far. Even if it is greater than 50/50 in favor of the Wings, what are the odds that the Wings are more than one goal ahead to start of the third period? If the game is close, voters (members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA)) will be forced to ignore the “winning team” element and simply pick the player with the best statistics. Of course, that would either be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Clearly anyone who closely follows hockey knows that neither has been as impactful as the two-way superiority of Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg is +13 in the playoffs which is more than the combined total of Crosby and Malkin. Still, Crosby and Malkin have sexy point totals and without being able to pick a player from the winning team—a phenomenon that only exists in a “game seven”—those “point totals” will probably be the basis for voting. Another way of saying this is; there is no way that voters would hand the Conn Smythe to Henrik Zetterberg if they thought Pittsburgh had at least a 50/50 chance of winning at the time of voting. In the wake of a Pittsburgh-win, that selection would be heavily scrutinized. On the other hand, if Detroit wins, nobody would “bat an eyelash” if Malkin—whose 35 points are the 7th most in Stanley Cup Playoff history—were awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. If the game is close, voters will probably “hedge their bets” by going with the “safe” pick.

The only scenario in which it’s likely for a Wings player to win the Conn Smythe is if the Wings are ahead by at least two goals entering the third period. It could happen but it is not “likely.” Another scenario in which a Wings player could win is if the game goes to overtime, and as the PHWA is asked to re-vote, the Wings win. Other than a blowout, that’s really the only way the PHWA could vote knowing that the Wings were the winners.

The fact that we’re even talking about this is ridiculous. Computers and cell phones were invented in the 1940s. Text messaging was invented in the 1990’s. It's 2009! Is it really that difficult for voters to email, text or phone their votes within five minutes of the completion of the game to a person with basic “addition” skills? Maybe the NHL plans to do something different this time around but considering Gary Bettman’s recent decisions that seriously infringed on the integrity of the game (see; scheduling back-to-back playoff games for the first time in 54 years with just three days notice), I highly doubt the brain capacity exists at NHL headquarters to actually wait for the playoffs to end before voting for the MVP of the playoffs. Apparently, this was supposed to be discussed back in 2002. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is a simple solution for the NHL. Set up a password protected web site for the voters to point and click their votes. They could even do it on their i phones. Web site shuts down 2-3 minutes prior to end of game time. The site would even tally it for them. NHL - this is where amazing doesn't happen. - Fellin


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