The push from the Pittsburgh Penguins and others around the city for center and team captain Sidney Crosby to get solid consideration for the Selke Trophy has been on for a while this season.
While Crosby has been mentioned in the conversation in previous years for the award that goes to the NHL’s top defensive forward, it has escalated. The numbers and statistics and arguments are out there, including the fact that Crosby now is killing penalties fairly regularly.
Just recently, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan reiterated that he believes Crosby is the “best 200-foot player in the game.”
In recent weeks, however, Crosby has perhaps thrown himself into the conversation for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, an award he has won twice, in 2006-07 and 2013-14. Crosby has been pretty relentless offensively all season but has climbed to fourth in the league with 86 points during a hot streak when he has seven goals, 25 points the past 12 games.
So, here’s the question? Could a player – let’s say Crosby this season – win the Hart and the Selke in the same year in this era of the NHL?
Only one player has won both trophies the same season, Detroit’s Sergei Fedorov in 1993-94. The Selke goes back to 1978.
PHN took that to the Penguins locker room after practice Wednesday.
“I think so. For sure, it’s possible,” said goaltender Matt Murray, who knows something about the better offensive and defensive players in the league. “The Hart tends to go to the guy who has the most points or whatever it may be. But for sure, I think it’s possible.”
Crosby would be hard-pressed to catch Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the scoring title. Kucherov has 103 points. And while winning the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer is its own category, the winners often get strong consideration for or even win the Hart.
But the Hart doesn’t always go to the top scorer. Crosby could be judged by voters to be the most valuable to his team, especially if he helps will the Penguins into the playoffs.
Forward Matt Cullen knows the NHL and its history. He ought to, having just reached 1,500 games. He was asked if, theoretically at least, a player could win the Hart and Selke in the same season.
“Oh, yeah, I do,” Cullen said. “I think it’s harder. Obviously, a guy like Sid comes to mind, the way that he plays at both ends of the ice. There’s some guys that don’t; there’s a lot of guys that score or are just pure scorers.
“I think it’s very possible. You see the level he’s playing at now, you can see it.”
Sullivan predictably would not rule out Crosby making a run at both trophies, even though the question was posed in hypothetical terms.
“Yeah, I don’t see why not,” Sullivan said. “I know you’re alluding to Sid. He’s having a terrific year.
“Five-on-five, his numbers are off the charts. It certainly is a credit to his commitment to playing on both sides of the puck. He plays against the top players every night, and for the most part he’s outplayed them.
“He helps us defend leads. He’s on the ice when we need a goal. We use him in every single situation, every critical situation, and then he’s up to the challenge. He’s quietly had a real, real good year for us.”
It’s hard to argue, although it seems odd that Crosby’s bonkers season at age 31 hasn’t received more notice.
Winger Zach Aston-Reese brought up the point that others would not in terms of someone winning both trophies.
“I guess it’s possible, but I don’t see it happening,” he said. “I think just the way people vote and the politics of it.”
Both trophies are decided in a vote of Professional Hockey Writers Association Members. While it would be great to think they are all analytical, fair and open-minded, Aston-Reese is correct that in general there probably is a widespread belief or assumption that a forward who is good enough offensively to be his team’s top player probably would not also be good enough defensively to be the league’s top defensive forward.
Two disparate roles, it would seem.
“Look at Florida,” Aston-Reese said. “(Aleksander) Barkov is probably their best forward, but he’s also their best 200-foot player. He’s always playing against the top matchups, but you compare him to a guy like Sid – or, forget Sid, a guy like Kucherov, and …”
Barkov is the Panthers’ leading scorer, but at 68 points he’s not likely to garner Hart consideration, although he is mentioned in connection to the Selke.
But, hey, maybe once every couple generations or so there is someone good enough at both roles to get a look for both trophies.
We couldn’t address the topic without asking Crosby about it, again hypothetically.
“I don’t know. It would be a pretty good year,” he said. “It’s possible, but it’s pretty rare you see that.
“Everyone’s got different opinions and sees different things when they see players. Certain things kind of stand out from guys as far as strengths. The way that guys are producing this year is pretty amazing. That kind of stands out the most.”