The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t played in a while.
It’s been almost three months since the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final game before the quarantine.
And with Leon Draisaitl all but already lazily awarded the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP because of his power-play funded scoring title, I figure it’s time to remind you about the real MVP – you know, the one who actually had the best season.
The Hart Trophy
In the NHL, one reason for the awards often go to the wrong players is that we overrate certain statistics and underrate more important ones.
For instance, one might see that Leon Draisaitl won the scoring title and think that means he had the best year.
But total points aren’t a very good statistic for measuring a player’s comprehensive value. For starters, most power play points are more of a function of opportunity than skill. The vast majority of PP points would be replaced by anyone skating on the PP. Not so for 5v5 points.
5v5 points are more repeatable and less lucky. It is harder, and more important, to score at 5v5.
In the NHL we tend to view all points equally, but in fact 5v5 points are more valuable than PP points, and goals are more valuable than assists.
Auston Matthews didn’t win the NHL goal scoring title, or the points title. But he did lead the NHL in 5v5 goals – the most important thing a player could do.
Matthews led the NHL with 30 5v5 goals, three more than Alex Ovechkin and five more than David Pastrnak.
Leon Draisaitl had a 48% Corsi, and the Oilers only got 48% of the total shots when he was on the ice. They had an expected goal percentage of just 49% when Draisaitl took the ice. (All stats naturalstattrick.com).
During the probably Hart Trophy season of Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers managed just a +7 goal differential when he was on the ice during 5v5 play (which is about 80% of all games).
The allowed more shot-attempts, shots, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances than they got with this supposed MVP on the ice.
On the other hand, when the Toronto Maple Leafs had Auston Matthews on the ice, they had the puck 54% of the time. They got 55% of the shots, 56% of the scoring chances, and 56% of the dangerous chances.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were expected to score 56% of the goals when Matthews hit the ice, but instead they scored 59% of them. Good for a positive 19 goal differential.
So to sum up: the Team of the guy it appears will win the MVP pretty much sucked when he was on the ice, but the team of Auston Matthews was pretty much the best team in hockey when he was playing.
Matthews has superior 5v5 stats across the board, including being the NHL’s best goal scorer.
Matthews scored more goals, played better defense, and he does it under harder circumstances because Matthews is the #1 player other teams game plan around, while teams who face the Oilers focus on McDavid.
Obviously most voters are unable to watch the entire league and rely heavily on point totals to make their decisions, but if you look at the entire game holistically, it’s clear that Auston Matthews should win the Hart Trophy.