Midway Through the Season, Voracek Should Be Leading the Hart Memorial Race

Created 3 years 255 days ago
by Michael DeNicola

Tags: Evgeni Malkin Hart Memorial Trophy Jakub Voracek Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins
Views: 2042


by Michael DeNicola

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 --

It's going to be really tough to convince the naysayers that my personal bias has nothing to do with this. Hell, it's tough to convince even myself. The truth is, I'm head over heels in love with the Philadelphia Flyers, and my fiery hatred for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their overall existence burns with the immense intensity of a supernova. So when I tell you that Jakub Voracek deserves to be leading Evgeni Malkin in the Hart Memorial race halfway through the 2014-15 season.... is it possible you can accept that without lifting an eyebrow?

If you can't, I don't blame you. But here I am, nevertheless. And here's the pitch...

Firstly, let's define what the Hart Trophy is, and why it is given: The Hart Memorial Trophy, originally known as the Hart Trophy, is awarded annually to the "player judged most valuable to his team [in the Regular Season]" in the National Hockey League. [Wiki]

This past Sunday, Senior NHL.com writer Dan Rosen published his argument on why Pittsburgh centerman Evgeni Malkin "earns Hart vote at halfway point." [NHL.com] I won't dismiss the reality that Geno deserves to be in the tops of the running -- he absolutely does, 100%. He's a phenomenal talent, one which makes this League, and our inner state rivalry, more exciting. And Malkin is having one hell of a 2014-15 season. 

I won't attempt to discredit Dan Rosen. I respect his opinions and what he brings to hockey journalism. But I must respectfully disagree with Dan on the notion that Evgeni Malkin leads the Hart race halfway through the NHL schedule. 

I'll attack some of Rosen's talking points...

"Malkin has played with awareness, speed, power and bravado since Day 1 this season. He had 45 points on 18 goals and 27 assists in 40 games before scoring a goal and adding an assist Saturday."

Because Voracek and Giroux (his linemate) aren't what you'd call "pure goal-scorers", their playmaking abilities and awareness are what make them the offensive weapons that they are. They generate points from the ground-up; much like Giroux, Jakub has developed into an on-ice architect. His speed and power are what gift him space and separation. And if that weren't lethal enough, Jake has the anticipation to find a play before it unfolds, and the competence to execute it on his own.

He had 48 points on 15 goals and 33 assists in 40 games before scoring a goal and an assist over this past weekend. 

"Malkin hasn't been as good as he is this season since 2011-12, when he had 109 points on 50 goals and 59 assists to win the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. He's on pace for around 36 goals and 90 points, but he might be better this season than he was in 2011-12 because he's produced at better than a point-per-game pace without having steady linemates."

*Since this publishing, Malkin's scoring pace has adjusted to 94 points. 

Voracek hasn't been as good as he is this season since.... well, ever. Frankly, this has been developing into Voracek's breakout year. He's on pace for 32 goals, 67 assists, and 99 points. 

Rosen's argument for Malkin being better this season than 2011-12 is sound. This season, Malkin has spent the most ice time with F Blake Comeau as opposed to F James Neal in 2011-12.... that's a big difference. 

And although Philadelphia's LW position on Line 1 has been a turnstile all season, Jake still has Claude Giroux centering the nightly trio -- who we can all agree is eons better than Blake friggin' Comeau. 

HOWEVER... this would lead you to believe that there is a modest level of dependency between Voracek's performance and linemate Claude Giroux. 


The numbers don't just stop there. Voracek dominates the whole roster. See for yourself.

And just in case you're wondering, Voracek's metrics never dip below 52.4 CF% when apart from any listed teammate (except Grossmann). In fact, the difference Voracek has without Giroux is a meager minus two percentage points. Voracek is actually the most possessive with Michael Raffl on the ice (59.8 With, 52.5 Without). 

I also think it's worth saying that not even Voracek can cleanup Nicklas Grossmann's horrific game. And if that's not enough, Voracek's CF% with Grossmann on the ice is a 48.6, and 59.7 WITHOUT him. 

Good.... God...

Anyways, back to the topic at hand.

"Malkin started the season with an 11-game point streak (five goals, 11 assists) and finished  Saturday with points in 31 of his first 41 games, including 13 multipoint games. He is playing well no matter who plays alongside him. He's making everyone around him better too."

Up to this day, Jake has sixteen multipoint games on the season. Including one 4-point game against Toronto... I know, it's no 5-point performance against the stalwart Buffalo Sabres, but it'll have to do.

As for making his teammates better? Please see the graph above if you have any questions.

Rosen sort of closes out from there with a couple more Finalists: Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks, and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. It isn't until his tiny font'd honorable mentions  do we see Jake's name listed.

Oh hey, gee... thanks, Dan. 

There is obviously an influence of team success in Dan's deduction: The Penguins are in the tops of the standings and hunt for the Cup. The Flyers are trying their hardest to stay out of the basement. Evgeni is MVP to his team -- which is competing. Voracek is MVP to his team -- which is pretty lousy. 

I get it. But by definition, that's not why the Hart Trophy is awarded. Straight up, it is given to the ONE player who is THE most valuable to his team. And in this case there is no other player in the National Hockey League who's more valuable to a group of teammates than Jakub Voracek is to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Need more proof? Christ, you're difficult.

Voracek leads the League with 52 points through 43-games. He has spent 805 total minutes (all situations) on the ice. He averages 3.88 points per every 60-minutes he logs. 

Malkin, with 47 points and 807 total minutes, averages 3.49 points every 60-minutes he logs. 

At even-strength, Voracek has logged 657 minutes, 34 even-strength points, and averages 3.12 points per 60-minutes. 

Malkin has logged 649 even-strength minutes, 30 even-strength points, and averages 2.77 points per 60-minutes. 

Voracek has 3 game-winning goals. 

Evgeni has 2.

In points on the road, Voracek (26) is ranked 3rd behind Tyler Johnson and Ryan Getzlaf. 

In points on the road, Malkin (19) is ranked 25th.

*To be fair, I should mention that Voracek, to this point, has played five more road games than Evgeni Malkin. Interpret that any way you'd like. 

Voracek has 12 minor penalties and 24 PIMS versus Malkin's 23 minor penalties and 56 PIMS. 

What am I getting at there? Voracek is less of a liability to his hockey team. It might not be the biggest and baddest argument, but it certainly adds context. 

If I'm looking for a grievance in my argument, I'd start at Offensive Zone Start percentage. Through the 2014-15 campaign, Voracek has begun 60.4% of his even-strength faceoffs in the offensive zone, compared to Malkin's 55.8%. [hockey-reference.com] Not an enormous difference, but these two players have such similar numbers that their deployment could serve as the largest influence between them. But we're not here to discover who's having a better playing season -- we're here to discover which of these players' season has proven to be most valuable to their team. 

Given the information I have provided, I very much believe the answer to that question is indubitably Jakub Voracek... the should-be leading candidate for the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy [at the halfway point]. 

Agree, Disagree? Join the discussion...

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