When Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said last week that Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos should get serious consideration for league MVP, he touched off an interesting debate as to what should be the qualifications for the award.
Is it right, or fair, for a player not on a playoff team to be named a most valuable player?
Even Yzerman said that is a valid question. But he also said there are times a player is so good, his accomplishments should override his team's deficiencies.
It has happened four times in 87 years with the Hart Trophy, which is voted by the media (the last being Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux in 1987-88), and three times in 40 years with the Ted Lindsay Award, which is voted by the players (the last being Calgary's Jarome Iginla in 2001-02).
Asked to give his criteria, Yzerman laughed.
"Well, it's far from scientific," he said. "The impact they have on their team, and, I guess, take that player out of your team and what happens?"
Though the Lightning gets high marks for overcoming its worst season since 2002-03 in terms of injuries, remove Stamkos and the league-best 50 goals he had entering Saturday — and especially the 10 winners, tied for the league lead — and Tampa Bay likely would have been out of the playoff conversation much sooner.
Where would the Penguins be without Evgeni Malkin, who has a league-best 85 points, is second with 40 goals and who carried Pittsburgh while waiting for the return of Sidney Crosby?
Where would the Rangers be without goaltender Henrik Lundqvist? New York leads the Eastern Conference but entered Saturday eighth in the East with a mediocre 194 goals. Lundqvist put his team on his back and entered Saturday with a league-best eight shutouts. He was third with a 1.88 goals-against average and second with a .935 save percentage.
The kicker is the efforts of Malkin and Lundqvist are leading their teams to the playoffs, and both have a better chance of being named MVP because of it.