Who Is More Correct? Media vs. Players in NHL Award Voting

Every year, the NHL’s individual awards season is exciting, particularly in years like this one when the voters who determine the winners have differing opinions. For example, in the discussion of the best player of the year, voters for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the league’s “most outstanding player in the regular season,” had a different group of finalists than those for the Hart Trophy, which is given to “the most valuable player to his team.” The NHL players themselves cast ballots for the Lindsay, while chosen members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association voted for the Hart. This year’s finalists for the Lindsay are Kucherov, MacKinnon, and Toronto’s Auston Matthews; the finalists for the Hart are Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay, and Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado.

Thus, the question that many have is: Did the athletes or the writers get it right? That question will be addressed in this piece a bit later. However, it would be negligent of us to ignore the semantics at work here. It’s rather simple to be the most excellent player, but what about “the player most valuable to his team”? That is not equivalent to being the best. Although there’s no assurance that PHWA voters will recognize the distinction, we would advise you to have at least some of them cast ballots as though they were choosing the player of the year.

Notwithstanding the identical requirements and guidelines for both the Hart and Lindsay honors, there is often disagreement over which recipient is the most deserving. It also doesn’t have to be a significant shift. Two of the three recipients in this year’s voting are identical in both categories. This year, Matthews and McDavid stand out, and it’s likely that none of those athletes will take home the trophy in the end. In the end, there will be some agreement, and we should celebrate the differences in viewpoints rather than disparaging one side as “unworthy.”

And that gets us to our main point: the NHL Players Association and the PHWA balloting should be viewed in the same light as the current acting awards. While it is widely acknowledged that the Academy Awards hold a dominant position in the acting category, other notable award events include the British Academy Film Awards, the Critics’ Choice Awards, and the Golden Globes. Despite their differences and varying values depending on who you ask, they all ultimately accomplish the same task in unique ways.

Naturally, no mathematical formula determines which actors—or athletes, for that matter—are praised and which ones receive less attention than some believe they merit. Okay, so there are figures to crunch for the Art Ross Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top scorer, the Rocket Richard Trophy, which goes to the league’s top goal scorer, and the William M. Jennings Trophy, which goes to the league’s best goalie in terms of goals allowed. However, there is leeway for interpretation in many prizes. This is advantageous because the procedure just amplifies the influence of each individual who ultimately receives a vote in a certain category.

Stated differently, is it not possible for us to all get along? It is imperative to recognize that the majority of voting procedures are intrinsically subjective, and that variances in outcome are inevitable as long as human agency is involved. Here’s a more illustration: The Hockey Hall of Fame induction procedure reveals that a select few voters, who are mostly advocates for the sport and avid hockey players, select the inductees. However, the media chooses who is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by voting. You may argue that a particular league or sport has a superior strategy, but that’s still up for debate. And picture a society where everyone was in agreement on every issue. You would get bored to tears pretty quickly.

Of course, it makes sense that the objective in these cases should be consensus. In many respects, it’s consoling to think that there’s a single organization or person who deserves an award the most, but in actuality, the lenses through which individuals choose the winners vary widely for various reasons. Here, the issue isn’t whether the journalists are incorrect and the athletes are correct. What one person sees as a Mona Lisa may be seen as “dogs playing poker” by another. In the end, the way hockey operates throughout award season adds to the enjoyment of the various voting outcomes. Enjoy them, then.

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