Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why History Suggests Carey Price Deserved the Hart Trophy

I'm generally a fan of the Washington Post's Neil Greenberg, but in the wake of Carey Price sweeping the NHL awards last night I feel obligated to respond to an argument that he has championed this season.  It's been expressed in a few different ways (and by other people as well, of course), but generally has come down to some version of the claim that since goalies have rarely won the Hart Trophy historically, Alex Ovechkin should have been the expected and possibly more deserving Hart winner.

To quote Greenberg from yesterday:
"But would the voters name Price as the league's most valuable player over Ovechkin?  History shows they haven't in the past."
Obviously the voters did overwhelmingly name Price as the league's MVP (and so did the players).  But Greenberg was not so much predicting the result as making a claim from historical evidence, which means that it is not the presence of hindsight that allows me to challenge his assertion.  I'm not interested in criticizing anybody because their guy didn't win, but I am quite interested in what history says about the relative comparison of forwards vs. goalies, since that is an interesting problem of player valuation.  My contention is that history actually shows that the voters were completely consistent in backing Price, and would in fact have been just as likely in years past to choose a goalie season equivalent to Price's over a scoring season like Ovechkin's.