Could Jamie Benn Be a Finalist For The Hart Memorial Trophy?
The Dallas Stars forward has already added an Art Ross Trophy to his resume. Will there be another individual award in his near future?
As has already been widely reported numerous times on this site as well as others, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn pulled off a miraculous feat for the ages on Saturday night.
In his team's final game of the regular season the 25-year-old Stars captain scored four points, the last of which coming with only 8.5 seconds remaining in the third period, to give him sole possession of the NHL's scoring lead, and with it, the acclaimed Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer.
Benn becomes the first player in franchise history (including the Minnesota North Stars days) to win the award, and the first Stars player to win any individual league hardware since Jere Lehtinen won his third Frank J. Selke Trophy back in 2003.
However, there's also a chance that Benn's first major NHL award won't be his only one this season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the player "judged to be the most valuable to his team," as voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. While the use of the phrase "to his team" in the award description often creates some ambiguity and debate, it is generally considered that the Hart is awarded to the best individual player in the league each year.
Which, in this instance, begs the question: is Benn that player for the 2014-2015 season?
As was already touched on, Benn's 87 points this season were the most of any player. While having the most points doesn't automatically mean that a particular player is going to win the Hart, there is undoubtedly an interesting relationship between it and the Art Ross.
Let's take a look at the list of every Hart and Art Ross winner since 2000:
|Year||Art Ross Trophy Winner||Hart Trophy Winner|
|2000||Jaromir Jagr||Chris Pronger|
|2001||Jaromir Jagr||Joe Sakic|
|2002||Jarome Iginla||Jose Theodore|
|2003||Peter Forsberg||Peter Forsberg|
|2004||Martin St. Louis||Martin St. Louis|
|2006||Joe Thornton||Joe Thornton|
|2007||Sidney Crosby||Sidney Crosby|
|2008||Alexander Ovechkin||Alexander Ovechkin|
|2009||Evgeni Malkin||Alexander Ovechkin|
|2010||Henrik Sedin||Henrik Sedin|
|2011||Daniel Sedin||Corey Perry|
|2012||Evgeni Malkin||Evgeni Malkin|
|2013||Martin St. Louis||Alexander Ovechkin|
|2014||Sidney Crosby||Sidney Crosby|
Since the year 2000 eight of the Hart Trophy winners were also that season's Art Ross winner. This history certainly bodes well for Benn.
His impact as a player, however, goes far beyond just his point totals.
Benn has quietly become one of the NHL's most complete, all-around players. He posts very impressive puck possession numbers despite going head-to-head against the top defensive pairs from other teams on a nightly basis. He takes regular shifts on the Stars' penalty kill, and is heavily relied on in a defensive role late in games. He even leads his team in hits this season with 120, and isn't afraid to drop the gloves if the situation calls for it.
And while a quality like leadership is impossible to truly measure, one can't properly have a discussion about the Stars' captain without mentioning it.
This quote about Benn from defenseman Trevor Daley, as mentioned on this site recently by Erin Bolen, speaks volumes:
"He’s a true definition of a captain," Trevor Daley told the media after the game. "He’s the poster child for this team, at least inside this dressing room. He’s our leader. He’s the guy we look to when we’re down. He’s the guy that has put us on his back and carried us. It’s been special to watch. I’ve been able to see him since he came in as an 18 year old and it’s been special to watch him."
All this being said, though, Benn winning the Hart is still far from a sure thing because there are others that are also very deserving of the award.
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is the unquestioned front-runner at this point. The 27-year-old has been having an incredible season, and there's already been plenty of talk linking his name to hockey's greatest individual accolade. The Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin, a three-time winner already in his career, led the league in goals again this season and is surely in the running. Likewise John Tavares of the New York Islanders, who finished a mere one point behind Benn at 86 and has been the focal point of a remarkable turnaround for his young team.
Regardless of whether or not Benn actually ends up winning the Hart, he has a very good chance of finishing as one of the three finalists, and that alone is still an amazing accomplishment. Dallas Stars fans can rest assured that with Benn as their captain and leading the charge, the future of the organization is in very capable hands.