If He Only Had A Hart
There’s not a whole lot that can be said about Marc-Andre Fleury that hasn’t been said before.
We’ve all heard and maybe even contributed comments about his lackluster play during some abbreviated and elongated stretches during his career. Likewise, he’s had some unbelievable stretches too.
Like now, for instance.
After starting the season 1-6-0 and forcing many to call for Brent Johnson to become the starter, Fleury has turned in an All-Star season, literally.
But what’s more, Fleury has been the backbone of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the calendar year, when many thought the team would fall apart.
In a typical season, Fleury likely ranks no higher than third on the team’s depth chart of superstars led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
But this isn’t a typical season. This is a season that has seen the Penguins’ play large chunks of the campaign without star players Crosby, Malkin, and Jordan Staal.
Someone had to step up, and that someone was Fleury.
Since January 5, Crosby’s last game, Fleury has turned in an 18-11-3 record, not only keeping the Penguins in the playoff picture, but keeping them in contention for the Prince of Wales Trophy, awarded to the top team in the Eastern Conference.
If that doesn’t make him worthy of Hart contention, nothing will.
Corey Perry: The Anaheim Ducks have an interstingly talented roster, once thought to be led by Ryan Getzlaf. But while the big man recovered from injuries this season, Perry stepped up in a big way. His 50 goals pace the NHL by six and his 97 points are second only to Daniel Sedin’s 100. Meanwhile, the Ducks are in a goose chase (pun intended) for a playoff spot that otherwise might have been lost.
Daniel Sedin: A few years back, many thought the Sedin twins would be nothing more than second liners. That couldn’t be further from the truth today, as Daniel leads the league in points. It also doesn’t hurt that he is the best player on the best team in the NHL.
Martin St. Louis: The oft-forgotten, undersized forward on a sunbelt team just might be the darkhorse candidate. His 40 power play points are tops in the NHL, despite sharing icetime with Sniper Steven Stamkos and superstar Vincent Lecavalier. His 95 points may have come as a shock this season, but they helped transform the Lightning from a basement feeder to a legit threat in just one season.
While Perry lost a superstar teammate for an extended time, he still had the ageless Teemu Selanne and sprouting star Bobby Ryan to help him carry the offensive load.
Sedin, meanwhile, plays on arguably the deepest team in the NHL, which has scored fewer goals than just one team.
And, while St. Louis’ Lightning are a far cry from Sedin’s Canucks, his team has significantly more skill than Fleury’s Penguins (sans Crosby and Malkin).
The fact that Fleury has carried the Penguins during the time he has been needed most, at the very least, should put him in the discussion.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player adjudged most valuable to his team, and it’s difficult to argue his value to the Penguins this season.
With all that being said, Fleury’s chances remain slim-to-none. For starters, he’s a goalie in a goal-scorer’s league. As many say, “there is a trophy for the best goalie, and it’s called the Vezina.”
But Fleury, in my opinion, isn’t even in the running for the Vezina, let alone worthy of winning it, so how can he win the Hart?