According to Duhatschek, defining the Hart as the MVP trophy "trips up voters, and it did again this year, when Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals won his second MVP award over Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins". This is a fantastic notion: he's actually saying that the people who voted for the Hart in accordance with the official criteria made a mistake. The only way this can possibly make any sense is if you think the actual definition of the Hart trophy is "the trophy Sidney Crosby wins".
I've written plenty about the cult of Crosby, that is, how the Canadian-dominated hockey media has defined him as the best player since Mario Lemieux, if not Wayne Gretzky. As evidenced by his Penguins being completely dominated and swept by the Bruins, the reality of Crosby has never lived up to his anointed status. When the Penguins first made the playoff, Canadian broadcaster TSN took a fan poll on whether the Penguins would win three, four or five Stanley Cups in the next ten years. They won one, with the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP going to Evgeni Malkin. None of this stops us from being deluged with a constant vomit of praise for Crosby, so it's hardly surprising that someone like Duhatschek can argue in earnest that not giving the Hart trophy to Crosby is not an opinion different from his but an objective mistake. In fact, Duhatschek seems to think his fellow voters are in on a conspiracy he calls "the push to rehabilitate Ovechkin’s image". This is quite startling.
The argument that the Hart needs to be redefined so that Crosby wins it more was enthusiastically supported on Twitter by the Hockey News' Adam Proteau, who has previously argued that the NHL needs to be more political, but only in ways that he likes, and that pronouncing foreign names correctly is racism. He, too, feels that the Hart trophy needs to go to Crosby more, and has developed the argument in a column titled "Why the Hart Trophy should go to most outstanding player".
Proteau first argues, like Duhatschek, that giving the Hart trophy to the most valuable player punishes players on good teams:
In essence, by sticking with the literal interpretation of most valuable, you are ruling out great players who play on talent-rich teams and will almost always be giving the Hart to a player on a playoff bubble team. That’s punishment for something beyond any player’s control.
Again, this only makes sense if you think that those players are somehow a priori entitled to the Hart. It's no surprise that this argument is made about Crosby. It's also senseless. By the same criterion, the Art Ross trophy punishes players playing on more defensively responsible teams. The Vezina punishes goalies playing on more wide-open offensive teams. Certainly the way the Conn Smythe trophy is awarded punishes really good playoff players whose teams lose. And so on. Why is this only a problem when Crosby doesn't get a trophy Canadian pundits think belongs to him? Why is it a problem at all, ever?
Proteau's concluding argument is that "most valuable" is a vague category, while "best" is somehow obvious.
Unfortunately, the manner by which the NHL determines its regular season MVP is far different. In making their biggest individual honor about a nebulous concept and not a more inclusive term like excellence, the NHL has allowed semantics to drag down the voting and dilute its results.“Value” is in the beholder’s eye, but everybody knows what “outstanding” entails. And the sooner the NHL recognizes that adjusting and clarifying the language behind the awards will lead to more accurate results, the better off the voting process, and the Hart itself, will be.
Of course, if you drink the Crosby Kool-Aid, certainly this is true. But for anyone else this is complete nonsense. The only NHL awards that aren't value judgements, "in the beholder's eye", if you will, are the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Crozier and Jennings. Oh, and whatever they're calling the Plus/Minus these days, if it still exists. There's no way "best player" is somehow less arbitrary than MVP, unless of course you've decided before the fact who the best player is.
As it happens, Proteau undermines his argument himself by identifying the most valuable players:
If you took Crosby away from the Penguins – as the injury bug did again on March 30 – would they plummet from the top spot in the Eastern Conference? The proof is right in front of you. By contrast, if you took John Tavares away from the New York Islanders or removed Sergei Bobrovsky from the Columbus Blue Jackets, would those two teams be in playoff position? Most hockey people would say no.
So even though Proteau disagrees with the definition of most valuable player, he still correctly identifies the two prime candidates for the Hart based on those criteria. So how is that more nebulous than his suggestion of "best player"?
I agree with Proteau that the Hart process would be better, and give more accurate results, if you will, if the voters agreed on what they were voting for. In my mind, the easiest way to accomplish this would be if everyone could just agree to vote on the actual criteria of the Hart Trophy, instead of something they've made up. As near as I can tell, the only real case for redefining the Hart Trophy is so that Crosby would win it more often. If that's what you want, why not just make the Hart the trophy for the player who wears #87 on the Pittsburgh Penguins? Problem solved.
In other words, the real problem Proteau and Duhatschek have with the Hart is that reality is not living up to the demand that Crosby be the best hockey player of his generation in such a dominant way that everyone is forced to acknowledge his Canadian superiority. That isn't a problem with the Hart trophy, it's a problem with Crosby, or more specifically with the hockey-based chauvinist cult of Canadian supremacy that both Duhatschek and Proteau subscribe to. The fact that Proteau often criticizes the racist excesses of this same cult while producing garbage like the ridiculously racist tweet on player names is just testament to the deep level of confusion he seems to be laboring under.
Obviously rhe criteria for the NHL's major awards aren't set in stone. If there's a reasonable case to be made that the Hart trophy should be redefined, then by all means make it. I'd be happy to listen. It's just that "Crosby should win it more" isn't one.