NHL award winners are almost never easy to predict. So many players make great cases for each award every year, and it’s often difficult to pick a winner from so many deserving candidates. When it comes to the Conn Smythe, it’s usually very easy, or very hard to pick a winner. With the St. Louis Blues one win away from their franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship, this year falls into the latter category.
Should the Blues hoist the Cup this year, they would go down as one of the most improbably championship winning teams in NHL history. Being last overall in the league halfway into the season and storming back to almost win the division on the final night, their incredible path to the final has been extensively covered. However, their run hasn’t been on the back of one player. Though rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington is probably the closest to being that player, nobody has truly stood out in a way that makes giving them the Conn Smythe a slam dunk.
If you’ve seen our Player Rankings features in the past, you’ll have seen TWCScore. It’s our way of assigning a value to a player based on a variety of counting and possession statistics to get a reading on how good that player has been.
The model takes into effect individual statistics including goals and assists, as well as possession metrics like CF%, SCF%, HDCF%, and a correction for PDO. Each statistical category is weighed and scored differently, giving each player a unique TWC Score that determines their ranking. For goalies, the save percentages at different danger levels, goals-saved-above-average, as well as overall workload with goals and shots against are used. Each statistic is assigned a weighting and a total TWCScore is generated.
When it comes to Conn Smythe winners, history agrees favourably with the model. Over the past 10 years, the Conn Smythe winners have, for the most part, been in the top three on their team according to TWCScore.
|Year||Player||TWCScore||Team Rank||Team Forward/Defense Rank|
|2011||Tim Thomas||631.3||1 (overall goalie rank)||N/A|
|2012||Jonathan Quick||639.2||2 (overall goalie rank(||N/A|
For skaters, generally the Conn Smythe winner has achieved a TWCScore of at least 1000, with the lone exception being in 2015 with defenseman Duncan Keith won for the Chicago Blackhawks. The 1000 threshold is key to identifying the most impressive playoff performers. Keith is an outlier, and looking back, there were several other Blackhawks players who maybe had a better case for the Smythe. For goalies, both Jonathan Quick in 2012 and Tim Thomas in 2011 surpassed the 630 mark, another key threshold for stellar goaltending performances.
2019 St. Louis Blues
Based on historical data, how does this years Blues team compare? Which players have hit the thresholds and make the best choices for the Conn Smythe? Here’s how the Blues’ players score in the model:
|Player||Total Score||Team Rank||Team Forward/Defense Rank|
So far, no skater has passed the 1000 threshold. However, two forwards are close to hitting it, and could hit that mark with big performances in Game 6. The first is Vladimir Tarasenko, who clocks in at 956.2, third overall in the playoffs among all skaters. He’s been a superb performer for the Blues, amassing 11 goals, 16 points, and operating at over 60% in all three possession metrics. The second is Jaden Schwartz, clocking in at 948.7, good for fifth overall among all skaters in the playoffs. With 12 goals, 18 points, and all three possession metrics above 58%, Schwartz is also a strong candidate for the award.
In terms of defenders, captain Alex Pietrangelo leads the way at 598.1. This is a far cry from Keith’s 669.4 in 2015, but Pietrangelo currently ranks fourth among all defenders in the playoffs, and second to only Torey Krug for defenders still playing. With two goals and 16 points so far, Pietrangelo has an outside chance at winning the Conn Smythe.
The last player seriously in the conversation is Binnington. However, his inclusion in the conversation for the Conn Smythe has more to do with the fact that he’s the goaltender than how he’s played in the playoffs.
Binnington has had an incredible year, nobody can dispute that. That being said, he hasn’t even been close to the best goalie in the playoffs.
Including every goalie that has played in these playoffs so far, Binnington ranks 15th. He is significantly below the other goalie still playing, Tuukka Rask, and is only ahead of three starters in Petr Mrazek who lost the starting job to Curtis MacElhinney in Round 3, Andrei Vasilevskiy who didn’t win a single game, and Martin Jones who was put forward one of the worst goaltending performances by a goalie in the playoffs in a long time.
There are a few key reasons for Binnington’s name being so far down the list. Currently, Binnington’s high danger save percentage is abysmal, only at 0.791, ahead of just one starter in Braden Holtby. Binnington has also allowed the most number of goals against this postseason with 59, and his goals saved above average is poor at just -2.38. He hasn’t been the reason for the Blues’ success thus far.
Who will win?
If the Blues beat the Bruins tonight in Game 6, there are four realistic options for the Conn Smythe.
The most likely player to win the award is Tarasenko. He’s the Blues’ superstar sniper, has had an excellent final round, and has the best statistical postseason out of all Blues players.
Second to Tarasenko is Schwartz. Both have similar numbers across the board, but Tarasenko’s are just slightly higher.
Third on the list is Binnington. Despite a much less than stellar playoffs, Binnington has the advantage of a good story behind him. Being a rookie, one of the major reasons for the Blues even making the playoffs, and leaving Jake Allen in the dust are all great narrative based reasons to give Binnington the MVP award. He’s not the most deserving of candidates, but voting members are sure to be biased towards him because of his story.
And finally, rounding out the list is Pietrangelo. He should be given more credit than he’ll get, but only one defenseman has won the Conn Smythe since 2008. 2019 probably won’t be the year to buck that trend.