Yesterday it was announced that the Devils star winger, Taylor Hall, was one of the three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, the NHLPA’s award presented to the player voted most outstanding by his peers. This is a great honor for any player and a huge accomplishment within any organization, but for the Devils’ fanchise, Hall’s nomination stands out as a unique outlier. Hall’s season, which included 39 goals and 93 points in 76 games played, stands out as one of the best seasons ever among Devils and certainly among Devils’ skaters. A look back at some of the awards voting over the years shows that the season we just witnessed from Hall may end up the team’s best.
No Devils’ player has ever won the Ted Lindsay Award. Since its inception in the 1970-71 season, the award has been dominated by several players and teams, with only 16 teams having seen even one of their own get honored with this trophy from his peers. Two-thirds of the Lindsay Awards in history have actually gone to just six teams (PIT, EDM, MTL, BOS, NYR, WAS), with the top two in trophies — Pittsburgh (11 winners) and Edmonton (7) — being pretty easy to guess. Plenty of greats have made their way through New Jersey over the years, but none have been able to break through for the players’ award for most outstanding. Hall now likely has the best shot at becoming the first Devils’ winner ever, and certainly has the best chance that anyone in the non-Martin Brodeur division has had.
While Hall’s nomination for the Ted Lindsay is big news for the Devils, it is just a precursor to the more anticipated news, the announcement of the finalists for the Hart Trophy for the league’s most valuable player. The heated arguments that have happened around the hockey world over the past few months have been over who will get the Hart, not the Ted Lindsay. With Taylor Hall being a finalist for the Lindsay, it seems highly likely at this point that he gets the nod as one of the three finalists for the Hart as well. Going back through the history of the award and how Devils players have fared in the voting, this would be a landmark achievement in itself. Even with the number of great Devils teams and players over the years, the style of play and makeup of those teams never ended up producing a skater who stood out enough in the league to garner serious consideration for the league’s highest award.
Yes, no Devils skater has ever finished in the top three of Hart Trophy voting. I say skater, because one guy who used to hang out in the crease and wear #30 is the lone excpetion in New Jersey. A trip through Hockey Reference’s awards voting records makes clear just how special this season for Hall is among Devils players. Some findings from sifting through the award’s history as it pertains to the Devils:
- Since the Devils arrived in 1982-83, a Devils player has received a Hart vote just 32 times. This is including anyone who got so much as a 5th place vote.
- Only 15 players have ever received a vote for the Hart Trophy in a Devils uniform (Cory Schneider, Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise, Brian Gionta, Scott Neidermayer, Patrik Elias, Scott Stevens, Bobby Holik, Doug Gilmour*, John MacLean, Sean Burke, Kirk Muller, and Chico Resch) *-Gilmour was a deadline acquisition
- A Devil has finished top-10 in Hart voting just 16 times, so at least half of those 32 instances were mostly a token vote or two thrown a player’s way. Some of the top-ten finishes can probably be categorized as such as well (particularly pre-1995 when ballots only included top-3 instead of top-5).
- Those top-10 finishes are spread among nine players total (Kovalchuk, Brodeur, Parise, Neidermayer, Elias, Stevens, Burke, Muller, Resch). Brodeur and Stevens are the only Devils with multiple top-10 finishes in Hart voting — Stevens has 2, Brodeur has 7.
- Top-five finishes are still rarer among Devils players. Just seven times has a player finished top-five in Hart voting for the Devils (1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010).
- Those seven occurrences are split between two Devils: Zach Parise (1) and Martin Brodeur (6). In the 35-season history of the New Jersey Devils one player not named Martin Brodeur has broken into the top-five for the Hart trophy.
- Martin Brodeur is the only Devils player who has ever been a “finalist” (top-three) for the award (‘03, ‘04, and ‘07).
- No Devil, including Brodeur, has ever finished higher than third for the Hart Trophy.
The above info shows just how special the season we just witnessed from Hall really is. If he is voted as one of the finalists, which, based on all available info and the fact that he’s already in the top-three of the Lindsay, seems exceedingly likely, he will become the first Devils skater to ever get that recognition. He will be the first player besides Martin Brodeur to have received what you might call “serious Hart consideration.” Even with Brodeur, it’s arguable whether he was a legitimate threat to win, with ‘03 and ‘07 the only times he received any significant portion of the first place votes.
In a smaller NHL market like New Jersey, the spotlight can be a bit harder to grab hold of, but Hall has clearly done so with his dominant second season in Newark. He helped drag the Devils out of their longest playoff drought since first arriving in New Jersey and is almost certain to receive the highest percentage of first place votes for a Devil ever and could just become their first Hart winner in their three-and-a-half decade history. Heck, it’s likely that I will even sit down and watch the NHL Awards with some amount of interest, which is a historic achievement in itself. If Hall takes home the Lindsay and/or the Hart, his season will go down as perhaps the best in Devils history. Even without the hardware, his case for that distinction seems pretty tough to beat.