Most have considered this season’s Hart Trophy (MVP) a two-man race between Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby for a while. But Brent Burns' remarkable season should have him in that conversation as well. Stats & Info takes a look at the case for Burns' Hart candidacy, as well as why history may be against him.
Why Burns should win the Hart
Simply put, Burns is having one of the best seasons for a defenseman in NHL history. Burns could become the first defenseman in NHL history to lead his team outright in goals, assists and points in a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
According to Elias, Kevin Hatcher is the only defenseman in NHL history to have at least a share of his team’s lead in all three categories, when he did so for the 1990-91 Washington Capitals.
Burns is ranked third in the NHL in points this season. He could be the first defenseman to finish in the top three in scoring since Paul Coffey in 1985-86.
Coffey finished 77 points behind leader Wayne Gretzky that season, while Burns is only three points back of McDavid this season. A defenseman hasn’t won the Art Ross Trophy (most points) since Bobby Orr in 1974-75.
With 64 points in his first 60 games, Burns is on pace to be the fifth defenseman in the last 20 seasons to average more than a point per game, and the first since Mike Green in 2009-10 (minimum 50 games played).
Burns has already become the eighth defenseman in NHL history with multiple 25-goal seasons. The other seven are in the Hall of Fame.
Burns’ 27 goals are more than twice as many as any other defenseman in the NHL this season (Shea Weber is second with 13). The last time the top goal-scoring defenseman finished a season with that big of an advantage was in 1985-86 (Coffey had 48 goals, Mark Howe was next with 24).
Why Burns won’t win the Hart
Defensemen have rarely even been considered for the award recently. Since Chris Pronger won the Hart Trophy in the 1999-2000 season, a defenseman has not even been a finalist for the award.
Pronger is the only defenseman to win a Hart Trophy since Bobby Orr won the award in three straight seasons from 1969-70 to 1971-72.
Burns, who turns 32 next month, would have to break another trend. A teenager (19-year-old Sidney Crosby in 2006-07) has won the trophy more recently than someone in their 30s (31-year-old Joe Sakic in 2001—02).
The last time a skater as old as Burns (turns 32 in March) won the Hart Trophy was Phil Esposito (also 32) in 1973-74 (goaltender Dominik Hasek won the award as a 33-year-old in 1997-98).
The last time a defenseman older than 30 won the Hart Trophy was 31-year-old Tom Anderson in 1941-42 for the Brooklyn Americans.