Could Joe Thornton Win The Hart This Season?

I have been a close follower of the San Jose Sharks in season 2005-2006, a campaign many would call ‘A Tale of Two Seasons.’ The monumental trade that saw Joe Thornton arrive in San Jose has certainly changed the fortunes of the Sharks, who after 7 games with the big number 19, only lost for the first time yesterday in a close match to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Joe Thornton has brought so much to the Sharks, and whilst the team is greatly benefiting from having him on board, there’s no doubt that he too, is faring better after a change of scenery from his former pressure-cooker situation in Boston.Joe Thornton is currently second in the league in scoring, with 48 points, only 3 behind Jaromir Jagr, at whom he is now scoring at a much more rapid pace. Thornton also leads the league in assists, with 36. In his 7 games at San Jose, he has now scored 15 points, more than 2 per game, frequently on a line with players such as his cousin Scott, as well as Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo. Thornton has increased the scoring rate of all of these players and more on the team, and has ensured the playoffs are not the distant hope for San Jose that they seemed to be in a horrible November.

So whilst it is possible that Thornton may win the Art Ross trophy, the bigger question, is can he win the Hart (or even Pearson) trophy, for the league’s most valuable player? Sure he can technically, anybody can. But I ask this question in regard to Thornton because here is one of the league’s best players, who has changed team’s midseason. He’s brought SO MUCH to his new team, taking them from 10 straight losses, to 6 straight victories today, and has been in the very least, the main inspiration behind these victories.

There are a number of Hart contenders this year. Eric Staal has carried Carolina on his back, Jaromir Jagr has been the face of the New York Rangers, Daniel Alfredsson has led by example in Ottawa and more. But none of these guys have changed teams. Thornton in many people’s opinions may not have been the best player this season so far, and even with his 2 plus points per game so far in San Jose, he may not have even been the best in the last 7 games or so. But he’s up there.

The question is: Has he been the most valuable player to his team? By definition alone, Thornton doesn’t even qualify for the Hart, as he has had more than one team to play for this season. Hart trophy calibre players rarely get traded to another team, especially mid-season, and when they do, it’s because they’re slumping. Thornton though, has been in his prime, he was performing well on a dismal Bruins team and has performed even better on the Sharks, being their most valuable player during his time there.

I don’t think the Hart trophy has ever gone to a player who has played on two different teams in the season in which he won it. Joe Thornton winning this season would challenge the very logic behind the trophy, but it would be a landmark achievement for a player no longer wanted by the Boston Bruins management.

Could a player moved mid-season be the most valuable to his team? Possibly. And if Joe Thornton keeps going the way he is right now, and the Sharks turn their season around and make the playoffs and contend, we may have to re-address this hypothetical situation again in the near future.