April 26, 2007

Reconciled Stanley Cup Playoff MVPs

The Conn Smythe Trophy is annually awarded to the player to the player deemed to be most valuable in Stanley Cup playoff competition. It was donated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1965 in honour of long time Leafs coach, manager, and owner Conn Smythe.

The inaugural winner was Montreal's John Beliveau. Since then Patrick Roy has won it a record three times. Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Bernie Parent are the only other players to win the trophy more than once. A complete list of winners can be seen here.

The Smythe trophy really sets aside the superstars from the mere great players. Is there a more important individual trophy than playoffs MVP? But, as we all know, the Stanley Cup playoffs go back well over 100 years. Thus, for much of Stanley Cup history no recognition of playoff legends-past exists.

A group of heavyweight hockey researchers, back by The Hockey News, looked to change that in 2001. Brian McFarlane, Steve Dryden, Bill Fitsell, Bob Duff and Ernie Fitzsimmons looked to reconcile playoff MVP status prior to 1965. They went through microfilms of newspapers for every season of the playoffs and added more statistics, such as first goals, winners, overtime tallies, assists on winners and goalies saves when available. As well, quotes from coaches of the day and comments by writers covering the games were taken into consideration. Several conference calls were held until the group came up with a definitive answer.

Their results are simply fascinating. Players of note include Teeder Kennedy, who, like Patrick Roy, was recognized three times, only Teeder did it in a four year span when the Leafs owned the Cup in the late 1940s. Other multiple award winners, with two each, were Jack Darragh, Rocket Richard and Terry Sawchuk. Jean Beliveau was again recognized. The game's greatest names such Gordie Howe, Howie Morenz, Stan Mikita, Frank Boucher, Syl Apps, and Jacques Plante all got recognition. As did some players who might be considered a surprise winner, such as Marcel Bonin, Ed Sandford, and Baldy Northcott.

You can view all reconciled winners here.

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