Thursday, October 28, 2010

Milt Schmidt

The Bruins honoured one of the games all time greats last night in Milt Schmidt in celebration of the 75th(!) anniversary of him signing his first contract with Boston. Schmidt truly is one of the greats in the history of the game having led the Bruins to two Stanley Cups as a player, coaching the team and later winning two more Cups as Boston's general manager. He was also a first team all-star on three occasions, won the Hart Trophy in 1950/51 and gained election to the Hall of Fame in 1961. The one issue I have is his MVP award in 1951. I believe Gordie Howe would have been a more deserving choice.

That season, Schmidt tallied 22 goals, 39 assists and 61 points in 62 games for the sub .500 Bruins. He finished fourth in NHL scoring 25 points behind Howe. Gordie notched 43 goals and 43 assists for 86 points, 20 more than second place Maurice Richard. Howe also played all 70 games for the first place Wings who finished that year as the first team ever to crack the 100 point barrier, 39 points ahead of Schmidt's Bruins.

1950/51 was the first of Howe's many truly great seasons and he would indeed win the Hart each of the next two seasons and six of the next twelve. Howe was 22 in 1951, ten years younger than Schmidt and this may have been one of the reasons that Howe didn't win the MVP. It seemed that some years a younger and perhaps more deserving player would often be overlooked in favour of a more established veteran having a slightly less impressive year. In fact the same thing happened to Schmidt himself in 1939/40 when he led the NHL in scoring as a 21 year old.

In 39/40 Schmidt had 52 points, nine more than second place linemates Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer. The winner of the Hart that year was Detroit's 32 year old Ebbie Goodfellow who at that point was a "swing man" forward and defenceman and scored 11 goals and 28 points in 43 games. The Wings finished fifth out of seven teams that year while Boston was first with a .698 winning percentage. Another example of a seemingly less-deserving veteran beating out an up and coming youngster.

Once again in 1954/55, Toronto's Ted Kennedy was a slightly odd choice for the Hart trophy. Even though he was 29, he would retire after the season in which he scored 10 goals and 52 points in 70 games for the third place Leafs. Perhaps a better choice would have been a 23 year old Bernie Geoffrion who had 38 goals and 75 points and who's Habs finished 23 points clear of Toronto.

In retrospect it is really quite difficult to judge intangibles that may have given the Hart to an outwardly appearing less deserving player. All we have are numbers to go on, but in these cases, it would seem the numbers should have led in another direction when chosing the MVP.

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