Chances are the Washington Capitals would still be where they are even if Alex Ovechkin didn't do what he did.
Same thing goes for the Vancouver Canucks, who got a critical breakout season from Henrik Sedin but are deep and talented and play in the mediocre Northwest Division anyway.
But can you say the same thing about the Buffalo Sabres? They are returning to the playoffs after missing the past two and about to lock up the Northeast title because goalie Ryan Miller stayed healthy this season and took them there. That's the hands-down opinion in upstate New York and around the league.
No doubt Ovechkin is having a great campaign and could still win his second scoring title despite losing 10 games to suspensions or injury. But the Caps won eight times when he was gone and scored better than a goal per game more.
For his part, Sedin will be the leading scorer if Ovechkin isn't and his numbers were produced despite playing a significant part of the season without injured twin brother Daniel. Sedin was an offensive catalyst in Vancouver, but the attack that was so critical to Vancouver had several other components.
Meanwhile Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos had player of the year-type seasons as well, but the Hart Trophy goes to the player "adjudged to be the most valuable to his team," and no one fits that bill more this season than Miller. He is the biggest reason the Sabres are where they are, a workhorse who is among the leaders in every major category.
That makes him our choice for the Hart Trophy.
Here are our picks for the other major awards:
|Ryan Miller (Getty Images)|
Still you could make a strong case for Ilya Bryzgalov for taking the Phoenix Coyotes as far as he has, and for Pekka Rinne, who has kept a nondescript and offensively challenged Nashville Predators team in the playoff picture all season.
|Duncan Keith (AP)|
Keith gets the nod this season, but look for 20-year-old Drew Doughty to capture a Norris or three before he's done. Mike Green of Washington is in the picture, too, because of his offense, but he pales in his own end compared to the other two.
|Jimmy Howard (AP)|
|Dave Tippett (Getty Images)|
Selke (Best defensive forward): You notice Pavel Datsyuk because he puts up so many points, but he is as good as it gets when it comes to shutting people down.
|Pavel Datsyuk (AP)|
Lady Byng (Sportsmanship): As frustrating as things have been in Tampa Bay this season, Martin St. Louis hasn't really taken it out on anyone.
|Martin St. Louis (Getty Images)|