In the first half of the NHL's regular season, the MVP debate was short and sweet. Sidney Crosby, come on down. The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar was easily the league's most pivotal player.
He led all players in goals and points, while leading the Pens to the top of the Eastern Conference with his tenacious and determined style. He was the NHL's best player, and nobody worked harder, either.
Then a not-so-funny thing happened: Crosby stopped playing.
Not on purpose, of course, but due to head shots in back-to-back games, one via "incidental contact" by Washington's David Steckel on January 1, and one via on-purpose contact by Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman.
With Crosby out of the running, Steven Stamkos, the Tampa sniper, and Tim Thomasm the Boston goalie, are being bandied about as MVP candidates. Their teams are doing well, and Stamkos leads the league in goals while Thomas is having a statistical season for the ages in the net.
However, both players have tailed off a touch in the second half, after being overshadowed by Crosby in the first half. That has opened the door for a hat-trick of Canucks: the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, and Ryan Kesler.
Henrik Sedin is the defending scoring champion and league MVP; might voters have some fun by picking the other twin for the Hart this year? That seems more likely than the upstart Kesler, who is either the league MVP or the third-best player on his own team, depending who you ask.