The vision of the PPS system is to objectively evaluate every NHL player since the league’s inaugural season. To get there, we’ve used hard numbers. Adjusted point shares, which use basic statistics and team results. Adjusted games played. Debut seasons. Stanley Cups and finals. International titles, medals, events. While all of these components have assumptions inherent in their design, they are quantifiably objective. Our final bonus is also objective and will be out rolled out systematically. However, by using major award voting, this is the only factor that relies on popular opinion at the time.
Why should we include award voting as a bonus?
The intent is to leave a small window to capture what our meticulous system may miss in the numbers. We’ve done our best to factor in all available information to measure player contributions for each NHL season. But when it comes to players that PPS evaluates similarly, the award bonus serves as a tiebreaker on close calls, helping to account for contextual blind spots in the data. Perhaps that’s overcoming difficult personal circumstances (Mario Lemieux, 1992-93), or carrying a team to improbable success (Jose Theodore, 2001-02), or defensive contributions challenging to isolate (Patrice Bergeron in, well, any season).
While I’m thrilled with the PPS system’s final totals and player rankings, there are, of course, instances where the results may not incorporate the full picture. When it to comes to the inexorable force of Bobby Clarke (three-time league MVP) or the understated brilliance of Rod Langway (two-time Norris winner), there is undoubtedly an immeasurable element to their play. The award bonus voting is designed to give a minor boost for those voted among the best at their position in a particular year.
With an understanding of why the bonus exists, let’s construct an approach for how we will measure the results by position. The award bonus will include only the results of major individual NHL awards. With full respect to the character awards (Byng, Clancy, Masterton, Messier), the statistical awards already indirectly factored (Ross, Richard, Jennings, pre-1981-82 Vezina), the Calder (circumstantial), the Lindsay (clear crossover with the Hart), the Smythe (already factored into playoff bonuses), team trophies, and defunct awards, we’re capturing only those most associated with value for each position at the time.
The first official individual NHL award introduced was the Hart Trophy, initially issued for the 1923-24 season. While this leaves a six-year stretch without any awards, it’s a vacancy we’ll have to live with, made easier given the league had only three or four teams in those years. By definition, the Hart is awarded to “the player judged most valuable to his team” (i.e., the league MVP). While a defenceman or goaltender has won it 21 times in 97 seasons, it has only happened five times since 1971-72. The Hart is now principally an award for forwards, save for increasingly rare circumstances (think Carey Price in 2014-15). As such, the Hart will be our barometer for forwards in the award bonus.
Let’s introduce an important concept to this bonus – award shares. Available for certain baseball and basketball awards on their respective Sports Reference sites, award shares are a simple yet effective measure of a player’s slice of an award. We’ll illustrate via the 1993-94 Hart Trophy voting, awarded to Detroit’s Sergei Fedorov. At that time, award votes were worth five for first place, three for second place, and one for third place (i.e., 5-3-1 voting system). With 54 voters, the maximum voting points a player could earn was 270.
1993-94 HART TROPHY VOTING, AWARD SHARE, SELECTED PLAYERS
|Rank||Player||Age||Pos||Team||1st||2nd||3rd||Voting Points||Award Share|
Age = as of January 31 of season; Pos = Position; 1st, 2nd, 3rd = number of votes by ballot slot; Voting Points = 1st x 5, 2nd x 3, 3rd x 1; Award Share = Voting Points ÷ Maximum Voting Points
Fedorov’s winning tally is 71.9% of the maximum votes (i.e., 194 ÷ 270), or 0.72 award shares. A unanimous win where he’d have collected all 54 first-place votes would have netted Fedorov a full Hart share of 1.00 (i.e., 100%). Award shares provide a snapshot of the vote in a single figure, representing each player’s portion of the ballot action. The results are highly effective at comparing players by their career share of a trophy. Sticking with Fedorov, he obtained Hart votes in three other years: fifth place (1995-96), ninth place (2002-03), and 19th place (2000-01). Taking the same approach as his 1993-94 season, we arrive at 0.89 career Hart shares. The leader, unsurprisingly, is Wayne Gretzky (8.38!).
Award voting has changed frequently in terms of number of slots on a ballot, voting points per slot, number of voters, and the available public details. For instance, in two seasons (1923-24 and 1931-32), only the first and second players in Hart voting are available; as a result, in these years, we’ll give two-thirds of the award share to the winner and one-third to the runner-up. Otherwise, Hart voting totals were released in some form for every season, so we can use this public data to dish out shares. In seasons with restricted details, those players are at a slight disadvantage as the award share total is only 100%; in seasons with full public vote breakdowns (i.e., 1981-82 and beyond), the sum of the award share exceeds 100%. Regardless the depth of the available information in a given year, the Hart Trophy serves as the best possible benchmark for forward award bonuses.
Why not use all-star selections? Lots of reasons! If we’re talking the NHL’s mid-season extravaganza, it is not a fair measure of performance. The game is designed to be a spectacle, relying on fan voting, taking place just past the midpoint of the season, and generally has required representation from every team. While it may be a nice feather in a player’s cap, its various selection formats over the years (Stanley Cup winner vs. rest of league’s all-stars, North America vs. The World, divisional 3-on-3 tournament, etc.) make it a suspect reflection of player value.
The two post-season all-star teams the NHL has named since 1930-31, however, are an impartial exercise; the selections represent the body of work of an entire season and honour the best by position. Among forwards, though, the breakdown by left wing, centre, and right wing dials back the relevance. Most seasons, the bulk of the NHL’s best forwards play centre; the fifth-best centre may, for example, outperform the first-team right wing selection. John Tonelli earning two all-star nods at left wing and Steve Yzerman having a single selection at centre (competing with fellow centres Gretzky, Lemieux, Mark Messier, and Joe Sakic) demonstrates how inequitable the positional distinction can be for forwards.
While career Hart shares will drive the bonus for forwards, we’ll also throw a bone to the Selke Trophy. First distributed in 1977-78, it has traditionally been a reputational award given the limits of defensive metrics. While we can’t consider it in the stratosphere of the league MVP award, we will issue a small bonus in PPS for nabbing it. While a player will be credited for all Hart votes, only a Selke win will be acknowledged. This is to provide some credit to the absolute best defensive specialists by reputation, a title unextractable from historical data.
Let’s revisit Fedorov’s career to illustrate how award bonuses for forwards are calculated. We know from earlier in the chapter that Fedorov has 0.89 career Hart shares. He is also a two-time Selke winner (1993-94, 1995-96). Using our formula for PPS award share bonus value, we get:
- [Career Hart shares + (Selke wins x 0.2)] x 5
- [0.89 + (2 x 0.2)] x 5 = 6.46
Why multiply the award shares by 5? Like every PPS factor, it needs to fit. The three bonus values (playoff, international, award share) are intended to supplement the core regular season contributions, not rewire the entire methodology at the end. While ~6 PPS points may not seem like a significant figure for an outstanding player like Fedorov, we have to remember that most NHL players never receive even a single down-ballot award vote. Suppose two forwards wind up with comparable PPS scores, but one frequently earned Hart support and the other never seriously entered the conversation. The award bonus value is designed to act as a final separator in the grand scheme of PPS.
For defencemen, the bonus needs to be tailored to the best historical measure of their prowess through award voting. Defencemen will need to piggyback on the Hart Trophy for a seven-year stretch (1923-24 to 1929-30), until a more distinctive honour for their position is created. For a 23-season period (1930-31 to 1952-53), post-season all-star selections will drive award bonuses. Unlike the three forward positions, defencemen can be no further delineated, making the year-end all-stars the position’s best. The first-team all-star (“AS”) pair earn the equivalent of 0.4 award shares, while second-team all-stars a share of 0.15. These figures were arrived at by examining the share averages from the initial 10 years of the Norris Trophy, first presented in 1953-54.
Starting with Red Kelly’s introductory Norris win, defencemen now had their own trophy, representing their primary bonus award value. By definition, the Norris goes to “the defence player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.” Vague perhaps, but universally understood to be the league’s top defenceman that year. The only other award shares that defencemen can access in the bonus is a boost of 0.5 for winning the Hart; the intent is to recognize seasons so outstanding a non-forward was deemed the league’s MVP. Prior to 1930-31, this will not apply as the Hart was the only award in town for all positions. Eddie Shore (four) and Bobby Orr (three) collectively earn seven of these 12 Hart-winning seasons from the blueline.
We can now assemble our PPS bonus award formula for defencemen, using Doug Harvey as the example:
- [(Hart shares, 1923-24 to 1929-30) + (1st-team AS selections, 1930-31 to 1952-53 x 0.4) + (2nd-team AS selections, 1930-31 to 1952-53 x 0.15) + (Norris shares) + (Hart wins, 1930-31 to present x 0.5)] x 5
- [(0.0) + (2 x 0.4) + (0 x 0.15) + (3.97) + (0 x 0.5)] x 5 = 23.85
We’ll review the top PPS award bonus leaders by position and era later in the chapter; however, by purely Norris Trophy shares, Nicklas Lidstrom (8.97) narrows edges Ray Bourque (8.91). Remarkably, each holds a greater share of the Norris than Gretzky’s stranglehold on the Hart, despite his league-record nine MVP awards.
Lastly, we’ll develop an award share approach for goalies that covers the most applicable NHL honour over the years. The award history for goaltenders operated similarly to defencemen, though a standalone trophy based on voting did not arrive as quickly. We’re required to start with the Hart Trophy for the period spanning 1923-24 through 1929-30, the league’s only award for excellence at the time. The NHL introduced the Vezina Trophy for the 1926-27 season; however, the award was based solely on goals against average, and later, given to the goaltender(s) on the team with the fewest goals allowed. While it was a highly popular race in its day, given it was based solely on team goals against, it was hardly a legitimate top goaltender award.
The honour that did, however, go to the league’s best goalie from 1930-31 through 1980-81 was the first-team all-star selection. Absent complete voting results for all-star choices at the time, an award share of 0.67 (i.e., two-thirds) is attributed to the netminder on the first team, with 0.33 (i.e., one-third) to the second-team choice. Shares were determined from a review of the Vezina Trophy voting after it was redefined in 1981-82 to the goaltender “adjudged to be the best at this position.” Logically, given the trophy’s new standing as a balloted award for goaltending supremacy, from 1981-82 onward it determines PPS award share value.
The award share bonuses for goalies is comparable in execution to those for defencemen, their signature trophy arriving 28 years later. Goaltenders winning the Hart in 1930-31 or later will also be rewarded with an additional bonus of 0.5. There are only eight instances of a goaltender as league MVP, led by Dominik Hasek, the only two-time Hart winner between the pipes. We’ll run through the PPS award share calculations for goaltending, using the famously innovative Jacques Plante as our poster boy.
- [(Hart shares, 1923-24 to 1929-30) + (1st-team AS selections, 1930-31 to 1980-81 x 0.67) + (2nd-team AS selections, 1930-31 to 1980-81 x 0.33) + (Vezina shares, 1981-82 to present) + (Hart wins, 1930-31 to present x 0.5)] x 5
- [(0.0) + (3 x 0.67) + (4 x 0.33) + (0.0) + (1 x 0.5)] x 5 = 19.17
Before wrapping the award bonus for goaltending, for those curious, the leading Vezina shareholder is Martin Brodeur at 5.41. This, of course, is only for the “new” Vezina Trophy definition, effective 1980-81. We’ve got our direction by position to incorporate the final factor into PPS.
Given the evolving inputs, we’ll summarize the award share bonus chronologically. The chart presents the NHL award applicable for each position and season in the development of the bonus. While the math may have seemed elaborate above, the formulas simply capture the shift in available awards over time.
PPS AWARD SHARE BONUS VALUE, TIMELINE
|1981-82 to present||Hart||Norris||Vezina|
|1953-54 to 1980-81||Hart||Norris||1st & 2nd All-Star Teams|
|1930-31 to 1952-53||Hart||1st & 2nd All-Star Teams||1st & 2nd All-Star Teams|
|1923-24 to 1929-30||Hart||Hart||Hart|
|1917-18 to 1922-23||No awards||No awards||No awards|
Winner Bonuses: Selke (1977-78 to present) = +0.2; Hart by defencemen or goaltender (1930-31 to present) = +0.5
At the end of our pages on PPS career, pace, and peak values, we checked in on the top scores by era and position. Here, we do the same for our newly minted award share bonus value. The availability of complete award voting detail generally gives a slight advantage for seasons starting in 1981-82. This is not an unwelcome development given the NHL was a 21-team outfit by this time. Earning award shares and trophy wins is naturally a greater achievement when doing so in a league with more teams, larger rosters, and, therefore, many more players competing for the scarce slots on a ballot. Here is our focused leaderboard for award share bonus by position. While playoff and international bonuses collectively could not exceed 40 PPS points, this bonus has no maximum.
TOP PLAYER BY ERA AND POSITION, PPS AWARD SHARE BONUS VALUE
|1||Howie Morenz||8||Eddie Shore||27||Frank Brimsek||17|
|2||Gordie Howe||22||Doug Harvey||24||Glenn Hall||30|
|3||Wayne Gretzky||42||Ray Bourque||45||Ken Dryden||14|
|4||Sidney Crosby*||25||Nicklas Lidstrom||45||Dominik Hasek||29|
Stats through 2021-22; Award Value = Award shares ("PPS Award Share Bonus Value, Timeline" table above) x 5
No surprises here, as these include history’s cream of the crop. Notably, despite being the Vezina share leader, Brodeur is edged by Hasek among Era 4 goalies due to the pair of Hart Trophies on The Dominator’s mantle. We’ll also check in below on the all-time top five by position for our final bonus factor, as well as the active leader by position (*).
TOP 5 PLAYERS BY POSITION, PPS AWARD SHARE BONUS VALUE
|1||Wayne Gretzky||3||42||Nicklas Lidstrom||4||45||Glenn Hall||2||30|
|2||Sidney Crosby*||4||25||Ray Bourque||3||45||Dominik Hasek||4||29|
|3||Mario Lemieux||3||24||Bobby Orr||3||31||Martin Brodeur||4||27|
|4||Gordie Howe||2||22||Eddie Shore||1||27||Patrick Roy||4||23|
|5||Alex Ovechkin*||4||21||Doug Harvey||2||24||Bill Durnan||2||20|
|*||Sidney Crosby*||4||25||Zdeno Chara*||4||20||Andrei Vasilevskiy*||4||10|
Stats through 2021-22
The top five by position are legendary talents. Gretzky, Lidstrom, and perhaps most surprisingly, Glenn Hall, lead their respective positions. Hall, an 11-time all-star in the pre-voting days of the Vezina, impressively snagged seven first-team nods (equivalent to seven “modern” Vezinas). Notably, having just completed his age-27 season in 2021-22, four-time Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy already leads active goalies.
This completes the last of our three bonus values, but more importantly, also signs and seals (but not yet delivers) the PPS system. We’ll make the final inclusion for Jarome Iginla‘s award share value, populated on his player card below. In an 11-season stretch, Iginla earned Hart votes in seven of those years. He finished runner-up twice (2001-02, 2003-04) without winning the award outright. This amounts to Hart award shares of 1.41. Receiving only down-ballot support for the Selke, Iginla never get close to the added bonus for a Selke win. So in total, Iginla banks 1.41 in award shares, which for PPS purposes, produces an award bonus of 7.1. This is the 21st-best mark among all forwards.
While a relatively modest bonus, we’ll contrast it with his Hall of Fame contemporary, Marian Hossa. Hossa barely sniffed any MVP consideration, a consistently elite player often sharing the ice with elite teammates. Peaking with two 10th-place Hart finishes, his 0.06 award shares translates to a bonus of 0.3, essentially nil. As we’ll eventually see, Hossa and Iginla grade out eerily similar in the end, with Hossa having much greater playoff success and Iginla fairing better both internationally and via public perception given his significant MVP support. The Iginla/Hossa example reinforces how the bonus system helps to tweak PPS on the edges to capture what core regular season contributions do not.
Finally, Iginla has his total PPS score: 294.
That will be the figure tied to his legendary two-decade career. While it may be just a number at this point, we understand the seven components that comprise the total score. With PPS as our guide, we can now compare and contrast all forwards before, during, and after Iginla’s NHL career. We’re inching closer toward our comprehensive final ratings, opening the doors to highly anticipated Hall of Fame analysis and identification of hockey’s all-time best players. We’ll complete this section of the site by bringing PPS together and taking it for a spin.
Era Names, Era development concepts, Adjusted GP, Adjusted Yrs, Adjusted PS, Adjusted Pace data, NHL Award Shares, PPS System and Player Card from Adjusted Hockey;
All other data from Hockey-Reference.com.