Every era has its dominant paradigm. The 1990's were the era of the elite goaltender, as Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur won 6 of 9 Stanley Cups and provided an unbeatable advantage to their teams. In recent years, with the flattening of the goaltending curve, the focus has been on forwards, especially given the elite play of Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk. Last season, the focus was on elite defensemen, like Chris Pronger, Duncan Keith. If the 2010-11 season should be remembered as anything, it should be as the year of the two-way player.
It wasn't shaping up that way three months ago, as it looked to be the "Year of the Crosby", with Sid piling points at a rate not seen in fifteen years and making the MVP race a foregone conclusion. But Crosby's concussion opened the race. MVP voters have historically shown a distinct lack in sophistication, often simply voting for the player with the most points, and this year is no different as Daniel Sedin has established himself as many pundits' favorite. This is silly: while Sedin is an excellent player, his point totals benefit from the purely offensive role he has played, while leaving the defensive cleanup to Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra. If you eliminate goalies from contention because their results are too volatile, then the top MVP candidates this season are the two-way players who have been key to their teams' success: Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Claude Giroux, Pavel Datsyuk, Corey Perry, Jeff Carter and Kesler.
Why do I think these players have been more valuable than Daniel Sedin or Steven Stamkos? Because in an era where no player (other than Ovechkin and Crosby at their best) is head and shoulders above his peers in talent, the ability to excel at multiple facets of the game and to contribute in all situations adds flexibility to a roster. I will use several different advanced statistics to explain why I think these two-way players should be the primary candidates for MVP.
First of all, puck control. We can see that the raw results (Delta) of the Sedins and Martin St. Louis are excellent, but once you factor in Zone Starts, Opponents and Teammates, they are barely above average. Meanwhile, players like Ovechkin, Carter, Kopitar, Datsyuk and Kesler have earned their results.