When it comes to sports we all love anomalies. A good what if story, a statistic or season that serves as a total outlier, underdogs that overachieved, legends that underachieved… We often talk about the greatest player to never win a ring or the greatest player to never win an MVP. But what about the greatest players to never even get an MVP vote? I’ve set out to create an all time NHL lineup composed of players who have never even received a single throwaway MVP vote. That means over an entire career they didn’t even get one fifth place vote from a biased journalist from their own city. I loosely made the parameters that any player included had to at least play the majority of their prime from the 60s and on. I also excluded players who played the majority of their prime outside the NHL (e.g. Slava Fetisov). Without any more preamble here is the lineup.
Luc Robitaille – Jacques Lemaire – Mike Gartner
Dave Andreychuk– Bernie Nicholls – Glenn Anderson
Steve Shutt – Rick MacLeish – Pat Verbeek
Rick Martin – Guy Carbonneau – Phil Kessel
Let’s start this off with the guy who inspired this idea, Luc Robitaille. The fact that Luc Robitaille was pretty much the best left winger in all of hockey for the better part of a decade and a top 10 player to ever play the position makes it shocking that he never received an MVP vote. You’d think some of those first All-Star 100+ point seasons would have done the trick, or the year he scored 63 goals and 125 points. Yeah he played in a crazy high scoring era but to think about the level he performed at for such a long time without getting a vote is unbelievable. How we live in a world where Chris Simon can get a third place vote and Robitaille can’t even get a fifth one year is beyond me. There are other surprising ones here, Gartner never getting a vote despite putting up 1,300+ points, Shutt the year he scored 60 goals and won the Rocket, Nicholls putting up 70 goals and 150 points, the list goes on. When it comes down to it a lot of these forwards as great as they were, were never really the best star on their team or the best player at even their position. Still… I should do a follow up post on some of the worst players to ever receive votes and these guys blow them all out of the water.
First All-Star Teams: 8
Second All-Star Teams: 7
Rocket Richard Richard Trophies: 1
Selke Trophies: 3
Stanley Cups: 29
Hart Trophy votes: 0
Pierre Pilote – Guy Lapointe
Jacques Laperiere – Larry Murphy
Phil Housley – Sergei Zubov
With all six spots being filled by Hall of Famers this is a daunting D core. It was also interesting to learn that not only is Pierre Pilote underappreciated today but he may have been a little underappreciated in his own time too as I’ll admit that along with Robitaille he was the most shocking player to not receive a vote. Three straight Norris trophies, eight straight years of being first or second team All-Star and one Cup. You couldn’t script a better career. You’d think being the leagues best defenseman for a significant stretch would at the very least garner a third place vote from a Chicago writer but apparently not. Lapointe is an all time great but he played in that golden 70s era of Habs hockey where it would be difficult to get a vote surrounded by so many stars. Laperriere won a Norris in an era where true stay at home D-men could still win but playing at the same time as Howe, Beliveau, Hull, Mikita, etc. means a defensive defenseman would be hard pressed to wrangle away an MVP vote. Rounding out the D are Murphy, Housley and Zubov. All were phenomenal high scoring players but while they were great they were never the top defenseman in the league and played in massive scoring eras where even scoring 150 points in a season didn’t guarantee you a vote.
Norris Trophies: 4
First All-Star Teams: 8
Second All-Star Teams: 13
Stanley Cups: 18
Hart Trophy Votes: 0
Goaltending is a very interesting one. While goalies very rarely actually win the Hart trophy they impact their team enough that even a lot of mediocre goalies have been awarded a Hart vote at some point in their career from one hot season or stretch of play. Hall of Famer Billy Smith is by far the best goaltender to never receive a vote. Four Cups, a Vezina, a first team All-Star and good enough to win a Conne Smythe for playoff MVP, but never garnered a single Hart vote. He’s an all time great and no goalie even close to his level of accomplishment was shutout of the voting the way he was. His lack of votes can probably be attributed to the fact that he played on the Islanders with Bossy, Trottier and Potvin and that as good as he was, the Hart is a regular season award and he always seemed to save his best hockey for the playoffs. Backing up Smith is Mike Vernon. A great starter and together with Billy they have a combined six Cups and two Conne Smythes.
Vezina Trophies: 1
Jennings Trophies: 2
Conn Smythe Trophies: 2
First All-Star Teams: 1
Second All-Star Teams: 1
Stanley Cups: 6
Hart Trophy votes: 0