Conn Smythe voting shows Connor McDavid was winning regardless of Game 7's result

Edmonton's captain led the league in points and assists during the postseason, taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy despite being on the losing side.
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game Seven
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game Seven / Elsa/GettyImages

Everyone from the postgame panel on Monday to radio talk show hosts to internet geniuses were talking about Connor McDavid winning the Conn Smythe following Edmonton's Game 7 loss on Monday. McDavid is just the sixth player from the losing team to win the award, becoming the first player since Jean-Sebastian Giguere in 2003 and the first skater since Reggie Leach in 1976 to do so. His win has been met by some questioning whether or not a player from the losing team deserves to win the Conn Smythe.

The Conn Smythe is for the Playoffs MVP, not just the Finals

The Conn Smythe is unique from the postseason awards given in the NFL, MLB, or NBA in that it encompasses the entire postseason, not just one series. The one thing that has been amplified during discussions of McDavid's win is his performance during the final two games of the Stanley Cup Final, failing to record a shot in Game 6 or find the scoresheet in either game. In fact, he was made an afterthought for most of Game 7. It seems to have undermined everything he did in the 23 games before it.

Perhaps no player on either team had a case stronger than McDavid's to win the Conn Smythe. McDavid set a new NHL record with 34 assists, three more than Wayne Gretzky's previous record, and climbed to fourth for the most points in a single postseason with 42. He finished with at least nine points in each of Edmonton's four series, including a series-high 11 in the finals against the Panthers. Without McDavid, it's hard to envision the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final, let alone one game away from winning it all.

Games 4-6 seemed to damage Bobrovsky's chances

One of the biggest surprises from the voting by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association is that Sergei Bobrovsky finished fourth. He wasn't even the top choice from his team, with Aleksander Barkov finishing second on 15 of the 17 ballots and Gustav Forsling appearing on more ballots than Bobrovsky. The Florida netminder and Vezina finalist was the only other player to receive a first-place vote, preventing Connor McDavid from being a unanimous selection.

After Florida took a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, Bobrovsky felt like a shoo-in to win the award. He had posted a .916 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA through 20 games, including a pair of shutouts. Then, the Oilers chased him after allowing five goals on 16 shots in Game 4 during Edmonton's 8-1 win and added four more on 23 shots in Game 5. All of a sudden, there were doubts about whether or not Bobrovsky was the frontrunner.

While I'm surprised by Bobrovsky's final positioning in the voting, it's not too surprising that Aleksander Barkov was the top choice from the Panthers. Barkov tied Matthew Tkachuk for the team lead in points throughout the playoffs (22), but it's his defense that likely landed him in this spot. The Selke winner for this season, Barkov was asked to face McDavid for most of the series, getting the better of him, especially in Game 7, proving his status as the best two-way forward in the league. When looking at the definition of the most valuable player to his team, either Bobrovsky or Barkov have a strong case.

Connor McDavid might've deserved the award, but I'm sure he'd easily trade it for a Game 7 win. The world's best player was exactly that over the last two months, and not even two quiet games at the most important time during the season changed that. I see no reason why a player on the losing team shouldn't be able to win it. Plenty of Panthers could've won it, but I think the right player went home with the hardware, even if it wasn't exactly the hardware he hoped for.