Islanders center John Tavares is one of the three finalists for this year's Hart Trophy as NHL Most Valuable Player, which will be awarded during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Should he win over Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, Tavares would be the second Islander to be named MVP.
On this day in 1979, Bryan Trottier took home both the Hart as well as the Art Ross trophy as the league's leading scorer. Trottier finished with 47 goals and 87 assists for an Islanders team that led the NHL with a 51-15-14 record. (Fun fact: It wasn't until Valentine's Day that their loses hit double digits). The man he beat in the Hart voting, Canadiens star Guy Lafleur, had come in ahead of Trottier for the award a year earlier.
It's easy to forget now that at the time of his double-dip, Trottier was still really a kid. At just 22, Trottier was already the winner of three major NHL awards. He had also been given the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year in 1975.
Prior to winning the Hart, Trottier was most proud of his Art Ross victory, in which he beat Kings' sniper Marcel Dionne by four points. The always magnanimous Trottier of course gave the credit to his teammates first.
"I owe it all to a little, curly-haired fellow by the name of Mike Bossy, to a pair of left wings, Clarkie [Gillies] and John [Tonelli], and to Al [Arbour], who double-shifted me when I needed a little extra lift. And I owe it to the defense and the goaltenders who gave me tips about other goalies' weaknesses. I have such great feelings about the support I got from these guys."
Did Trots forget anyone? Want to thank your peewee coach or the scout who first saw you mesmerize the opposition?
"I'd come so close to winning on in juniors," Trottier said. "I was always close but lost out. It's nice to know the feeling."
(excerpt from, The New York Islanders: Countdown to the Dynasty by Barry Wilner, Leisure Press, 1983.)
Despite the double award win and regular season championship, 1979 didn't end on a high note for Trottier. A six-game loss to the Rangers in the Stanley Cup semi-finals was a very bitter pill to swallow. Coming a year after a semi-final loss to Toronto, the Islanders were beginning to wonder if their status as annual Stanley Cup favorites was truly warranted. Even during the next season, while the Islanders stumbled out of the gate, Al Arbour was forced to bench the reigning Hart Trophy winner during a game due to inconsistent and indecisive play.
Fortunately, all their doubts would be washed away on May 24, 1980. Following the Islanders' first Stanley Cup victory, Trottier would add a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP to his crowded mantle.
Trottier would make one final appearance on the Hart Trophy leaderboard in 1982, when he lost to Wayne Gretzky. The other finalist that year? Trottier's curly-haired linemate Mike Bossy. Imagine that for a minute. Two guys, playing on the same line, both being nominated for league MVP. Not bad.
John Tavares has done his part to make the Islanders a dangerous team again. He can't be expected to be a reincarnation of Trottier. But getting league-wide recognition for great play restores an Islanders tradition that's been absent for far too long.