Shawn Evans is having an amazing year. He’s currently 4th in the league in goals, 2nd in assists, and first in points. He’s averaging 7.5 points per game, and is on pace for 135 points, blowing the current record of 116 out of the water. The next closest player in points is 16 back (in one more game) and the next closest in points per game is almost a full point behind. He’s leading the league with 5 shorthanded goals, the same number or more than three teams. He is leading the Roughnecks in points by 31. So he’s a strong candidate for MVP, right?
Well yes, except for the fact that the Roughnecks are in last place in the league and are currently in last in the West, which could mean no playoffs for the Roughnecks for the first time since their debut season in 2002. Can you give the MVP award to a player on a team that doesn’t make the playoffs?
It has happened once in the NLL. In 2001 John Tavares won his 3rd MVP award for (guess who?) the Buffalo Bandits. That year, he set the points record of 115 which stood for over 10 years and outscored the Gait brothers (who tied for #2) by 25 points. But the Bandits were 5th in the league with an 8-6 record, a game out of 4th. Only 4 of the 9 teams made the playoffs at that time, and the Bandits just missed. There were four teams below them in the standings. Six of the 9 teams make the playoffs now, and there ain’t nobody below the Roughnecks.
It’s hard to answer the question of whether Evans is deserving of the MVP award until you decide what MVP really means, and this comes up near the end of every season as well as every baseball season, hockey season, any sport that features an MVP award. The CFL wisely calls theirs the “Most Outstanding Player” award, so they don’t need to define “valuable”. But we do. Should the MVP award simply go to the best player? Or it it truly based on how “valuable” the player is to their team?
Maybe the award just go to the top scorer; that’s certainly been the trend of late. The last three MVPs (Jamieson, Evans, Grant) were also the top scorer of the year.
Actually, it’s not just a recent thing; it’s been the trend all along. There have been 21 MVP awards given out by the NLL. The winner has been either #1 or #2 in the scoring race 16 of those times (and #3 once). In fact, a purely defensive player has only won twice – Steve Dietrich in 2006 and Jim Veltman in 2004. Chicks dig the long ball.
By that standard, Evans is the MVP, almost without question. But is he actually the most “valuable” player? Does he mean more to his team than anyone else? That’s harder to argue. A player being “valuable” to his team implies that his team had some significant level of success, or their value wouldn’t be much. The Roughnecks could have missed the playoffs and ended up last with or without Evans. Would the Rush be where they are without Mark Matthews or Aaron Bold? What about the Rock without Josh Sanderson? Or the Knighthawks without Matt Vinc?
But if history is any indication, “Most Valuable Player” is simply the name of the award. If it was truly named after who receives it, it should actually be called the National Lacrosse League Best Offensive Player Unless No Offensive Player Has A Really Standout Season And A Defensive Player Does award. The season isn’t over yet and so we can’t say for sure but for my money, Evans is at the top of the short list, regardless of how the Roughnecks finish.