Frank Nighbor, the First NHL MVP

Frank Nighbor was awarded the first ever Hart Trophy for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. He must have been pretty good.

But did he deserve that trophy? How good was he really?

Listen to us discuss Frank Nighbor:

 

Nighbor’s Stats:

Career

  • NHL: 1917-1930; 13 seasons, 7 quality (by modern standard of 0.5 PPG)
  • 139G (7th All Time at his retirement), 98A (1st) for 237P (5th) in 349 games (3rd); 31.8 PS (17th)
  • Nighbor was the career leader in assists from the 1918-19 season until the 1930-31 season
  • At his retirement, Nighbor was 19th All Time in Offensive Point Shares
  • Nighbor didn’t play enough to qualify for the Hockey Reference per game leaderboards, but if we set the qualifier to 300 games (6 players at his retirement), Nigbhor was
    • 4th in GPG
    • 1st in APG
    • 2nd in PPG
  • 82-game average: 33G, 23A for 56P
  • 3-year peak (1917-20): 24-game average of 26G, 16A for 24P
  • Playoffs: 4G, 9A for 13P in 20 games
  • Nighbor became the career leader in playoff assists in 1921 and held that record until 1932
  • Adjusted: 212G, 549A for 761P
  • Adjusted 82-game average: 50G, 129A for 179P
  • Traded once at the end of his career.
    • NHA:
      • 1912-13; 1915-17; 3 seasons, all quality
      • 85G (10th All Time), 15A (as high as 15th All Time) for 100P (as high as 10th All Time) in 61 games (as high as 15th All Time)
      • If the qualifier is set to 60-games played (approx 3 seasons), Nighbor is 4th All Time in GPG, 5th in APG and 4th in PPG
      • 20-game average of 28G, 5A for 33P
      • Playoffs: 1G, 1A for 2P in 2 games
      • May have skipped out on his first NHA contract.
    • PCHA:
      • 1913-15; 2 seasons, both quality
      • 33G, 12A for 45P in 28 games
      • 15-game average: 18G, 6A for 24P
      • Skipped out on his contract to rejoin the NHA.

Accomplishments

  • Hart (’24), Lady Byng (’25, ’26)
  • Top 5 Player (by PS) once (’19), Top 10 twice (’20)
  • Top 5 Offensive Player (by OPS) twice (’19, ’20), Top 10 five times (’18, ’21, ’24)
  • Top 10 Defensive Player (by DPS) twice (’19, ’20) so we know this is sketchy
  • Scored 25 goals once
  • Top 5 in Goals three times, Top 10 four times
  • Top 5 in GPG three times, Top 10 five times
  • Nigbhor set the single-season record for assists in 1919-20, the record held until 1921-22;
  • Led the league in Assists twice, Top 5 five times, Top 10 seven times
  • Set the single season record in APG in 1919-20, the record held up until 1921-22
  • Led the league in APG once, Top 5 thrice, Top 10 four times
  • Top 5 in Points thrice, Top 10 six times
  • Top 5 in PPG thrice, Top 10 six times.
  • NHA:
    • Led the NHA in Goals once, top 5 twice, top 10 all three seasons he was in the league
    • Led the NHA in GPG once, Top 10 probably three times
    • Led the NHA in Assists once, might have been Top 10 one other time, but had ⅓ the league leader
    • Led the NHA in APG once, might have been Top 10 one other time, but had ⅓ the league leader
    • Led the NHA in Points once, Top 5 twice, Top 10 twice
    • Led the NHA in PPG once, Top 10 probably three times
  • PCHA:
    • Top 5 in Goals once
    • Top 5 in GPG once
    • Top 10 Assists maybe once
    • Maybe Top 10 in APG once but ⅓ the league leader
    • Top 5 in Points once
    • Top 5 in PPG once.

Great Teams (Stanley Cup vied for by multiple leagues)

  • NHL:
    • Best Player? on one NHL Stanley Cup Champion (’20 Senators),
    • Best Skater (tied NHL playoff record in assists and led NHL playoffs in points) on one NHL Stanley Cup Champion (’21 Senators),
    • Best Skater (led NHL playoffs in goals and points) on one NHL Runner Up (’22 Senators),
    • Top 3 Forward (tied for NHL playoff lead in assists) on one NHL Runner Up (’24 Senators),
    • Top 3 Forward (by points) on two NHL Stanley Cup Champions (’23, ’27 Senators),
    • Top 6 Forward (by points) on one NHL Runner Up (’19 Senators),
    • Unknown role on one NHL Runner Up (’26 Senators)
  • Best Player? on one PCHA Stanley Cup Champion (’15 Millionaires)

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