The 10 best Hart Trophy races of the past 50 years
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With this year's Hart Trophy race still wide open heading into the final few days of the regular season, it's a great time to break down some of the other close races over the course of the past half-century.

Here's a look at the 10 best Hart Trophy competitions since 1967 (first-place votes in parentheses where applicable):

10. Joe Thornton, Sharks, def. Jaromir Jagr, Rangers (2005-06)

Thornton 1058 (67)
Jagr 974 (48)

Thornton's first Art Ross Trophy came with his only league MVP title - but both races were rather tight, as the sensational playmaker finished just two points clear of Jagr in the scoring race. Jagr's 54 goals nearly doubled Thornton's output and the Rangers finished with one more point than the Sharks, but in the end, Thornton's whopping 96 assists were the difference.

9. Corey Perry, Ducks, def. Daniel Sedin, Canucks (2010-11)

Perry 1043 (67)
Sedin 960 (51)

Unlike the previous example, scoring more goals actually did make a difference this time around, as Perry's league-best 50 tallies earned him a slight edge despite finishing six points behind Sedin in the scoring race. In fact, by most other accounts, Sedin was actually the better contributor - and the Canucks finished 18 points ahead of the Ducks in the standings.

8. Bobby Orr, Bruins, def. Phil Esposito, Bruins (1970-71)

Orr 151
Esposito 127

Just how good was Orr? He managed to steal the Hart Trophy from a player - and teammate, no less - who had shattered the previous league mark for goals and points in a season. But despite a 76-goal, 152-point masterpiece from Esposito, Orr was the voters' choice for best player in the NHL - and with good reason, as he racked up 139 points while posting a plus-minus of +124.

7. Henrik Sedin, Canucks, def. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (2009-10)

Sedin 894 (46)
Ovechkin 834 (40)

The Sedins did end up on the right end of a close Hart Trophy vote - though it was playmaker Henrik, not sniper Daniel, who eked out a win over Ovechkin and Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who was a not-too-distant third in the voting. Sedin fended off both future Hall of Famers by three points for his one and only Art Ross Trophy while leading the Canucks to a 103-point season.

6. Bobby Clarke, Flyers, def. Rogie Vachon, Kings (1974-75)

Clarke 127
Vachon 113

Clarke's second of three Hart Trophies in a four-year span didn't come easily. Despite leading the NHL in assists (89) and finishing with a +79 rating, the Flyers legend ran neck-and-neck with Vachon, who was a fan favorite but wasn't even the best goalie in the league that season. That honor belonged to Clarke's teammate, Bernie Parent, who finished fourth in voting.

5. Wayne Gretzky, Oilers, def. Mike Liut, Capitals (1980-81)

Gretzky 242
Liut 237

Gretzky's Hart Trophy "races" in the early- and mid-1980s weren't all that close, but few fans remember that his second MVP award came by the slimmest of margins. The Great One fended off a spirited charge from Liut, who took home first-team All-Star and Lester B. Pearson Award honors after posting 33 victories and a decent (at the time) 3.34 goals-against average.

4. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals, def. Sidney Crosby, Penguins (2012-13)

Ovechkin 1090 (50)
Crosby 1058 (46)

The lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign produced one of the best Hart Trophy competitions in recent memory, with Ovechkin edging out rival Crosby after both finished with 56 points - four back of Art Ross champ Martin St. Louis. Ovechkin's league-high 32 goals likely swayed the voting contingent. John Tavares was third with 919 votes, while St. Louis finished ninth.

3. Mark Messier, Oilers, def. Ray Bourque, Bruins (1989-90)

Messier 227 (29)
Bourque 225 (29)

You have to feel for Bourque, who was the defensive anchor for a sensational Bruins team but found himself perpetually one step behind the powerhouse Oilers. Messier emerged victorious thanks to having more third-place votes (10) than Bourque (two), who was passed over by a number of voters who opted to make Blues sniper Brett Hull their No. 3 choice.

2. Chris Pronger, Blues, def. Jaromir Jagr, Penguins (1999-00)

Pronger 396 (25)
Jagr 395 (18)

While it might come as a shock to some that Jagr will end his legendary NHL tenure with just one league MVP trophy, this list reveals he easily could have had two more. The problem in 1999-00 was that Pronger was clearly the best defenseman in the league - and that gap between himself and the rest of the field was juuuuust enough to edge out Jagr and his 96 points.

1. Jose Theodore, Canadiens, def. Jarome Iginla, Flames (2001-02)

Theodore 434 (26)
Iginla 434 (23)

It's the only tie atop the Hart Trophy voting in the expansion era - and to this day, there are still fans (many of whom are based in Calgary) who believe Iginla was robbed. But it's hard to argue with Theodore's contributions that season - and if you use Hockey Reference's Point Shares to inform your choice, Theodore (17.4) finished well ahead of Iginla (14.4).

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

The 10 best Hart Trophy races of the past 50 years
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