The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team during the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup playoffs. The Conn Smythe Trophy has been awarded 47 times to 41 players since the 1964–65 NHL season. Each year, at the conclusion of the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals, members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association vote to elect the player deserving of the trophy. The trophy is handed out prior to the presentation of the Stanley Cup by the NHL commissioner and only the winner is announced, in contrast to most of the other NHL awards which name three finalists and which are presented at a ceremony.
Unlike the playoff MVP awards presented in the other major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada (the Super Bowl MVP, the NBA Finals MVP, and the World Series MVP), the Conn Smythe is based on the entire NHL postseason instead of just the championship game or series.
The Conn Smythe Trophy was introduced in 1964 by Maple Leaf Gardens Limited to honor Conn Smythe, the former owner, general manager, and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder. The trophy's design is similar to Maple Leaf Gardens, the arena in which the Maple Leafs played their home games from 1931 to 1999, with a botanically-correct maple leaf further embellishing it as well.
The first winner of the award was centre Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens in 1965. The first player to win it twice was Bobby Orr in 1972, scoring the Cup-clinching goals en route to his Conn Smythe Trophy wins, and he is the only defencemen to achieve this honor more than once. Goaltender Bernie Parent and centres Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux also won it twice, and goaltender Patrick Roy is the only player who has won it three times, as well as the only player to win the trophy for more than one team; he also won it in three different decades. 1971 winner Ken Dryden remains the only NHL player to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy before winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, due to being called up by the Montreal Canadiens and only playing 6 regular season games, which is not enough to qualify as a rookie season. Dave Keon's eight playoff points in 1967 is the fewest ever by a non-goalie Conn Smythe winner, as he was a defensive forward, and at the present he is the only Toronto Maple Leafs player to win the trophy donated by his club's parent company.
Though the award covers the entirety of the playoffs, it has never been given to a player whose team did not at least reach the final. The trophy has been awarded to members of the team that lost the final five times, the most recent being Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003, who backstopped his team on a surprise run to the Finals where they pushed the New Jersey Devils to seven games. The only non-goaltender to win the award in a losing cause is Philadelphia's Reggie Leach, who won it in 1976 as he had set a league record for most goals in the playoffs (19), which included a five-goal game in the semi-finals and four goals in the Finals series, even though his team was swept by the Canadiens.
As of 2012, the trophy had been won sixteen times each by centres and goaltenders, nine times by defensemen, five times by right wings, and just once by a left wing (Bob Gainey in 1979).
With six exceptions, the winners of the Conn Smythe Trophy have all been Canadian. The six non-Canadian winners are Americans Brian Leetch, who won it in 1994, Tim Thomas in 2011, and Jonathan Quick in 2012, Russian Evgeni Malkin, who won it in 2009, and Swedes Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, who won it in 2002 and 2008, respectively.
Only three players have won the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy for most valuable player during the regular season in the same year: Bobby Orr in 1970 and 1972, Guy Lafleur in 1977 and Wayne Gretzky in 1985. These three players have also won the Art Ross Trophy as regular season leading scorer, while Orr also won the James Norris Trophy as top defenceman to give him a record four individual original NHL awards in 1970.
The trophy has been won nine times by Montreal Canadiens players, five times by Detroit Red Wings players, and four times by Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Islanders players. The St. Louis Blues are the only team without a Stanley Cup to have a Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Player is still active in the NHL.
Player was a member of the defeated team in the Stanley Cup Final.
Player was a member of the defeated team in the Stanley Cup Final, and is still active.