Does Alex Ovechkin Deserve a Hart Nomination?

Posted April 21, 2013

Photo by Alena Schwarz

As the shortened 2013 regular season comes to an end, the focus turns towards the playoffs and the inevitable end-of-the-year awards that are given away. One player who has definitely left his mark has been Alex Ovechkin, who has found his old self under Adam Oates’ system. While the winger started out slow, he has been on a tear ever since Mike Milbury told him to “act like a man” during a nationally broadcasted game against the Philadelphia Flyers. While the captain’s resurgence has been one of the most talked about topics of this season, there are  journalists who feel that Ovechkin’s slow start takes him out of consideration.

Well, what is the Hart Memorial Trophy? According the league, here is what the Hart is for (bold done by myself for emphasis):

“The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.”

Again, I point you to the part that’s in bold. That’s the key here — which player has been the most valuable to their team. There is no doubt that without Alex Ovechkin’s performance this season the Capitals are fighting the Florida Panthers for lottery positioning.

Ovechkin right now leads the league in goals with 30 and is tied with Patrick Kane for 4th in points with 51, just 5 shy of league leader Sidney Crosby. Those current numbers put him on pace for 54 goals and 92 points over an 82-game season. He has 16 power-play goals, which is tied with the number of power-play goals scored by the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks. While his second-half stats are Hart worthy, many pundits feel that his first half performance waters down his second half performance. There are others who feel that if people are going to hand Ovechkin the Hart for a “half to three-quarters of a season’s performance,” then why not hand it to Crosby, who was on a tear before being injured? In an article written last Wednesday, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet offers this caveat:

“Over the last 40 years, only one skater has been awarded the Hart Trophy despite sitting out more than seven games in a season: Mario Lemieux. The former Penguins star (and current owner) took home the MVP honours after playing 60 of 84 games in 1992-1993 and 70 of 82 games in 1995-1996. Besides that, the award has been the exclusive property of those blessed with good health.”

To go a step further, if we look back to what the Hart is awarded for, Crosby isn’t the player who is the most valuable to his team. The Penguins have kept winning without his presence in the lineup. Had they taken a nosedive in the standings, then a case could be made.

A case could also be made for Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets or James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs, since their performances have directly contributed to the successes for their respective clubs. While Toronto has qualified for the playoffs for the first time since Moses parted the Red Sea and Columbus is on the cusp, the issue here is that goaltenders don’t contribute offensively (insert your “Marty Brodeur has more goals than _____” jokes here). I’m not a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, but if I was I’d leave the both of them off of my ballot for that reason.

In the end, the three that should deserve nominations are Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares of the New York Islanders, and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. All three have success that is the most valuable to their team and all three have put their teams in the playoffs.