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For a second year in a row the members of The Professional Hockey Writers Association named Alexander Ovechkin the winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy. They made a mistake. This award is meant to be given to the NHL’s most valuable player, not its flashiest one.

While there is certainly an argument to be made for Ovechkin, there are equal and better arguments to be made for other players.

For starters, let us define value. When applied to sports value generally translates to winning. Winning requires point differential. And in the great world of sports statistics, point differential is measured and expressed as a player’s +/- rating.

Ovechkin does not rate in the league’s top 100 in this category. His team’s goal differential for the season was +28. His personal rating was a +8.

Another worthy candidate for the award, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, totaled a +34, a much larger number and percentage of his team’s total (+49.) Oh, and his team actually made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

To counter the notion that Datsyuk’s team accounted for the difference, Ovechkin’s teammates Mike Green (+24) and Alexander Semin (+25) both had significantly higher ratings than their “MVP” teammate. Furthermore, Green also averaged over 2 more minutes of ice-time per game, cancelling out the idea that Ovechkin’s numbers were lower because he played the most. This is not to say that Green and Semin are more legitimate candidates. They aren’t. Rather, it proves that Ovechkin was not nearly as valuable as the Writers Association deemed him.

Plus, most Caps fans suck anyways; they don’t deserve an MVP.

Datsyuk is certainly one possibility. He tallied the NHL’s third highest +/- rating (34), fourth-highest point total (97), and fifth-most assists (65). Also, as mentioned above, his team fared better than Ovechkin’s when it mattered most.

Another impressive resume is Evgeni Malkin’s. The Penguins’ center scored the most points in the NHL (113), led the league in assists (78), and had a higher +/- rating (17) than Ovechkin. And like Datsyuk, he propelled Pittsburgh further into the playoffs– they won the Stanley Cup. And while one can easily say that Sidney Crosby was equally valuable, one could also point a finger at Semin and Nicklas Backstrom when talking about Washington’s success.

The point is moot. Note that Shaquille O’neal won the MVP with the Lakers in 2000 when Kobe Bryant was just as much a scoring threat.

Two final names to be considered are Boston’s Tim Thomas and Marc Savard. Thomas’ net-minding (2.1 goals against average, 93.3% saves) was the NHL’s best and helped lead the Bruins to a tie for the best record in the league. Savard led the team on offense with 88 points, including 63 assists and a +25 rating.

In all reality, the award belongs to Datsyuk. He was Detroit’s leader and played a comparable on-ice role to Ovechkin. He just did it better. The readers of USA Today seem to think similarly. In a poll, an overwhelming 89% felt that Datsyuk was the better of the two Russians and more worthy of the Hart.

This is not supposed to be a popularity contest, but it turned out to be one.

One Comment

  1. Playoff performance doesn’t factor into the Hart Trophy, it’s a regular season award.
    +/-, while not useless, doesn’t extract the performance of teammates… Datsyuk (while excellent defensively) had better defensive players around him, and a better goalie. +/- is also often situational and incidental. Semin has very little defensive skill, less than Ovechkin for sure. Ovie at least lays out players on a regular basis and hustles every shift to disrupt passing lanes. Semin’s higher +/- is merely incidental.
    Lastly, Ovechkin’s goal total was far and away the best in the league. Goals win games, not softer statistics.

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