Middletown, N. J. – There are many things out there that fall into the same broad category but offer various colorful opinions as people attempt to justify their choice.
Hot dog or hamburger? Potato salad or macaroni salad? Ketchup or mustard? Is it soccer or football? I could go on and on but for the sake of brevity and losing just about every reader here at this time, I will move forward.
Annually, as the National Hockey League recognizes its top players across the league with hardware that can be placed on their mantles, the same debate is discussed and brooded over by tons of sports writers, bloggers and fans alike.
Those fortunate enough to be a part of the NHLPWA get to vote on some of these prestigious awards with some even meaning cash bonuses to the recipient if he had the foresight to hire a good enough agent to have a clause drawn up in their contract.
At EyesOnIsles we will be looking at all of the major awards over the next couple of weeks, breaking down the finalists and giving you who we think the winner could be as well as our own personal choice if we had the privilege of voting.
First up is the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the “player judged most valuable to his team”.
Previous Five Winners
- 2007-2008 Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
- 2008-2009 Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
- 2009-2010 Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
- 2010-2011 Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
- 2011-2012 Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Here Are The Nominees
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins, 3rd nomination, 1 time winner
36 GP – 15 G- 41 A – 56 Pts – +26
Arguably the most talented forward not only in the NHL but the world, Crosby missed 12 games this season with a broken jaw suffered against the New York Islanders on March 30. He has already amassed 665 points in only 470 career regular season games, an incredible 1.42 points per game average. He actually surpassed that this shortened season at 1.56.
With that being said and his talents not in dispute, what could be argued is was he the MOST valuable member of the Penguins? With a roster laden with top end talent at both ends of the rink they hardly missed a beat when Crosby went down, going 8-4 not counting the game he was originally injured in early in the first period which they won 2-0. Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and trade deadline acquisitions Brendan Morrow and Jarome Iginla helped keep the Penguin ship sailing upright.
The Penguins are clearly a better team with Crosby but a strong contention is that they are just as good without him. And that does not fit the official definition of what the league recognizes as being most valuable to HIS team.
Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals, 4th nomination, 2 time winner
48 GP- 32 G – 24 A – 56 Pts – +2
Ovechkin was one of the most exciting premier goal scorers the league has seen since Pavel Bure, exploding on the scene with an average of 54 goals in his first five seasons, including 65 goal campaign in 2007-08.
Frustrated by what some saw as a loss of passion in the game and the Capitals inability to find success in the playoffs, he then slipped to 70 goals over the next two years, hardly what one would consider a failure at this level but far off what had been expected of him after such an electrifying start.
At the onset of 2013 ,it looked like the same old down Alex, as he had only 8 goals in 21 games through the end of February. Then head coach Adam Oates reunited him with longtime center Niklas Backstrom and the tank took off to the tune of 24 goals in his last 29 games to win the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer and almost single-handily lifting the Caps into the postseason over the Winnipeg Jets.
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
John Tavares, C, New York Islanders, 1st nomination
48 GP – 28 G – 19 A – 47 Pts – -2
Tavares has been anointed the personal savior of the New York Islanders franchise. Drafted with the 1st overall pick in 2009, he has consistently raised his game each season with a rigorous off-season workout regimen and a constant and unending desire to improve any flaws that might exist in his game.
He was incredibly consistent this season for the Islanders, collecting 11,14,11 and 11 points in the seasons 4 month span. He finished 3rd in the league with 28 goals, just one behind Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and 4 off the pace set by Ovechkin.
He showed his tremendous passion for the organization by resigning a contract extension out to 2018 that costs the Isles only 5.5mm USD. A relative bargain in today’s economic climate. And that was before the Isles cemented themselves as one of the rising young teams in the entire league on their way back to relevancy.
Given the Isles lack of secondary scoring over the season’s first two months, without Tavares and his offensive production in addition to his incredibly improving leadership skills, it would have certainly been another season of the draft lottery on the Island.
And The Award Goes To (drum-roll please)
Given the love-fest with Crosby, for reasons I will not go into here, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the award for the 2nd time. Is he the most talented player in the league? Arguably, yes. But is he the true definition of an MVP on the Penguins? I still contend he is not. Go back in history and think about this. Brett Hull won the MVP in 1990-91 and was hardly the league’s most talented player. Steve Yzerman DID NOT win the Hart in 1988-89 despite putting up 65 goals and 90 assists! Primarily because of the great one, Wayne Gretzky, who that season finished with 11 less goals and 24 more assists.
The true definition of the award makes it a two player race in our ‘eyes’ : Ovechkin and Tavares.
The voting happens before the playoffs begin so unfortunately the tirade that Ovie embarked on in calling out his entire team and taking no accountability for his team’s first round elimination cannot be taken into account.
We have that luxury however of taking that into serious consideration of what an MVP IS NOT and for that reason we select John Tavares as our winner, deservedly so, of the Hart Memorial Trophy.
He is the true definition of what the award means at the end of the day.