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The Hart Race, Or Why Alexander Ovechkin Doesn’t Deserve To Win

03/26/10
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After reading and commenting on this blog post at The Goose’s Roost, I felt compelled to finally put my thoughts about the Hart race out there.

I have had a serious beef with the way the Hart trophy has been presented for a few years now. It’s painfully obvious that the vast majority of sports writers and an embarrassing amount of hockey fans don’t actually know what the trophy is awarded for. Let’s clear that up now.

The Hart Memorial Trophy, named for Dr. David Hart, is awarded annually to the “player adjudged most valuable to his team.” That means that the award should be given to the player who is most responsible for his team’s success, moreso than any other player in the league is to his respective club.

For the sake of clarity, let’s go ahead and clear up what the Pearson Award is awarded for, too.

The Lester B. Pearson Award, named for (obviously) Lester B. Pearson, is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by the members of the NHLPA. That means that the award should be given to the player who is more ball-bustingly awesome than any other player in the league, regardless of important, clutch-ness, or what have you.

That all being said, let’s get down to business. Today, this post made it’s way onto Puck Daddy, giving us the first solid Hart watch list. Ryan Miller, Ilya Brzgalov, Henrik Sedin, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechk…wait, what?

Alex Ovechkin is the most dynamic, powerful, talented, passionate player in the game today. He puts up inhuman numbers at a blistering pace, makes plays you or I didn’t think possible, and makes everyone around him either look better or look foolish. But he shouldn’t be in consideration for the Hart trophy this season. Neither should Crosby, but he really doesn’t have a chance to win it so I won’t go off about him.

Ovechkin is surrounded by the other members of this season’s most lethal offense. Even if you removed Ovechkin’s goals from the game, his team would still be in first offensively. A team with Backstrom, Semin, Green, and others is going to score a lot of goals. They even managed to win games during his time away from the game.

The Capitals are a far cry different from the days when Ovechkin was putting up 106 points as a rookie on a terrible team.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres and Phoenix Coyotes are both sitting pretty in the top four of their respective conference with a date with the postseason almost locked up. They don’t have prolific offenses, and their defenses are OK, so where is the magic coming from? Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov. These two stellar goaltenders are stealing games left and right for their teams and propelling them into the second season because of it.

No two players in this league mean more to their clubs than Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov. These are the two men who ought to be 1 and 2 in Hart votes. Ovechkin can keep performing like a Pearson winner all he wants, but he’s no Hart nominee…at least, he shouldn’t be.

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