Monday, April 8, 2013

The Race for League MVP: Ovechkin vs. Crosby Again

By Artistry

The field is wide open. Everybody's once unanimous, no-question-about-it choice for the Hart Trophy winner as the league's MVP Sidney Crosby will miss his fourth game of the season on Tuesday, and suddenly he's fallen out of favor among the hockey cognoscenti.

And who has emerged as a newly viable candidate for MVP but the Master of Setting Impossibly High Expectations Only to Lower the Bar so Dramatically That He's Exceeded Them Once Again Even Though He's Averaging Only a Point a Game, the Secretary of Hahahahaha!!!!!, the Captain of Regular Season Coronations, Alex Ovechkin.

Refusing to make the obvious joke about how he was not hit in the face with a puck.
Does this make any sense? Can we figure out how to make this post about Mario Lemieux's greatness? The answers to those questions are "No, that's ridiculous" and "You bet!" Read all about it, after the jump...

First, let's acknowledge that there are other legitimate Hart candidates: Patrick Kane, Ryan Getzlaf, and Chris Kunitz to name a few. But let's just highlight Ovechkin's "candidacy" here. He has 43 points in 39 games, which is terrific if you're Ziggy Palffy in 2005. Extrapolated out over the full 48 games, that's 53 points, which is a bit of a stretch considering Ovechkin has been on fire over the last two weeks. Crosby has 56 points in 36 games already.

Sidney Crosby elevated Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis to an all-NHL level, turning a unit with two undrafted complementary pieces into the widely recognized best line in hockey. Alex Ovechkin spent much of the season struggling to keep up with Nick Backstrom and Mike Ribiero. The case can certainly be made that THEY lifted Ovechkin's game. Perhaps more damning are Ovechkin's splits against the wretched Southeast Division.
Now here's where Mario Lemieux comes in. Back in December 2000, Lemieux came out of retirement at age 35, after three-and-a-half years of sipping chateau margot and playing putt-putt with Austin. He tallied 76 points in a mere 43 games (1.77 ppg), which is insane. By the end of that season, Mario was playing pool in the offensive zone, lining up his one-timers at increasingly poor angles just to give himself a challenge. Despite playing HALF A SEASON, he finished as the Hart Trophy runner-up behind Joe Sakic (118 points in 82 games, who over a full, stellar season only reached 81% of Lemieux ppg productivity).  By comparison, Crosby - assuming he is out for the remainder of the regular season - will only miss 12 games. He will still outscore Ovechkin in 25% fewer games, and he will have done so against stronger competition, while leading the Penguins to a likely #1 overall seed. If you're a voter and choose to cast your ballot instead for Ovechkin, you'll embarrass yourself.  He would be the least productive forward to win the Hart since Bobby Hull 40 years ago. Someone needs to do much better than that to knock an idle Crosby from his position as MVP frontrunner.

And let's not forget the real lesson here.

Better than you remember.


  1. Ovechkin vs. other top-8 teams: 4g, 6a, 10pts in 15 games.

    Crosby vs other top-8: 7g, 25a, 32pts in 20 games.

  2. Love the picture of the Mario smoking a cigar. It also reminded me of a story Mark Madden, my former dek hockey coach, once told me. Apparently, MM was at Blush night club in October of 2000 when he was approached by Mario's masseuse. The masseuse was hammered and began to mumble at MM, in a slurred voice, he told MM that the "big guys coming back, big guys coming back." MM didn't realize what the masseuse was saying at the time, but had he put the pieces together, he could have broken the story of 66's return 2 months before that information was realeased to the public.