First, a congratulations to all the NHL award winners.
The awards show also likely sparked discussion in at least some parts once again of "Who's better, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby?" I even saw a poll that seemed to indicate the majority of voters believe Ovechkin winning two straight Hart Trophies is more impressive than Crosby winning the Stanley Cup.
Personally, I think that's absurd. Winning back-to-back MVPs is impressive, sure, but when the playoffs started, do you think Capitals fans were saying, "I hope Ovie wins MVP again" or, "I hope we win the Cup"? OK, they probably were rooting for both, but if they had to pick just one, which do you think they would've chosen? Which would you have rooted for more?
The goal of any sport is to win the championship, not a regular season award. Or at least, it should be. If Caps fans settled for just winning the Hart, then...well, more power to them I guess. I know that I was rooting for the Penguins to win the Cup far more than for Evgeni Malkin to win the Hart. I'll take the Cup and the Conn Smythe over the Hart any season.
If Ovechkin wins 10 Hart Trophies but no Stanley Cups, and you offered him a trade of those 10 Harts for one ring, do you think he'd accept?
Having said that, I don't think there should be any question that Ovechkin deserved the MVP. He did. I don't think you need to look any further than the shots stat, which shows Ovechkin took more than twice as many shots as any teammate (528 to Mike Green's 243) this season. Most Penguins fans - say, 99.9% or so - label Ovechkin a puckhog. I say he knows that the best way for his team to win is to score, and so he shoots a lot in order to do that.
With apologies to Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Green, I don't think the Capitals are a playoff team without Ovechkin. I know Detroit still makes the postseason without Pavel Datsyuk and Pittsburgh most likely still makes it without Malkin. I think that's the definition of "most valuable player."
I have little problem also with Ovechkin winning the Lester B. Pearson award as "most outstanding" player. He's the player who "stands out" the most, because of his ability to get shots on goal and beat the goalie.
But I still don't think Ovechkin is the best player in the league.
Nor am I going to make the argument for Malkin or Crosby.
There are two ends to the hockey rink. And I don't think the best player in the league can be described as someone who can score a lot but doesn't pay the most attention he could to the defensive zone (Ovechkin); or someone whose game is elevated by elite teammates (Crosby); or someone who, for all his razzle-dazzle, can make some costly gaffes and doesn't seem to bring it every night (Malkin).
Shouldn't the talk center around Datsyuk as the best?
He's won two straight Selke Trophies, evidence that his defensive game is phenomenal. He's scored 87 points or more four straight seasons, including 97 the last two, so he adds an impressive offensive game to the defense. Datsyuk is outstanding in the faceoff circle, which means he gives his team more opportunities to possess the puck.
Being the best player isn't about simply scoring the most or making nifty plays and passes with the puck. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Ovechkin's the best at scoring goals because he has a tremendous shot, ability to get the puck through traffic and the desire to score.
Datsyuk doesn't score or hit as much as Ovechkin but he trumps his fellow Russian in a lot of other facets of the game. Usually it's in ways that don't show up on highlights, which is probably why so many people believe Ovechkin is the best player. By the way, Ovechkin led the league in giveaways with 107. But he does get a lot of goals.
It's hard to go wrong picking among the four. By choosing Datsyuk, not only are you getting a premier offensive player, you get someone who's going to shut down the other team's skilled forwards as well. He's better overall - that's offense and defense combined - than any of Ovechkin, Crosby or Malkin. Shouldn't that make Datsyuk the best "player"?
Then again, defense wins championships, not attention. Only goals make the highlights. So, sorry, Pavel, you have to settle for that other hardware you've won.