The debate around the Hart Trophy will be ongoing from now until the award is handed out, probably in late June or early July. The top contenders at the moment include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin.
While the definition of the award is the player judged to be the most valuable to his team, it is often given to the best player in the league, despite what that player might have around him in terms of a supporting cast.
While I might be late to get on the bandwagon, it might be hard to not give the award to Ovechkin. Much maligned early on for his lack of scoring, Ovechkin has lifted the Capitals to the Southeast Division lead and a legitimate playoff spot. Ovie recorded just 2 goals and an assist in his first 8 games, as his team started out 2-5-1. Fast forward and 37 games later, Ovechkin has a league leading 30 goals and has added 21 assists for 51 points and sits just 5 points behind Crosby for the league’s scoring lead. More importantly, the Capitals are 25-18-2 and have the 6th best record in the conference. It can be argued that Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green stepping up their games as well has lifted Ovechkin and his numbers, but in the end the Capitals go as their captain goes. The biggest knock on Ovechkin will be his slow start and his even +/- rating, while Crosby sits at +26 and Toews at +27.
Crosby’s performance this season prior to his injury is nothing short of phenomenal, and whether he wins the scoring title or not, he was still the best player this season. But the Penguins have rolled on in his absence, along with the injuries to Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. While he might be the best player this season, it would be hard to argue that he is the “most valuable” to his team. If you look at the Chicago and Pittsburgh rosters, they are deep enough to withstand the loss of a star player (or three), while Washington would be up the creek if you took #8 off their roster for an extended period of time.
If I was doing the voting, my vote would be for Ovechkin for Hart, while Crosby would be my pick for the Ted Lindsay award, which goes to the Most Outstanding Player as voted by the members of the NHLPA.
I think that would be an appropriate split of the hardware.