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Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares are 2013 Hart Trophy finalists

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Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares are the NHL's 2013 Hart Trophy nominees

There are compelling cases to be made for all three of this season’s Hart Trophy nominees. (AP/AP/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

There really ought to be an asterisk on the Hart Trophy to designate the years in which it is awarded to the NHL’s best player instead of, as stipulated by the rules, “the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.”

Some years, that player is one and the same. This won’t be one of those years because Sergei Bobrovsky isn’t among the finalists. And there is no one in this league who more demonstrably had a greater impact on his team’s fortunes than Bob.

That’s not to overlook the achievements of the three players who made the cut: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin of Washington, and New York Islanders’ star John Tavares. You can make a solid argument for any of them as the league’s top performer.

Crosby likely would have run away with the thing if not for an unfortunate collision between a Brooks Orpik slap shot and his jaw. The injury cost Sid a quarter of the season, diminishing his candidacy in the eyes of some, but obviously not many, voters. Fair enough. Crosby was in the midst of a magical year up to that point, running away with the scoring title as he piled up points at a rate of 1.56 per game. That’s a pace, as SI.com’s Sarah Kwak pointed out yesterday, that has been matched only by Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros during the past 20 years. Crosby notched multiple points in nearly half of his games (17 of 36) and finished fourth in the league with a plus-26 rating. Injury or not, that’s a pretty stout year.

Ovechkin’s bid is marred by a brutally soft first-third of the season as he struggled with the manipulations of coach Adam Oates, who hoped to revive his career by moving him from left wing to right. Once he gave in, he looked like the Ovie of old, just coming from a different angle. He finished the season on a thrilling tear, scoring 23 goals in his final 23 games to capture his third Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top sniper. No arguing his value, either. Led by his resurgence, the Caps finished the season 11-1-1, rebounding from 15th in the East to capture the Southeast Division title.

Tavares’ development took a huge step forward as he ranked third in the league with 28 goals. He led the Isles with 47 points in 48 games, willing them almost singlehandedly to their first postseason berth since 2006-07. Like Crosby, he played with a number of wingers — not all of whom were quite first-line material — but he continued to produce. And like Crosby, he imprinted his team with his humble but fiercely determined personality. This isn’t his year, but his being in the Hart mix for the first time tells you everything you need to know about the respect he’s earned around the league.

So, who wins? Without Bobrovsky’s name in the hat, it’s a toss-up. Do you take Crosby, who’s season was brilliant from the beginning until it was cut short by injury? Or Ovechkin, who recovered from his early disinterest to finish at a level reminiscent of when he won the award previously in 2008 and 2009?

Given the support staff that Crosby has, and the ability of the Penguins to go on a 10-2 run shortly after he was hurt, and the rise of the of the Capitals that coincided with Ovechkin’s rebirth, I’d guess that Ovie has the edge.

So call him, or whoever wins, the league’s best player. Just don’t call him the most valuable.

  • Published On May 10, 2013
  • 6 comments
    Keats1
    Keats1

    Could easily make a case for Toews and/or Kane to be in this discussion.....though they likely cancelled each other out in the voting process

    PatrickSullivanII
    PatrickSullivanII

    you make it sound like tavares has absolutely no help.  Matt Moulson is def a first line talent.

    JoeBellmore
    JoeBellmore

    Tavares should win it. He is the most valuable player to his team. Without him the Islanders are bottom feeders and do not make the playoffs. Pittsburgh survived without Crosby and Ovechkin was good for only about 70% of the year as the article says. This is not the most outstanding player, that is what the Ted Lindsey award is for. So for me, it is Tavares.

    ReallySeamus
    ReallySeamus

    Look, nothing's more boring than arguing about what "most valuable" means, but c'mon. There's a strong argument that the most valuable guy has to also be the best player. By definition, the best player is the only one who is irreplaceable, since nobody can match or exceed. What can be more valuable than what is irreplaceable?

     

    Now, you can favor guys who aren't the best, but make a difference on an otherwise bad team... but don't act as though yours is the only definition and that everybody else is wrong for interpreting the words according to their denotation rather than subjective connotation.

    John224
    John224

    It should absolutely be Taveras. Of those 3, he meant the most to his team and that what is written on the award. Institute another trophy for "Best player" or "Most Outstanding Player" if you like, then Sidney can win it every year because I dont think too many people would argue he is the best player in the league. But by the criteria for the award, among these 3, its Taveras.

    Mark V.1
    Mark V.1

     @JoeBellmore Put Crosby on ANY team and he is instantly their most valuable player.  Crosby should not be penalized because his teammates picked him up after he got hurt.