Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy: How did NHL get it so wrong?

So for starters, there are plenty of you who will have an issue with the fact that I’m even challenging the prospect of Alexander Ovechkin as Hart winner. You are Capitals fans. You have your right to be upset, but if you can’t see any reason as to why he was the wrong choice, you’d better just save yourself the aggravation and stop reading now.

For those of you who are shocked Sideny Crosby didn’t win, the same applies. I’ll do you one better, Crosby didn’t even belong on the ballot.

How John Tavares didn’t capture the Hart Trophy this season is something I will not understand for some time.

And I’m a Rangers fan.

Plain and simple, when this season started, there was no scenario where the New York Islanders made the playoffs, none. Find me the reputable hockey source who picked the Islanders to make the playoffs; and I’ll show you a leprechaun riding a unicorn.

The Hart Trophy is awarded to the player judged to be most valuable to his team. Read that again. Now imagine I put “his team” in italics. Am I emphasizing my point enough?

Let’s look at the numbers:

Alexander Ovechkin: 48 GP, 32 G, 24 A, 56 PTS, +2, 16 PP

Sidney Crosby: 36 GP, 15 G, 41 A, 56 PTS, +26, 3 PP

John Tavares: 48 GP, 28 G, 19 A, 47 PTS, -2, 9 PP

Now some more numbers:

Washington Capitals: 48 GP, 27 W, 18 L, 3 OT, 57 PTS, 3rd place finish in Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 48 GP, 36 W, 12 L, 0 OT, 72 PTS, 1st place finish in Eastern Conference.

New York Islanders: 48 GP, 24 W, 17 L, 7 OT, 55 PTS, 8th place finish in Eastern Conference.

For my money there are only a couple of elements to this discussion that are of merit. First, Sidney Crosby missed 12 games, and his team didn’t miss a beat. Second, if Crosby plays those games, he blows Ovechkin out of the water in terms of production. Third, Tavares produced all season long, and if he doesn’t produce at a point-per-game pace, his team misses the playoffs.

Here’s why those are the three main points to discuss.

If you refuse to accept that the award goes to the player most valuable to his team, then the production quantity is the key element. If Crosby plays a full season he decimates Ovechkin in that category. You can’t hold Crosby breaking his jaw against him, if anything, his production equaling Ovechkin’s in 12 less games is all the more reason to vote for Crosby.

If you are capable of accepting the award’s definition, then you’re probably going to argue about the correlation between Ovechkin picking up his rate of production and the Capitals winning games. This marks the one and only possible counterargument to Tavares I’ve heard. Yes, in terms of the award’s definition, at first glance, the former correlation in addition to his level of production over Tavares makes him a clear choice.

Only at first glance though.

Tavares plays on a really bad team. They are so bad, that they had to put Tim Thomas on the payroll so they could meet league regulations. For those of you who don’t know, it was widely known before the 2013 NHL season that Thomas would not play. Maybe now is a good time to head over to www.bookmakers.co.uk to wager on him ever making a return to the NHL.

Funny right?

In addition, JT’s cash-scrapped team also allowed PA Parenteau (he had 67 points with Islanders in 2011-2012) to walk in free-agency. Apparently, the $4 Million a year against the cap he incurred for the Avalanche was too much money for Long Island in 2012-2013.

Parenteau had 43 points in 48 games for Colorado this past season.

Long Island allowing Parenteau to go is the subject of another rant for another article. The point of all this is simple: Tavares’ supporting cast decreased before this season started.

It didn’t matter.

John Tavares Islanders

Night after night Tavares brought his A-Game (Icon SMI)

Night in and night out Tavares was a factor. He maintained the point-per-game pace he set last season even without Parenteau, and the Islanders made the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

For Ovechkin, there’s no doubt he’s a great player and the cornerstone of the Capitals’ success.

Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, an Mike Green are all tremendous players in their own right. Having that kind of talent on the roster forces opposing teams to make a decision, who do you account for? Obviously Ovechkin is the guy you focus on, but you have to worry about the rest of those guys.

With the Islanders, there’s no such dispute. You lock down Tavares, there’s a good chance you walk away with a win.

They’ve done well for themselves recently, but opposing coaches don’t lose sleep at night over the likes of Matt Moulson or Brad Boyes.

In the end, only one logical conclusion can be drawn about this year’s Hart vote: Name recognition won out. Ovechkin just barely edged out Crosby with a total of 1,090 points to 1,058.

Tavares finished third.

If you’re still not convinced of the name recognition travesty that was this year’s Hart vote, consider this: Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t even make the ballot.

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15 Comments

  1. Dave Robinson says:

    This is a weak argument at best. Basically, you’re saying that players who actually play under quality GM’s like Crosby/Shero should be out of the running for the Hart because they play on deep teams who can win in their absence. That’s asinine.

    Neither Tavares or Ovechkin came close to dominating like Crosby did this season. Neither of those two would ever have guys like Chris Kunitz in the running for the Art Ross trophy most of the way through the season. The numbers that line put up dwarf anything put forth by any Ovie and Tavares’s lines.

    Crosby got the only vote that matters as far as individual accolades, the player vote.

  2. Rooster Cogburn says:

    What’s wrong with the NHL is that they have enormous hard-on’s for both Crosby and Ovechkin. It’s quite annoying. Hey NHL, you know there are other great players out there as well.

    As for the Islanders having a “really bad team”? How do you explain, Moulson, Okposo, Nielsen, Grabner, Hamonic, Bailey, MacDonald, Visnovsky, Streit (the now former captain), Nabokov (pre-playoffs) and even Matt Martin who led the NHL in hits, yet again. Please think before you type. But just this time I’ll give you 1 freebie since you are a Rangers fan.

    So yea I do agree with you that Tavares should have won. Overall, good article.

  3. I’m a Pens fan and agree that Sid didn’t deserve it this year and of the 3 finalists I also agree that Tavares should have won however, if Columbus would have squeeked into the playoffs I believe the Vezina winner would be at the top of my list. Where would the Blue Jackets have been with out Bobs?

  4. All three were worthy candidates (as were the top five/six actually). But you are too quick to dismiss Ovechkin’s significance to the Capitals and how important his surge in production was to the team which had been nearly at the bottom of the standings.

    Ovechkin scored on just over 21% of the team’s total goals. He scored or assisted on 37.5% of them. Tavares matches Ovechkin’s 21% of the team’s total goals for the Islanders but scored or assisted in 35% as opposed to Ovechkin’s 37.5%. In comparison, Crosby scored on just 9% of his team’s goals and assisted or scored on 35%.

    More significantly from March 1 to the end of the season Ovechkin scored 24 goals, amassed 41 points, and was involved in 42% of the team’s production, at a time when the team most needed it.

    Finally, Tavares’ production slowed down at the end of the season–20 points in his final 24 games. His end-of-the-season point production is identical to Ovechkin’s much maligned start to the season–20 points in 24 games.

  5. It’s the whole anti-Islander mentality the NHL has toward Long Island. The league is operated in New York City, half of the board has worked or played for the Rags, and its easy to beat a dead horse. No excuse for terrible ownership, but real NHL fans I know we’re rooting big time for the Isles this year to finally make a dent, and introduce to a new generation of fans to who the class of the NHL used to be. TAVERAS had NO chance to win. None. Hockey needs to clean house and market this league and sport the proper way. As for Ovie, I love the guy, but Sid is the best player in the league. MVP… No, his team is great. Valuable? Take TAVERAS out for 10 games & the Isles would have the #4 pick in the draft.

  6. All of you make valid arguments but this whole discussion is obsolete when voters of the awards does not agree on/know what they´re voting for. NHL must redo the definition of all the awards to precise exactly what the awards mean. By the description of Hart Trophy this article is spot on, and while some voters vote accordingly, most of them just picks the “best in the league” or some own definition of league MVP. The Vezina should go to THE BEST goalie in the league while another award could be given to the one most valuable to his team, this does not have to be the same guy. For example Lundqvist could´ve been the best goalie while Bobrovsky was the one most valuable to his team. The same should go for skaters. All of the awards could use some fine tuning, or how about that award that is supposed to go to the best defensive forward but in reality is awarded the best defensive offensive forward.

  7. Ovechkin did pretty much drag the Caps to the playoffs by himself. Does that make him a great team player, not so much. The Caps would be a dangerous team if Ovechkin knew how to not be the one star on the Caps. The Pens did do great while Sidney was out because they are one team that works together well, and it is from top down that they pursue that ultimate team. Crosby inspires his team, he encourages them and builds them up and it is not just about points for him.

    • Wow, not only do you have zero idea how significant Ovechkin’s production is to the Caps, you undermine it as if it’s a negative thing for the team.

      Then you ASSUME Crosby is a source of inspiration to his team.

      This is absolutely the dumbest comment I’ve ever read.

  8. Tavares doesn’t have the luxury that Crosby, and to a lesser extent, Ovechkin has by being surrounded with players who are superstars in their own right.

    Isles have some nice players around Tavares like Grabner, Okposo, etc. but they’re not yet on the same level as the Pens or Caps.

  9. Ian Matheson says:

    Im an Ovi fan and I agree with almost everything youve written, still I dont think he’s unworthy. The circumstances Ovi had to overcome to turn his season around cant be ignored. Milbury’s public hatchet job on national fv, analysts debating if Ovi was stil elite, the Caps were in the basement in almost must-win territory.. and in spite of all that he dragged his team to relevency. To say he played half a good season isnt entirely accurate either (based off stats), still, his ascension is more impressive with a tough start. Bottom line, overcoming adversity won him the Hart, and im ok with that.

    • Paul in Ohio says:

      Sorry, Ian. While you present a decent argument, in the end, the Caps would have (at least) been in the race for a play-off spot without Ovi. The wrong man won the award. Why? Answer this, if the Blue Jackets had had Steve Mason as their starting goalie, would they have barely missed the play-offs or finished with the worst record in the league, once again? Name recognition won out. Anyone with a brain knows that the player most valuable to his team, this season, was Sergei Bobrovsky.

      • I like the argument for Bobrovsky, but to me in order to be an MVP your team has to at least make the playoffs. To me you can be the most valuable player if you took your team from not being a playoff team to almost not being a not playoff team

      • The Caps finished two points ahead of the Islanders. If both Tavares provided a similar amount of “wins” for their teams this year, the Isles and Caps both end up in similar situations.

        I also think you’re underrating the Islanders’ lineup. They really came together and started playing their system really well in the last half of the season. (That applies to the Caps as well, but not as much–the Caps wouldn’t have been able to play 50/50 games with the Penguins.) Grabner, Nielsen, Bailey, Okposo, and Cizikas made for good second and third lines (the Caps’ second line, centered by Ribeiro, is mediocre at best–Ribeiro accumulates a lot of his offense from the power play). The Islanders have picked up a lot of cheap players over the years and found a lot of value. Cheap doesn’t mean bad–St. Louis had the lowest payroll in the league to start the year.

      • Ian Matheson says:

        I agree with that Paul. Over-looking Bobrovsky was likely due to his relative anonymity before this season, and the fact that the league hesitates to jump on first year success stories in case theyre flashes in the pan (Mike Smith last year?). It’s unfortunate too, because in reality he probably did deserve it. Especially given how his time in Philly ended, with him struggling, and ultimately deemed expendable (rather ironic now). Still, I was more trying to stick up for Ovi as a worthy winner of the 3 nominees designated for the Hart this season. I just feel that the way he resurrected himself from heavy scrutiny to bring his team all the way back to a decent playoff seed, while posting monster stats along the way, was enough to justify it. I just don’t feel like he was a bad choice. Maybe there were other worthy winners, sure, but I feel he can be included in that bracket.

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