Monday Roundup: Mailbag

With no game to recap, no game to preview and no Caps coverage in today's local papers, The Rink turns to TSN.ca's mailbag for filler. Here are this week's Caps-related questions, with the relevant portions bolded (you'll notice a common theme):

Q. I recently got into a debate with a friend over whether Alexander Ovechkin should be considered as a Hart Trophy candidate. My argument is that in order for the player to be "most valuable to his team", that team would have to make the playoffs or come very close in order for consideration. I measure Hart Trophy eligibility as success of the team because of that team's player, not because he was a one-man show who stole the spotlight due to being on a mediocre team. Do you think the traditionalists will vote the same way, favoring a player whose team is in the playoffs over one whose team has not succeeded despite their great play? I believe only one player in the post-expansion era has won the Hart Trophy and not made the playoffs; a man you may know as Mario Lemieux in the mid-to-late-1980s. Am I wrong about that fact? I had the same debate with him a few years ago over Roberto Luongo and his great year, and I was right that time. - Mark N (St. John's, NL)

A. Mark, Lemieux did win the Hart Trophy in 1988 despite the Penguins finishing just out of the playoffs with 81 points in 80 games. Lemieux had 168 points in 77 games, which was enough to sway the voters away from Wayne Gretzky, who "only" had 149 points in 64 games. I would expect that Jaromir Jagr will be the favourite for the award this year, but that doesn't mean Ovechkin doesn't deserve to be considered. Looking at the talent surrounding him in Washington, that team could have been spectacularly horrible if not for Ovechkin's season. While it's possible that Ovechkin is stealing the spotlight because he doesn't have a supporting cast, isn't it also possible, with adequate support -- say a legitimate number-one centre, for example -- that Ovechkin could be running away with the league scoring race? When you hear the way other NHLers gush about Ovechkin's talent, I don't think that's so far-fetched. - SC

Q. I've heard much talk over MVP canidates. Everyone seems to think it's Jagr's to lose. Right now Jagr and Ovechkin seem to be the favorites. Most valuable to his team. So of course these two would get consideration, since there's a huge drop in points from first to second on both of there teams. But let's say San Jose makes the playoffs. How can Joe Thornton not get consideration. Sure he has Cheechoo. But if it weren't for Lundqvist in N.Y., I think the Rangers would be in the battle for a playoff spot. Forget fighting for tops in the Atlantic division. Thanks. Tyler, Sault Ste. Marie

A. Tyler, Thornton probably will get some well-deserved votes for MVP, particularly if he beats Jagr for the Art Ross Trophy. However, the rejuvenation of Jagr and corresponding resurrection of the Rangers franchise has a lot more light on it than what is happening with the Sharks run for a playoff spot in the Western Conference so I'm among those that think the Hart is Jagr's to lose. - SC

Q. It seems Jagr has been getting alot of hype for MVP, and there is also mention of Thornton and even Ovechkin at this point. However, I think the player that is far-and-away the MVP of the NHL this season is Daniel Alfredsson! Consider this: He is fifth in league scoring. He is fourth in Plus/Minus. Not only is he a top-notch offensive player, but he kills penalties very effectively (tied for second in the league with 5 SH goals). Aside from stats alone, he is the captain of a team that has been in contention for the Presidents Trophy all season, and provides veteran leadership to an extremely young core of forwards. Add 7 game-winners to his resume, and I think he is having the type of all-around season that can't be matched by anyone else in the league right now. I know his team is talented, but I don't think there's anyone else that could replace his valuable role at this time. Does this just seem obvious to me since I am a Sens fan? - Thanks, Craig Sanderson in Ottawa

A. Craig, I think a fan of any of the MVP contenders is going to be able to list a litany of reasons why they are deserving. Jagr leads the league in goals and points, is plus-23 and is tied for the league lead with 9 game-winners. Thornton leads the league in assists, is second in points, plus-23 and turned around the Sharks season when he arrived. Ovechkin has 47 goals, 90 points and a plus-5 rating on a team that is chock full of marginal NHLers. Alfredsson is sure worthy of being in the discussion too, and I think he will be a finalist, but I also think he's far from an obvious choice. - SC

Q. I was just wondering why everyone always thinks Ovechkin has better character than [Sidney] Crosby. I was at the World Juniors in Halifax and there was a point in the game where Canada was on a rush and Ovechkin hit the ice like he had been shot, so the play was called. Right after however he was back out on the ice like nothing happened at all. Also during the first coaching tour of the of Brent Sutter, they shut down Ovechkin and put the hurt on him, after this he barely played and just sulked on the bench. I am just wondering why there are a lot NHL'ers that think Ovechkin is more "mature" than Crosby? - Cariblue

A. Cariblue, NHL players aren't particularly concerned with what happened before players got to the NHL, so any of the World Junior memories that you might have won't resonate much with them. When they consider what happens in the NHL, there is little evidence of Ovechkin yapping at officials or really doing anything other than playing hard. In Crosby's case, players see someone under a bright spotlight who sometimes acts like an 18 year-old and when you're dealing with grown men and their code of perceived conduct, an 18 year-old who is seen as a complainer is not going to get high marks on the character front. - SC

Q. Sorry to burst your bubble... but by the time Crosby is Ovechkin's age, he will be winning scoring titles... not competing for a top rookie award. As for Ovechkin, barring some freak hot streak, he will likely win rookie of the year. However, any talk of an MVP is garbage. MVP goes to players who help their team win. When was the last time a player won MVP without making the playoffs?... sorry, but Ovechkin is no Mario Lemieux. He's a more complete Pavel Bure. Great scorer, but doesn't control the pace of the game. And, when was the last time a player was named MVP on the second worst team in the league... try never. Put up all the stats you want, but if you don't win... don't bother coming out - Colin

A. Colin, It doesn't burst my bubble in the least that Crosby will be competing for scoring titles by the time he is 20. However, I don't think talk of Ovechkin for MVP is garbage. If you don't think Ovechkin helps his team win, just how many wins do you think the Capitals would have without Ovechkin's 47 goals? All due respect to Matt Pettinger and Chris Clark, the next two leading goal-scorers on the team, but those guys are grinders on any other team in the league, so I'm pretty sure Ovechkin does help his team win. Crosby, you might recall, was gift-wrapped a veteran-laden team of stars to support him this year and the wins were few and far between, so I don't think he's proven that he's going to lead his team to wins any more than Ovechkin will. - SC

Thread of the Day: Fleshing Out The '06-07 Roster: Who Makes The Team?

Elsewhere 'round the rinks:
  • Rink condolences to Cornell hockey fans, who saw their team's season end last night in Green Bay when University of Wisconsin forward Jack Skille (drafted in the first round of the 2005 NHL draft, seventh overall by the Blackhawks) beat Big Red netminder David McKee at 11:13 of triple overtime to give the Badgers a 1-0 victory and a berth in the Frozen Four. It was the longest scoreless game in NCAA Tournament history and ended on Wisconsin's 60th shot on goal of the night.
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