Photo credit: Paul Chiasson
Over the next five days, the Capitals will finish the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with three home games. The Caps’ match-ups with Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Boston will not only determine if Washington wins the Southeast Division and makes the playoffs, they’ll also sort out the trophy races that Alex Ovechkin is involved in. Ovechkin, after not winning any hardware since 2010, is in contention for four awards: the Ted Lindsey trophy for players’ MVP, the Art Ross trophy (for most points), the Maurice Richard trophy (for most goals), and the Hart trophy (for most valuable player).
While The Great Eight and his peers control his destiny with three of these four awards, the esteemed members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association will decide the Hart Trophy. This is the same media that in the last three years has literally flogged Ovechkin with a spiked 2 x 4 painted with a red maple leaf and dripping with Tim Horton’s coffee. Because when every great player gets older and his team becomes less aggressive, it’s the media’s moral obligation to antagonize him to casual fans and excoriate him at every turn.
I mean, look at some of this stuff.
- On February 27th of this past year, NBC analyst Mike Milbury begged Ovechkin to “act like a man, for god’s sake” and to “stop acting like a baby.” Ovi “should be ashamed of himself,” and on that one memorable night in February, Ovechkin “failed” the superstar test “miserably” with “an awful display of hockey.” Babies and women are apparently very low on Milbury’s stack ranking.
- Former player Ray Ferraro said recently that Ovechkin is a hockey idiot. “I do not think he’s got a high hockey IQ,” Ferraro said, as transcribed by the DC Sports Bog. “He goes for power, he goes in straight lines, he doesn’t see around him really well, and to me, one of the great traits that Sidney Crosby has is his ability to think the game at the highest speed. And I don’t think Ovechkin’s got that.”
- CBC analyst Craig Simpson, in an online chat earlier this season, consider Ovechkin a poisonous asset: ”[You] can’t win with Ovie as your face of franchise and so called leader. toxic.” He also thought the Caps should buy him out.
- This season, local writer Thom Loverro wondered out loud if Ovi would rather play in Russia. “You have to wonder,” Loverro wrote,”after having a taste of that for several months, if Ovechkin wishes he were back in Moscow playing for the Dynamo instead of here in Washington skating for the Capitals.”
- NBC4′s Adam Vingan said Ovechkin on right wing “[shifted] between looking completely lost and disappearing completely.”
- Sports Illustrated’s Stu Hackell believed at one point this season that Ovechkin’s “already peaked.”
- ESPN’s Sean Allen observed that Ovi “has looked slower than usual and isn’t playing with as much force as usual.”
- And the local Caps media? They’re not sold on Ovechkin’s credentials for the Hart either. Neil Greenberg thinks Ovi’s not quite MVP material. Stephen Whyno’s got Crosby as his MVP.
Despite there being strong evidence that Ovechkin has carried his team and done exactly what the Hart trophy entails, he still has detractors. I’m not blind to the fantastic seasons of Sergei Bobrovsky, John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, and Jonathan Toews, but if the Capitals make the playoffs after such an awful start, Ovechkin deserves the Hart trophy. Period.
Here’s something you can do to get Ovi over these last three games. Every time he scores a goal, makes a big hit, or hell– any time his name is growled by Wes Johnson, chant M – V – P! Because optics matter. A Captain with uniform support of his fans looks ever slightly more attractive to the media members who pick the Hart.
So create your own signs, or print out the one I made below.
Let the NHL world know that Ovi deserves recognition. He’s successfully switched to right wing, changed his game, revolutionized the power play, and scored like it was 2008 or something. Seasons like this can’t happen every year, so enjoy it and cheer it on. And while you’re taking it all in, shout like a madman.