Despite a painfully slow start, Alex Ovechkin has had one of the greatest seasons of his career. He scored more goals than any other player, earning his third Rocket Richard trophy in six seasons. He finished third in the league in points. He led his team to a division title after being mired in dead last a month into the season. Ovechkin’s play is the reason the Capitals are in the playoffs — without his success, this would have been a lost season for Washington.

Since he has been so crucial to the accomplishments of his team, he deserves consideration for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the guy “judged to be the most valuable to his team.” However, many of the writers who vote for the award are casting their ballots for somebody else — namely Sidney Crosby or John Tavares.

The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, disagrees with that.

Monday afternoon, Gretzky called in to Hockey Night in Canada’s afternoon radio show hosted by Rob Pizzo and Elliotte Friedman. Wayne talked about what teams he thinks will succeed in the playoffs and gave Ovechkin the ultimate endorsement, naming him and Jonathan Toews as the two people he’d like to see win the Hart trophy. He also praised the skills of first year head coach Adam Oates.

Gretzy on his MVP choice:

Listen, first of all, had Crosby not been hurt, I think he would have been a unanimous choice. And he still may win the award. He was so remarkable in the games he played. I don’t think anyone’s going to question it if Jonathan Toews wins [the Hart]. He takes faceoffs, he kills penalties. On the power play he’s an instrumental leader for that hockey club. He’s sorta the heartbeat of that team. He does it in a classy way. He’s just a wonderful player. So he’s going to get a lot of votes.

From my side of things, I look at Alexander Ovechkin. You look at the Hart trophy and what it means. And it means what player could you take away from that team and they wouldn’t have the success they had. And I think that people forget that he had three coaches in a 12 month period and I think that’s difficult for any player — especially an offensive-minded player. He struggled without question the first 20 games. And I think the final 28 games he finally got his confidence back. I don’t think there’s any coincidence that they were below .500, then as soon as he’s able to play at the level he’s capable of, they became a different team. I don’t think anybody’s going to be disappointed if either Toews or Ovechkin wins. Those would be my two guys that I would vote for. If Columbus made the playoffs, obviously that goaltender deserved a lot more attention than he would get.

Gretzky on how much credit Oates deserves:

What he’s done there is tremendous. And you have to make a decision as an organization, okay, “are we going to hang our hat on number eight” or are we going to say “time to move on, trade him” for two or three or four players that are a little bit more defensive minded. Adam Oates came in and said “he’s going to be my guy” and in fairness to Ovechkin, he’s boughten in to what Adam also wants. It’s been a good two-way street. Obviously, Ovechkin has loved playing for Oates and Oates has done a tremendous job coaching Ovechkin.

He’s a great player. He’s a superstar and it was just a matter of him getting his confidence back again and enjoying the game. I don’t care who you are. If you lose your confidence as a professional athlete, it’s very difficult to play. And so obviously he has it back and listen, the year he’s had and the finish he’s had, good for him and great for the city of Washington. It’s been exciting to watch.

Thanks to @nogoodtrying138 for first tweeting about the interview.

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  • OlietheGoalie

    Suck it, Penguin fans. The Great One is endorsing Ovie. Your team is fine without Crosby, so obviously he’s not the most valuable. As much as it pains me, we are half a team without #8 at full power. Give him the damn Hart.

  • Amen to that!!

  • Awesome, Ovie it is no matter the outcome. I would vote for Neal before Crosby, that is if I thought any penguin deserved it……nope.

  • yv

    To my understanding Tuesday is the last day for writers to vote, I really hope that WG99 words will reach voters in time.
    I have watched Ovi hundreds time on ice in VC and when you see him there many times you can understand and appreciate what an elite player and smart sharpshooter he is. Despite several coaches, 5-7 different systems Ovi always adjusting, trying and finding the way to the net. And with Adam Oates Caps and their fans getting a perfect pair who seems made for each other and can carry the team for a very long trip.

  • that’s a very impish grin.

  • David Rapalski

    “boughten” is not a word.

  • Marcus

    It’s Canadian

  • CapsFanInTexas

    I’m a writer. I’m going to try to use “boughten” and see if I get fired.

    We can all talk about how great Ovi is, but when Gretzky says it, it carries just a little more weight, huh?

    Love this article. Thanks.

  • Tell that to Gretzky, not me.

  • Thanks for the s/t, Ian, it wasn’t necessary but much appreciated. Never thought my pain in the ass commute would result in catching anything outside of a road rage warrant. That being said IF YOU DON’T VOTE OVIE FOR HART, YOU’RE VOTING AGAINST GRETZKY.

  • I saw it first from you so of course I did! Thanks for alerting the masses. 😀

    Now that Gretzky has said Ovi is his choice, by the way, I have now been telling my write-ry friends to “do the right thing” when voting.

  • eh?

  • Darla Doxstater

    Kudos to Ian for the correct spelling of “led,” but massive fail to Gretzky for “boughten.” Ain’t no such of a word, Wayne.

  • Hahaha. Wooo. Thank you!