by PuckStopsHere on 03/15/09 at 04:16 AM ET
For a good portion of the season, I have been picking Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins as MVP. He leads the scoring race by a sizable margin (8 points) and the assist race by seven points. He leads his Pittsburgh Penguins with a +19 +/- rating. This is an MVP season, but most people support Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin is the goal scoring leader in the NHL with 49 goals. His 89 points are second to Malkin. Ovechkin is an MVP contender. He should be nominated, but I don’t see why he should win it given the fact he has been consistently well behind Malkin in the point race all season. Of course the MVP race is not decided on points alone, but I fail to see where Ovechkin catches up to Malkin.
Malkin is a big powerful skater that is hard to contain. He is a physical force who dominates the games he plays. He is a very good physical player. That is also true of Ovechkin. Neither Malkin nor Ovechkin are used primarily in defensive roles, but they are capable in that situation. I fail to see where Ovechkin gains on Malkin.
I think a main reason people are willing to rate Ovechkin as MVP is the NHL’s marketing. Ever since they broke into the league, they have promoted a race between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby to be the best player in the game. Crosby and Ovechkin have done well with Crosby winning the 2007 MVP and Ovechkin the 2008 one, but this season have been surpassed by Malkin. Nevertheless, the idea that the race is between Ovechkin and Crosby is firmly placed in a lot of minds.
As a result, people have had to invent a reason to overlook the fact Malkin is doing so well. The reason for much of the season was that Pittsburgh looks like they will miss the playoffs. How can you be MVP and miss the playoffs? This question makes very little sense. The MVP should be the player who wins the most games for his team (a hockey version of Bill James win shares). It is very possible to be responsible for more wins than anyone else but be on a bad non—playoff team where teammates do not do their parts. At any rate, the argument is wrong. Pittsburgh will probably make the playoffs. The Penguins are currently sixth in the East Conference.
They next argue that Malkin plays with better teammates, since Sidney Crosby is on his team and therefore he is not as valuable “to his team”. This is also a nonsense argument. I have two boxes. One box is filled with large diamonds. The other box has a small diamond and a bunch of gravel in it. Would anyone in their right mind call the small diamond the most valuable diamond, since it is “most valuable to its box”? It is a stupid argument. It also ignores the fact that Ovechkin plays on a deeper team than Malkin. Ovechkin plays with the probably Norris Trophy winner in Mike Green. He also plays with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, who are both very talented players. Neither of them is on Crosby’s level, but they are ahead of any other Penguins forwards.
The best argument that Ovechkin should be MVP, despite not having as good a season as Malkin is that he has more goals. That is a place where Ovechkin has a clear statistical lead over Malkin. It is true that if two players are identical, with the same point total and one has more goals, then the goal scoring leader is the better player. In general, goals are more important than assists, although they get counted the same in the point race. This season, Malkin has more assists than Ovechkin because he carries the puck more and controls the play more. That is an MVP credential for Malkin.
Evgeni Malkin has been the best player in the NHL so far this season. That should make him the MVP. I think he is losing in many voters’ minds to Alexander Ovechkin; due in part to the NHL’s marketing effort. In an attempt to justify the Ovechkin selection, several arguments have been trotted out. Many are seriously wrong arguments, but that doesn’t stop them from justifying the selection of Ovechkin over Malkin in some voter’s minds.
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