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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Crosby — Media Going Overboard — Crosby Has Not Been the Best Since 2007

On Tuesday March 20th and the first part of Wednesday the 21st, NHL.com had an article link on their homepage entitled “Sid, Geno and Neal combine for 13 points…” This was the 8-4 victory over the Jets and it was a great performance by Neal, Malkin and Crosby; however, it was not a great performance by Crosby, Malkin and Neal as NHL.com declared, and allow me to explain.

In the victory over the Jets the 1st Star of the game was Neal, the 2nd Star was Malkin, and the 3rd Star was Crosby. Neal had a hat-trick, an assist and ten shots on goal, Malkin had two goals, three assists and seven shots on goal, and Crosby had four assists and two shots on goal. Who deserved the top billing in the post-game promotion? Definitely not Crosby, but NHL.com had to list his name first out of the three players, as if he had contributed the most in the victory. It is deceptive and a slap in the face to Neal and Malkin. The article link should have read “Neal, Malkin and Crosby combine for 13 points,” or “Malkin, Neal and Crosby combine for 13 points.” Most people are glad that Crosby has returned to playing and that he is already significantly contributing to the team, but the over-promotion is getting pretty ridiculous when writers, announcers, commentators, and other people involved in the game are giving him too much credit and the spotlight over players who have done more—and this has been going on since 2008 and not just recently.

Furthermore, when Crosby had been out for several months with the concussion, media and others were calling him the best in the world? You cannot be the best if you are not playing, and the fact of the matter is that Crosby has not been the best since the 2006-2007 season. It is true that Crosby was in front of the pack for the first half on the 2010-2011 season before he suffered the concussion, but half-seasons don’t count and after a serious injury a player may never return to form. Malkin was also injured and only played 43 games.

Let’s take a look at who have been the best players since the 2006-2007 season. Once again, it was Crosby who was the best that year and he won his only Hart Trophy and only Art Ross Trophy for compiling the most points in the league. Importantly, this was Malkin’s rookie year and he won the Calder Trophy and helped Crosby to achieve the league-leading point total. Without Malkin, Crosby would not have beat Joe Thornton by six points in the scoring race.

In 2007-2008 Ovechkin was #1 and he won both the Hart and Art Ross, while Malkin was second in the scoring race with 106 points.

In 2008-2009 Malkin won the Art Ross with his 113 points, while Ovechkin was not far behind with 110 points. Ovechkin was awarded the Hart Trophy for the second straight year, but I considered Malkin a more valuable player since he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup win and was awarded the Conn Smythe for being the most valuable player in the playoffs. Crosby was overshadowed by Malkin.

In 2009-2010, Crosby and Ovechkin both had 109 points, while Henrik Sedin had 112 and was plus-35 in 82 games. The big difference between Crosby and Ovechkin in this year was that Ovechkin had only played in 72 games while Crosby played in 81. If Ovechkin had played nine more games he would have been far ahead of Crosby, and of Sedin as well. Additionally, Ovechkin was plus-45 for the year while Crosby was only plus-15. The Capitals won the Presidents Trophy with the team accumulating 121 points in the season, while the Canucks had 103 and the Penguins had 101. Though I detest Ovechkin, I have to say that he was the most valuable player to his team and also the best in the league, but Henrick Sedin was awarded the Hart Trophy. In my opinion, the hockey writers did not want Ovechkin to match Gretzky and Orr who are the only two players to have won the Hart three years or more in a row. Orr won it three years in a row and Gretzky won it eight years in a row—a record that will never be broken! Malkin battled through injuries this year so he could not be considered.

In the 2010-2011 season Ovechkin did not give as much effort due to his loss of the Hart Trophy the previous year—and I would not be happy either, but he needed to accept the loss and to destroy the competition in 2010-2011 and subsequently prove the voters wrong, rather than to put forth less effort like a spoiled 10 year-old boy. The scoring race for the Art Ross last year was between Daniel Sedin, Martin St. Louis, Corey Perry, Henrik Sedin and Steven Stamkos. Daniel Sedin was the front-runner to win the Hart but he faltered some in the last several to ten games while Corey Perry stayed strong until the end and was awarded the Hart over Sedin. This was a controversial decision in my opinion because Daniel Sedin led the Canucks to win the Presidents Trophy (with 117 points) and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Ducks on the other hand ended-up in 4th in the Western Conference with 99 points. Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross for most points with 104 while St. Louis had 99 and Perry had 98. Malkin only played 43 games due to an injured knee which he needed surgery on. Once again, this could have been Crosby’s year but he was injured and half-seasons don’t win awards or Stanley Cups. Injured players cannot be the best in the world because they are injured and may never return to previous form. Crosby is not the best now and he may never return to where he was in 2007 or the first part of the 2010-2011 season.

All said, it is clear that Ovechkin and Malkin were the best players until 2008-2009, and then Ovechkin continued on top in 2009-2010 (and Malkin was injured). After Ovechkin was not given his third straight Hart Trophy he decided to not entirely commit himself to hockey. The Capitals had 14 points less in the 2010-2011 season, and as for this year they are battling for their playoff lives. Ovechkin did not work hard for much of this season but has recently returned to form since he wants a chance to win the Stanley Cup. He has been preoccupied with endorsements and with his social life. Everyone deserves a social life but when you are a pro athlete and have to travel a lot you have to reduce the time in additional travel with girlfriends until the off-season. You owe this to your employer and team. Additionally, on January 22, 2012 Ovechkin delivered a dirty hit to the head of Zbynek Michalek of the Penguins and was suspended for three games. This was the fourth time that Ovechkin had been fined or suspended (two of each) in his six years in the NHL. Ovechkin was not happy about the suspension and decided to not attend the All-Star game. Though he stated that his decision was so that the attention would not be drawn to him, I don’t believe him. I think he wanted time with his girlfriend and was not happy with the suspension—period. In 2010-2011 Daniel Sedin stood-out in my mind and Corey Perry and St. Louis had great seasons.

Pavel Datsyuk is generally considered as one of the best in the league but the last three years his point totals have dropped (even when considering injury in the last two years). He was 4th in scoring in both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons but never better.

Malkin has carried the Penguins this year but it wasn’t until February that the media started to give him the credit that he deserved. In January, I declared that he was the best in the world and also stated that the Penguins had a great chance to win the Cup even if Crosby did not return—part of that article is below. Malkin will win both the Hart and Art Ross this year and the only player who gave him a bit of a run down the stretch was Steven Stamkos. Stamkos has not had a lot of support this year from his teammates so he really has been extremely valuable to the Lightning. People overlook his value because the team won’t make the playoffs, but missing the post-season is Yzerman’s fault for screwing-up by not getting an NHL-caliber starting goaltender. I spoke about this in two previous articles and you can read them in the Lightning section of my site.   

From my article “Malkin the Best in the World—Penguins Can Win the Cup!” (written January 20th), I quote:

Malkin exploded for 113 points in the 2008-2009 season, and that enabled him to capture the scoring title (winning the Art Ross Trophy) with a 3 point victory over Ovechkin! Ovechkin was awarded the Hart Trophy while Malkin was the runner-up. Malkin was plus 17 in this season while Ovechkin was plus 8. Crosby finished in third in scoring with 103 points in 77 games played and was plus 3 for the season. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup this year and Malkin was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the best player in the playoffs. In my opinion, winning the Art Ross, the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup all in one year made Malkin the most valuable player in the league, the guy who did it all from start to finish—the best in the world all things considered. If this statement angers you, I would like you to consider the fact that the greatest players make their teammates a lot better and they win Stanley Cups, and that is the additional value that is not registered in statistics. Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky are a few examples of players who had a lot more value than just their scoring abilities. On the other hand, Ovechkin has not been able to have a “Stanley Cup winning effect” on his teammates. It is a character issue. If you were an NHL player back in 2009, would you have rather played on Ovechkin’s team or Malkin’s? Would you rather be wearing a Stanley Cup Champion ring on your finger or be on a losing team? The fact is that it is all about going through the regular season and getting better as a team so that you can make a run at the ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup! Winning the Cup is something that cannot be taken from you and you can cherish it for life! By the way, I like to think that most great players have respect for their teammates and their teammates respect them in return.”

Malkin is the King of the NHL right now and watch him perform come playoff time.

TJ Stanley