Friday, May 10, 2013
Toews gets this nod for Hart, not Ovechkin
By Pierre LeBrun
Jonathan Toews deserved to have been among the three finalists for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.
I'm not taking any counterarguments. My gavel has come down.
The Chicago Blackhawks' captain was the most consistent 200-foot player on the league's top regular-season team. That ought to have been recognized.
Toews was a top-three choice on my official ballot, along with John Tavares and Sidney Crosby. Obviously, not enough of my colleagues with the Professional Hockey Writers' Association agreed, and it didn't take long for the East Coast bias angle to get hammered on Twitter by hockey fans.
Alex Ovechkin, who was named a Hart finalist along with Crosby and Tavares on Friday, had a fantastic second half. The Washington Capitals don't make the playoffs without his furious March and April. No argument here.
And he was the fourth choice on my Hart ballot, so I certainly wanted to acknowledge his terrific season.
But he also was a passenger in the opening month of the season, and to me, that doesn't cut it to be a Hart Trophy nominee.
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf and Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky deserve mention here, as well. But to me, it comes down to Crosby, Tavares and Toews.
It wouldn't even be a race had Crosby not missed the final month of the season. The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar would have won this thing in a landslide by the way he had distanced himself from the pack before suffering a broken jaw in late March.
Tavares would be a fantastic choice as Hart winner. The center was a wire-to-wire stud in leading the surprising New York Islanders to the playoffs. He has MVP written all over him.
Same goes for Toews. You get greatness day in and day out, consistent minutes, plus he matches up against the opposition's top players and is incredible in his ability to be as effective in his zone as he is near the opponent's goal.
His detractors for the Hart will tell you Patrick Kane devalues his case because Kane was just as important to the Blackhawks' cause. No question Kane had an incredible season.
But did Nicklas Backstrom not also have a terrific season for the Caps? Heck, there are some people who believe Backstrom is the engine that drives that team.
Tavares, Toews, Crosby, Ovechkin, Getzlaf and Bobrovsky: All are worthy of being in the Hart conversation this season.
But my top three has Toews in it, not Ovechkin.