COMMENTARY | Almost as soon as Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin's name was announced as the winner of the 2013 Hart Memorial Trophy, a loud whirring noise, like the sound of so many angry cicadas, went up into the sky. It was the collective cry of protest from Ovie H8ters around Canada and the United States. The sound seemed to be coming especially strongly from the Pittsburgh area.
Ovie has won the Hart Memorial Trophy twice before, in 2008 and 2009, but this win is arguably the most controversial. At the beginning of the season the 27-year-old Caps winger looked -- let's be blunt -- horrible. Critics and fans blamed a number of things for Ovie's poor play, including the lack of a preseason due to the lockout, a new coach and system, his change to the right wing and his having played in Russia during the lockout. In addition, Ovie never seemed to have recovered his confidence after a grueling 2012 season under coach Dale Hunter, whose system favored stifling defensive play over offensive wizardry. Let's just say it wasn't a good fit for Ovie or the Washington Capitals, who were famous for playing a run and gun system.
Things turned around about mid-season for the Caps and Ovie, but not before there were many calls for the Russian's head. Washington-area fans and critics were very vocal about their disappointment with Ovie, calling him, among other things, overpaid, overweight and a soft Russian player. The blogs and comment sections were filled with all sorts of vitriolic remarks about Ovechkin. Many in Washington had come to the conclusion that the Great Eight was a washed up albatross around the Capitals' neck.
But then it happened. Suddenly, it all seemed to click together. Ovie finally appeared to be adjusting to life on the right wing, and then both he and the Caps started to get the hang of new coach Adam Oates' system. As Ovie started to score again, his confidence returned with a vengeance. And with that, the Great Eight went on a tear, scoring 23 goals and 36 points in the last 23 games of the season. He also amassed 27 points on the power play, which had him tied for the league lead with fellow Cap Mike Ribeiro. Ovie also finished the year with a total of 32 goals, which earned him the 2013 Maurice Richard Trophy.
As Ovie surged, so did the Washington Capitals. And that is why he deserves this season's Hart Memorial trophy. This award, which is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, is awarded to the player that is considered to be the most valuable to his team. Yes, Sidney Crosby - who won the Ted Lindsay award for most valuable player as voted on by his fellow players - had the same number of points and, yes, Sid the Kid is a valuable player for the Penguins. But when a puck broke Sid's jaw and he had to miss the final month of the season, the talent-laden Pittsburgh Penguins managed to do just fine without him.
Of course, haters will be haters, and there will be no convincing those who dislike Ovie that he actually deserved to win yet another Hart Memorial Trophy. In fact, when it comes to either Ovie or Crosby, about the only thing that most people can agree upon is that these two are the most polarizing players in the league today.
Jane Ellis has been a freelance reporter for a number of years as well as a former editorial production manager at 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine. She is a season ticketholder who has followed the Washington Capitals for approximately 20 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- Washington Capitals
- Alex Ovechkin
- Hart Memorial Trophy