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As the NHL's regular season dies down, the focus naturally turns not only to which teams are going to make the playoffs, but also which players or coaches deserve awards.
And when that happens, discourse and sanity tend to go a bit off the rails.
While this phenomenon is common for all types of awards, at no point does the argument over who deserves what ever get more shrill than when conversations to who seems to be the most valuable player. As many have brought up in the past, the reason for this is that the criteria for the award itself is defined far too broadly, and thus leads to the discussion of, "What qualifies as value to his team?"
Everyone's going to define it differently, meaning that some rather irritating arguments both in favor of and against some candidates.
For instance, the argument you often hear — from the same morons who think a guy shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame if he doesn't win a Stanley Cup — about why Steven Stamkos shouldn't have won the Hart last season, to cite a recent example, is that he couldn't have been that valuable if his team didn't make the playoffs. Never mind that he scored 60 goals and 97 points, Mathieu Garon couldn't make a save, and that, therefore, is somehow on him.
In thinking about this the other day, as well as just how bad the Southeast Division is in general this season, I got to wondering about Alex Ovechkin's insane recent production. He has 17 goals in his last 16 games, a run so impressive that it seems unlikely anyone save for Steven Stamkos would be able to replicate it any time soon. Recall that when all the 50 in 50 talk about Stamkos really heated up, his best run was scoring 12 in 10. A goal is a goal, and I understand that, but it turns out that he's only scored five goals in 16 games against current playoff teams — including one Tuesday against Montreal that earned a lot of scoffs at this particular line of thinking, as though the one goal undermined it.
It's not that these goals against truly bad teams don't count, it's that having a little more context for something as extraordinary as scoring more than a goal a game for 15 or 16 contests is probably important when determining "value."
The answer for how good or bad Ovechkin is at this point in his career is, I think, probably somewhere in the middle of what he's done this year.
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