Alfie is Sens' Hart and soul

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:26 PM ET

This week in quotes

At what point do we begin to take discussions for MVP candidates seriously?

The fevered debate has already begun, as the NHL's flavours of the month each have their headshot superimposed on a tuxedoed body, clutching the Hart Trophy.

There are names that can be grudgingly accepted (Jaromir Jagr), a few that can't (Bryan McCabe) and some that exist solely to induce a reaction (Sidney Crosby).

But there is one name that analysts and fans keep returning to during this crucial point of the NHL season -- someone that even the most polarized talking heads could agree on.

That would be Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who remains a legitimate contender and current front-runner in the race towards the Most Valuable Player award.

The NHL doesn't receive adequate credit for making their awards a very literal process. How often have you heard of dissension in other sports due to the interpretation of their respective MVPs? A player may be an integral cog in the system, but if he wasn't the league's leading scorer, it somehow diminishes his excellence.

Most valuable. Who, at this point in time, is more valuable than Daniel Alfredsson is to the Senators?

The broken rib that sidelined him for four games could not have been a more blatant indication of his worth. In the five games that Alfredsson played prior to his injury, the Senators power play went 11-for-32, placing the Senators within the top echelon of the league at 34%. Without their captain, the team's weaknesses could not be ignored.

Three out of four games were losses -- two against floundering divisional rivals in Montreal and Boston and a blowout in Atlanta with emotional repercussions. Special teams were a particular disaster, going 0-for-24 on the power play in Alfredsson's absence.

No one is debating the offensive prowess of the other Hart Trophy contenders. No one is questioning the skill of Ilya Kovalchuk and the enormous purpose he serves in Atlanta. Only a fool would let the renaissance of Jagr go unnoticed.

But No. 11 is the glue that holds this elite team together. The stereotypical views of European player work ethic are non-applicable in his case and unfortunately the same cannot be said for other candidates.

A player's value should be assessed in the number of skills he possesses -- very few are worthy of being deemed a complete package. Alfredsson is. Second only in the NHL to his teammate Dany Heatley in plus/minus, he maintains responsibility at both ends of the ice.

He's a tenacious forechecker who displays outstanding puck intelligence. And above all, he remains as an undisputed leader -- humble, disciplined and respected.

There are other awards made available to the offensive geniuses of the league. But as of right now, there is one clear front-runner for the NHL MVP. Daniel Alfredsson possesses the soul and the intelligence. He deserves to get a Hart.

THE NAME GAME: Excessive moniker use drives me nuts. It causes me to throw things in a feeble fashion that is often associated with my gender. So obviously, the renaming (and accompanying fallout) of the Senators' home venue from "Corel Centre" to "Scotiabank Place" left me doing my best Vince Young impersonation. Applying unofficial nicknames like "The Vault," to corporate-named arenas doesn't make them any more palatable. Currently the only city to pull off an acceptable compromise is Calgary, with the Pengrowth Saddledome. If those involved had decided to rename the building "Scotiabank Palladium," the negative reaction could have been squelched somewhat. As long as the media uses the Scotiabank reference, what difference does it make? Unfortunately, the names have become so abstract that we're forced to think of ridiculous monikers to prevent us from referring to (and ultimately advertising) the corporations.

BOWL OF FUN: Let it be said that sitting in the lower bowl during Senators home games does allow for unexpected entertainment. A concerned Mike Ricci observer on Tuesday offered this advice to the Coyotes forward, when he was seen confronting Zdeno Chara after the play: "Shut up! (Chara's) gonna kill you!"

RALLY HELMET: A bizarre shootout trend that we hopefully haven't seen the last of: The Rally Helmet. It was first spotted on Shane Hnidy during Wednesday's Predators-Thrashers tilt and was eventually sported by all Atlanta players as the team came out onto the ice to congratulate G Kari Lehtonen.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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