Somehow this is almost perfect: Alexander Ovechkin, who played well for half a season, has won the Hart Trophy in what essentially was little more than half a National Hockey League season.
And maybe even more perfect, his unlikely victory was botched by the NHL, first leaked, then announced in an odd manner, on the same night as Game 2 of a Stanley Cup playoff game.
Talk about a league burying the lede?
Ovechkin got hot in the second half of a 48-game season, carried the Washington Capitals to the playoffs in the weakest division in hockey and is rewarded with the sportís greatest individual trophy.
Itís not a terrible decision by the voters, just not a great one. It was a challenging year to vote for the Hart. Sidney Crosby was the best player in the league, but he only played 36 games and tied with Ovechkin in points scored. Crosby missed the final 12 games. At the time of the injury, Crosby was 19 points ahead of Ovechkin.
You could have voted for John Tavares or Jonathan Toews ahead of Ovechkin ó and I did ó because their seasons were more complete, more full shortened seasons and played against tougher opponents.
This is Ovechkinís third Hart Trophy, the first after he was written off, and probably the least deserved of the three.
THIS AND THAT
With Brian Burke so in love with tenacity, and with Niagara and Owen Sound so close to Toronto, how did the Maple Leafs not wind up picking Andrew Shaw? The Leafs, like every other NHL team, passed on Shaw 19 times in three different drafts, selecting 18 players who have yet to make it to the big leagues ... The one player who made it, Nazem Kadri, by the way, got a vote for the Selke Trophy, as best defensive player in the league. While Kadri had a fine year, surely, someone had to be kidding there. Even Randy Carlyle must have found that amusing ... Carlyle got short shifted in coach of the year voting: He finished seventh. Claude Julien would have put him higher than that ... The Leafs will use a compliance buy out on Mike Komisarek. They wonít buy out John-Michael Liles, even though they probably should. They like the depth and character of Liles, even if it comes at a reasonably high price ... Department of overkill: There are five different ESPN stations on my hotel television set. And Iím watching The Food Network ... Wow, Glen Sather got it right. The hiring of Alain Vigneaut is a terrific choice for the New York Rangers and a tough blow for the Dallas Stars, who wanted him. And somehow Lindy Ruff has been reduced to a consolation prize ... Perspective is everything: The NBA was disappointed with its Game 1 numbers of American television with only 14.2 million households tuning in. The NHL, meanwhile, was thrilled with its Game 1 numbers with 6. 7 million watching.
HEAR AND THERE
The questions regarding pending free agent Nathan Horton: How much of his production comes because he plays with David Krejci and Milan Lucic? And what would he accomplish not playing with linemates of that calibre? Or to quote coach Julien: ďIf youíre open, Krejci will find you.Ē ... Just wondering: Is there a Canadian equivalent to the Tim Tebow story? An average to below average player who consumes the public with his fame beyond any logical comprehension? ... I have no problem with Europeans playing goal or any other position in Canadian junior hockey. I do have a problem with Europeans, acquired at a significant price, being played ahead of Canadians not because theyíre better, but because the investment in them was larger. And believe me, that happens a lot ... The charitable nature of the hockey community is almost unmatched in sports. Sherry Bassin had a terrific golf tournament raising $104,000 for the Orthopaedic Foundation this week and Matt Duchene and Cody Hodgson had a tournament in Haliburton to raise money for the flood devastation in Haliburton Country ... Dion Phaneuf gets all kind of grief for not being the Maple Leafs captain of your dreams. But quietly, he does things few hear about. Like making sure the young man badly injured in a GTHL game late in the season wound up with an autographed jersey. That wasnít something his agent or the Leafs decided on. It was something he wanted to do. And he didnít want anyone to know of his good deed.
SCENE AND HEARD
Congratulations to the Quebec Soccer Federation for entering this century, or is it the last one, and putting to rest their embarrassing and pseudo-racist ban on turbans? ... Has anything aged better than Bull Durham at 25? And yes, candlesticks still make a nice gift ... In between sentences, the NHL will be annoucing the rest of its award winners for this year. Hope you donít miss them ... This is how you know Matt Bonner has summoned his inner-Canadian: Heís grown a hockey beard for the NBA playoffs ... The more Iím around hockey playoffs the more I want to hear Bob Johnsonís voice, just one more time ... Matt Dominguez just had his 2007 Grey Cup ring stolen from his truck. Which begs the question: Why leave valuable jewelry in your truck? ... When I grow up, I want Tarvaris Jacksonís job. Or maybe his bank account. The rather ordinary backup quarterback received a $500,000 salary bonus in Buffalo in February and was shown the door shortly thereafter. And on Friday he signed in Seattle and received yet another bonus, size unclear. And he may not make the Seahawks either ... The last time the Stanley Cup final was tied after two games was 2004: Calgary vs. Tampa. An Original Twenty-Six classic ... Donít know what kind of series this will end up to be, but this is the best city Stanley Cup in a very long time.
AND ANOTHER THING
Itís June, and the issues are protective head gear and fighting: And the sport is baseball, not hockey ... This is the 15th and final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and we bring you these statistics of enormous fist-ive significance: There were seven fights in the Montreal-Ottawa series, all of them in the same game. In the other 72 games of post-season hockey, there were also seven fights ... Hearty congratulations to broadcaster Harry Neale and writer Jay Greenberg, who used to grace these pages, for being this yearís deserving Hockey Hall of Fame media inductees ... The best reason I can think of to start drinking again: Iím in Chicago ... The NHL may have trouble announcing award winners, but it does know how to throw a great Stanley Cup party ... The Blue Jays starting rotation has a Dickey, a Johnson and a Wang: Insert sophomoric punchline here ... I donít know about you, and despite the ringing endorsement from Toews, I wouldnít be comfortable with Corey Crawford being Canadaís goalie at the 2014 Winter Olympics ... For indicating that Marc-Andre Fleury is his goaltender of the future, Ray Shero should be forced to give back his General Manager of the year award, a trophy that should be named for Sam Pollock, but the silly NHL wonít do that ... Not that this means anything but when I typed Fleury into my cell phone, it auto-corrected his name to Flawed ... Happy birthday to Derek Sanderson (67), Claire Alexander (68), Tom Fergus (51), Mamadou Ndiaye (38), Rick Nash (29), Brad Gushue (33) and The Ultimate Warrior (54) ... And hey, whatever became of Al Cowlings?
SUBBAN AN UNDESERVING WINNER
One day in the future, P.K. Subban may become the best defenceman in the National Hockey League. But despite the announcement of Saturday night, that Subban is this yearís winner of the Norris Trophy, now is not that day.
How could he win the Norris ó other than dubious voting ó when heís not even the most dependable defenceman on his own team? When thereís a minute to go in the game or the Montreal Canadiens are killing a penalty, is Subban on the ice? Is he prominent? Usually not.
In penalty killing time alone, he was fourth on his own defence corps, well behind Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges.
That wasnít the case with Ryan Suter, the runner-up and best finalist of the three or with Zdeno Chara who someone was passed over because his offensive numbers didnít match those of Subban or Kris Letang.
This isnít a slight on Subban, who hasnít matured enough as a player or a person to handle the Norris (he leaked his own victory earlier in the week). Itís not his fault he won. But in this election, democracy failed.
QUEBEC CITY A BETTER OPTION THAN SEATTLE
The best place for the forever-challenged Phoenix Coyotes to land is Quebec City. But that doesnít mean itís going to happen that way.
If the NHL is forced to move the team without an owner or a subsidized owner, its first choice is Seattle. Never mind that Seattle has no building to play in, no real owner with serious money, is in a market with vibrant NFL and MLB teams and a very successful soccer team, and has no real history to speak of unless you go back to Guyle Fielder in the Western Pro League, thatís what the NHL wants.
Quebec has a) an owner with deep pockets; b) a history; c) a building, with another on the way and d) a dedicated fan base.
In the big picture, the NHL would rather expand to Quebec than transfer a franchise for obvious economic reasons. But expansion is not on the horizon nor should it be. A Quebec franchise makes the NHL stronger. A team in Seattle or another deal in Glendale adds nothing to the business of the NHL.
BUEHRLE TURNS IT AROUND
Mark Buehrle is the best Blue Jays starting pitcher.
There, I said it.
In spring training, he looked like he was going to be the worst. In early season, he was beaten up a whole lot. But now he has settled in to being the Buehrle of old and not just an old version of the veteran nibbler.
Buehrleís return to the American League didnít exactly start well: In his first seven starts with the Jays he had one win and earned run average of 7.02 and looked like an expensive mistake. In his past seven starts, averaging just seven innings a start, Buehrle has given up 13 earned runs in 46 innings pitched for an ERA of 2.54. And his number might be lower if the defence behind him helped him out occasionally.
By comparison, there has really been next to no difference in R.A. Dickeyís performance prior to Saturday. In his first seven starts, he pitched 42 innings with an earned run average of 5.35. In his last seven, 46 innings and and a 4.89 ERA.
Of the numerous changes general manager Alex Anthopoulos made in the off-season, who saw Buehrle being the most effective of the half-season?