Ovechkin still Hart-worthy

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

The very notion that the Washington Capitals must make the playoffs for Alexander Ovechkin to win the Hart Trophy is ludicrous. He has been the best player in hockey this season. He has been the most impactful player.

If the Caps miss out by a point or two, how does that lessen what Ovechkin has accomplished?

If they miss by a point or two, you can point to general manager George McPhee for waiting too long to shore up their goaltending, or not claiming Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers or waiting too long to fire coach Glen Hanlon.

You can point to Donald Brashear for his meltdown against the Bruins. You can blame a whole lot of people. You can even question coach Bruce Boudreau for his strange allegiance to goalie Ollie Kolzig.

But you can't finger Ovechkin, who has done everything to make the Capitals successful. The Capitals will be in or out based on the thinnest of circumstances. One point either way does not diminish what Ovechkin has accomplished this season.

This is his MVP year. No matter how the vote ends up.

THIS AND THAT

John Ferguson wants to be judged by his record. Okay, simple. Three seasons post-lockout, three years out of the playoffs. Three seasons and no more than 91 points. If your goal is to finish 19th in the NHL, Ferguson is your man ... This is how messed up the ownership of the Atlanta Thrashers are: They're not even together enough to find a way to fire general manager Don Waddell, who has been on the job eight years has yet to win a playoff game for the franchise, never mind a playoff round ... Maybe I'll never understand the business world, but how is it that Ted Saskin, ostensibly fired by the NHL Players' Association for spying, ends up being paid $400,000 US in going-away money? ... Speculative talk of turning the Memorial Cup into an NCAA-basketball-style tournament is intriguing and should be further explored. A Final 8 would make for a great week of hockey ... Can't think of a single reason to not have no-touch icing at every level of hockey. There is no logical case to be made for keeping dangerous touch-icing plays in the NHL ... The sad thing is, when Carlo Colaiacovo plays, he's actually a developing defenceman. But if he can't stay healthy, the development ceases and his whole career ends up as one false start after another.

HEAR AND THERE

Barry Bonds' court case has been delayed while U.S. prosecutors determine which lies he can get away with and which ones he can't ... The worst thing about Rogers Sportsnet losing Raptors games on television: What happens to Jack Armstrong? The raspy-voiced Armstrong is far and away the most entertaining if not informative basketball commentator in Canada ... How weird is this: Andrew Raycroft and Tuukka Rask, traded for each other, have each won two NHL games this season. For the record, that's 35 fewer than Raycroft won a year ago and two more than Rask managed ... Hard to believe that Mats Sundin had an amazing season, Vesa Toskala played like an all-star, Nik Antropov finally found his way, and the Maple Leafs still remain nowhere to be found in the NHL standings ... From the department of what else is new: Kerry Wood has arm troubles in spring training and Peter Forsberg has missed five of Colorado's past six games, suffering from what's being called a groin injury ... Worth repeating: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's response to the death of legendary Sun corporate sports editor George Gross: "George combined elegance and eloquence. He was a connoisseur of all things good, a professional whose unique ability to tell a story earned him renown -- and friends -- in sports world. Heaven's newsroom just added one outstanding personality."

SCENE AND HEARD

This apple didn't fall far from the tree. Like his dad, Dell Curry, Stephen, can flat out shoot ... A long-term lesson: Pitcher Mike Hampton is entering the eighth season of a $121-million US contract. Over the first seven seasons, his record is a shabby 53-48 .... For the record, this is the first season of a big contract for Vernon Wells. He doesn't seem the type to be bothered by pressure, but only time will answer all questions ... Cliff Fletcher is out west getting a look at Kyle Beach, the biggest gamble of this year's draft. Beach has 60 points in 60 junior games, along with 222 penalty minutes. He is either the next Big Thing or the next Big Waste ... Ancient linebacker Michael O'Shea is a free agent and he's not talking about his stalled contract negotiations with the Argos. Next time he complains about the lack of CFL coverage, blame him.

AND ANOTHER THING

You can't make this up: Boxing promoter Don King is suing ESPN for $2.5 billion for defamation of character. How you defame a killer is beyond me, but oddly enough, this lawsuit appears to be proceeding ... Name to remember: Samuel Giguere. The receiver from Sherbrooke, Que., put up crazy NFL workout-like numbers at the last week's CFL combine ... The fact the Boston Celtics went into Texas and stopped Houston's 22-game winning streak, then beat San Antonio and Dallas -- the first Texas sweep in six years -- tells me everybody else is playing for second place in the NBA ... I don't know why it bothers me to see Canadian banks pay for naming rights at American arenas, but it does ... Like most Blue Jays seasons, this one is predicated on a successful year from A.J. Burnett. Which is a lot like cheering and hoping for the sub-prime market to bounce back ... How much did Rich Stubler hate the Argos offence? Enough to replace quarterback Michael Bishop and release former all-stars Robert Edwards, John Avery, Marc Boerigter and Mookie Mitchell ... And hey, whatever became of Carl (The Truth) Williams?


Photos