Thursday, May 11, 2006

Alexander Ovechkin: Not a rookie?

IIHF Talking Head and leader of the anti-NHL brigade, Szymon Szemberg ,makes the case that Alexander Ovechkin shouldn't be considered a rookie, and that Sidney Crosby ought to win the Calder by default...

O RLY!?!

From the article:

Imagine the following scenario: giant Ottawa and Team Slovakia defenseman Zdeno Chara, who played his first season in Sweden last year, wins the Swedish Elitserien rookie-of-the-year award. Or let's say Joe Thornton, who spent the entire lockout season with HC Davos in Switzerland, outscores all the native 19- and 20-year olds to grab the Swiss Nationalliga A rookie-of-the-year honors.

This, of course, didn’t happen, since neither Chara nor Thornton was eligible. The rookie awards should be for true rookies, players who play in their first year of major league professional hockey after spending time in junior or developmental leagues. Incidentally, how would North American hockey fans react if the Swedish or Swiss league had announced that a seasoned NHLer had been received the rookie-of-the-year trophy? They would probably have laughed.

This is what many Russian hockey fans are doing as well with Ovechkin and his race with Sidney Crosby for the Calder Memorial Trophy
Well, Szymon, the NHL is not the Swiss Nationalliga or the Swedish Meatballserien. The awards in the NHL are based on much different criteria than than smaller European leagues. While the NHL has the best of the best, your little leagues simply don't. Get over the jealousy. If the Swedish league doesn't want to award Rookie-of-the-Year to players with NHL experience, that's their perogative.

Two fundamental issues are important here:

1. The unfairness of comparing Crosby to Ovechkin in order to determine the winner of the NHL’s rookie award.

2. The general misconception of the North American hockey establishment that goes something like this: “You haven’t played pro hockey until you have played in the NHL."
1. The more 'unfair' component is that Alexander Ovechkin is 2 years older than Crosby, and has 2 years more of hockey experience at ANY level and 2 years more of physical development. Age is far more of an important factor when comparing players so young.

2. Let's look at the REAL definition of the Calder Trophy:
The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.

That's right, it says first year of competition in the NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE. It does not say first year of PRO hockey, or first year out of junior hockey, or first year playing the bongo drums. The award ignores all previous NON-NHL experience because it is awarding based on the most fair-for-all criteria possible. It would not be fair to simply disqualify Ovechkin for having played in the senior Russian league or disqualify any player who has played in the AHL. You would bring so much subjection into the award process that the award would lose most of its meaning.

Where do we draw the line? The French league? The Polish league? Why would those leagues be included with the Russian and Czech leagues when the quality of play is so poor?

If you want to get technical, how about this... The CHL actually pays its player a 'per-diem'...cold hard cash. The NCAA considers juniors from the CHL to be 'pro' simply because they actually do get some (albeit) little money to play hockey. So, Sidney Crosby was already a 'pro' before he ever reached the NHL, if you look at it from a certain point of view.

The Calder Trophy is not an award for making the leap to pro hockey. By the definition, it's all about the first year in the NHL. Nothing less, nothing more.

By the true definition, Ovechkin is a rookie just as is the veteran minor-league who makes his NHL debut at age 26.

Get over it.

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