No Star Shines Like Alexander the Great
Another mere Hart, however, would be selling Alexander the Great short.
It is unfortunate that a pound-for-pound award for the most-dominant athlete in all of team sports does not exist, for if it did the athlete most-deserving of the honor would be the Capitals' prodigious left wing, OV, as he's often referred to here in D.C.
The key words here are "team sports." I'm not considering Tiger Woods because, not only is golf less an athletic endeavor than a human game board, it is an individual sport, save for the occasional Cup play. For much the same reason, I'm not thinking of Michael Phelps either. He's clearly an athlete but swimming is mostly an individual sport and we really only pay attention to it every four years at the Olympics, or when Phelps sends us smoke signals.
I'm talking about football, baseball, basketball, and what Ovechkin plays right now – hockey - with few peers, Crosby included.
Nothing against Sid the Kid, but it was jingoism mostly that made him the soup du jour over Ovechkin during their debut campaigns in 2005-2006. Crosby isn't American, but North American, a Canadian. In these parts that trumps being Russian, which is what Ovechkin is.
Crosby, who at 21 is two years Ovechkin's junior, is going to go down as a great one too. He led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. He's already got a Hart and a Lester B. Pearson Award (given to the league's most outstanding player as judged by the player's association). But he will be in the championship series this season, and will not have won a Hart for two seasons after Ovechkin picks up this year's. This is not unlike watching Rafael Nadal surpass Roger Federer - two more dominant athletes who don't qualify for the pound-for-pound crown because they play an individual sport - except that Nadal is younger than Federer.
Ovechkin is just going to go down as greater than Crosby when all is said and done, and Ovechkin is saying so and doing so again this season. He is second in the league in points to Crosby's teammate Evgeni Malkin, but he is leading the league in goals and blowing it away in excitement. His pass of the puck the other day to himself off the boards, and pirouette, before breaking away and scoring, while sliding on his side, is already YouTube legend. It ranked in the top 20 searches on Google.
There is nobody in baseball right now who measures up to what Ovechkin is doing on the ice, including reigning MVPs Dustin Pedroia in the American League and Albert Pujols in the National League. There is no one doing the same in the NFL, what with Tom Brady injured last season, although if Larry Fitzgerald did every game during the regular season what he did in the playoffs he would make you at least think about touting him so highly.
Only basketball boasts of any athletes as dominant as Ovechkin is in hockey to demand comparison. They are LeBron, Kobe and Dwyane Wade.
There is no real apples-to-apples comparison, but there is at least an apples-to-pears comparison. Look at how much of their respective teams' production each player is responsible for, if you divide total team points by each players' points scored (goals in Ovechkin's case) and assists (given that assists lead to team points).
Kobe accounts for 29.9 percent of the Lakers' points. LeBron makes for 35.5 percent of the Cavaliers' tally. Wade comprises 37.1 percent of the points scored by the Heat. Ovechkin encompasses 38.3 percent of the Caps' scoring.
Granted, the NHL allows for, and generally allots, two assists per every goal, unlike basketball, but star basketball players log far more minutes on the hardwood every outing than star hockey players, even the best of whom play much less than half of the game. Kobe, LeBron and Wade average playing between 36 and 38 minutes each game. Ovechkin is on the ice a little over 22 minutes each match. So his production is even greater given the less time he has to make his impact.
Ovechkin isn't just doing what he's doing in mere statistical analysis. As suggested by his outrageously fabulous goal a few days ago, he's also doing what he's doing in spectacular and stunning fashion, not unlike Kobe, LeBron and Wade have done this season and before.
Indeed, Ovechkin also has more crunch-time goals – those scored in the third period – than anyone else in the NHL. He was tied with San Jose's Patrick Marleau for the league lead in game-winning goals coming into this week too.
"If you look at what he's done in the third period and the winning goals and at crunch time, that's when you need your guys the most," Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau told The Washington Post earlier this week. "He's there all the time."
The league hasn't seen a left wing as good since Bobby Hull almost half a century ago now.
Ovechkin isn't like a lot of dominant scorers in the NHL traditionally have been, either. He isn't in need of a sidekick goon to keep opposing goons at bay. He's 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and not only takes care of himself but dishes out hits as well. He's closer to being LeBron than Kobe or Wade. He's second on the Caps in penalty minutes and has decked a couple guys this season, one questionably though apologetically.
The only accolade Ovechkin needs to solidify the pound-for-pound title he is deserving of is a championship ring like Kobe and Wade have. That he could seize this June.
Kevin B. Blackistone is a panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, the Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, and a frequent sports opinionist on other outlets. A former award-winning sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News, he currently lives in Silver Spring, Md.