Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief now. With the Washington Capitals making the playoffs, it’s almost certain the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has saved itself from potential embarrassment by naming the wrong player as the NHL’s most valuable player.
There was strong sentiment among those who vote for the award that Alex Ovechkin did not deserve the bauble if the Capitals were not part of the 53.3 percent of teams to qualify for the playoffs, a goofy notion if ever there were one. But Ovechkin made it a slam dunk when the Capitals made the playoffs, leaving no doubt as to which player was both the best and most valuable to his team this season.
Heck, that celebration after the Capitals clinched should alone win him the Hart Trophy.
In case you need any more convincing, Ovechkin was also the most clutch scorer in the NHL this season, but just by the thinnest of margins. The Capitals sniper earned the 2007-08 Campbellnomics title for providing offense to his team at the most crucial times in games. Nothing defines value to a team like a player who can score in the clutch and Ovechkin was the best at that this season.
First, an explanation. Campbellnomics is a statistic exclusive to The Hockey News that measures offensive contributions at key times during a game. The important thing to remember with Campbellnomics is it doesn’t matter how many points a player scores, but when he scores them. For example, Mike Ribeiro finished 13th overall in NHL scoring this season, but isn’t even in the top 30 in Campbellnomics.
Conversely, Brad Boyes of the St. Louis Blues was 46th in NHL scoring, but finished seventh in the NHL in Campbellnomics; a remarkable achievement considering he played for a team that missed the playoffs by a significant margin.
Here’s how it works. First, goals are worth one point and assists are worth half a point. (It’s my statistic so I make the rules. I think goals are more important than assists, that’s why.) Players receive one point for scoring a goal in the following situations: first goal of a game, a goal that puts his team ahead, a goal that puts his team into a tie, a game-winning goal, an overtime goal and a shootout goal. Players receive a half a point for registering an assist on any one of those kinds of goals.
This obviously makes some goals worth more than others. For example, the first goal of a game is always worth two points, one for the game’s first goal and another for putting his team ahead. An overtime or deciding shootout goal in a 1-0 game is worth a total of four – one for first goal of the game, one for putting his team ahead, one for a game-winner and one for an overtime/shootout goal. (For Campbellnomics purposes, deciding goals are counted as game-winners. They are not by the NHL, which basically prefers to treat shootout goals as though they don’t exist when it comes to personal achievements. Of course, it has no problem bogusly increasing its goals per game by counting a shootout winner as a goal for the team that scores it.)
Ovechkin won the title with 77.5 points based on several factors. First, the fact he broke the record for goals by a left winger was an enormous factor, since goals are worth so much more than assists. Second, particularly down the stretch, the Capitals were on fire and almost every game were scoring important goals. While the Capitals floundered through the first half of the season, Ovechkin was nowhere to be found in the top 20.
Just as impressive as Ovechkin was Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. Had goals and assists been counted equal in Campbellnomics, Thornton would have won going away with 116 points compared to 98 for Ovechkin. Thornton scored a remarkable 17 goals and 33 assists on goals that put the Sharks ahead this season.
No player, however, made the kind of dramatic leap up the scoring charts that Boyes did. The St. Louis Blues winger, who emerged as a big-time scorer this season, moved up almost 40 spots from his ranking in NHL scoring. A big reason for that was Boyes scored 24 goals that put the Blues ahead in games this season, which was tops in the NHL. Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers, largely on the strength of his success in the shootout, goes from 34th in NHL scoring to ninth in Campbellnomics.
On the flip side, Ribeiro, Martin St-Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators, Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and Derek Roy and Jason Pominville of the Buffalo Sabres, all finished in the top 20 in NHL scoring, but not in Campbellnomics.
Another Washington Capital was tops among defensemen in Campbellnomics scoring, with Mike Green moving up from seventh among NHL blueliners in scoring. One player to hold his place was NHL rookie scoring leader Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, who took top spot in both NHL freshman scoring and Campbellnomics rookie scoring.
So always remember, it’s not how you score or even how many you score that’s most important. It’s when you score them that determines a player’s worth in Campbellnomics.
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