We already have quite a number of NHL awards handed out at the end of June every year, from best defenseman (Norris) and Hart (Most Valuable) to the Vezina (best goalie) and Calder (top rookie).
Media “experts” make these decisions, if I’m not mistaken, and I suppose someone has to do that job. (We'll find out Thursday night who has won the awards this year.)
Players also vote each year through the NHLPA for the Ted Lindsay award, and that’s no small honor, going to the guy selected by his peers as the “most outstanding” player in the game. (Click on his name to see an earlier post.)
Awards are funny things. I do tend to trust the results a bit more when players themselves are involved, because they obviously know who they are competing against. At the same time, players may have biases as well, but what’s the perfect system for picking? There really is none, I suppose. Some media people probably don’t see enough of all the players to make reasonable judgments, but who’s to know?
‘Most valuable player’ is perhaps the one that gets the most debate—not necessarily in terms of who is deserving, but what is represents. We almost always hear the debate and discussion about what it means to be an “MVP”. Is it the most valuable individual player, or the guy most important to his team?
For example, can you really be an MVP if your team finishes in last place? (I mean, even without that great player, you can't finish any worse than last...)
It's always a fun debate, I suppose. But since we added a new piece of hardware some years ago— for the individual who scores the most goals in the regular-season (The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy)—perhaps we can go one step further and add an award for the finest all-around player the game many have ever seen—Gordie Howe.
Howe’s remarkable all-time NHL scoring records were ultimately surpassed by the phenomenal Wayne Gretzky, but has a player ever dominated the game—in so many different aspects of the game—as did Howe? And for so long?
He could fight with anyone and no one wanted to deal with him in that regard.Howe (pictured at right with teammate Bill Gadsby, just after scoring his then record-breaking 545th career goal in Detroit against Charlie Hodge and the Canadiens in 1963, I think it was) was a physically punishing man to play against, if you did anything to rile him.
I mentioned his goal scoring —800+ NHL regular-season goals and if you include the WHA totals I think he is still first overall in the history of the game, ahead of even Bobby Hull and Gretzky.
A sublime passer who moved the puck adroitly, Howe was a force in the corners and in front of the net, one of the true original power forwards before the term was introduced.
Bobby Orr was the best player I ever saw, but Howe did it for over 30 years.
In the later stages of his career, from the later 1960s on, you might look at Howe on a given night and he may have been un-remarkable in that particular game. If you had never seen him before and never saw him again, it’s possible you could have wondered what the fuss was all about. (Someone like Bobby Hull, with his rink-long dashes, or the Rocket with his passionate flair inside the blueline and especially Orr, who was the fastest thing on skates, well, with those guys, you couldn’t help but notice...)
The thing is Howe was good most every night, and played way beyond “good” most of the time. He made those around him better, as do all the truly "best" players .
So my thought is, we already have the “most valuable player” award and the most outstanding player award. Maybe it’s time for the most brilliant overall player award, for all-around brilliance in any given NHL season.
You don’t have to be most valuable on your team, or the best player in the league (though Howe was surely that most seasons that he played) but if you were individually a brilliant performer, like an Ovechkin, but played on a lousy team, you’d have a shot at meaningful hardware and some recognition at the end of the season.
Choosing the Rocket for the goal-scoring award was perfect. The man lived to score goals. But you would think there would be an award name after Gordie- the best of the best.