Friday, December 31, 2021

Mailbag: Ovechkin’s goal quest, sportswriters on superheroes, and was the 2003 draft overrated?

Well, we made it through 2021. Was it a good year? It was not, but it’s over, and 2022 can’t possibly be any worse, unless it totally is. On that cheery note, let’s close out the year with a mailbag.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

What if Ovechkin wins the Art Ross and Rocket Richard this year? At the time of writing, he’s one goal and two points behind the league leaders. He closes in on the all-time goals record and beats McDavid for points in a season, both very impressive. Do we start talking about him as one of the greatest five players ever? Who gets bumped down? – James O.

It’s kind of interesting that we’re not already talking about him as one of the best ever, right? Maybe I’ve missed it, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone make the case that Ovechkin will belong in the top five or even top ten by the time he’s done.

The top five debate in the NHL is always fun. Most fans would agree that there’s a Mount Rushmore of Gretzky, Mario, Orr and Howe as the uncontested top four, and then a battle for the fifth spot that includes candidates like Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito and Jaromir Jagr, maybe with a defenseman like Ray Bourque or Nicklas Lidstrom or even a goalie in the mix too. But I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Ovechkin nominated for that spot.

You do hear that for Sidney Crosby, who’s sometimes mentioned as a guy who might be number five by the time he’s done. And it kind of feels like we settled the whole Crosby vs. Ovechkin debate a while ago, with everyone agreeing that Crosby was better, if only by a narrow margin. Maybe we need to rethink that. Crosby is a center, which is the more important position, and he has more Cups and gold medals, plus an additional scoring title. But Ovechkin has more MVPs, far more all-star picks, and might end up breaking one of the biggest career records in the league. If he keeps his current pace and has another elite season this year, doesn’t that have to put him in the running for Crosby’s title as the best of the pre-McDavid era? And if so, does he end up getting that coveted fifth spot?

One more Ovechkin question…

This article from a couple weeks ago wants to give credit to Ovechkin’s overtime goals (!?!) as for why he might pass Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring title. I feel like this is a pretty ridiculous take to have, considering Ovechkin has been robbed of approximately two full seasons worth of games and goals due to labor strife and a pandemic. Can we project out where Ovechkin would likely be for total goals today, given when in his career he had to miss those games, and how much more likely he’d be to pass The Great One had he not lost all those games? – Michael L.

I’m glad you asked this, because I feel like we need to clear this up once and for all before Ovechkin gets too close to Gretzky’s record. I keep seeing fans who want to give him credit for goals he would have scored during the pandemic or lockouts, maybe in anticipation of him just falling short of Gretzky. And while I get where they’re coming from, that’s just not how this works.

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