Alexander Ovechkin's Nomination Mocks the Values of the Messier Leadership Award.

On Monday, the NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown and Washington forward Alexander Ovechkin. Luongo and Brown are both deserving nominees; Ovechkin makes a mockery of the core values of the Messier Leadership Award.

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Started in 2006-07, the Messier Leadership Award is presented "to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season." Past winners have been Chris Chelios, Mats Sundin and Jarome Iginla.

Based on this definition, a strong case can be made for both Brown and Luongo. However, simply reading that mission statement, and considering the past winners as potential company, should eliminate Ovechkin.

In 2006, Ovechkin received five boarding majors and a game misconduct for hammering then-Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere. At the World Championships in 2007, Ovechkin was suspended for a game for a hit to the head while representing Russia, not the Washington Capitals. In Game 4 of last spring's semifinal series against Pittsburgh, Ovechkin was hit with only a minor penalty for tripping after a knee-on-knee collision with Sergei Gonchar.

On Oct. 22, Ovechkin was fined the maximum amount allowed by the collective bargaining agreement, $2,500, for a "slew foot" on Atlanta's Rich Peverley.On Dec. 1 of this season, Ovechkin was suspended for two games after a knee-to-knee collision with Carolina's Tim Gleason (video at bottom). The Gleason hit came just days after Ovechkin received a five-minute major for boarding Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, whose face was bloody after hitting the wall.

How is someone who is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, and who has been suspended twice for unsportsmanlike hits on other players during this season, an example of "great leadership qualities to his team"?

Is someone who has been called "reckless" by his own coach deserving of an honor named after a professional like Messier? Consider the following video:

How is this an example of "on and off the ice" qualities that should be honored? This is not a condemnation of Ovechkin's over-the-top enthusiasm; his infectious energy is indeed something to appreciate, as ESPN's Barry Melrose said after Ovechkin knocked Brian Campbell out for the rest of the 2009-10 season. It is, however, an open and bold questioning of who, and how, the NHL selects the nominees for their awards.

According to the league's website, "suggestions for nominees are solicited from fans, clubs and NHL personnel, but the selection of the three finalists and the ultimate winner is picked by Messier." Messier might be considered one of the great leaders in NHL history, and he certainly never avoided physical contact.

But even Messier has to understand that there's a difference between a superstar being a polarizing figure, like Sidney Crosby, and a player being suspended multiple times in the same season for hits that were considered dirty by the league! Leadership implies, and the Messier Award's mission statement clearly defines it as something that should be replicated by other players.

In the current NHL environment where the league is taking dramatic steps to avoid unnecessary, injury-causing hits, wouldn't honoring Ovechkin after this season be hypocritical?

If Ovechkin wins the Messier Leadership Award, they should rename the trophy to more appropriately consider everything that Ovechkin brings to the game. Perhaps the Great When Not Suspended Award would be more fitting?

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  • Yes. Ovechkin should do more to uphold the values of such a prestigious award named after such a gentlemanly player like Mark Messier, who was suspended one game by NHL during 1983-84 season for receiving three game-misconduct penalties during course of season

  • In reply to EatAPorcupine:

    You do a great job of pointing out that Messier wasn't the posterchild for avoiding contact here, and I will readily admit that he took his shots.

    But consider the current state of the NHL.

    The league is rushing to pass to new rules to make head shots illegal, and the league has been very public in its efforts to move away from unwarranted physical violence. When Messier was getting suspended, the league wasn't taking a stand against physical play; back in the day, they let men handle their business like men, on the ice. Now, however, the league is going out of its way to clean up the hitting in the game.

    In light of those efforts, is it not hypocritical for the league to nominate a guy that's been suspended twice THIS season for a "leadership" award?

  • In reply to the1tab:

    The league is taking a stand against physical play? Since when? I think you can point to the non-suspensions of Richards and Cooke as evidence that the league is trying desperately NOT to appear as though they are against physical play.

    And since when does physical play negate leadership? Given that Ovechkin is compared to Messier more frequently than any other player, I find this article chock full of irony and completely devoid of insight.

    Maybe you should keep your bulls jersey on and leave the hockey coverage to someone who understands it.

  • In reply to Trouztrouz:

    Trouztrouz...

    Maybe you should understand the argument before you try to argue about hockey. The reason there weren't suspensions for the Richards or Cooke hits is because there isn't a rule in place right now that makes what they did illegal. According to the CBA, the league couldn't suspend them because what they did is presently legal.

    To that point, I will point you at http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=5019394 for some information about the league taking a stand against unwarranted, over-aggressive, injury-causing hits to the head. You're wrong. The NHL is absolutely trying to clean up the game's bad, dirty hits. If you read ANYTHING from the GM meetings, they spent ALL three days talking about head shots and how to make them illegal.

    So while I appreciate you reading the article, you missed the point like Michael Bay did making "Pearl Harbor." Because the NHL is trying to clean up the hitting on the ice, they would be sending a hypocritical message by naming a player who has been suspended twice for "dirty" hits as Leader of the Year.

  • In reply to the1tab:

    You make a wonderful point about why Ovechkin should not win the Lady Byng, but nothing about why he should not win a leadership award.

    Hypocrisy would be something like wearing both a Cubs and a Sox jersey.

  • In reply to Trouztrouz:

    Man, this is probably the most hilarous bit of intentional satire I've ever read. I never knew I could enjoy such hilarity on a sports blog. And shame on that nasty EataPorcupine for spreading such lies about Mark Messier...we all know what a good boy he was!

  • In reply to OldPhil:

    I appreciate you missing the point. I'm dead serious. Alex Ovechkin being nominated for this award is completely hypocritical.

  • In reply to the1tab:

    I know you're serious. That's what makes your argument even more hilarious (or maybe just sad).

  • In reply to the1tab:

    It is difficult to take your article seriously when your information is wrong. "In 2006, Ovechkin received five boarding majors." He received a five minute boarding major, 20 penalty minutes total for the hit and the aftermath you reference.

    In his career Ovechkin has only three boarding majors, and four five-minute majors total. In five seasons, Ovechkin has almost 1,000 hits and of those hits seven to ten of them get people angry. Those numbers don't live up to the dirty label.

    Since this leadership award is named after Messier, then I say Ovechkin shouldn't win it because his play is too clean compared to the man it is named after.

    First five seasons:
    Messier: 578 PIM in 375 games
    Ovechkin: 297 PIM in 386 games

    And presumably Messier was playing those games at a time when the game was called more loosely.

    As for leadership, the team is 24-3-4 since Ovechkin became captain. During that period the Capitals went on a 14 game win streak, a franchise record.

  • In reply to OldPhil:

    What? You should have stuck to the original point that you didn't quite make in your piece. Your replies to the comments clouded your point even more. Regardless of what you were trying to do, your foundation compared Ovechkin to Messier and took it one step further and implied that there was no chance that Ovechkin was "deserving of an honor named after a professional like Messier?" Bottom line, the two players are very similar and your attempt to illustrate how Ovechkin is far less of a leader and player(statistics aside)fell short. Just think what would have happened if Messier had a microscope focused in on every single time he came into contact with a player. He may have a had a few more suspensions under his belt as well. Furthermore, if it was not your point to compare the two players and really to point out that the reason Ovechkin should not win the award is due to the CURRENT state of the NHL, you could have saved us quite a few paragraphs filled with stats from 2006 and 2007 complete with a video.

  • In reply to stillhits21:

    So rather than establish Ovechkin's history of taking shots at players beyond this season, I should have just said he hit Brian Campbell and moved on? This isn't a Chicago-only incident, and my perspective isn't only because of the Campbell incident. I'm pretty sure Tim Gleason laughed when he heard about Ovechkin being nominated for a leadership award just as much as I did. This has nothing to do w/ Ovechkins production; he's the best scorer in the game. It has everything to do w/ him being a bad example for the league to place on a pedestal, both on and off the ice.

  • In reply to the1tab:

    You must have a lot of time on your hands to reply to every comment someone leaves on your article. Ever consider getting a real job?

  • In reply to Trouztrouz:

    The NHL isn't trying to clean up illegal hits?

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=5022885

    And if I need a real job because I'm replying to comments... how cool is your boss with you commenting all afternoon?

  • In reply to the1tab:

    Meh, I think both sides of the argument have a point here.

    I'm more inclined to agree with Tab about him not deserving the award, but not because of the hits. He just seems generally disinterested in being a leader and/or a posterboy for hockey, which is fine. I listened to him shrug off being the face of Russia during the Olympics multiple times as well as shrugging of the notion that he has to be a role model for young kids. This next part is an assumption, but I would guess that in the locker room that this sort of behavior bleeds over. He doesn't attempt to lead, but would rather just play the game.

    Like I said, that's fine, but it seems to be in stark contrast to what they are trying to reward with this Messier award.

    Also, being that we are Chicagoans, I believe we're all a little more upset about the Brian Campbell thing than we should be. I love the Hawks, so I hate that we're missing a key defenseman for the rest of the year.

    But, when I look at the hit, it's not terrible. I hear a lot of people bellyaching over the Wiesnewski (sp?) suspension being longer than the Ovechkin one. I think they got it exactly right. Wiesnewski knew what he was doing from 30 feet out- hitting Seabrook regardless of how the play goes. I watch the Campbell hit and it seems fairly clean, albeit unfortunate they were as far away from the boards as they were. That extra space allowed Campbell to fall down early and go headfirst into the boards rather than be propped up against the glass (something you see countless times during any game).

  • In reply to stillhits21:

    On another point, you said: "The reason there weren't suspensions for the Richards or Cooke hits is because there isn't a rule in place right now that makes what they did illegal."

    As that bastion of moderation Don Cherry said the other night, there is a rule that could have been used in the Cooke case, if the NHL had chosen to follow its own rulebook. Rule 21.1 (Match Penalties) says:

    "A match penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who deliberately attempts to injure an opponent in any manner." Simple, eh?

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