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Q: Do you think the NHL is a little embarrassed right now for not having Sidney Crosby as a finalist for the Hart Trophy? How can anyone think he is not one of the top three players in the league, and do you think that might have made Sid a little angry, thus the great play so far in the playoffs?
Todd Walker, Muncy, Pa.
MOLINARI: The NHL has nothing about which it should be embarrassed because it has nothing to do with voting for the Hart, or any of the other such awards. That is handled by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. What's more, the criterion for selecting the Hart recipient is that he be the player "adjudged to be most valuable to his team" during the regular season and the thinking here is that all three finalists -- Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk -- deserved the support they received.
Also, as noted above, the Hart is based on performance during the regular season. Ballots are distributed with a few days left in the regular season, and voting ends before the opening faceoff in the first playoff game. Nothing that a player does, good or bad, during the playoffs has an impact on voting for any trophy except the Conn Smythe, which goes to the postseason MVP.
Few people (Aleaxnder Semin aside, of course) will deny that Crosby is, at the very least, one of the top three players in the league; that doesn't necessarily mean he should have been a Hart finalist, because that recognizes achievements during a specific period of time. It isn't intended to serve as a player-rating system.
It's entirely possible that Crosby has drawn a bit of inspiration from failing to make the Hart finalists cut because he, like any great athlete, has an ego that helps to fuel his competitive drive. And if that contributed, in any way, to the level at which Crosby has performed to this point of the playoffs, don't be surprised if the Penguins try to rig the voting in future seasons so that he never again is one of the final three contenders for that award.
Q: What's up with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher? What Pittsburgh guy do you know who wouldn't clearly support the Steelers versus the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII and is now rooting for the Hurricanes versus the Penguins in the Eastern Conference final?
Pat Perri, Bakersfield, Calif.
MOLINARI: Cowher is now a paid TV analyst, so his network probably wouldn't be pleased if he took an overt stance for -- or against -- a particular team. (Hey, people in Arizona patronize advertisers, too.)
He also is a full-time resident of North Carolina and, even if he weren't, would be perfectly within his rights to openly root for the Hurricanes. Just as Penguins partisans are entitled to shift their focus to the important games that Cowher lost as coach of the Steelers rather than those he won, and perhaps to reconsider their positions on whether he deserves to be ranked ahead of, say, Mike Nixon and Forrest Douds on any list of the franchise's most effective coaches.
First Published May 20, 2009 12:00 am