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An In-Depth Look At Who’s The Best Player In Hockey

Kane Ovi Crosby

For the longest time, the biggest debate amongst hockey fans has been who is the best player in the National Hockey League, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby? Diehards will argue for days on end over who is the better player, but regardless of who you favor, those two names will be at the center of the discussion. Well, it might be time to seriously consider including Patrick Kane in that discussion.  

I’m a big numbers guy. And right now, the numbers are telling me that not only does Kane belong in that conversation as one of the best player in the league, but he also might actually be the best player in the league. Believe me, I know it sounds crazy, but it is entirely possible.

It has been no secret that Kane has been on a tear this year. Kane leads the entire NHL in points at 92, which is 10 points ahead of the next closest player. Kane is also in second place for goals and in third for assists, behind Ovechkin for goals and Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton for assists, respectively. It is indisputable that Kane is having the best season out of the group. But the question to consider now is, if it is just a really good year, or has Kane actually been deserving of the recognition all along? Let’s take a closer look.

Ovechkin and Crosby both entered the league in the same season, and have two more years under their belt than Kane does. On top of that, Crosby has missed significantly more games due to injury. So, utilizing points per game for their careers to compare the three will give the fairest comparison. With that, Ovechkin and Crosby’s career regular season numbers are eerily close to each other, with Ovechkin averaging 87.18 points per season and 1.15 points per game. Crosby is not that far behind and boasts 84.45 points per season and 1.33 points per game. Kane is not quite as close with .99 points per game and 72.11 points per season. Points aside, Ovechkin has won the Hart Memorial Trophy (League MVP) three times, while Crosby has two and Kane has zero. That will likely change this year, however, according to the projections that have Kane as the favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this year.

With the regular season numbers and accolades now on the table, it is time to look at the playoffs. This is arguably the more important season, because what really counts to fans is the success a player has in the postseason. The sports fan culture loves to measure greatness by looking at playoff success, not factoring bad luck, bad bounces, how well you did in the regular season, or anything of that sort. If you execute and win when it counts, then we as fans will put you on a higher pedestal.

When it comes to the playoffs, the three players are neck and neck with similar points per game. Ovechkin and Kane both have .98 points per game, with Crosby having a bit less than that at .84 points per game. But, if NHL fans measure who is the best like NFL fans do, Kane is the best of the three when it comes to the playoffs. Why? Well, simply because Kane has three Stanley Cups to Crosby’s one and of course Ovechkin’s zero. To add to that argument, Kane also has a Conn Smythe Award (Playoff MVP) to his name.

Now that we have looked at both the regular and playoff season resumes for these players, let us create the arguments for and against why each would or wouldn’t be the best player in the NHL.

Alex Ovechkin

Why you would think he is the best:

Ovechkin has dominated the goal-scoring department since he began his NHL career. Since he entered the league in the 2005-2006 season, he’s ranked in the top five for goals in all but one year. He has three Hart Memorial Trophies to his name, which is impressive seeing as only Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky have more. If you put a lot of stock into these things and think that he just has faced some bad playoff luck, then you could easily argue he is the best.

Why you wouldn’t think he is the best:

You put a lot of stock into playoff performance. It has been no secret that Ovechkin and the Capitals have fallen short in the playoffs many times. It isn’t just the fact that they haven’t won, it is that they were supposed to win. Since the 2007-2008 season, the Capitals earned first in the regular season five out of the eight years. However, they didn’t even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals come playoff time any of those seasons. Now, the playoffs are completely different than the regular season and anything can happen. However, you would think that a player that is often looked at as the best in the league would be able to carry his team to at least the Eastern Conference Finals at least once.

Sidney Crosby

Why you would think he is the best:

Crosby is balanced when it comes to the accolades that he has in both the playoffs and regular season. He has a Stanley Cup and a Hart Memorial trophy to his name, while having the best points per game average in the NHL since he entered the league. When people argue that Ovechkin has more career totals for points and goals, one can easily point to the handful of games that Crosby has missed due to injury, especially concussion related ones. Ovechkin has played in close to 130 more games than Crosby, and only has 30 more points than him. By utilizing Crosby’s career points per game numbers, if he had played the same number of games as Ovechkin, he would have right around 175 more points. Also factor in that Crosby is a complete three-zone player, which can’t necessarily be said for Kane or Ovechkin, as is evident by Crosby’s +143 career plus minus compared to Kane and Ovechkin’s plus minus of +67 and +75, and it is tough to argue against Crosby being the best in the league.

Why you wouldn’t think he is the best:

You don’t think he has enough accolades. Sure, a Stanley Cup and a Hart Memorial Trophy are great but only one Stanley Cup isn’t exactly a lot for a player of his talent and for the teams he has been on. One could also argue that Ovechkin won the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) over Crosby. But then again, don’t put too much stock into that award because remember, Andrew Raycroft once won that award. Another argument against Crosby is his lack of consistency. Crosby has been known to go on hot streaks and a lot of cold streaks, which isn’t a common conception of a top player in the league.

Patrick Kane

Why you would think he is the best:

Kane has been on absolute fire this year. It appears that each year his numbers keep getting better and better. He also has the most impressive postseason resume out of the three players. Three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy are hard to argue against. Then factor in if he wins the MVP for the regular season this year, it would make him more complete and even tougher to dispute his overall status as the best player in the league.

Why you wouldn’t think he is the best:

He plays for the Chicago Blackhawks. It is hard to be bad when you’re a part of the best dynasty in hockey since the New York Islanders in the late 1970s. And it isn’t like the Blackhawks are that good because of just Kane. Players like Toews, Keith, and Seabrook have all been equal, if not bigger reasons for the Blackhawks success than Kane is. And Ovechkin and Crosby both have better statistics in their career than Kane does. It is indisputable that Ovechkin and Crosby are the most valuable players on their teams. But, you could easily argue that Kane isn’t even the most valuable player on his own team.

The Conclusion:

As tough as it is to choose the best player in the NHL, Sidney Crosby takes that title. He is the most rounded in both his accolades in the regular and postseason with his on-ice play. If Crosby stays healthy and in a consistent rhythm, he is the best player on the planet. If it wasn’t for time missed to such unfortunate injuries, it would be even more clear cut and obvious that he is worthy of this title.

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