Debating is one of the fun things about sports. Kobe or Shaq? Brady or Manning? And so on and so forth.
Thankfully, the NHL has a wonderful debate on their hands: who is the NHL's best player? Sidney Crosby, wonderkind of the Penguins, or russian fireball Alex Ovechkin?
I'm going to try to break this down as best I can as both a fan and impartial third party.
Impact On Their Team:With all due respect to Sid the Kid on this one, it's not even close. We all learned what the Penguins were capable of if Sid went down when "Geno" Malkin not only kept the Pens afloat, but kept them thriving. Not only did Ovechkin will the Caps into the playoffs basically by himself, but if he had been out for an extended period of time with injury, the Caps would be drafting in the top 5. This, to me, also shows why it's a no brainer that Ovechkin deserves the Hart Trophy. Ovechkin simply means more to the Caps right now than Crosby does to the Pens, as far as on ice success goes. Advantage: Ovechkin
Offensive Skills: This is probably the toughest area to gauge. Both guys bring different skill sets to the table that make them unique offensively.
Crosby is the play-maker of the two; one of the games best passers. He also has the ability to net 40-50 goals a year if he takes enough shots, something playmakers don't usually do. He is also an underrated skater. He's strong and quick on his skates.
Ovechkin, meanwhile, is like Pavel Bure and Cam Neely combined. He is arguably the quickest skater in the league and uses that to his full advantage. And while Crosby doesn't necessarily get bullied, Ovechkin dispenses as much physicality as he takes. Ovechkin also has one of the best shots and releases in the game today, a huge reason he netted 60+ goals. Ovechkin's one-timer is also uber-deadly, right out of the Brett Hull mold.
At the end of the day, as exciting as it is to watch Ovechkin score, Sid the Kid is the game's most complete offensive player. He can score goals when he chooses, but he gets everyone involved and makes those around him that much better. Advantage: Crosby
Intangibles: This is where Ovechkin really pulled away for me. He plays with such passion and fire that it's hard to dislike him, even if he's lighting your team up. Watch him score a goal and his subsequent reaction and try to not like him. It's impossible. As mentioned before, he also plays with an edge and enjoys the physical aspect of things. No one is going to push him around without one helluva fight.
Crosby, while showing passion and exuberance, just doesn't match Ovechkin in this category. Another thing that really sets Ovechkin and Crosby apart is that Sid tends to take a dive or two and fully expects the call, almost as if he hops up off the ice with that "What? Seriously? You didn't call that? But I'm Sidney Crosby!" look on his face. He also tends to get a bit chippy, taking a few shots at guys when they aren't necessary.
Note: The "C" didn't factor in here because everyone knows that other than Kolzig, Ovechkin is the leader of that team. Who wouldn't want to rally behind that guy? Advantage: Ovechkin
Overall Impact:This is a tough one to gauge, mostly due to their varying styles. Crosby has the chance to this generation's Gretzky: complete player, scoring wizard and embassador for the game. He could go down as the 2nd best player ever (no one is supplanting the Great One) when all is said and done.
Ovechkin, on the other hand, could go down as the most memorable player since Gretzky (again, no supplanting him) if he continues to electrify and score goals by the bunch. Gretzky is the limit for both and that's pretty lofty.
However, I think Ovechkin's charisma will end up being the deciding factor. They're both on equal footing as players, but I think that Ovechkin's glow and charisma will make him the unquestioned face of the NHL. He will be the guy who draws fans in. Don't get me wrong, Crosby will do the same but not with the same efficiency. Advantage: Ovechkin
Overall, it's extremely tough to make a choice, but I'd have to say Ovechkin for now. He means more to his team, he's more exciting, more charismatic and a better face for the game. There's still time as both are in their early 20's and they should go down as the Gretzky/Lemieux of their generation. Now if only Geno could get something going on the personality front, he could make this a three horse race.