In most eyes, the race for NHL Rookie of the Year is long over.
Alexander Ovechkin is already hockey's most exciting player, the new King of the Highlight Reel, humiliating goalies and defensemen alike on his way to a 50-goal season. According to one poll, even NHL players agree that Sidney Crosby runs a distant second to Alexander the Great (or whatever official nickname his corporate partners eventually settle on).
But one of the NHL's great goalies remains a Sidney backer, and his appraisal illustrates a long-standing divide between hockey fans and hockey professionals.
"(Crosby's) a very different player - not just a goal scorer," says Martin Brodeur in the Toronto Globe and Mail. "He's tough to key on compared to the type who just controls the puck. He skates, he backchecks and he does a lot of different things than other superstars are doing. You never know what he is going to do."
"Sidney is a complete player. He's going to make people around him a lot better than maybe Ovechkin will. Ovechkin is a one-man show. He loves to do the one-on-one and score a lot of spectacular goals, and he'll score a lot of them and carry the load that way."
Coaches, managers and other hockey insiders have always been wary of the "one-man show" and more comfortable with the honest foot soldier who uses his genius to "make people around him a lot better." Most fans will take the one-man show any day.
Both views are shortsighted. Hockey people sometimes seem allergic to entertainment - imagine Ovechkin trying to play for a fun-killer like Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire. Fans can be ignorant of the complete player - backchecking wins as many games as goal scoring, but it doesn't sell tickets or get the sportscasters burbling with delight.
The Globe and Mail article makes a couple of other good points. The two rookies are seen as peers. But Ovechkin is 20 years old and Crosby 18, a significant divide. And many will be surprised to learn that the scoring race remains close, with Crosby projected for 94 points this season and Ovechkin for 101.
But the article doesn't acknowledge that Ovechkin is also growing into a complete player, one who certainly isn't shy about throwing his weight around. And there is no mention of Crosby's occasional tendency to lose his composure. "(Ovechkin) doesn't get frustrated if he gets hit, either," says Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson. "He gets up and keeps playing. Not like the other rookie (Crosby), who starts crying. I think there's a big difference in the attitude."
It's in the Globe and Mail's interests to keep this discussion alive. The reporter, Shawna Richer, is assigned to follow Crosby for the entire season, recording his every move, his every utterance, the length of every nose hair. She's also writing a book about him. Don't expect any articles acknowledging that the paper backed the wrong golden boy.
In any case, it's too late to change the outcome of the rookie race. Ovechkin will be handed the Calder Trophy in June. But that's only the beginning of this debate. Who will be the better player in five years? In 10 years? And who will prevail when they finally get a chance to play high-stakes NHL games, instead of slugging it out on teams going nowhere?