Photo: Washington's Alex Ovechkin (L) has supplanted Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby as the face of the league, according to our experts. REUTERS/Jason Cohn
National Post, Canada, Sept. 30, 2009 "Post Panel: Answers to the 2009-10 NHL season's burning questions":
The 2009-10 National Hockey League season kicks off on Thursday night. As a part of our season preview, columnist Bruce Arthur and hockey writers Michael Traikos, Joe O'Connor and Sean Fitz-Gerald sat down to answer 20 questions before the first puck drops.
4 Who would be your first pick in a fantasy hockey league and do you have a sleeper pick?
Arthur Depends on the scoring system, but Alexander Ovechkin, just for the fun of it. My sleeper: Marco Sturm, filling in for Phil Kessel next to Marc Savard.
Fitz-Gerald Ovechkin, if only for his goal-scoring celebrations. Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula had 16 points in 23 playoff games last spring.
O’Connor Do penalty minutes count? If they do, Evgeni Malkin (113 points, 80 PM) is the cornerstone. And the Preds’ Steve Sullivan is the 100-1 shot.
Traikos With Crosby already bothered by a nagging groin injury, Ovechkin is the safer top pick. Henrik Zetterberg is a sleeper in the sense that he could sneak into the top five in scoring.
5 Are you an Ovechkin person, or a Crosby person?
Arthur I am an Ovechkin person, in that I too have a soft spot for liquor and smiling. And I’m a sucker for the most entertaining player in generations.
Fitz-Gerald If you have not seen it, run — don’t walk — to watch Ovechkin’s ad for Eastern Motors on YouTube. Would Crosby sing, a cappella, into a hockey stick?
O’Connor What about Malkin? He can’t speak much English, but the scoring title and a playoff MVP award speak volumes.
Traikos Crosby might be just as skilled as Ovechkin. But the carefree Russian, who treats the sport more like a game than a job, is simply more fun to watch.
9 Who wins gold at the Olympics?
Arthur Russia. Their top line will be Ovechkin, Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk; their goaltender will probably be Evgeni Nabakov or Ilya Bryzgalov; and they won’t be under skull-crushing pressure, the way Canada will be.
Fitz-Gerald Some of Russia’s best have already begun lobbying for NHL involvement at Sochi 2014, and they will look awfully threatening in Vancouver.
O’Connor Canada. Home-ice advantage will be the difference.
Traikos The home-ice pressure will be too much to handle for the Canadians. Instead, count on the Swedes — with great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, leadership from Nicklas Lidstrom and a possible cameo from Peter Forsberg — to repeat as Olympic champs.
14 With which one player would you want to start a franchise?
Arthur If I was in a market where I had to sell tickets, Ovechkin. If I was in Canada, Crosby because he’s two years younger.
Fitz-Gerald I am not employed to say only nice things about Ovechkin. But, um, Ovechkin.
O’Connor If you’re the Las Vegas Gamblers, contact Steve Mason’s agent and give him whatever he wants.
Traikos Despite his looks and his grasp of the English language, the gap-toothed Ovechkin has surpassed Crosby as the face of the NHL. The Capitals were in danger of being as relevant as the Coyotes without him.