WITH THE JUDGING for the Hart Trophy based only on the regular season, there are some interesting ways to look at who deserves to be named the league MVP.

The award is given to the player who has the most impact on his team. That's a good starting point, but in reality it is also based on things that go beyond the team game, such as star power, points scored or flash.

Sidney Crosby is the reigning MVP and he deserved it for everything he meant to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and everything he brings to the game.

But if the argument is supposed to carry over, what do you say about his teammate, Evgeni Malkin?

Crosby was out long enough for the Penguins to have fallen off the charts, but they didn't, in large part due to the way Malkin responded.

A case also can be made for Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He can play the game at a whole different level than Crosby in terms of being physical and impossible to defend.

But the Hart Trophy is not supposed to be about who the best players are, but which was the most valuable to his team.

Here are the names I feel should be on the list for consideration: San Jose's Joe Thornton, Calgary's Jarome Iginla, Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby.

Any one would be a good choice.

But if you base the choice on what a team would look like if you took the particular player off the roster, who then is the most deserving? Crosby went out and the Penguins did fine.

Under that reasoning, the winner should be Martin Brodeur.

The New Jersey Devils were supposed to be a nothing team this season because of the loss of free agents Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski.

Yesterday morning the Devils were sitting on top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1, in a game in which Brodeur made 42 saves. In 64 games, Brodeur is 38-21-5 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.12 goals against average.

Take him away from the New Jersey Devils and they struggle to make the playoffs. And that makes him the MVP.

Video replay?

The day after the Buffalo Sabres got away with a goal despite having too many men on the ice, there was a cry for more video replay in the league.

But there are only certain goals that are reviewable, and a goal scored on a missed call by the referees on an offsides, or too many men on the ice, isn't one of them. Well, it should be.

How do you argue against that? More delays in the game? Fan distraction? Sorry, but if an illegitimate goal is scored then it should not count, and if the officials fail to see it but the bench coach does, it should be reviewed in Toronto, just as kicked-in goals or goals scored on high sticks are.

Briere on chemistry

It's no secret that Daniel Briere has been struggling to find a line with chemistry and that being bounced around all season has made him uncomfortable.

But the Flyers' top center said he is finally happy now that he's playing with Vaclav Prospal and R.J. Umberger.

"Our line has been going really well. The three of us have good chemistry and I really like our line. [Umberger], like everybody else, has been bounced around a little bit and I think he likes it, too.

"It's fun to have a line and be part of a line, and going into every game you're excited about your line and excited because you know things are going to happen."

Showing some love

Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock is known to be tough on players when he wants them to play defensively. He can be especially tough on younger players, some of whom don't like him because of it.

When Patrick Sharp left the Flyers, he was not a happy guy. He was a fourth-line winger and he was in Hitchcock's sight constantly.

Well, they're best pals now.

In a recent interview, Sharp credited Hitchcock for making him the player he is right now in Chicago.

The 26-year-old winger has 34 goals this season, including seven shorthanded and seven game-winners, and is a complete player.

"He was on me pretty good, but he taught me to compete," Sharp told Terry Koshan, of Sun Media. "I wouldn't trade having played for him for anything. He made me into an NHL player. Every day, it was demanding."

Hitchcock doesn't like the impression that he was responsible for Sharp being traded from the Flyers, but he admits he was on him when the two were in Philadelphia.

"We needed Patrick to learn to be consistent," Hitchcock said yesterday. "And he went through what any young player goes through with a coach that wants a player to be consistent.

"There is a tremendous respect from both of us now," Hitchcock said. "We talk all the time. He's a very competitive player and he can hurt you both offensively and defensively, which a coach admires."

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