In the current MVP debate, one of the most hotly debated points is whether or not Alexander Ovechkin deserves to win the MVP if his team misses the playoffs. This is quite common, to claim that someone is not really valuable unless their team wins. This is illogical, though, because Ovechkin's goalscoring dominance would be hugely beneficial to any team in the league, from Detroit to Los Angeles. The Caps are where they are in the standings mainly because of Ovechkin's teammates and coaches. If Bruce Boudreau was the coach and Cristobal Huet the goalie for the entire season, Washington would probably be the division champions even if Ovechkin only scored 40 goals. So picking Malkin or Iginla as MVP if Washington is eliminated is basically saying that Ovechkin is less valuable because his goalies and defence are worse, and where's the logic in that?
A great goalie will make more saves than an average goalie on any team. What is peculiar is that his contribution is valued much more highly on certain mediocre teams just because it made the difference between a playoff seeding and an early golf season. This, of course, has nothing to do with the goalie himself, merely the cumulative effort of his play and his teammates.
Let's say there is a goalie so good that he saves two goals per game compared to a lesser netminder. This is a vast exaggeration, as the margins between NHL goalies are very narrow and probably around a tenth of that, but it is just an illustration. Even with that overwhelming contribution, sometimes the team around him will play so poorly that they will lose even despite the extra goals he saves. Sometimes the team will be good enough that they would have won even if he never made those stops. And sometimes the goalie is the difference maker, turning a 4-3 loss into a 3-2 win.
In all three scenarios, the goalie's contribution to the team is EXACTLY THE SAME. He saved two goals for his team. The difference between winning or losing was simply in what the rest of the team added to the goalie's contribution. Therefore, it makes no sense at all to award extra bonus points when his teammates happened to play very well, or even when they were just good enough to allow him to be the difference maker. Forget "clutch" and "making the big save" and all that, the reason he lost one game and won another has nothing to do with his play and everything to do with the rest of the team in the team sport that they were playing as a team.
That is why Roberto Luongo never won in Florida (and why Tomas Vokoun isn't winning there now) because there were too many shots against and not enough goals for. On some of his best nights he may have been turning 5-2 losses into 3-2 losses, but according to the "wins are the only thing that matters" mindset he never got any credit for anything. Jose Theodore in 2002 was pretty similar, but his teammates were a little better, so he helped the Habs go from narrowly losing to narrowly winning. Different starting baseline, so therefore different result, and he ended up with the league MVP trophy. Theodore in 2002 wasn't better or more valuable than, say, Luongo in 2004, the Canadiens were just better than the Panthers.
Making the playoffs is obviously desirable, and results in additional revenues and exposure for the franchise. That doesn't mean that any effort that falls short of the playoffs is worthless, or that a player is better or worse because his team happens to be in a tight playoff race. The playoff cut line, arbitrarily drawn at 8 teams by the NHL playoff system, should not work as an irrational magnifier where all efforts are worthless up until they cross that line, at which point they become tremendously valuable.
Tomas Vokoun or Ilja Bryzgalov aren't any less valuable this year just because their teams miss the playoffs, just as Martin Gerber and Cam Ward aren't more valuable because they and their teammates might be fortunate to experience a likely very short postseason run. Vancouver could finish 8th or 9th and it wouldn't change the fact that Roberto Luongo is one of the best and most valuable goalies in the league.
So whether Washington wins or loses their next two games, vote Ovechkin for MVP.