Alexander the Not So Great
Things are starting to go from concerning to alarming in Washington. The Caps are tied for the last playoff spot in the east and there doesn’t seem to be any button head coach Bruce Boudreau can push to get his star player going in the right direction. The tension is clearly starting to show as we have seen a few instances on the bench where Alex Ovechkin has shown his displeasure. Ovechkin is clearly not playing to his potential. Is it the coach’s fault? Or is it Ovi’s?
Let me throw out some numbers that at this point make it no longer a slump but a trend for the Russian sniper. Over Ovechkin’s first 5 seasons he averaged 5.4 shots per game. This year he is averaging 3.6. He also averaged 18 power play goals per year through his first 5 campaigns, this year he is on pace for 8. In 11 home games this season he has 1 goal and to this point he has not registered a game winner. For a man thought of as the best player in the world, well at least he is getting paid that way; those numbers are just simply unacceptable.
A few years back my former college teammate and now Columbus Blue Jacket RJ Umberger made a statement about the Caps saying they were not made to make a run in the playoffs. While that caused a stir at the time, he proved to be right, as the Caps have not made it past the second round of the playoffs the past 2 seasons. The point of bringing that up was Boudreau has been trying to change the culture in the Caps dressing room and build the type of team that can be made for a playoff run. By the numbers at the very least, that new culture has not made Alex Ovechkin a better player. That gets me back to the question of whose fault it is.
If Alex Ovechkin were constantly dogging it out on the ice and not being a team player, which all indications have shown that he has done neither, then I would lay most of the blame on him. But his work ethic is there and he truly shows passion for the game, unlike another Russian forward on that team but that’s a story for another time. So with that said, I have to put most of the blame on Bruce Boudreau. The coach’s responsibility is to get the best out of each and every player. As of now he is only getting about half of the Alex Ovechkin from his first 5 years. I think Boudreau had the right idea when he wanted to change things and hold everyone accountable at both ends of the rink, but at this point he has to find a way to make his best player just that, his best player.
It is time to release the dog, or Ovechkin! Instead of making him drive 55 in his Porsche, take the collar off and let him do 100. In other words just let Alex Ovechkin play the game the way he knows how to, fast and reckless. In most cases you don’t want to have different rules for different players but I think this is one of those rare situations that it would work. Alex has never been a good defensive player and that hasn’t changed but now people are putting him under the microscope and picking out every bad defensive play he makes. Well these are the same mistakes he was making 3 years ago but no one was noticing that because he was scoring 50 goals a year. He doesn’t look happy out there and looks as if he is thinking too much out on the ice. Let the man free wheel and get back to being Alexander the great, the National Hockey League needs him!
I like Bruce Boudreau and think he has done a lot of good things in Washington. But time is running out and patience is wearing thin I would think in the front office. Sometimes you have to think outside the box and do things most people might not do because if they are going to make a change it won’t be getting rid of the guy making 9.5 million a year for the next decade.