The Ovechkin/Semin/Kovalchuk post-game laughter has been dismissed as “Much Ado About Nothing” by Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis.  But is it really?

It’s obvious at this point that, as long as Ovechkin keeps exciting fans and scoring goals, he can pretty much do whatever he wants.  To an extent that makes sense.  Ovechkin sells tickets.  Ovechkin brings attention to the team.  Ovechkin makes the Washington Capitals one of the most exciting franchises in hockey.

However, Ovechkin is a member of the Washington Capitals hockey team.  While he may be their captain, their star and their most marketable player, he is not the entire franchise himself.  So should he be allowed to essentially do whatever he wants?  Should any player?

This isn’t the first time Boudreau and Ovechkin have been on opposite sides of an issue.  Back in December of 2009, Boudreau did an interview with Tarik El-Bashir of Capitals Insider where he talked about Ovechkin’s aggressive style of play.

He’s pretty reckless. It’s hard telling a guy that scores 60 goals a year to change the way he plays. At the same time, I don’t want to see him getting hurt. Maybe he has to pick his spots a little better.

It definitely seemed like Boudreau was unhappy with Ovechkin’s style and worried about Ovi injuring himself during a game. However, in the same interview he speculated that Ovechkin wasn’t going to change his game for anyone.

As a coach, and someone who admires him, I just don’t want to see him put himself in harm’s way. So we’ll see. I don’t think anything said is going to change the way he plays. Who knows?

Alex Ovechkin is an explosive player and a big part of his game is his intensity, but hockey is a team sport. When you have your coach suggesting you change your style for your own safety (and, ultimately for the sake of the team) you would be wise to at least consider his suggestion.

Ovechkin?  He doesn’t feel that way.

“Why do I have to listen to somebody who say, ’Hey, you have to change your game, and somebody going to kill you,”’ Ovechkin said. “Well, nobody going to kill me. I just play my game and I just enjoy my time and I enjoy my life. It’s me, and it is what it is.”

That was a year ago, but it doesn’t seem like anything has changed.

Again, Ovechkin is the Capitals’ star.  If it comes down to choosing between Boudreau and Ovechkin, the team would likely be better off siding with Ovechkin.  But at what point does the team put its foot down and decide that Ovi needs to fall in line?  Does it ever?  Should it?

At the risk of offending both Capitals fans and Penguins fans, it’s possible to compare Alex Ovechkin with another incredibly talented player who had problems with coaches: Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr is almost as well known for his stormy departure from Pittsburgh as he is known for his incredible hockey talents.  In 1998, Jagr criticized then head coach Kevin Constanine’s decision to change up Jagr’s line mates while the team was struggling.  Jagr also remarked that Constanine had “put [him] through pure hell.”  After the Penguins hired former Czech Republic national coach Ivan Hlinka, a move that was widely speculated as an attempt to please number 68, Jagr conspired with teammates to undermine Hlinka’s coaching system.

Granted, Ovechkin is far from reaching Jagr’s level of unruly behaviour.  In fact, he’s nowhere near it.  We can’t recall an incident where he has publicly criticized his coach’s decision and we don’t think he has ever openly expressed any negative feelings toward Boudreau or anyone else in the Capitals organization.  In fact, when discussing the future of potential free agent – and friend – Alex Semin, Ovechkin noted that “it’s not part of my job to say I want this guy to be on the team.”

So Ovechkin is not trying to call the shots in terms of how the Capitals are run and that’s good for both him and the Washington franchise.  However, blatantly ignoring his coach’s wishes and behaving in a manner that upsets Boudreau could be taking Ovi down a negative, Jagr-like path.

It certainly doesn’t help when the owner of the Washington Capitals, Ted Leonsis, has repeatedly undermined Boudreau’s leadership himself.

The day after Boudreau called for Ovechkin to change his game in order to protect himself, Ted Leonsis took to his blog and said the exact opposite.

Alex does play fast and hard. It is why he is beloved. It is why he is the two-time and reigning MVP of the league. I believe if he changes and becomes a player that is managed by the media or fans or anyone else, he will put himself at risk.

With that statement, did Leonsis give Ovechkin the right to do as he pleases?  He says that Ovechkin should not be managed by anyone, but does that include his coach?  Is there direction from the top of the organization that everyone should “let Ovi be Ovi?”

And is that dangerous?

Comments (10)

  1. I believe the issue in the case of the laughing Russians is simply one of disrespect.

    While Mr. B. was doing his mandatory (and, probably unwanted presser , after a bad loss) Ovi was fraternizing w/ the enemy post-game, and interrupting his coach’s attempt to do his job.

    Classless and not very team-oriented. Canadian boys are taught to respect their coaches no matter what. Many of these “skilled” Euros are more selfish in their outlooks toward the game which rewards them more handsomely than team in the old country ever could.

    Learn some respect, and be a team-guy.

  2. I agree. It’s a simple case of lack of respect, and lack of class. Nothing more. And try putting on a suit and tie, Ovie. Looks a bit more professional than shorts and a t-shirt.

  3. I do agree there is a lack of respect. But it is engrained in their minds because in Russia, its not a question whether they can do what they want… they do it, and answer to no one. So is it actually Ovechkin? Or is it the society he grew up in and still lives in? Maybe a lil bit of both, but either way he is fun to watch and you can tell he truly cares about his team. He might just have a hot head because he has the C and is on top of the world but that will fade as the season goes on. Because at the end of the day I truly believe he cares about his team and teammates.

  4. For all those people who tried to put some hatred on the players who in the slump right know is very foolish , every player goes into slump couple times during the season and after that same players come up with high performance long run , and resume the scoring touch . The next months will tell if you wrong or right . OVI and SID are top two in the WORLD and steel are !!!!!

  5. Umm…a lot of these quotes are responding to different questions. Could the author please make that clear? Alex Ovechkin’s quote for example is not responding to Boudreau, but the media.

  6. None of the quotes in this article addresses Ovechkin’s coachability: they’re all related to his hits and suspensions. For that matter, him laughing after the game doesn’t address his coachability either. Your article might have evidence of him being dirty, or disrespectful, but to start comparing him with Jagr is just insane.

  7. I sincerely hope that anyone savvy enough to read this blog is savvy enough to know that the quotes are taken completely out of context to make a point with which they originally had nothing in common.

    Seriously, this is disgusting.

  8. it wasn’t great for him to do it in front of his coach but they have been friends longer then they have played in the would have been no big deal if ovie and backstrom would have done the same thing in the olympics.

  9. For the life of me I can’t see why Ovechkin is the issue here. Kovulchuk was there laughing with him (and with the “enemy” if you want to persist in that strange phrase) and his play, after a much hyped salary flap and not much of a performance in the Devils’ victory is nothing to laugh at. Seriously, if Sid so much as asks the ref a question he’s whining, if Ovie so much as sneezes on the bench he’s uncoachable.

  10. [...] happens again.Between Pronger’s waving, Kovy’s continued spiral, and Alex Ovechkin doing whatever he wants, Avery’s little dust-up with Tampa Bay’s Mattias Ohlund Wednesday was skimmed over. And [...]

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