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?