ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun has a great tidbit in his weekly rant column on the current perceptions of Alex Ovechkin.
Responding to two separate two rants — one saying Dale Hunter was responsible for the Caps’ struggles, the other blaming Ovechkin — LeBrun put the onus on Washington’s captain, citing Ovi’s lack of consistency throughout the year.
To further illustrate his point, LeBrun asked an anonymous NHL scout for his take on the best Russian players in the league:
Let me put it to you this way, I asked an NHL scout to rank the following four Russian stars recently, Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. And he answered, “Really close between Datsyuk and Malkin, they’re 1a and 1b, then it’s Kovalchuk, and Ovechkin a distant fourth.
That’s a pretty damning statement. In the span of three years, Ovechkin’s gone from arguably the greatest player on the planet to the league’s fourth-best Russian and when you consider No. 5 is probably Alex Semin — well, it just doesn’t put Ovi in the greatest light.
PHT Aside: The decline of Russian stars in the NHL is kind of staggering. Ten years ago — during the 2001-02 season — 60 Russian skaters appeared in at least one NHL game, compared to just 22 this year.
That 2001-02 season also featured:
— Four 30-goal scorers (Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Alex Kovalev and Alexei Yashin.)
— Sergei Gonchar making the NHL’s second All-Star team.
— Kovalchuk making the all-rookie team.
— Andrei Markov (Montreal), Sergei Zubov (Dallas), Alexei Zhamnov (Chicago) and Alex Mogilny (Toronto).
— Detroit won the Stanley Cup with Fedorov, Datsyuk and Igor Larionov playing key roles.