Dismiss Alex Ovechkin at your own peril

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alexoatcamp.jpgRather than looking at his outstanding stats in the playoffs (10 points in 7 games against Montreal; 40 in 28 in his career overall), many people take the same, lazy formula for judging Alex Ovechkin: “Ovechkin plays in the game + Capitals lose = Ovechkin let his team down.”

Hockey is a team sport, through and through. Unlike a sport like basketball where one player can have an enormous impact on a game, blaming one man (or giving one player too much credit) can be a fool’s errand. After all, aside from an all-world defenseman who might log 30 minutes during some games, most skaters aren’t even on the ice for half of the game. Perhaps the “he hasn’t won anything” argument can be used to illustrate why he might not unanimously be the best player in the NHL, but it’s ridiculous to think that hockey’s greatest star lost his shine.

That’s the question Mike Zeisberger poses in this piece, though he doesn’t necessarily agree with that stance. Here is an excerpt from that column.

For some of us, he is still the most electrifying, riveting talent in the game, the one player that is worth the price of the NHL’s at-times inflated admission.

At the same time, it is evident that the bloom, in the eyes of some, has come off the rose.

Maybe it’s because they remember how Ovechkin’s so-called powerful Olympic team was humiliated 7-3 by Team Canada at the Vancouver Winter Games.

Maybe it’s because the image of Ovechkin’s controversial hit on Chicago’s Brian Campbell remains etched in their minds, an incident that landed the Caps’ sniper a two-game suspension.

Maybe it’s because the critics claim he hasn’t, at least from a team standpoint, won anything, pointing to the Caps’ first-round exit to the underdog Montreal Canadiens this past spring as a prime example.

Weighing all the factors, is it really fair to put all these things on the shoulders of Ovechkin, whose team has won just one playoff series during his time in Washington?

It’s far too early to give up on Ovechkin and the Caps. Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green are just entering their prime years right now. The team’s two young goalies could provide a cheap, competent alternative to an expensive veteran. Maybe they don’t have a shutdown defenseman, but considering their youth and talent, it’s not impossible to imagine things working out for Washington.

Anyone who’s soured on Ovechkin needs to remember that a huge chunk of the greatest players in sports needed to get knocked down before they reached their greatest heights.