Plenty has been said and written about Alex Ovechkin this season, but nobody in the Washington organization has spoken as candidly about the Capitals’ captain as associate goalie coach Olaf Kolzig did today.
When asked why Ovechkin has struggled to find the form that once made him the most dangerous scorer in the NHL, Kolzig said…well, lots of things.
Via The Washington Post:
“I think a lot is frustration,” Kolzig began. “Obviously he’s not scoring at the clip he’s accustomed to. Part of that is not having Nicky Backstrom in the lineup. Alex — and I think I’m seeing it a little more with Dale behind the bench – Alex was getting away from playing the hard, no-nonsense, honest type of hockey, exuberant hockey that he displayed the first three years that he was in the league.
“I think that’s what endeared him to everybody. Then all of a sudden he was the same Alex, he was celebrating certain ways and what endeared him to everybody now made him look like a villain.
“So, I think part of it is he’s feeling a little not as loved as he used to be, he brings that on himself sometimes,” Kolzig continued, “But I think obviously missing Nicky, it hurts. Teams have kind of kind of got a handle on him, maybe how to close the gap on him and not allow him to score those fantastic one-on-one goals that he used to score.
“For Alex, it’s a work ethic,” Kolzig said. “He just has to get back to being the way he was in his younger days and maybe not get wrapped up too much in the rock star status that comes with being Alex Ovechkin.”
So to recap:
—- Ovechkin’s not playing the same “honest” and “exuberant” way he used to
—- He’s not feeling loved
—- The league has a book on him
—- He needs to work harder
—- He needs to stop being a rock star
All these things have been said by the media and fans, but Kolzig isn’t an outsider, giving his statements added weight.
For what it’s worth, I think the organization has to take a certain amount of responsibility for Ovechkin’s lack of “exuberance.” When the Capitals decided they had to play more conservative to win in the playoffs (a dubious theory so far), the team lost its identity and its star players stopped having fun.
I’m definitely not letting Ovechkin off the hook, since the style the Caps decided to play doesn’t excuse him for failing to add elements to his game. Every great, from Wayne Gretzky to Michael Jordan, has done that throughout his career.