For Alex Ovechkin, 2014 could’ve been a special year.
Instead, it was highlighted by disappointment and frustration.
Consider, this is what Ovechkin was saying prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics in his native Russia:
“Of course I want to [win gold]… it’s my dream.”
And this is what he was saying after Russia crashed out to Finland in the quarterfinals:
“It sucks. What else can I say?”
No, Russia’s failure wasn’t solely Ovechkin’s fault, but he did shoulder part of the blame after scoring just one goal in five games. He was even singled out by his coach in the post-match press conference. “He has 40 goals in the NHL. I cannot explain.”
Then, on top of that, after Ovechkin returned to the NHL, his Washington Capitals proceeded to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
While Ovechkin finished the season with a league-leading 51 goals, his minus-35 rating only emboldened those who’ve argued he’s not committed to playing defensively-sound hockey. And when yet another Caps coach was fired? It was you-know-who that many identified as the culprit.
Now, certainly, nobody has ever questioned Ovechkin’s talent, and there’s no doubt he’s the one most responsible for the popularity of the Capitals in a town where they were an afterthought before he arrived. He’s a three-time NHL MVP. He remains one of the game’s biggest stars.
It’s what Ovechkin isn’t that many can’t ignore. He’s not a Selke Trophy candidate, that’s for sure. But more importantly, he’s not a Stanley Cup champion. Or, for that matter, an Olympic gold medalist.
In hockey, it’s the players who lead their teams to championships that end up with the most respect. And no, in North America, World Championships don’t count.
Granted, Ovechkin’s story has yet to be fully written. He’s still only 29, he’s still dazzling fans, and the Caps have shown improvement this season under a new coach.
The year 2014 though?
Could’ve gone better.