Someone should ask Barry Trotz if he ever had an issue with Clyde “The Glide” Drexler.
During an appearance on Hockey Central at Noon, Trotz discussed the Washington Capitals’ recently-hot ways, as it seems they’ve shaken off the disappointments of falling to the Penguins (again) and all of the summer’s cap-related losses.
Naturally, that meant discussing Alex Ovechkin, and with that, what Trotz wanted to tweak in his game. Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen transcribed this interesting quote:
“The biggest thing with Ovi is he’s gotta get back to skating, become that dangerous athlete who’s on the move all the time,” Trotz said. “I felt there was too much glide in his game. I thought he could be way more productive if he could get his legs moving to get to spaces he wasn’t getting into last year. He got married and once he came back from his honeymoon he re-committed to getting into the shape so he could play that way.”
On face value, that’s a run-of-the-mill, if mildly critical comment. It’s also funny, as it’s not the first time Trotz made such a remark about Ovechkin.
Apparently such feelings are justified, as Trotz essentially uttered the same critique/recommendation for Ovechkin back in 2014, as you can see in this PHT post from Jason Brough.
“Alex has got a bit too much glide in his game,” Trotz said. “When you’re standing still you’re really easy to cover.”
It makes you wonder: did Ovechkin ever really eliminate the so-called “glide” from his game? Is it something of a bad habit that can sneak up on you every now and then? Maybe there was a “honeymoon period” of sorts with Trotz and Ovechkin as far as skating harder, and then he slipped back?
This isn’t the only example of Trotz making curious comments about Ovechkin’s game. As Russian Machine Never Breaks noted back in November, Trotz described number 8 as a “difficult player to play with.”
Whatever the case may be, the bigger picture seems positive between Ovechkin and Trotz, especially this season.
If you look at usage, it seems like the Russian winger is winning more and more trust from Trotz. Via Hockey Reference’s split stats, check out Ovechkin’s monthly climb in ice time:
October: 18:28 TOI average in 12 games
November: 19:29 TOI average in 14 GP
December: 19:50 TOI average in nine GP
That seems promising, especially after last season, where he went from averaging more than 20 minutes per night from 2012-13 to 2015-16 (and only barely missing 20 one time in his career) to logging 18:22 per game in 2016-17.
These aren’t the sort of massive shifts that would indicate that a coach is totally giving up on a player or wanting him traded out of town, yet it might signify certain ebbs and flows in confidence.
After all, as bright and sometimes innovative as Trotz is, there’s some “old school” to the former Predators bench boss. To succeed, it may all come down to finding the right balance with Ovechkin, which sometimes means taking the good with the bad.
(The good heavily outweighs the bad, from here.)
It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals take another swing for the fences, this time with more limited weapons at Trotz’s disposal.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.