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Are Ovechkin’s Best Days Behind Him?

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

 

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 8, 2011]

Is it possible that Alex Ovechkin’s best and most productive days of hockey are behind him?

Probably not, but let’s speculate some evidence of why they might be, if indeed they are.

Last year, in the first ever fantasy hockey pool that I paid money to take part in, I somehow lucked out and drew the first overall pick.  At the time, it was a no-brainer and generally assumed that your first pick would be either Ovechkin or Crosby.  I picked Ovie.  Mainly because in his past 4 of 5 seasons, he had 100 or more points, and seemed like he could score whenever he wanted to.  He was just always dangerous if he had the puck.  The guy scored a goal sliding on his back on the ice while doing a barrel-roll for crying out loud.  Now, you may argue that I did get the better choice of the two considering Crosby’s season-ending injury, and that Alex finished ahead of Crosby in points.  But, for the guy that was supposed to finish first overall in scoring, instead he placed seventh, and scored 24 fewer points than he did the season before.  I made an early exit out of the fantasy pool and lost all my money.  **Screams in my best Captain Kirk/George Costanza Wrath of Khan reference impression** OOOOOOVVVVVVIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

We’ve since learned that he was injured – as he took 10 games off before the playoffs, and has eluded in interviews to rehabbing over the summer during his training.  Whatever was bothering him then, may continue to linger.  When an injury site is vaguely referred to as an upper or lower body injury, it’s hard to speculate the possible extent and long term effects on the injury.  BUT, from experience, between a torn ACL in my knee, broken collar-bones, pulled groins, and minor neck, back, and shoulder issues, they all had range-of-motion limiting effects on me, though I eventually healed and played through them all.  Wayne Gretzky’s back injury in 1991 was one that had lasting effects on his career and offensive productivity until he retired.  As of this post, Ovechkin’s sitting at #39 in league scoring, averaging less than a point a game, and sitting at -1.  For him, that’s unheard of.  Since 2008, his point totals have been slowly diminishing, and so have his shots on goal (you know, scoring chances).  In 2008, he took 528 shots.  The following years, he only took 368, then 367 shots.  And with those lowered totals have also come less wild, pre-meditated stick-burning goal celebrations.  While he’s still excited when he scores, his reactions are noticeably subdued, for him anyways.

He’s changed his gear this year too, switching from CCM to Bauer.  Hockey players are very particular with their gear, and once a player finds a setup they like and seems help put pucks in the net for them, they’ll quite often remain loyal to that brand forever.  This move may be purely monetary, but it may also indicate that Ovechkin’s lost confidence in his previous equipment to help him score goals.  And further, it may have damaged his confidence in himself to score goals.  You could always tell in Ovie’s goals, skating speed, interviews, and off-ice antics, that confidence has never been an issue for him.  When you’re a player of Alex Ovechkin’s caliber, you can’t afford to have anything get you “in the head” if you hope to score torrentially like you once did.

And further on confidence, even his coach, Bruce Boudreau has shown lower confidence in him; benching him on November 1st, in favour of other players.  Boudreau was quoted as saying, “I thought other guys were better than him …I’ve got to put out the guys that I think are going to score … I just didn’t think Alex was going to score.”  Moments after Boudreau cold-shouldered him, Ovechkin was cussing like a sailor at the snubbing.  Ovechkin’s used to being the go-to guy when the team needs a goal, and in these key situations, he’s starting to not be the guy Boudreau taps on the shoulder first anymore.  That can’t be good for the ol’ ego.

And further still, Ovechkin’s the Capitals captain.  What are other players supposed to think of their leader when they see him not chosen to lead them?  The C may simply be too much responsibility for him, ala Mike Modano, Brett Hull, or any other former NHL captains that have either surrendered their C, or had it taken away by their coach/team management.

Boudreau’s not exactly innocent of blame here either.  He’s spent so much time trying to change Ovechkin and the Capitals’ overly offensive playing style over the last couple of seasons that Ovie couldn’t even be his old-self if he tried.  His most effective style – the kamikaze-bull-in-a-china-shop-shoot-and-score-from-anywhere-blow-guys-up-and-there’s-no-need-for-defence- style – has been rendered obsolete.  Bruce, you seriously want an offensive juggernaut to turn in his guns and become a 2-way, defence-first, responsible, playmaker instead?  Has anyone told you who plays for your team, and what they do best?  Sure, balance out weaknesses, but come on, no other team has the scoring personnel that Washington does.  Last I checked, you still have to score more goals than the other team to win a hockey game, right?

Ovie could be just plain distracted too.  He’s doing endorsements and/or commercials for Bauer, Nike, Mr. Big, Eastern Motors, ESPN, and probably forty companies based in Russia.  Maybe making money’s beginning to take mental precedence over being a dominant hockey player every year?

Some speculative conspiracy:  George Laraque recently wrote in his book regarding steroids in the NHL, saying that,

“I can give you some clues here that will help you identify the ones using steroids, if you really feel like it. First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held. In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”

I’m not going to say Ovechkin was/is on PED’s, but his production did begin to decline post 2010 Olympics. Heck, even during the Olympics.  Ovie’s former other-worldly talent, speed, and scoring ability suddenly turned suspiciously average.  Like Tiger Woods, but without the TMZ scandal.

And finally, the guy just can’t seem to win the big one.  Besides the 2008 World Championship tournament that’s attended by a fraction of the best players in the world, the Stanley Cup, and the Olympic gold medal (the real world championship in my view) continue to elude him.  Could frustration over continual early playoff exits, and Crosby’s ongoing trumping of him be wearing him down too?  Is it possible he’s become complacent with just being really good and making a lot of money?  Is it feasible that with Sidney Crosby sidelined, Alex doesn’t have the competitive drive to try and be better than Sid, his arch-nemesis, the player he’s most often compared to?

I love watching Alexander Ovechkin, and I truly hope he gets back to form and proves all of this wrong.  He’s been the face of the league since he’s been around, and if he can get his act together, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be.  But the question is, will he?

 

Hockey Talkie: Cooke, Chara, Kovalev, Heritage Classic, and Everything In Between.

March 23, 2011 10 comments

 

I love love LOVE Matt Cooke’s regular season/1st round playoff suspension. Faaaaaaaar overdue. The guy did not deserve as many chances as he got to clean up his act. Only thing better would have been if it were for all playoffs, or more.  I don’t care how good of a guy HBO’s 24/7 series made him seem like, and how much his teammates stick up for him, guys who play like that need to be removed from the game.  Curious that the Mario Lemieux factor finally wrangled an apology out of him too. 

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I can’t help but think Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty was locationally circumstancial. Anyone who’s had their ribcage rattled off Sparrow Gardens’ mid-bench wood pillars knows what I mean (for those who don’t know, that was the now-demolished wartime built airplane hangar/converted home-rink of the Briercrest Clippers, the college team I played for). As absolutely terrible as the result was, the hit would’ve turned out ok anywhere in the rink there was glass, and it seems a little out of character for Chara to go out of his way to hurt a guy like that. I could be wrong. Maybe there’s more to the story that the camera didn’t catch; some stick work, or something that set him off. Good for the NHL in beefing up the stanchion padding in rinks, but do we really need that little media area anyways? I get the ongoing American media sell of hockey and every nook and cranny of the game to increase viewership, but that little hut that houses reporters to call color-commentary and jump on the team benches mid-game to bother coaches for questions doesn’t seem necessary. Not to say that the Euro’s are doing it right, but some of their rinks benches are completely open, and don’t even have a divisible separation point between both teams, besides a huge gap of space. But then again, both teams walk out to the ice side by side, like they’re not about to go out on the ice and try to kill each other, so take that analogy with a grain of salt.

Good call on the no suspension for Chara though, much to the chagrin of Air Canada, who threatened to pull its sponsorship of the NHL out if the league didn’t make its product safer. I respect the move, but it sure would’ve held more water if the 6 Canadian and 5 American based NHL teams spend between $2.5 – 3.5million per season each on Air Canada  flights (via HNIC’s Jeff Marek on Twitter), and if Air Canada wasn’t such a terrible airline.

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So I’ve entered the 1st round of playoffs in the Bourne’s Blog fantasy hockey league. This year marks the first year I’ve put money on the line, and the first year I won the 1st overall pick selection. I selected Alexander Ovechkin, on the basis that I thought he would be awesome yet again. Instead of awesome, I got above-average. And now, when I need him the most, Ovechkin has decided to take 7-10 days off, while each round lasts one week. FML.

Speaking of infuriating Russians, a lesser man would’ve taken the hint he wasn’t wanted, retired, and headed back to Russia after being traded for a conditional 7th round pick. Not Alexi Kovalev. A “conditional” pick seems like the worst one to get in a draft, and pretty well the absolute minimum of acceptability when it comes to collateral in a deal. Doesn’t conditional just mean that the team who’s offered the pick will make sure you get the worst choice possible in that round?

Penguins: “Our conditions… just make sure your pick isn’t taller than 5’5”, he can’t weight more than 165 lbs, and make sure he’s got no track record of doing or winning anything significant or noteworthy in his hockey career. Stick within those parameters and we’ve got a deal.”

Senators: “… that sounds fair.”

Both, under their breath: “ ………suckers!!”

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Vincent Lecavalier did to PK Subban what Mike Richards wouldn’t, and would only talk about someone doing if he kept playing the way he does:  I don’t get what Vinny was so mad about; should Subban have just let him stand in front of his goalie, or maybe politely asked him to move? Maybe he was just mad that a rookie defenceman has played more games, has more assists, and gets more minutes per game and shifts per game than him. Why do the league’s veteran players get so angry with young, quick, talented players who celebrate their goals, and play a highly physical and exciting to watch style of hockey? Surely a Cup champ and seasoned veteran can’t feel threatened by the presence of this new brand of player, can he? Subban sure seems to make a lot of other players mad for fairly perplexing reasons.

Speaking of rookies, Taylor Hall’s first NHL fight turned out pretty well worst-case scenario for him, with that resulting ankle injury. He picked up the Gordie Howe hat-trick though, so there’s that at least for him. That stat puts him in some elite company, and places him only 16 more off the lead set by Brendan Shanahan.

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After being written off for most of the season, Jarome Iginla’s 30 goals/10 seasons milestone sure has redeemed him in the eyes of the hockey world.

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Former Calgary Flame and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach, Tim Hunter is still an ugly, ugly man.

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The slow shootout approach seems stopped more often than not. Get up some speed, move around; do something less easily read by a goalie.

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I respect no-BS guys like Brian Burke & John Tortorella, but I think it’d suck to work/play for them. I’m sure Sean Avery hates every minute of playing for Torts, but at the same time, knows he’s exactly the coach he needs to get the best out of him. Burke won’t tolerate the media’s crap, and I love it. The NHL, and everyone really, needs guys that cut out the crap.

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Some NHL teams should consider rescuing Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets and offer their entire roster for him. Now THAT’D be a hype-worthy deadline deal. Sure, it’d take a few years to rebuild your roster, but assuming you have a decent farm system (any farm system can’t be that far off pace of CBJ’s actual team), you’d be back up to par in no time, AND have the addition of a franchise player. Nash deserves better. I’m going to start a FREE RICK NASH campaign, I think.

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On the Heritage Classic…..

Might as well have just worn this too.

-Did anyone else think the NHL is fairly stupid for not having the Heritage Classic be either Toronto vs Montreal, or Calgary vs Edmonton? I get the cross-continental viewership theory, but aren’t the afore mentioned rivalries a little more historic and television worthy? Based purely on rivalry/game-entertainment value, who’d you like to see in next year’s version? I’m thinking a Vancouver-Chicago one would be fun.

-Leave it to the USA to declare “Hockey Day in America” on the day Canadian teams play in the Heritage Classic outdoor game in Canada.

-Paul Brandt having a musical note on his Flames jersey in place of a number was ridiculous.

-Why did the Flames wear white pants???? So close to looking totally awesome. Then again, this is a team that throws salmon on the ice at home games, so not sure what I expected….

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And finally, why does ESPN continue to push women’s pool, dogshows, and bowling more than NHL hockey? And why does TSN continue to pick up these feeds? This is exactly why players like Pacioretty get hit into stanchions protecting the league’s media gimmicks. Americans, watch hockey already so players stop getting hurt!

Spelling Bees, Button-Mashers, and the Mennonite Dress Code Dilemma.

October 14, 2009 15 comments

 

This is going to be the oldest sounding thing I’ve written, but regardless, the kids of today are going to unbelievably smart when they get to an age where they’re able to contribute to society.  That or, they’ll just keep being good at computers and video games.

My 3 year old niece and my 5 year old nephew know how to navigate the internet, and are showing me the how to beat levels on Super Mario Galaxy for Nintendo Wii. The other day I got beat in PS2 NHL ’08 Shootout by my friend Colin ( http://go-team-burritt.blogspot.com/ )’s 3 year old son (What kind of a controller uses shapes for button designations, anyways?  Screw you, Sony.).

Back in the day, adults were in awe of our generation.  In second grade, we

this machine taught me that typing f-u-n-d got you free money in SimCity.

this machine taught me that typing f-u-n-d got you free money in SimCity.

started learning to type on computerized keyboards and we were the lab rats used to figure out the first generation of black and white Mac computers.  Unfortunately for them, we spent more time figuring out SimCity and SimAnt than we did figuring out the things we were supposed to be doing, which I still can’t remember what they were.

Around the same time, I began my domination of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, which still is relatively uncontended.  Mario Brothers (all incarnations), Mega Man, Ninja Turtles, Batman, and plenty others fell to my

all kinds of awesome.

all kinds of awesome.

conquering fist and button-mashing thumbs in my basement.  But these young whippersnappers of today I tell ya, they’re getting good, and they’re getting good early.  I better start shopping for a strata.

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Ok, so you’re Amish.  Maybe you’re Mennonite.  Perhaps you just simply feel and believe that showing the skin on your arms below the elbow, and neck is

pass the curds and way please, Gertrude.

pass the curds and way please, Gertrude.

unacceptable.  Fine, you’re entitled to your belief set, whatever it may be.  But just because you’ve decided to a strict 17th century dress code style, does it automatically mean that your clothes and their style are stuck there too? Is a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans out of the question?  Are you locked into the bonnet-black dress-white apron look?  If it’s a matter of not supporting off-shore sweatshop manufacturing or something of the likes, that’s respectable.  But I’m sure there have been a few updates in sewing patterns that could pass as acceptable.

Also, why does it seem that the women in these societies seem to be more bound to these rules than the men?  I have a few Mennonite friends that I hope I am not offending by any of this; I simply want to pose a few questions that I do not know the answers to.  Please excuse my naivity and ignorance.

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I don’t think the format of today’s spelling bees are a fair way to determine a

That's Phonics with a P-H, homie.

That's Phonics with a P-H, homie.

spelling champion.  The contenders should not all have to spell different words.  If finalist 1 gets “tetrahydrozoline” wrong, and finalist 2 gets “schematics” correct, what has that proven?

In my spelling bee, all contestants would be locked in individual sound-proof booths until it was their turn (the claustrophobic need not enter the contest).  One by one, each player would spell the same word, and then return to their enclosures, until they were eliminated by their mistakes, and a legit winner was eventually crowned.  If ESPN and TSN are going to continue to cut out actual sports that deserve airtime for things like spelling bees and dog-shows, then they need to amp up the legitimacy.

 

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