Bruce Boudreau is still the coach of the Washington Capitals at this hour, despite fakely breaking news to the contrary tonight. The team’s owner, Ted Leonsis, is said to have run out of patience, and while the pundits on Sportsnet didn’t know tonight exactly how much pressure he was putting on general manager George McPhee, well, you had to think there must be some, or why else would they mention it?
The problem for Boudreau is the old one: his team isn’t winning enough. It’s no secret what the problem is in Washington: his name begins with Alexander and ends with Ovechkin. As The New York Times put it today: “Ovechkin Slows, As Do Capitals.” Faltering is a word from the paper’s Ovechkin report, as are increasingly pale shadow and invisible.
So what’s wrong with Ovechkin? Could be that he has too many distractions in his life? Sportsnet magazine got in on the Ovechkin pile-on last week with the article “From King To Court Jester,” all about his transformation from dynamic hero to caricature because of all those strange TV commercials he’s been doing and also he’s a wild man plus he’s maybe haunted by never having won an Olympic gold medal or a Stanley Cup.
Everybody has an opinion, of course. The internet seems to think, if I can distill it down from all the commentary and feedback that’s flowing — I guess what’s happened is that he’s been mysteriously robbed of the powers that make a super-force on the ice.
Unless it’s Sidney Crosby’s fault. His rise last week in the west did seem sort of unkind, just with all of his inspiring goalscoring and not missing a step and quiet humility and leadership. With Ovechkin’s waning in Washington, it was almost as if a new chapter of Andrew Podnieks’ new book was writing itself before our eyes — except that Sid vs Ovi: Natural Born Rivals (McClelland and Stewart) is already on the bookstore shelves.
Someone who may have been The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox was chiding Ovechkin for not having taken advantage of Crosby’s absence to prove that he, the Great Eight, is truly the best player in the world. Although you also hear the theory that a big reason Ovechkin hasn’t been so good is that he’s been pining for Crosby: without number 87 playing there’s been no-one to challenge, inspire, push him to be his best, & etc. If that’s the wagon you’re on, you have to believe what The Hockey News was saying in its pre-season celebration of superlatives, The Best of Everything in Hockey: Ovechkin is the second-best player in hockey. Which … well, by last week, The Toronto Star was ready to replace him with Pavel Datsyuk or Patrick Kane or even … Phil Kessel?
He’s off to a slow start, according to some, which is not technically as dire as being in a goal drought — I believe. At the pace he’s going, he’ll score just 29 goals this season “Are you kidding me?” said Nick Kypreos on Sportsnet.ca. Is he getting enough ice-time? Does he need more power-play time? Trading him isn’t the answer. On TSN they were saying that it was the game against Canada in the 2010 Olympics, he hasn’t been the same player since — so I guess we broke him?
A couple of weeks ago he called Bruce Boudreau a fat fuck, it was on TV, the coach had benched him, you could read his lips — although if I’m not mistaken that was a effect of his not playing well rather than a cause. Boudreau wants him to change, I’ve read, but he won’t do it. They’re on thin ice, says Mike Milbury, and they have get past that. Though The Washington Post says they have to get on the same page.
Whatever it is, a sports marketing guy says it’s disappointing for the league, and an issue.
Is the rest of the league catching on to him? They’ve figured him out is a popular hypothesis.
He is shooting less. “It kind of bothers me,” Ovechkin told The Winnipeg Sun last week, regarding his lack of scoring.
Hockey in Canada’s Craig Simpson thinks he’s not having fun. The Times tells us to heed Don Cherry when he tells us that Ovechkin was never going to be able to keep it going, his all-out, hit-everything, hundred-mile-an-hour way of playing the game, it just wasn’t sustainable — and that’s what we’re seeing now.
On the bright side, Ovechkin has that song he’s going to record with Eminem. Oh, and American Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has said that he’s just, quote, an animal. Also there’s the wax Ovechkin that Madame Tussaud’s in Washington just unveiled. That’s a pretty big compliment.