Bruce poses with his sons Ben and Andy. (Photo credit:

With the NHL lockout forcing another cancellation of games– this time through January 14th, some hockey lifers are desperate to fill the hours. That’s why, at the end of last week, former Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau did a telephone interview with the Asnières Castors — a hockey club based near Paris, France. Boudreau had good reason to call though: to show support to his 28-year-old son Ben, who is currently a forward for the team.

The Q/A is pretty pedestrian: Boudreau speaks about the lockout, Cristobal Huet, and his philosophy on coaching. Things get juicy, however, when Bruce is asked which of his former players he’d build a team around. He did not choose Alex Ovechkin.

You’ve coached a lot of famous players. If you were to keep one, which one would you choose?

That’s a good question. There are a lot of players I would consider. The first person that comes to mind would be Nick Backstrom. A number-one center is a big position to fill, and they are hard to find. He is a great leader on and off the ice who can play in all situations. This is a quality person around whom you can build a team.

Boudreau has had the opportunity to coach a bunch of talented players. He’s coached sure-fire hall of famer Teemu Selanne, 2010 MVP Corey Perry, and two-time Norris nominee Mike Green.

Choosing Backstrom over Ovechkin is a bit curious. Ovi won two MVP awards under Boudreau’s tutelage and was arguably the team’s best player throughout his tenure. Perhaps the friction that developed between them towards the end of Boudreau’s time in Washington, including the benching that led to Ovi calling Bruce something that rhymes with hat muck, factors into the decision.

The Capitals struggled last season as Nicklas Backstrom dealt with a concussion most of the year. Since signing with Dynamo Moscow, Backstrom has put up numbers more dazzling than Ovechkin. Both are elite players, and the question nags: Who would you pick? Ovechkin or Backstrom?

Thanks to Lindsey Novak for the translation and @joecct77 for alerting us to the article.

  • ovechkin no question, 1 guys a top 5 player one is not you need a superstar like ovi on your team

  • Dave

    Backstrom. Great puck control, surprisingly tough, and actually plays some D. I thought it was evident last year that he was MVP of the team.

  • I really don’t find this shocking at all. As great as Ovechkin was (is, still, in a way) under Bruce, Ovechkin’s defensive shortcomings and drop off coupled with Backstrom’s continued excellence (when healthy) make it clear to me that he is now the Caps’ most important player at this moment. That may change if Ovechkin can start scoring at his old pace, but how likely is that?

  • I’m Backstrom 100%. Ovi had his moment, but he’s on the decline. Backstrom doesn’t have to score goals to be of value. Plus, we hear from every other team that building from the center position is preferable to starting at the wings.

  • “Both. Same time.” No homo.

  • you are a great american peter

  • VOTE PETER 2013

  • Can I go off the grid and pick Kuznetsov?

  • ACN

    I’m still with Ovi. While I get the center vs. wing thing, I honestly can’t wholeheartedly endorse that Backstrom would be a better leader than Ovi– I’m sure he’d be a strong one and they both would operate from different strong points. Backstrom’s hitting his peak age now, which I recognize, and I can support the argument that he could be a stronger player when healthy. But that’s just it– when healthy. He’s got a greater chance, in my opinion of going down harder and staying out longer if he gets hit again, what with cumulative damage from concussions.

    I’m not willing to write off Ovi off yet as completely on the decline or unable to learn– I hold out hope that Oates can transform him the way Kovalchuk and Yzerman changed their games. The regular fifty goal seasons are probably in the past, but he’s still an incredible draw– he has benefits for a team in terms of both ability and starpower, he’s sturdy (though I also recognize he bangs his body around and could be in the same boat as Nicky at some point), I don’t agree with the people who say his holding the C is detrimental to the Caps, and he

    For me, it’s still Ovi, though more narrowly than if you’d asked me a year before. But honestly, can’t we have both? The one bright spot for me in the lockout is watching Ovi and Nicky kicking ass together in the KHL.

  • Backstrom based on the necessity of a good play making center. That said, why so much doom and gloom about Ovi? He was a top 5 goal scorer on an otherwise mediocre Caps team and this year leads the KHL leading Dynamo Moscow in points despite being there less than the full season.

  • Jeremiah

    isn’t ovi’s lack of defense more an indication of bruce’s inability to coach someone how to defend. he had a la approach to accountabilitiy until it was too late. also any decline in ovi is and should be put squarely on ted and gm they did not protect their investmentwhen malkin was recovering from his injury the pens sent over their trainer to work with him until he was in top shape, gm gm just says that he expect that ovi will come back in good shape. the ducks were a team that only played defense except ofr selane and perry would get dirty goals on the cycle. so bruce had to teach them nothing on defense and just had to put in a few offensive wrinkles also bruce was also an offensively inlined center albeit undersized.

  • serpent

    I’ve always loved Nicky over Ovi. He does his job, he produces . He’s a team player, not an ego on skates.

  • I find hating Ovechkin defense funny, on HFBoards they listed Captains based on defense, and Ovechkin was the universal last place, even though analyzing his GA/20 he was 8th. Crosby being one of the worst, he’s a center, a lot of it is HIS job, vs Ovechkin is a winger.

  • Pingback: DMV: Ovi’s New Nike Ad Is Fruity | Mr. Irrelevant, a D.C. Sports Blog by the Brothers Mottram()

  • Ovechkin’s lack of defensive play is no one’s fault but his own. no one else on the team has a problem learning defense, like Backstrom. Even Semin played well defensively last year under Dale. Ovie was a disaster. As for his decline, it’s NOT Ted and GMGM’s fault other than they didn’t see it coming. Malkin has more points because he’s better, not because he was “in shape.” Ovechkin has declined four seasons in a row and it’s because every goalscorer like him declines with age. Look it up. Backstrom is better in every facet of the game but goal scoring (maybe). Give me Backstrom every time.

  • Not sure I agree with how you’re characterizing Ovi’s defense. I’m not saying he’s good defensive player, but I am saying that he has not been tailored to be one.

    If your Ovechkin is playing in his own end, he’s not optimizing his talents. I know it’s unreasonable to assume a goal-scorer spends all game in the other zone, but for the first couple years of his NHL career, that’s pretty much what Alex did. When systems change and he leaves the peak part of his career, the adjustment is painful.

    Which I guess means I agree with your conclusion, just not necessarily how you got there.

  • Do you even pay attention to the Capitals?

    Ovechkin was a +45 in 09-10. Backstrom was a +24. Ovechkin was a +24 in 10-11, Backstrom was even.

    Ovechkin the bad defensive player is the biggest lie ever. Ovechkin floating is a lie too, he just beat defensemen to center ice.

  • Yuk

    You need both if you want a winning team. When you see today’s early morning game of Dynamo M in Metallurg NK you will understand why. After second period it was 2:2 and then Ovi and Nicky took over. Firstly Ovi dished a puck to Nicky who scored Then, Nicky assisted in brilliant Ovi’s goal who made fool from the whole D and GT.

  • Fat fuck.

  • Wouldn’t that be nice…

  • I’d rather build a blog around Ovi though 😉

  • Yes, Chase, it would be fair to say that I “pay attention to the Capitals” considering I’ve watched pretty much every game for the last five years or so and have been writing about them for two seasons. Ovechkin had a high plus minus those years because he was so dominant offensively – he was also on the ice for a great number of goals against, particularly in that Montreal series that they lost in 7 games – a small sample size, I know, but it was particularly obvious in the film of that series. You will also notice that we were talking about right now, at which point it is obvious that Ovechkin has fallen off; yes, Ovechkin was arguably the best player in the league for an extended period but that is not the case now, nor does his status as that player in past years have anything to do with his status now.
    I hated Hunter because of the fact that he neutered what was left of Ovechkin and the style he played, and there is no denying that he accelerated Ovechkin’s fall from prominence. This is what happens when pure goal scorers decline. But maybe, just maybe, Ovechkin isn’t that good a two way player?

  • Peter, of course he hasn’t been tailored to be one. But I don’t think Semin was either, and he played well defensively last year under Dale in my opinion. I’m fully in agreement with you that Dale hurt Ovechkin by making him play in his own end. That’s the main reason I wanted him gone and wanted an offensive coach that can help rejuvenate him. But if you have to tailor so much around one player with such a big contract to make him more effective, I think that means that Nicky is better. Which brings us back to being in agreement.

  • Jose

    Depends on which Ovi. 2005-2010 Ovi I’d pick Ovi any second, but if we’re factoring the last two seasons it’s gotta be Nicky. I don’t know what’s up with Ovi, but he’s not the same. When watching clips from before, he cared all the time, and backchecked, defended, went hard after everyone and seemed to be all over the place. Nowadays he’s too predictable offensively and, most importantly at least for me, he looks like he has no interest whatsoever as soon as the puck is not on his stick or near him, he just hovers around the red line or the point on the own zone, but without really making much of an effort to actually defend and actively engage in the game.

    This comes from a Red Wings fan, also knowing he torched us for a couple last time we played the Caps, but I think you all understand what I mean. It’s not just the points not being there anymore, it’s the attitude. This said, I hope Adam Oates and his style get some life into Ovi and he can get back where he belongs on top of the game.

  • Pat

    I kinda hate to say this, but at this point i’d probably choose Bäckström too. A center is always a center and Bäckström is an excellent one. But i’m a bit naive and still believe that Ovechkin can keep up atleast a +40 goal pace under new coach Adam Oates. The playing systems have changed far too often in the recent years and as we can all see it has messed up Ovies game badly. I truly believe that if Oates gets along with Ovie, he if anyone can change him and make him play a healthy mixture of offence and defence in the right situations.

    If Sasha Ovechkin can’t play more better under Oates then I guess the oviehaters back in the day were right: “He can’t keep up that pace for much too long with that kind of a physical playing style.” We shall wait and see my friends…

  • SBraun

    Boudreau is talking about building a team now instead of in the past. Ovechkin’s play is declining, while Backstrom is continuing to improve. I agree with Boudreau. It makes sense to choose the player about whom Boudreau said, ” He is a great leader off and on the ice who can play in all situations. This is a quality person around whom you can build a team.”

  • KKbr

    Flash over substance, eh?