A few weeks ago, every hockey analyst in the world minus Ron MacLean was reveling in Alex Ovechkin‘s epic gr8ness. Would Ovi score 50 in 50? Could the Russian machine become the ninth player in NHL history to score 70 goals? A fourth Hart trophy looked like a sure thing. Things could not have been better.
Four goal-less games later and on just a meager 65-goal pace, Ovechkin is enemy number one again in hockey.
Today’s hater, Marty McSorley, hails from the great province of Ontario, Canada, where he is a TV analyst for Sportsnet. Wayne Gretzky’s former protector had a simple message for the kids: this Ovechkin is all hype (whatever that means). Just look at that plus-minus!
Okay, I’m gonna say it. I have tons of guys that played in the National Hockey League for years and we get together and we say this is hype. Alex Ovechkin is hype. Would you trade him for Sidney Crosby? [No!] Would you trade him for Jonathan Toews? [No!] Anze Kopitar? [No!] Ryan Getzlaf? [Absolutely not!] No, you wouldn’t do that! Alex Ovechkin is a hype. There’s too much there. He’s minus-14 on a team that’s 20-14-5. I think he’s got a lot to prove to guys. Yes, he’s very, very talented. Yes, he can skate. Yes, he’s got courage. We saw with Dale Hunter. Dale Hunter, look at him, he’s blowing a gasket there because Alex Ovechkin plays through everybody else’s shift, he cheats on the ice, 5-on-5 he’s atrocious. He’s a minus player. He’s got a long way to go to get hockey people to believe that he’s in the MVP category.
You know, lot of guys, and I try to do it too, we spend time with these young kids that are learning the game. I do not think this is an example that the young kids need to watch. A Toews, a Crosby, so many great players in the game. Let’s talk about those guys. Let’s talk about how they play.
Now let’s talk about how Ovechkin actually plays, since clearly Marty hasn’t been paying attention.
Ovechkin was a two-time MVP before Adam Oates even arrived, yet Ovechkin trusted his new hall-of-fame coach and changed positions. He abandoned The Move, he stopped carrying the puck into the opponent’s zone Rambo style, and reduced his turnovers. He checked his ego, changed his game, and grew as a player.
Ovechkin began trusting his teammates more, letting them carry the puck while he got in position and put more shots on net.
The results have been dramatic. Ovechkin has forestalled the decline that comes for all scorers in their late twenties and is now on pace to have perhaps the greatest season of his career at age 28.
That’s unheard of. That’s praiseworthy.
Now onto you, Marty. You took Ovechkin down a peg by citing plus-minus. I’m not sure what you’ve been reading since ’99, but now we all know plus-minus is one of the most contrived and meaningless statistics in the NHL.
Here’s a photo of Jeff Schultz.
In 2009-10 Jeff Schultz led the NHL in plus-minus. Now he’s a wash-out.
Don’t use plus-minus to evaluate players, Marty. It makes you look silly.
If you were a serious analyst and not a washed-up dilettante, you’d have learned about how Alex Ovechkin‘s plus-minus rating came to be. You see, 13 of the 16 goals Ovechkin has been on the ice for during 5v5 came right off his stick. His linemates, on the other hand, are on an epic cold streak through no fault of their own– or Alex’s for that matter.
After your plus-minus thing, you showed a clip of Dale Hunter “blowing a gasket” at Ovechkin. Looks more like coaching to me, but whatever. It’s just another part of this bizarre, shoddily-assembled story you’re building.
And then, the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children?! Thank you, Marty, for looking out for the youngsters. You’re such a good role model.
Hype. That word means “extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.” As in undeserved fame. As in the kind of fame one might gain from riding the coattails of Wayne Gretzky, who, by the way, thinks Alex Ovechkin is just swell.
You’d trade him for Getzlaf? Really?!
Transcription by Chris Gordon