Editor’s note: This is another short piece about Ukraine and Ovechkin. Unlike last time, it’s light on political opinion and condensed history, but if you don’t want any politics in your sports, feel free to skip over this one. All opinions in here are my own.

NHL media day went a bit off-topic today as the press asked Alex Ovechkin about the controversial photo he shared late last month. Speaking with Craig Custance of ESPN, Ovechkin said, “I don’t try to make a statement.” He was speaking about the photo of him literally holding a statement in front of his chest.

“I just don’t want a war,” Alex Ovechkin said, just two weeks after holding up the Kremlin-coordinated slogan used to justify its war in Ukraine, while wearing a “no war” shirt.

It’s only the latest convolution of this nearly incomprehensible story.

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backstrom-wut

Led by Corey Masisak, a team of NHL.com writers have published their ranking of the league’s top 14 centers. Washington Capitals center Nick Backstrom is not on that list.

Nathan MacKinnon, Claude Giroux, Joe Thornton, and Henrik Sedin all ranked above Backstrom. Only one writer, Dan Rosen, included Backstrom in the top 14.

I’m not outraged. I can kind of see why they did it, and it all depends on how we define our terms.

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ovi

Editor’s note: There is news and reporting in here, but it’s also an opinion piece. My opinions are my own. I won’t speak for anyone else at RMNB. I also encourage everyone to do their own research on this and not just take me- or anyone else– at face value. Frankly, I’d rather not write about this at all, but it seems inappropriate for a site named “Russian Machine Never Breaks” not to address this somehow.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin shared the above photo on Instagram this morning.

In the photo, Ovechkin, wearing a t-shirt that reads “No War,” holds up a sheet of paper pasted to posterboard, reading  “#SAVE CHILDREN FROM FASCISM” [sic].

It sounds like an implicit message of support for the rebels of Ukrainian. Those rebels, allegedly been funded and armed by the Kremlin, have been fighting against the Ukranian government in an ever-escalating war. As of this morning, there are reports that as many as a thousand Russian soldiers have now joined that war. That, it seems, is how Russia intends to save children from fascism.

In short, this is chauvinistic Russian propaganda.

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jakub-vrana

A return to Sweden looks like the likely option for Vrana (Photo: Andreas Froberg/SHL.se)

Capitals 2014 first-round pick Jakub Vrana is a talented player. The Czech forward put his skills on display at development camp this summer, where he lit up the opposition playing mostly next to another top prospect, Andre Burakovsky, and a free agent invitee, Slovene Olympian Jan Urbas.

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The End of the Conversation

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The hirings of Kyle Dubas as assistant GM in Toronto and Tyler Dellow as analytics expert in Edmonton have sent hockey’s good ol’ boys network into a panic. The contingent of hockey pundits who tout “intangibles” have long suspected and feared a reckoning at the hands of the spreadsheets. Now that it has finally happened, they effetely plead that the new era of analysis would not begin and end with Corsi:

These people miss the point. Advanced statistics aren’t just one piece in a bigger conversation. Advanced statistics are the end of the conversation.

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The Interesting Case of Vladimir Sobotka

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka has signed a three-year contract with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. It’s been reported by iSport.cz and translated to Russian by Sports.ru that Sobotka has a clause in his contract that would allow him to return to the NHL during any offseason. Reports of his salary have varied: the initial report by iSport had Sobotka’s salary at $4 million per year. Andy Strickland of CBS Sports Radio St. Louis tweeted that according to his sources Sobotka will be making $4.3 million average throughout the life of the deal. Sobotka’s agent Darryl Wolski tweeted that his client will be making just $2.8 million per year.

There’s even more confusion as to whether he could return to St. Louis or any other NHL team.

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The Orpikalypse Test

orpik

I’m starting to get the feeling not everyone agrees about the Brooks Orpik signing. The ex-Penguin defender brings experience and grit to a blue line that lacked both, and for some that makes him a good acquisition. For others, he’s an aging, struggling player on a too-long and too-expensive contract. I count myself among that campI think Neil Greenberg at WaPo did a good job summarizing that position.

Still, there’s always a chance I’m wrong. I’ve certainly been wrong before. I was wrong about the decline of Marcus Johansson. I was wrong about the viability of the Chimera-Ward pairing. I was wrong about the Capitals’ playoff chances in 2013. I could be wrong about Orpik. Like any rational person, I reserve the right to change my mind when more information is presented.

Maybe this is a good opportunity to set terms. What would make for a successful tenure for Brooks Orpik in Washington? I’ve got a proposal for you.

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orpik-ovechkin

The Washington Capitals were aggressive on the first day of free agency, adding three players to their roster: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and Justin Peters. Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog that the Caps “added offense, versatility, and experience in Niskanen and signed a shutdown D-man in Orpik.”

He also added, “priority No. 1 was to upgrade our defense, and we made significant strides today.”

I agree. The Capitals will dress better defenders next season. The team’s defense in 2013-14 lacked a true top pairing and the third pairing hemorrhaged shots on net all year, no matter who was put on the ice. The Caps were either going to have to be aggressive via trades or free agency, or they’d have to wait a few seasons for prospects to mature (Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wey, and Connor Carrick).

Caps GM Brian MacLellan decided to go the UFA route. Despite spending a ton of cash (nearly $70 million) and landing perhaps the best defenseman on the market, the mainstream hockey media filleted MacLellan for his moves.

Let’s review.

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Words are Wind

“It’s going to be hard to take advantage of me.” – Brian MacLellan

Orpik. Five years. $5.5 million AAV.

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calle-johansson

Calle Johansson is one of my all-time favorite Washington Capitals players. He’s one of the most consistent two-way defenseman I’ve ever seen play and one of the gosh-darn nicest and funniest guys in the world.

That’s why this is so awkward. Around 8:50 PM on Monday night, tucked in between Alex Ovechkin’s media presser and the NHL Awards tomorrow, the Capitals’ Mike Vogel released the news that Johansson will not return next season as an assistant coach. He has stepped down and will be returning to Sweden.

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