For years we've dealt with people like Don Cherry decrying the physical, in-your-face style practiced by our very own Alex Ovechkin. It seems we get a new rant every week about how Ovechkin's going to get "cut down" because he plays with - and right on - the edge.
We're still waiting for it to happen, and it's not like other teams haven't had a chance. The fact that he's gone four years and change without all that many attempts on his life would seem to tell a different tale; the fact that most players in the league probably respect and/or fear Ovechkin enough to not try it would seem to show that his "edge" is just fine with them.
It gets old, to say the least.
But now with #8 sidelined with an injury, this story takes on a new twist and a new camp becomes vocal - we'll call it the "Rick DiPietro" defense, and it's mouthpiece is, if you can believe it, PJ Stock.
See, he believes that this injury is an omen, that the Caps are handcuffed by Ovechkin's long-term, multi-million dollar deal. After all, Ovechkin plays a physical style; he's injured right now. Ergo, his physical style will lead to multiple injuries which will lead the Caps to wish they'd never signed this horrific albatross of a contract.
"It's not this particular injury that is my concern. It is injury number seven in year four that slows him down a bit. An injury that slows him down enough for the organization to question his worth. An injury that slows him down enough for fans and media to question his worth."
Please don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, PJ. (By the way, did you really write this earlier this week, or have you had it sitting on the shelf, ready to go, like a pre-written obituary?)
Question his worth? Ovechkin's style is part of what we love about him, not what we fear. It's not likely that even a single fan is sitting around wringing their hands, worrying about his fragility because of one fluke injury. There are guys around the league with shorter deals whose tendency to bruise like a peach would make their contracts seem far more risky.
Alex Ovechkin is now in his fifth year as an NHL pro. He's appeared in three strenuous, physical playoff series. He rarely takes off a shift or passes up a chance to hit someone. And in that time, while playing like a man possessed, a bull in a china shop, a freak of nature - he has missed exactly three games due to injury.
Even with this injury there's nothing concrete; we don't know the extent of it, or the number of games it will cause him to miss. He has missed one this season, looks poised to miss two more this weekend, and then? No one knows. It all just seems a little soon to declare Ovechkin to be a long-term bust.
"I love the Great 8 but am concerned for the Capitals in the long run."
Long-term contracts are always risky and will always be risky. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't - you can point to Rick DiPietro's glass everything as concrete proof that sometimes they really don't work out. But to say that one injury is a sign that the Caps will regret this contract is to ignore the facts. Because everyone knows the style of game Ovechkin plays - it wasn't a mystery when the Caps inked him to thirteen years and it's not a mystery now.
Could this style eventually lead to more injuries and more missed time by the Russian winger? Of course. Is there also the possibility that, as he develops and matures, the physical aspect will become more fine-tuned and less "hit what moves"? Of course.
And if given the chance, even with this injury, do we think the Caps would make the same deal all over again?
Because high risk, higher reward is the Capital way - and you won't find someone with much more potential reward than Alex Ovechkin.