Always-outspoken Viktor Fedorov, world-renowned Russian coach and father to former Cap Sergei Fedorov, has some frank criticism for the current state of affairs with the Washington Capitals, which he reveals in this interview with Igor Larin of Sport Express. Come on, don't hold back, Viktor. Tell us what you really think.
What's going on with Washington? Was our first question to Fedorov senior.
"I've been worried about this team for the last few years. It's one of the few teams in the NHL which play interesting, I would even say, exhilarating hockey. However, right now there is a serious crisis in the Capital's camp which, as far as I can tell, the local press is underestimating and is slowing them down."
What do you see as the crisis in Washington?
"First, they have some management problems. The recruitment and selection policies are poor, and the majority of trades only hurt the team. The second problem, which might be the most important, is the coaching. He (meaning head coach Bruce Boudreau-I.L.) was brought up to the team from somewhere on the farm-and they expect the Stanley Cup out of him. It's a pity that so many people to this day don't understand that you don't win such serious trophies with unprepared amateur specialists."
So how do you account for Washington's improvements in Boudreau's first years there?
"It's very simple: the team was being carried along by the trio of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Plus the second line was stable with Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov. Then these two players left and the experiments began. First, the center Brendan Morrison was brought in to replace Fedorov, but he failed and has been gone from the team for while. Then they started experimenting with Mike Knuble, Tomas Fleischmann, and some other unremarkable players. But nothing worked out: the team has been limping along on second and third lines. I won't even mention the fourth. And even if they can make it through the regular season with only one solid line, they won't be able to do much in the playoffs with that depth."
Has Ovechkin given up on this season?
"I'd never say a single bad word about Ovechkin. He and Semin carry that entire kolhoz. The load on him is huge. Ovechkin is studied and analyzed and the best defensemen are put up against him. That's perhaps one reason for the slight dip in his statistics. Basically it is very difficult for him."
"And one more important point. The team has left the defense of Ovechkin to chance, which seems quite strange. The fighter, King, sits in deep reserve, heavyweight defenseman Erskine doesn't know how to fight, and Bradley is a middleweight that nobody is afraid of. As a result, nobody stands on ceremony with Ovechkin. Did you see what the Ranger, Brandon Dubinsky, recently did, flying into Sasha with his fists? If it had been the North American Sidney Crosby in his place, I have no doubt the entire Pittsburgh team would have flown out on the ice. But it was all peace and quiet..."
Is the forceful defense of the star players really such an important principle?
"And how! Frankly, I'm not sure Sergei Fedorov would have become one of the best players in the league in the nineties without Kocur and Probert on the team during his debut. What a one-of-a-kind pair! Especially Probert, who was probably the best "policeman" in the history of the NHL. I remember how back at the beginning of the nineties many were simply afraid to come to Detroit-it was futile to go up against these guys. In many respects, therefore, my eldest son started out quietly. And this was back in the NHL where the hits were on an order of magnitude greater than they are now. And where the sticks sometimes never dropped below shoulder height."
Did you hear that Probert died a few months ago?
"Yes, he had a hard lot in life. Several times he would get off track, and go in to rehab. But in Detroit they adored him, the players and the fans."
Let's get back to Washington. What is your prognosis: how will the team do this season?
"The humiliating series of defeats will end sooner or later. But with the current alignment of forces in the club, I'm afraid that the Capitals won't be able to do anything in the playoffs. But I will empathize for the team of Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov. Good luck to these great guys!"