This has reached the point where it is annoying me. There is a common wisdom out there that Alex Ovechkin is a grossly overrated hockey player who only had one move and now that the "League" has "figured him out," he sucks. Unfortunately, like most common wisdom, it is anything but wise. It is ridiculous.
It didn't really bother me when Pens fans spewed it, because most of them are the same bandwagon jumpers they accuse Caps fans of being. They almost loss their team until an outstanding young hockey player named Sidney Crosby saved it for them, and they have shown no class ever since. When things don't go their way, they do things like walk out of a Winter Classic with 6 minutes left down only two with two of the best scorers in hockey on their team.
Then the Canadian media piled on. But I ignored that because that is largely a nationalism bias and many of them should be ashamed of themselves. But now I am hearing Caps fans say it. "What's wrong with Ovi? Why does he suck now?" That annoys me. Here I make only a few points. I could go on, but I think this will be sufficient.
Alex Ovechkin is 4th in NHL history in points per game in the playoffs according to the trusty Wikipedia machine. That's when it "matters," right? He is behind two losers named Gretzky and Lemieux, and Barry Pederson. Comparing Ovi to any of these guys given the differences in era is a bit silly, so lets compare him to a contemporary. The previously mentioned Sid the Kid is 5th behind Ovi. Ovi has 1.351 PPPG and Sid has 1.323. Ovi sucks.
Ovi had 2 goals tonight against the Detroit Redwings. He now has 32 goals and 24 assists for a total of 56 points. Another consecutive 30 goal season. This puts him 9th in goals in the league this season during a down year for him. 5 of the 8 guys ahead of Ovi play for teams with more points than the Caps and at least 6 of them are having career years. Ovi sucks.
Let's not forget that this is in a down season not only for Ovi (no one is denying that, only the idea that he sucks and is obscenely overrated), but for the team. They have been bad by any standard, but downright awful compared to the last 4 years. How down a season? Let's find out. Alex Semin is the second leading scorer on the Washington Capitals. He has 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points. That is 10 less points than Ovi, and Ovi has nearly DOUBLE THE GOALS OF THE NEXT LEADING CAPS GOAL SCORER. Ovi clearly sucks.
Of course, Semin and Ovi don't play on the same line most of the time, and Ovi usually gets the better defensive competition, which focuses almost exclusively on him. So, let's compare apples to apples. The next highest scorer on the team that has routinely played on a line with Ovi this year is Nick Backstrom with 13 goals and 29 assists for 42 points, a full 14 points behind Ovi. But here is the thing -- Backstrom has not played in months! Leaving Nick aside, Marcus Johansson has the same number of goals and one less assist as Nick. He has played some of his time with Ovi, but no where near all of it. Ovi sucks.
So Ovi is in the top 10 in goals, but is in a tie for 128th in assists. Now surely some of this can be attributed to it being a down year for him, but a bigger part of the problem is that NO ONE ELSE IS PRODUCING. You can't get an assist if no one is scoring the goal. The next three guys who have played a significant *part* of the season on Ovi's line have all have 13 goals. Really lighting it up. Keep in mind that Ovi is 5th on the team in assists and 4th among forwards. He is third among forwards who have not been injured for 4 months, so it is not like Ovi is being selfish and failing to put line mates in a position to score. Assists are also not what Ovi is paid for, as opposed to someone like Sid, where half of his genius is setting up his line mates. Ovi sucks.
Ovi is a -10, but again this is not what he is paid for. It does, however, remind us that the Caps D has been abysmal, not only defensively, but offensively as well. Dennis Wideman is the exception (though he has significantly cooled off), but he has 15 points more than John Carlson, who is a -12. Mike Green, the Caps offensive defenseman superstar, has 7 points this year, due to a combination of injury and poor offensive play. Ovi sucks.
We will just leave out the coaching and system changes over the last 2 seasons. Ovi obviously sucks.
I can hear the haters now. "These are excuses. He is a $13 million a year player and has to play like it. He has to score 50 goals a season. He should be able to carry the team on his shoulders for that money just like Sid does" Bull. Anyone who thinks that is just delusional. A season has to be examined in context.
Oh, and for the Pens fans, I have said from the beginning that if I had to build a team around one guy, it would probably be Sid (despite his being a baby) not Ovi, but they are completely different players. The comparison has always been a bit silly, even when Ovi had the advantage for a while there. It worked for the NHL marketing folks, so there you go.
Is he having a down year? Yes. Does he have to make some adjustments? Probably. Does he suck? Of course not. Is he anywhere near sucking? No. Is he an overrated player who suddenly has nothing because he has been figured out? Most likely not. Let's see what happens between now and when he turns, oh, I don't know, 28. Sorry, haters.
Oh, btw, want some visual evidence? Check out his goal against Chicago two nights ago.