Blog Entry

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

Posted on: February 15, 2012 5:58 pm
Ovechkin has 23 goals and 21 assists this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Recently,'s Pierre LeBrun asked an NHL scout to rank the four big Russian skaters playing in the NHL -- Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. Here's the answer he gave:

"Really close between Datsyuk and Malkin, they’re 1a and 1b, then it’s Kovalchuk, and Ovechkin a distant fourth."

Imagine that, Alex Ovechkin, two years ago seen by many as the best player in the world, "a distant fourth" just among Russian skaters? It seems hard to imagine if you think back to 2008 or 2009. But you can't argue with it at all.

Malkin might be the front-runner for the Hart Trophy right now. Datsyuk is seen by most to be the most offensively gifted player in the league, described as a wizard when he has the puck. And Kovalchuk? Well he has become a complete player this season as my colleague Adam Gretz pointed out earlier today.

Ovechkin? Well he's trended down in the last couple of seasons, way down. The stat heads will tell you that he was due for it, his numbers from a couple of seasons ago were completely unsustainable. Perhaps, but how to explain such a sharp and quick drop in production?

Former Cap Ollie the Goalie Kolzig, now a consultant for the Caps goaltenders, was asked about a number of topics regarding Washington on Wednesday. Among them, he had some thoughts to help explain Ovechkin's dip.

“I think a lot is frustration,” Kolzig began. “Obviously he’s not scoring at the clip he’s accustomed to. Part of that is not having Nicky Backstrom in the lineup. Alex — and I think I’m seeing it a little more with Dale behind the bench – Alex was getting away from playing the hard, no-nonsense, honest type of hockey, exuberant hockey that he displayed the first three years that he was in the league.

“I think that’s what endeared him to everybody. Then all of a sudden he was the same Alex, he was celebrating certain ways and what endeared him to everybody now made him look like a villain.

“So, I think part of it is he’s feeling a little not as loved as he used to be, he brings that on himself sometimes,” Kolzig continued, “But I think obviously missing Nicky, it hurts. Teams have kind of kind of got a handle on him, maybe how to close the gap on him and not allow him to score those fantastic one-on-one goals that he used to score.

“For Alex, it’s a work ethic,” Kolzig said. “He just has to get back to being the way he was in his younger days and maybe not get wrapped up too much in the rock star status that comes with being Alex Ovechkin.”

Well, that's pretty interesting. The insinuation there is that Ovechkin isn't dedicated enough. Dare I paraphrase and say that he doesn't "care" enough like his Russian teammate in Washington Alex Semin has been accused of? To be sure it's pretty harsh criticism.

What would point to him being wrapped up in the rock star status? Not that I agree, I'm just spitballing, but he did recently make some news when he bought an extravagant $4.2 million home in Virginia. Perhaps it is his lavish car, a Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series. Or maybe it's his romantic link to Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko? I'm not sure.

What I can tell you is that production is still down. Here are some numbers that illustrate how much via Corey Masisak of

Personally, I think it's more about the league figuring him out. Nicklas Backstrom being hurt doesn't help, but his numbers have been down the past season and a half, much of that with Backstrom playing, so I don't buy it as a big reason.

The lesson in all of this is that if you make as much money and are as recognizable a player as Ovechkin is, you better hope if your production dips that your team's doesn't, otherwise fingers will be pointed.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Since: Apr 21, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:14 pm

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

no eric fehr

no fleischmann

no arnott

no steckel

an older knuble

no backstrom

no mike green

no clear # 1 goalie

no matt bradley

what's the mystery? it's called team chemistry. there is none.

lost WAY to much up front in the middle. lost size... face off ability... defensive awareness and so on at center.

lost too many role players that contributed on the forecheck... and PK...

and as much crap as i give mike green for his defensive abilities, let's call it like it is - the breakouts just aren't the same. the stretch play threat isn't there and the neutral can just be clogged and play a lazy trap. 

and let me go back to what i said 3 damn years ago - SEMIN needed to be traded. is that not clear yet? you could have got house and home for him. he is just a liability waiting for a ticket to russia.  

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 10:02 am

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

Alex is a square peg that this year G.M. George McPhee decided to force into a round hole. Alex Ovechkin is NEVER going to be a defensive forward. He is a scorer first, last and everything in between. McPhee's a moron. He bulit this team as an offenive juggernaut. Then, beause of early playoff exits, he tries to change the entire team philosophy. Problem is, he has the dame players. Sure, he went out an added a completely washed up Roman Hamrlik and picked up Joel Ward absed on what they guy did in on playoff run, but trying to force guys like the Alex's to be defesne first guys is about as stupid as anything I can imagine. He forced out a top notch coach. Look as what Gabby is doing in Anaheim. 19-2-3 in their last 24 games.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 9:01 am

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

green is out and washington is doing ok this year. put alex o on philly, pitt, the rangers or out west on a good team and he's fine. hard to keep at his old pace of 50+ goals a year. who else has done that ? no one. with the trap and the clutching and grabbing, it's a different game and that hurt his game all around.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 9:00 am
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Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 8:48 am

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

As a Caps fan I see a couple of things for Alex Ovechkin.

1.  Defenses have adapted to him.  No longer does he get to undress a single defenseman with the outside/inside then shoot through their legs move.  They are keeping more than one guy back and anticipate this, either blocking his shot or forcing him wide so that he misses the net or shoots from a poor angle.

2.  His shots are down, way down.  A lot of that is due to the extra man back.  Some of it this year is due to Nick Backstrom being out.  Some of it is due to the fact the refs are starting to let some of the clutching and grabbing go that they were calling 2 and 3 seasons ago (that's not particular to just Ovechkin).

3.  Caps are playing more defensively.  We've returned to dump and chase boring hockey that we had in the years leading up to the lockout.  The Caps don't have a strong enough defense to win with that as their strength, unlike their teams of the 90s that were built that way.  Either pick up defensive defensemen or open up the style.  While they've won some close low scoring games their record has not improved and their shots have largely disappeared - they just had a long stretch of games without getting to 30 shots.

4.  Not only is Nick Backstrom out, Mike Green is out and has been out.  With Green in the lineup Ovechkin could get set up more to shoot rather than carry or pass so much.  Teams get more focused on Ovechkin now because of the other missing star players.

I do agree that Ovechkin does not seem to be playing with the same exuberance most of the time.  He still gets his hits and he still skates hard but it seems a notch below a couple years ago (partly due to #3 above).  On the other hand he doesn't float all night like Alex Semin does.  There are some parallels to Fedorov - his production also dropped in the mid 90s because Detroit made their game more defensive.  For them it worked but they also got in some players that made it work for them....the Caps need to either do this or play to the open style that suits their current personnel.

Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 6:00 am
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Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:14 am
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Since: May 8, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:15 am

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

<span style="color: #000000;">I'd look at Sergei Fedorov to find some more clues as to Ovechkin's drop in production.  Fedorov really exploded on to the scene and was loved by all in Detroit.  When his production faded so did some of the love he was getting.  It seemed like the more criticism he faced the worse he would play.  He took a lot of crap for being one of the first guys to wear Nike skates.  I'm not sure if that really affected his play though.

<span style="color: #000000;">Then there was the whole Anna Kournikova fiasco. He was playing great when he was with her, but man did he seem to fall apart once she left him. The whole Kournikova scandal also helped add to the kind of play boy wrap he'd been labeled with too. I have to wonder if the same type of wrap doesn't get to Ovechkin these days. He's getting some heat for the same kind of things people loved him for. That's probably not helping his production any. I'm sure there are more parallels between the two but I was still in school for most of Fedorov's career. Was really upset that he didn't retire a Wing, was one hell of a player.

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:01 am

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

The great players are always one step ahead of those who are figuring them out. It is called evolving as a player: you get better or you go downhill. Ovechkin has gotten wrapped up in his rock star status.

Since: Aug 20, 2010
Posted on: February 15, 2012 11:48 pm

Kolzig: Ovechkin wrapped up in rock star status

He's not a big of a bust as Gomez this year.  1 goal for a 7million dollar man

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