LAS VEGAS – Some leftovers from Monday’s media availability with Alex Ovechkin at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, site of the 2014 NHL Awards, dumped into one final post from Sin City.
Ovechkin, winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the second straight season and fourth time overall as the league’s top goal-scorer, will be made available on the red carpet prior to the awards show, which kicks off at 7 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Network. Nashville forward Shea Weber is also a finalist for the Norris Trophy, so we’ll try to get his perspective on first-year Capitals Coach Barry Trotz, who spent 15 seasons with the Predators as their only bench boss before getting fired this year.
>> Asked about the scrutiny faced last season, when a plus-minus rating of minus-35 became a lightning rod for those criticizing both the team’s struggles and the captain’s play, Ovechkin spoke bluntly and curtly about the big picture.
“Everybody has to play better,” he said. “That’s all I can say. [Trotz] has his job, I have my job, and we’re going to do the best for the team that we can do.”
>> Asked for his offseason goals, Ovechkin replied, “Chill.” (He meant that more in a “I’m going to relax” way, and less of a “Dude, cool your jets” way.)
Pressed further about his summer timetable, Ovechkin said, “I have a schedule, probably at the end of July, start to work out. I have things to do, spend time with family, go back to Russia, be in good shape. I have to be in good shape.”
Ovechkin has been nursing a leg injury suffered at the IIHF World Championships in Belarus. At the time, he insisted it wasn’t a knee issue, but still wore a knee brace for the gold-medal game. On Monday, he said he still needed “a couple more weeks to feel 100 percent.”
>> Ovechkin’s fiancée, Maria Kirilenko, upset No. 18 Sloane Stephens at Wimbledon on Monday, the first day of the grass-court tournament. Kirilenko is currently ranked 109th in the world and Stephens entered boasting the longest active run of reaching the fourth round of major tournaments in all of tennis. Across the world, Ovechkin didn’t catch the big moment.
“No,” he said, “I was sleeping.”
>> Here in Vegas, over the weekend, Mike Vogel of Monumental Network spoke with Trotz while the head coach was still in town. The full video is linked here, but Trotz spent a significant amount of time talking about a culture change, without getting into the nitty-gritty details of what exactly he wants to overhaul with the Capitals.
“Now, when you come in and try to change it, you have to be very detailed,” he said. “There’s no black and white. You have to be specific, because guys don’t know what you want all the time. Communication will be very, very prominent in our group from the coaching staff to the players. Hopefully they understand there’s going to be some pain when you change things, because it gets people out of their comfort zone.
“At first there will be some pain. At the same time, the players want accountability, they want structure, they want discipline. It’ll be uncomfortable for some guys. At the same time, the whole group buys into it, then it works really well. I think everyone knows what’s expected. The professionalism and the expectations are such that you have to buy in or we’ll be butting heads.”
Trotz also estimated that, one month into the job, he’s contacted “about 75 percent of the [players] at different degrees.”
“Some guys in Europe, have to make time to either see them or spend more time on the phone,” he said.
>> Vogel and Trotz, who was busy finalizing the purchase of a home in Washington and was therefore unavailable for a telephone interview, also touched on the 2014-15 schedule, released Sunday.
Four of Washington’s first five games are at home, but after that the Capitals embark on a three-game, five-day road swing to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. As Vogel shrewdly noted, half of the team’s 14 Western Conference road games are scheduled before December, something that pleased Trotz greatly.
“I love the schedule the way it’s set up,” he said. “I think it’s really important for the group to go on the road early. I’m trying to create a little bit of a different culture. I’m going to have some different demands. The more that I can bring the group away from Washington, so that they’re a group, a tighter group, when we go on the road we’ll do some different things, hopefully that bonding process that every year you change one or two players, it changes the dynamic of the group. It pulls you together.”