Is Ted Leonsis too close to Alex Ovechkin?


(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Because this is a week during which sentient beings have typed words on the Internet, there have been some critics of Alex Ovechkin, and some defenders who have pushed back at the criticism.

Here’s Svrluga:

Even if he didn’t help push Oates out the door, the Capitals are at a crossroads unlike any during Leonsis’s ownership, and their captain/star/lightning rod is standing in the middle of the traffic. Any incoming general manager-and-coach combination should want to know — indeed, needs to know — what it’s like to work with Ovechkin. He has, after all, seven years and $70 million remaining on his contract, so even three years from now, it’ll still be easier to fire a coach than it will be to trade a 31-year-old former MVP who’s owed $40 million.

And here’s Boz:

Anybody who coaches Ovechkin now has a big problem. He can still do one thing well — score, especially on the power play. But that’s all he can do. How do you build a team around that. A couple of years ago, when Ovi’s stock was low, McPhee was considering trading Ovechkin, if he could get fair value. But Ovi was DE-valued then. By the time he won his third MVP, how could you trade him? “The Great Eight is back!” Fans would have lynched you. Now, his value is low again, so you can’t get what he’s worth. Yes, it’s a paradox.

And here’s Mike Brophy of the CBC:

It is becoming abundantly clear Ovechkin cannot find team success in the U.S. capital. Easily the most dangerous scorer in the league, the 28-year-old Russian has a rich history of failing to come up big at critical times…. It is Leonsis, a hands-on owner if there ever was one, who will dictate Ovechkin’s future. As much as he seems to love the player, it is hard to imagine thoughts of trading him have not crossed the boss’ mind.

And here, finally, is analyst Ray Ferraro, speaking Monday on TSN Radio about what a prospective Washington GM might be encountering.

“The first decision you have to make is do I want to get rid of Ovechkin or keep him?” one of the hosts said.

“That’s the first decision that can lose you your job,” the other host said.

“I would think the biggest problem they have is the connection of owner to star,” Ferraro said.

“That’s a spicy meatball,” someone pointed out.

Now pause here a minute, because I’ve read 5,000 columns saying the biggest problem with a Washington team is the connection of owner to star, but I don’t remember reading that one about the Caps. Is that the biggest problem the Caps have? Is this Dan Snyder and RGIII all over again? Are they going to movie premiers together? They’re going to movie premiers together, aren’t they?

“That [job's] a punt for most guys, because you lose every time,” Ferraro said. “Unless you look around and you go ‘Guess what, there’s 30 jobs, I want to be a GM, I can work with this.’ Maybe the way to work with it is to get to the other guys that are around him. Are you going to win with Mike Green? What about Nick Backstrom? So maybe you have to take away some of the toys out of the sandbox and change the way that the team looks.”

Then Ferraro and the hosts all lamented how Jason Chimera, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Brooks Laich were not rewarded for their grit and character over the years.

“However, the big three have always been there: Green, Backstrom and Ovechkin,” Ferraro said. “In my opinion, that configuration somehow has to change. And to me the most likely guy would be Mike Green. You’ve got John Carlson there, who’s another right-handed guy, who plays a steadier game, will shoot the puck, will get you some points. Their defense is a mess. They got Kuznetsov there finally at the end of the year so they have high hopes for him. They have drafted pretty well. They’ve swung and missed on some trades.

“And so the next general manager is going to have to form a style of play in Washington, and it has to include Ovechkin. Because as much as you say is he tradeable or not tradeable, that contract is pretty prohibitive, and he’s coming off a year that he’s minus 464.”

And then, attempting to check off every box, they discussed removing the captain’s “C” from Ovechkin’s jersey.

“Eh, I don’t know,” Ferraro said. “Okay, you take the ‘C’ off his sweater, what’s going to change? Like, who is going to have enough of an impact — if you put the ‘C’ on somebody else — to say yeah, that’s our leader. I mean, you could put the ‘C’ on anybody else’s jersey. Whoever you want. But unless it’s somebody that Ovechkin respects, and somebody that Ovechkin will throw his support behind, I think it’s just another letter on the jersey.”

And Ferraro also discussed whether Ovechkin can change his style of play.

“I think he can; it’s whether he wants to, right?” Ferraro said. “Why couldn’t Ovechkin get the puck out on the boards? I mean, the guy’s 220 pounds, he’s got great hands; he should be able to get it out, if he wants to. He should be able to skate in a straight line without the puck really fast; that’s back-checking. But he doesn’t commit to it.”

(Via Japers Rink and @russianmachine.)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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