We've got the new face, a new sports writer covering Washignton Capitals. His name is Rick Maese and he comes from the Washington Redskins and the NFL world. But his very first article ("What's wrong with Ovechkin?") and this interview hits the bull's eye, he started Caps coverage writing about Alexander Ovechkin.
George McPhee on Alex Ovechkin: ‘The league has adjusted to Ovi; now it’s his turn to adjust’:
On a recent radio interview, you mentioned that his weight had fluctuated, that it was much higher than it is today. Can you clarify that? Was he coming in out of shape and overweight?
He came in a lot heavier. I don’t believe necessarily that he was out of shape. But he wanted to get bigger.
We all go through that in our careers, in terms of training. I think every athlete goes through it. What’s the best way for me to train in the offseason to be an effective player next season? You have to try different things. There are some times – and I went through it — you come back to camp and you feel early in camp or early in the season, geez, I’m not so sure what I did works. I thought it would, I went at it hard.
In Alex’s case, I think he wanted to play, he wanted to get bigger and he didn’t necessarily need to get bigger. I can only talk from personal experience because I was a small player. I wanted to get bigger. One year I came in 12 pounds heavier than what I normally play at because I wanted to be bigger. Early on, I didn’t feel right and just had to go back to what was best to play in, which was a lot lighter.
Alex came in heavier, expecting that it’d make him more physical — and he was — and better. But he wasn’t better. He understands that now. We’ve had the conversations with him. I don’t think we had to have the conversations with him because he understood by going through it.
We think he’s at his best anywhere between 225 and 230. When he came back, I think he was 240 or 242. He was crushing people, but he wasn’t as effective as a player.
He’s still strong at 225—
He’s an extraordinarily powerful guy. He’s a genetically-gifted person who has just incredible power. I think he’s more dangerous at 230 than he is at 240.
Nearly everyone I talk with has a different theory about why his numbers and production are down. But one thing I hear – they talk about his game not evolving, teams figuring out his moves. Has his game evolved? Do you see Alex working on things that would make his game different than three years ago?
As with any great athlete, the league will adjust to you. Your opposition is smart. Players and coaches always adjust. Players adjust to new rules quickly, they adjust to players quickly. There’s always a strategy to defend certain players.
We did it [Thursday] night with [Steven] Stamkos, we do it with other players, whether it’s Eric Staal or whoever we happen to be playing. There’s a strategy to use against them. What has to happen is that player has to start adjusting. The league has adjusted to Ovi; now it’s his turn to adjust.
So that’s where Ovi has to make an adjustment. He loves to score off the rush. He’s very effective scoring off the rush. He can score off the rush in ways other people can’t, where he can come down the blue line, go one-on-one with a guy and rifle the puck past you or go by you and score. Not many people have that ability.
So he still has that ability, but it’s not quite as effective as it once was. So what he has to learn to do is get it by defense and go in and forecheck. That’s an adjustment he’s working on. It’s not easy. It hasn’t come naturally. It’s not something he did as a kid. As a kid, it was all puck possession and rushing. Now it’s, make sure you hit it deep in their end and go get it.
We believe he can become one of the best forecheckers in the league because he’s fast and powerful. He can be a holy terror doing it. He can really intimidate the opposition. He has to learn to go in, get it deep, make contact, come up with it and then out-hustle people.
Rick Maese's first article ("What's wrong with Ovechkin?"), written in collaboration with Caps expert beat writer Tarik El-Bashir, is also very interesting, you've got to read it as well. Among other things they write about "young guns" growing apart, which we all know already, but the most interesting piece, at least to me, was about Ovechkin's mother Tatiana:
Those who know Ovechkin say his mother exerts considerable influence — good and bad — on her son’s life.
“That’s his biggest problem — his mom,” said a person familiar with the situation. “She did what she did for Alex. She played a huge part in his growth, in his career. But it went too far. I understand it’s family, I understand they’re very close — it’s not that. The question is: Is he ever going to grow up? I’m not only talking about hockey. She’s in his life in many other areas — relationships with girls, with friends, with everyone. It’s bizarre.”
Some close to the team suggest the family’s focus on money has put Ovechkin in a class all his own in the Capitals locker room. “No matter how much money the family earned, they were always, ‘It’s not enough, not enough,’ ” said one person familiar with the family.
Can you believe that Ovechkin's Mom is too controlling? You bet, it's always been the case. Oh well... Poor Maria, she will have to handle it... :-)
Here are Ted Leonsis thoughts:
It was frustrating to read this weekend’s Washington Post story on Alex Ovechkin because it contained so many references to unnamed sources. My assumption is (or should I say “my sources” tell me?) that many of those comments came from disgruntled former business associates and those who aren’t fans of Alex. We all have detractors, and high-profile athletes have more than others. That’s the nature of the business, and Alex recognizes that comes with the territory.
But it was interesting to see the Post blog George McPhee’s comments today. In many ways I thought this was an important part of the story that didn’t find its way into Saturday’s online version or the feature in Sunday’s paper. Too much to include? Too favorable? Too inconvenient? Not sure, but I’m glad George’s comments saw the light of day.
I won’t debate each point that I believe to be inaccurate or unfair, but I have to set the record straight on one thing: Alex’s parents have not meddled in our franchise. We have nothing but respect and admiration for them, and they always have been supportive and a positive influence.