10 Reasons Alex Ovechkin Would Be Better off Staying in Russia
Alex Ovechkin is playing hockey in Russia. You may have heard this news.
So, Alex Ovechkin may not be coming back to the NHL—or even North America—anytime soon. In fact, here are 10 reasons why he would be better off staying in Russia.
10. Fans and Family
Legions of Alex Ovechkin fans reside in North America, but these throngs exist in Europe as well. Proof was provided in the recent showdown between Dynamo Moscow and Lev Praha, led by Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins.
A KHL record crowd was in attendance (pictured) to see the two teams clash.
And Ovechkin has family in Russia as well. These two factors may provide added motivation for him to stay and play hockey in Russia.
Ilya Bryzgalov touched on this in a recent interview with TSN:
I think some of the players may not return to the NHL because you have everything here and major companies are going to pay the top players here big money. And, especially for Russians players who can play at home in front of their own fans and families and (earn) even bigger money than they have in the National Hockey League.
9. Larger Ice Surface
RIA Novosti/Alexander Vilf
The KHL plays on a larger ice surface than the NHL.
Back in September as he was just getting re-acclimated to the KHL, Alex Ovechkin admitted to RT Sports that the big ice will take some adjusting to:
I don’t think it’ll be long, but I’ll need some time to adjust. There’s more space near the goals here, and the defenders, who play at the crease pay more attention to one-on-one play. When the puck bounces, then you have more opportunities to find and rebound into the net.
But Ovechkin knows there are other aspects of the larger playing surface that work well with his style of play:
What other differences are there? Of course, there’s more space and less power struggle. The speeds are very high so as the level of play.
8. Statistical Rebound
Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
Whether due to the larger ice surface or for some other reason, Alexander Ovechkin has been playing good hockey for Dynamo Moscow. In 14 games, he has six goals and 14 points.
That means that so far this season, Ovechkin is producing 0.42 goals per game and 1.00 points per game.
Keeping in mind the small sample size, his current goal-per-game output is better than the 2010-11 NHL season, which was the worst of his career. And his current point productivity is better than last season (pictured), which was also the worst of his career.
And according to a recent article at RT Sports, Ovechkin has seen "his performance improving with every game for Dynamo."
7. Superior Competition
Zdeno Chara of Lev Praha checking Alex Ovechkin in a recent game. Reuters/David Cerny
I can see the level of the game, I can see the guys, the skill of the players, how they have great techniques. I think right now it’s – with the NHL not working – the KHL is the best league.
Even when the NHL returns from the lockout, Ovechkin may be better suited to staying in the KHL, where he can sharpen his game. Against such stiff competition, he could finally regain the title of best hockey player in the world.
Alex Ovechkin is not the only Russian-born NHL player currently playing in the KHL.
In fact, he wasn't even the first to join the fledgling league.
Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar earned that honor. These two former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates joined Malkin's former team, Metallurg. These two were quickly joined in the KHL by Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Ovechkin (pictured), among others.
Ovechkin has played a lot of hockey with and against these players during his career, including with the national team. And he is close friends with several of them, including Kovalchuk and Malkin.
If the lockout doesn't end soon, Ovechkin may want to stay in Russia to continue playing with (and spending time with) his old friends.
5. Preparing for Sochi
Alex Ovechkin loves playing for the Russian national team.
Just this spring, he joined up with his countrymen in Finland and Sweden to participate in the 2012 IIHF World Championship. He played in three games, finishing with two goals and two assists. Both assists came in the gold-medal game, which Russia won 6-2 to claim the World Championship.
And Alex wasn't the only marquee name from the NHL who led the Russian team to gold.
Evegeni Malkin (pictured), who joined Team Russia about two weeks before Ovechkin, was named Most Outstanding Player of the entire tournament for his record-setting 19 points. And then-Capitals teammate Alexander Semin scored two goals and added an assist in the gold-medal game against Slovakia.
Malkin, Semin and other members of the national team will all be playing in the KHL during the NHL lockout, as will Ovechkin. Russian Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretiak said last month that this concentration of Russian national team members in the KHL will help Russia at the Olympics, to be held in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
Russian gold won in Finland may look nice, but Russian gold won in Russia will shine even brighter.
4. Promoting the Games
Alex Ovechkin has taken the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics very seriously.
The IIHF expects NHL players at the Sochi Olympics, but the NHL lockout may stop that.
But it won't stop Alex Ovechkin from completing his duties as ambassador for the games that he is so passionate about. Being in Russia will help him do just that.
3. No Labor Disputes
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings (pictured) is not even playing in the KHL, deciding instead to sign with Swiss club EV Zug. But as he told Ansar Khan of MLive, he understands the mindset of the Russian-born NHL players who have returned home to play hockey:
I know for a fact Russians will probably stay. I can't blame them either. The Russian league treats players a different way. For them to play in their home country and not have these disputes every other year ... and they honor the contracts over there. If you sign a deal, that's the deal you get.
This is already the second work stoppage Alex Ovechkin has experienced in his NHL career. He may listen to Zetterberg's words and stay in Russia to avoid yet another one.
2. Nicklas Backstrom
RIA Novosti/Jaroslav Neelov
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (pictured) signed a contract with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, where he will play alongside Capitals teammate Alex Ovechkin.
Backstrom said he is "happy" to rejoin Ovechkin at Dynamo, and he told Sovetsky Sport “this was a good option for me and I’m glad Dynamo have wanted to have me here.”
Ovechkin will be happy to have his wingman back. But what happens to Backstrom if the lockout ends? Well, as he recently told RT Sports, he really likes his new surroundings:
I like everything. Of course, the adaptation takes time: you have to get used to the new time zone because I came straight from Washington. When there’s night there it’s daytime here. I have to readjust. I would also like to get to know the guys better. Although, now I can say that the first impression of Russia is very good. And the main thing is the level of hockey. That's why I decided to come here – I've heard that it is very high.
If Backstrom likes Russia enough to stay, then Ovechkin would have one less reason to leave.
1. Maria Kirilenko
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
The Beatles had Yoko Ono.
The Washington Capitals' "Young Guns" have Maria Kirilenko.
Alex Ovechkin's current girlfriend represents the most enticing reason for him to stay in Russia. Kirilenko still resides in her homeland, and the two are rumored to be pretty serious. Ovechkin even admitted that Kirilenko is good for him.
Alex may desire to stay with Maria in Russia if and when the NHL lockout ends.
That means Maria Kirilenko would ultimately be what breaks up "the band."