At the same time he is a polarizing figure.
As good as Ovechkin is, there are a great deal of fans who roll their eyes when he is mentioned. It seems not everyone is impressed.
Some of that comes with the territory of being a great player. It seems the more hockey success you have the more hate and vitriol you invite.
Ovechkin is not the standard hockey player we have come to know and expect. You know, the surly quiet spoken player who just wants to put his head down and grind out wins. The guy who never says anything remotely interesting in an interview.
That’s not Ovechkin.
Ovechkin is more carefree off the ice—and sometimes on it.
Does this attitude hurt him?
It very well might. Nobody is suggesting he try to be anything but himself, but there are reasons that his attitude can hurt him off and on the ice.
What are the complaints about Alex Ovechkin’s attitude, anyway?
After all, are there stories about him violating the law, or team rules? Does there seem to be any trouble here? The questions, ultimately, seem hockey-related.
There has been some serious questions about his conditioning and how serious he takes the game of hockey.
A lot was made of former Capital Matt Bradley's questioning of the team, and how he expressed concern about Ovechkin’s dedication and off-ice work ethic.
Nobody questions how hard Ovechkin plays on the ice, but when there are numerous stories about him partying and living the care-free life, people start to wonder about how serious he is.
Then there is his on-ice leadership. Ovechkin is the captain of the Capitals, but is he acting like it?
The Capitals are the poster children for under-achievers, and Ovechkin is their captain. There may not be a more talented roster in the league, yet they have not been able to win anything.
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau recently told the Washington Post that Ovechkin was a great captain “on the ice."
On the ice? What about in the locker room? In the weight room? In the film room?
According to that story, Boudreau met with his young captain and came away saying, “He's going to take it a step further. That's maturity. It's not anything more than that.”
Ovechkin has also been known to skip a lot of Capitals practices. Is that the way a captain leads? Is that the further step that Bourdreau meant?
Whether or not these concerns are factual can be debated, but the perception is that they are true and perception often becomes reality.
So, how have these things hurt Ovechkin? There are three ways.
The Capitals are as talented as any team in the NHL. So far that talent has not resulted in any parades through Washington streets. There is no real good reason they have not won the Stanley Cup.
Is it all Alex Ovechkin’s fault?
No, but as team captain a lot of their failures are placed at his feet.
As the team captain, the expectations are higher. He needs to lead them, not just in goals, but in the locker room.
He needs to inspire guys like Mike Green, Alex Semin and Niklas Backstrom. That’s what leaders do. That’s what guys like Mark Messier did.
Do that and the Capitals will win.
As the captain he needs to lead by example. The Capitals have been nonchalant in the playoffs and have paid for it. Ovechkin can not afford to be nonchalant.
When your best player and appointed leader isn’t serious, in shape and skips practices, it influences the entire team, and you end up making tee times in April instead of planning for the playoffs.
In this way Ovechkin's attitude may have cost him a Stanley Cup.
Reputations and respect are tough to earn in the NHL. While every player in the league respects Ovechkin’s talent, do they respect his character?
He is reckless on the ice at times. He has been involved in some plays and hits that appear dirty.
While it doesn’t appear that he has done these things with the intent of, say, Matt Cooke, he has this reputation.
This may cause guys to go after him in retaliation, which could result in injury and it may cause officials to no longer give him the benefit of the doubt.
Will his reputation cause a referee to rule against him in any borderline plays?
If you don’t think that happens, take a look at last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Vancouver’s reputation for diving resulted in the referees looking the other way on a lot of plays that could easily have been penalties.
Will this start to happen to Ovechkin? Will he get called for penalties others won’t? We’ve already seen Sidney Crosby get away with certain things, would Ovechkin get the same treatment?
The Capitals need him on the ice, not suspended or in the box.
So far, Ovechkin’s attitude has not cost him any endorsements. He recently signed a lucrative deal to sponsor Bauer hockey gear and has been involved in some other hilarious spots for ESPN.
Ovechkin may lead the league in charisma and would be the ideal person to start booking larger deals.
But, how long will that last?
If he can’t get it together on the ice, the endorsements will vanish. If the Capitals don’t perform, if he doesn’t perform, the advertisers will look elsewhere.
For whatever reason, hockey players are supposed to be boring. Sean Avery, also a big personality, is a pariah in hockey circles.
Is Ovechkin headed for that fate?
His free-living attitude is not as abrasive as Avery's, but if you don’t back up winning, that attitude falls flat.
To quote Crash Davis, “After you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your sandals, the press will think you’re colorful."
Ovechkin’s “20 in the show” is the Stanley Cup. Win it, and Madison Avenue, the press and fans will love the fungus on his sandals.