The Washington Capitals are moving star forward Alex Ovechkin back to the left wing position.
Alex Ovechkin Moving Back to Left Wing
Photo Credit: Getty Images
“Alex Ovechkin smiled, because by now the question had become commonplace, and he knew how to deadpan the answer. Entering another season under another new coach, what has Barry Trotz asked of the Capitals star?
“‘He wants me to play hockey,’ Ovechkin said. He paused for effect, then continued, more sincere now. ‘That’s the most important thing, I think. I don’t think…it’s not about my game. It’s five guys on the ice.’
“Yet only one wore the captain’s ‘C’ last season, and only one topped $9 million in annual salary, and only one attracted the massive scrutiny Ovechkin commanded as Washington missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. And so, as the marriage of Trotz and Ovechkin enters its first season, the spotlight again descends upon No. 8, this time with his wing placement.
“‘We’ve talked and I’ve told him he’s way more dangerous on the left side,’ Trotz said Friday, the first day of Capitals training camp. ‘I’ve heard it from you guys too. It’s really what my eyes see. But I just said, I will keep him over there. He’s better on the right side defensively, but his talent is on the left side and so if I’m going to maximize his talent, I need to get him on the left side. Now, if he doesn’t want to adjust defensively playing the left side, then we’ll talk about maybe moving him back to the right. But at this point, in my head I have him starting on the left.’
“Earlier this summer, at the NHL draft in Philadelphia, Trotz leaned toward keeping Ovechkin on the right side, where had spent the past two seasons under since-fired coach Adam Oates. Trotz only recently changed his tune, but added that Ovechkin’s placement, particularly through the preseason, will be fluid.
“‘Alex has said wherever you want me to play, left or right, he will play,’ Trotz said. ‘And I made the decision, I think he should go there first. I think he’s one of the most dangerous players in the National Hockey League offensively, so let’s give him a chance to do do that. The stuff he does on the left side, there’s no coach on the planet can teach him what he does. If he’s willing to learn, I can teach him to do the other stuff. If he’s willing ot learn. And I know he’s willing to learn.'”
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) September 19, 2014
Ovehckin told CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley on Sept. 20 he will do whatever Trotz asks him to do:
“For his part, Ovechkin said he will play wherever Trotz wants him to play.’
“‘I can play both,’ he said. ‘Oates teach me how to play on the right side and now me and Barry talked and he has his own reasons and I agree with it. If he wants me to play on the right side I will. If he wants me to play on the left side I will.’
“New Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said the theory that Ovechkin re-invented himself as a goal scorer by moving to the right side was lost on him, especially when the two went head-to-head on the ice.
“‘I don’t think it was any easier to cover him on the left or the right,’ Orpik said. ‘He’s one of those guys, even if you think you have him covered, if you lose him just for that split second that can cost you.
“‘He obviously has that knack for finding the back of the net. He finds those open areas, especially on the left side, where (he) has that one-timer. Even when you know it’s going to him you still can’t stop him. It can be very frustrating at times.
“‘I know he gets a lot of heat (for the minus-35) but he’s probably the best natural goal scorer, him and Steven Stamkos, in the league.’
“…Ovechkin said backchecking was one of the topics discussed between him and Trotz, but when asked if there are numbers he would like to reach to consider his 10th NHL season a successful one, Ovechkin answered this way.
“‘We just have to win the games,’ Ovechkin said. ‘We have to have a good start. You can see we missed (the playoffs) by a couple points (three) because we didn’t have a good start. The most important thing right now is make a snowball and keep rolling and rolling.'”
The 29-year-old Ovechkin has amassed 422 goals and 392 assists for 814 points in 679 regular-season games through Sept. 22, per ESPN stats.
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Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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