Former Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig had some strong words on Wednesday about his ex-teammate Alexander Ovechkin’s work ethic, or lack thereof:
“For Alex, it’s a work ethic,” Kolzig said. “He just has to get back to being the way he was in his younger days and maybe not get wrapped up too much in the rock-star status that comes with being Alex Ovechkin.”
“ …Alex was getting away from playing the hard, no-nonsense, honest type of hockey, exuberant hockey that he displayed the first three years that he was in the league.”
Ouch. Of course, everyone knows now that statistically Kolzig is correct. You can compare his first 3 years with the next 4 right here on Hockey-Reference and see for yourself. The numbers don’t lie, his production has fallen as he has gotten older. But why have the numbers dropped when he should, by all means, be right in the middle of his prime hockey playing years? Well, what you might want to zone in on within Kolzig’s statements is the timing of it all:
“…the first three years…”
What happened after the first three years I wonder? OH RIGHT! Alex Ovechkin signed a 13 year extension in the middle of his 3rd season with the Washington Capitals for $124 million. He was just 22 years old then and here’s what he had to say at the time:
“I know it’s extra pressure, but I have to play the same,” he said. “If you think of pressure, it’s hard for you. I have to play the same way — play more, play better.”
Hmmm…he thought he could handle the pressure but, so far, the results of his play would say otherwise. He’s definitely not playing the same way he was, as Kolzig pointed out on Wednesday, and he’s certainly not playing better. Ovechkin also stated during the contract extension press conference:
“Hockey is my life,” he said, shrugging, “and money is money. … If you think about money, you stop playing hockey.”
There must have been a lot people skeptical about his maturity, being an instant superstar at age 20, since it seems that everyone was asking him how he would handle the gigantic payday. It’s entirely possible that after his huge payday, with all the partying and easy living, Ovechkin has just gotten soft. Ted Leonsis, back in 2005, thought he could handle it all:
“My bet is the money won’t affect him,” Leonsis said. “He’ll play every shift like it’s the seventh game of the finals of the Stanley Cup, and that’s what we’ve come to love about him.”
Well, I think we can all say that prescient statement has not come true…yet. There’s still time for Alex Ovechkin to find that hunger and intensity which he used to play every game with but with each passing season of losing without any financial penalty on his part…he might have little incentive to do so.
Hopefully Ovechkin will take Kolzig’s advice and play with the drive he had before the payday, if anything just to prove his doubters wrong…otherwise this Leonsis might live to regret this contract nearly as much as the $88 million deal he gave Jaromir Jagr.