Alex Ovechkin was faced with a challenge this year under rookie Washington Capitals Coach Adam Oates. Oates decided in order to revitalize Alex’s game, he would move the super star forward from left wing to right wing. While the transition was tough early on in the year, the bold move by Oates eventually paid off.
Although the payoff from the coaching switch didn’t end in a Stanley Cup for the Caps, on Saturday evening Ovechkin was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
This was a year of evolution for Alex from a painful beginning to an end of the year streak which led his team to a playoff birth. Ovechkin admits at first it was a hard transition to the right wing but he and Adam Oates worked so well together that it eventually worked out.
This is the third time Ovechkin, 27, has won the Hart Trophy.
This years trophy was more rewarding than the first two because he really wasn’t expecting to win the trophy after having a tough year for Ovechkin and the Caps. Ovi0 received a lot of unwarranted criticism from some in the media who aren’t directly connected to the franchise but he’s proven resilient through it all. He’s been criticized a lot the last year and a half and unnecessarily, especially considering the coaching and system changes happening in DC. Being a two-time MVP and switching positions to win MVP a third time at the new position in the same year is quite remarkable. This speaks to the dedication, work ethic and talent of Alex, despite what his fiercest critics in the national media think or expect of him.
Ovechkin joined elite company while earning his 3rd Hart Trophy. Only eight players in NHL history have won the trophy three or more times. He now joins the ranks with Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, Eddie Shore and Howie Morenz.
It was mid-March when the Capitals were at a crossroads during the season. They were coming off a rough month of February when Ovechkin was criticized by the national media, specifically Mike Milbury of NBC Sports, for being lazy and not doing the right things on the ice to help his team win. What Milbury failed to acknowledge was the team’s struggles learning a new system for the third time in two seasons in a lock out shortened season and under a rookie head coach. It was clear the challenges Ovechkin was having during the early season on the right side. In mid-March though, it all clicked for Ovechkin and the Capitals as he found a comfort level on the right side and in Adam Oates’ system. Ovechkin was seeing the ice better, using his linemates better to create more scoring opportunities and playing more confidently in all three zones. His consistency from shift to shift was picking up and he went on a tear the rest of the season.
Mike Millbury at it again, pointed out that Ovechkin’s dominance was limited to only half of the season. In that half of the season though, the Capitals captain showed his ability to learn, lead, adjust and improve his game and team after facing adversity. I’m proud to say this is a BIG EFF YOU to Mike Milbury who wishes he had the talent of Alex Ovechkin!
You can’t call it home cooking either as the award is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association and the Washington Post does not allow its writers to vote on awards.
In 2007-08 and 2008-09, Ovechkin ran away with the Hart Trophy as the Capitals took the NHL by storm. This season Ovechkin totaled 56 points and a led the NHL with 32 goals — which were very impressive numbers considering the Owners had locked the players out for nearly half of the season and they were limited to only a 48-game regular season — as opposed to the usual 82 game season. It was the second half of the season where Ovechkin and the Capitals really caught fire. He scored 23 goals and had 36 points in the final 23 games. As we’ve written about before, Ovechkin was the main force behind Washington going from the worst team in the NHL during the first half of the season to first place in the Southeast Division and a playoff berth.
So congratulations to Alex Ovechkin for a much deserved 3rd Hart Trophy.