Trotz Is a Good Inspiration for Ovechkin

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Posted October 18, 2014

Alex Ovechkin (Caps Outsider)

Notice anything different about Alexander Ovechkin lately? Okay, you’re right, he’s back to playing left wing, but I’m talking about his overall persona on and off the ice. In recent weeks, we have seen a different kind of Ovi.  First, when he invited a youth hockey player from the American Special Hockey Association out to dinner after the final preseason game.  He even brought her a bouquet of flowers.  That same game we saw “Poppa Bear Ovi” dive on an opponent to come to the aid of a teammate thus racking up simultaneous penalties, 2 minutes for charging and 2 minutes for roughing.

“That’s what he should do. It shows leadership,” said Coach Barry Trotz of Ovechkin’s time in the sin bin that night.  “We’ll take that kind of penalty any day.”

And, recently, sandwiched in between two stellar goal scoring games we saw Ovi hobnobbing with actor-humanitarian-philanthropist Brad Pitt at the premiere of Pitt’s new movie Fury held in town at the Neuseum.

So, who is this kinder, gentler, more mature, more accessible guy? I know it’s early in the season, but are we seeing a new, improved Ovechkin?  A guy that backs up his teammates, shows appreciation for fans, positively represents the team at social events and can still score goals like nobody’s business?  If so, then to whom do we owe the honor of executing this transformation?  The answer is Barry Trotz.

Trotz brought a different kind of hockey to Washington—a Walt Disney Productions’ The Mighty Ducks type of determination and camaraderie.   He refers to it as the “team as a family” approach and it seems to be working so far and The Great Eight has bought into it.

The story continued Saturday night at the Verizon Center as the Caps took on the Florida Panthers. Crisp passing and patient teamwork set the scene for the Caps’ 2-1 shootout victory over the Panthers.  Jason Chimera had his first goal of the season and goaltender Justin Peters had his first win in his first start for the Caps. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin all scored in the shootout to seal the deal for the Caps.

Coach Trotz spoke about Ovechkin and his development as a leader after the game.  “Leadership can’t be taught.  You have to grow into it,” he said.  “Alex is a maturing young man and he’s a bit of a wildflower.  He recognizes that his game has to grow, and it is.  He’s learning that the best leadership is doing what’s right all the time, even when no one’s looking.”

Fans hope that the Caps’ confidence and drive will prevail and the Caps will be playoff bound this season. As for Ovechkin, he is the key.  He had the leadership skills all along.  It just took Barry Trotz to mold him into a grown-up.