Michael Zislis of Sport-Express interviewed Igor Kuperman, who is called "one of the most respected hockey historians and aficionados in the game today" by "Hockey Canada". Here are his thoughts about Alex Ovechkin, Dale Hunter and Bruce Boudreau...
The most pressing issue for the Russian fans is obvious: what happened to Ovechkin, who for the second season in a row does not look like himself?
Nobody in the NHL can not now give a clear answer. Some put forward different theories, but they don't make any sense. For example, a lot of them say that Ovechkin's style of play has been studied thoroughly, that's why it's hard to score goals for him now. I totally disagree with these statements. Moreover, I think they are even laughable. It's not the first year that Sasha plays in the NHL, couldn't they learn Ovechkin's weaknesses in his first 4 seasons? For many decades the NHL has excelled on installing different defensive systems, on how to personally neutralize the best players. If there was a recipe on how to solve Ovechkin, it would have been used a long time ago.
But don't you think that Ovechkin is too predictable for opponents?
So what? It worked before, wasn't it? Everybody knew about his stunning powerful wrist shot. Yes, I have heard the chorus of critics, who would say that Ovechkin is the player of two moves. But look, for example, at Selanne, in his entire career he had just one move that does not stop him so far at the age of 41 to terrify the league's goalies.
Well, where to look for the cause of Ovechkin slump?
I have no doubt that the reason is him himself. Maybe it's some personal affairs. Maybe some health issues. Obviously these problems are internal in character, not external. Although if you remember last year's playoffs, Ovechkin was without question the best player in his team. It is evident that he has learned how to peak at the most appropriate time. If Alexander will shine in the spring and help his team to win the Stanley Cup, his previous failures will be instantly forgotten.
Ovechkin is a unique hockey player. He never complains about the circumstances, arguing, for example, that it is because of the coach or because of the injury. In my eyes, this is the criterion of a superstar. He is only 26 years old, give me the name of the player at his age who lost his best qualities? I do not recall such examples. Yes, it looks like Sasha now is worse than we're used to see him. But he still remains the number one star, and in Sochi he will be the main threat to the opponents.
Will firing of the head coach Bruce Boudreau help Ovechkin?
It's hard to say. His replacement is Dale Hunter, a legend in Washington, for a long time he worked with London, a team in Ontario, where he achieved a lot. But there is huge difference between juniors and the NHL, so it doesn't guarantee a success.
For example, Peter de Boor was considered a classy specialist at the junior level, but three years in Florida and the current season with New Jersey can not be recorded to his assets.
With London Hunter not only worked as a coach, but at the same time was a part owner of the club. That means he had a total control of the team. Almost like the coaches in the Soviet Union, who were like the kings or gods. Everything will be different with Capitals, there he is just an employee. A lot of juniors, who played for Hunter, became the prominent players in the NHL later, such as Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Sam Gagne. I would note that all of them are forwards, so I hope that he will be able to find the right approach to Ovechkin and Semin.
Was firing Boudreau the right move?
Yes, it was. I know only a few cases where one and the same voice worked in the locker room for several years. The team had to put up with the head coach for a long time, but this season it has been particularly clear that he lost the control and the players no longer were listening to him. Figuratively speaking, Boudreau also had only one trick and it stopped working.