Three Jack Adams Award-winning coaches, the Panthers’Joel Quenneville, the Oilers’ Dave Tippett, and the Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz, were interviewed by the NHL’s senior vice president of communications, John Dellapina, on Friday.
Connected via video conference, the coaches spoke about how they were doing during the coronavirus pandemic and what they were doing to prepare if the suspended 2019-20 season ever resumes. They also shared some fun stories from their long coaching careers.
At the 30-minute and 18-second mark, Dellapina remarked to Trotz that if you took a vote in 2014, a lot of people might have said that Alex Ovechkin was the hardest player to coach in the NHL. Trotz agreed with Dellapina that Ovechkin was “misunderstood.” He also spoke with nuance about how he challenged Ovechkin behind-the-scenes and what The Great 8 did to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup during his 13th season in the NHL.
“One thing that is undeniable is Ovi’s passion for the game,” Trotz began. “This guy loves to play. He loves everything about being Alex Ovechkin, playing for the Washington Capitals, playing in the National Hockey League. Unbelievable.
“The biggest thing with Alex is that there’s a lot of frustration in Washington and getting him to grow a little bit in a lot of the values, having a different value for things that don’t take much talent. By doing that, he became a really good captain. I think as a young player he was one of the most dynamic players in the league and he produced. The thing that was missing with Alex was the winning. There was a lot of questions if you could win with Alex. There was no question you could win with Alex. He just needed a little direction.
”We sat down and formed a relationship. He got better at things that he didn’t value as much and once you get to that, it was very easy to follow Alex (as a captain). The year we won the Cup, it was easy to follow Alex. He was getting a little frustrated that we hadn’t won. We had some good teams. We fell short to the Penguins. Two years a row, they went on to win the Cup. There was a little bit of a frustration and I said, ‘If you stick with it, the [players] will follow you. If you do this, this, this, and this, I guarantee you they’ll follow you and everything will be washed away.’
“The one thing I said to him was — he always had a great understanding of how impactful he has been in the National Hockey League. Him and Sidney Crosby after the lockout. Those two guys were the face of the NHL. In some ways, they saved the NHL. A lot of people were jumping on Ovi for the wrong reasons. He’s inspired so many people to become hockey fans. He’s inspired so many young men to want to play like Alex Ovechkin. Want to play with the emotion. Want to do all those things because he’s exciting and brings you out of your seat. He really bought into the fact that his legacy would not be defined by everybody else. By having a Cup or not. His legacy would be that he’s one of the greatest players of… I think the best goal-scorer to ever play the game. His legacy is the inspiration that he’s brought.
”When he sort of let go of chasing the Cup, that’s the only thing that held him back, there was a freeness to him. The year we won the Cup, that freeness was in the playoffs. He did all the things that were necessary as a leader for the rest of the team to want to follow. He led by example. He became playoff MVP and he’s a tremendous young man.”
Ovechkin led the NHL in goals that postseason (15) and finished second only to Evgeny Kuznetsov (32) in points (27). But it was his leadership before games (hot laps and confident guarantees) and during them (blocking shots, big hits, playing a full 200-foot game) that seemed to galvanize that historic Capitals team.
“He’s turned out to be a fabulous father,” Trotz added. “I follow him on Instagram. You see all the things he’s doing with his son. You knew he’s a very caring person and a lot of people misunderstood Ovi. A lot of people didn’t think he cared. He cares greatly. If there’s any misunderstanding by the public or people, he did care. He cared deeply. He was really a pleasure to coach. He’s a guy that you could be very blunt with and didn’t take it personal. He was great to work with for the four years.”
Screenshot courtesy of the @Capitals
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