Thursday October 23rd, 2014

Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is uncoachable. Also, it seems that Barry Trotz has been fired after just six games behind Washington's bench.

Those were the key takeaways from the broadside delivered by Sportsnet analyst Glenn Healy against the Hall of Fame-bound winger last night on the net's To the Point segment.

"He is not coachable," Healy said. "Here's the number that matters to me: $124 million deal that goes to '20-21. The only one who's got a longer deal than that is Rogers!

"Last year, 51 goals, -35," Healy continued. "He didn't listen to [former coach Glen] Hanlon, didn't listen to [Bruce] Boudreau, [Dale] Hunter, [Adam] Oates, Trotz. This same owner fired all those five guys. And there are three more that are gonna get fired by the time it's over."

We should probably point out that, despite Healy's assertion, Trotz has not—as of yet—been fired by Ted Leonsis. But hey, Healy was on a roll.

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"You know what, call his agent, get his agent to talk some sense into him. It's his mom! His mom's his agent! No chance. He's not a coachable player and the numbers don't lie."

That Healy agreed to make the case against Ovechkin in the point/counterpoint format was no surprise. He turned in his fan club membership card a long time ago, frustrated by Ovechkin's indifference about defense and, on some nights, effort of any kind.

It's probably worth noting here that my own admiration for Ovi is up only slightly from an all-time low as well, but even I have to admit that Healy was doomed to fail even if he presented a more coherent analysis. Because, to be fair, it looks like there's a bit more to Ovechkin's game in the early going than power play one-timers and scant attention to his own zone.

Maybe that's why Nick Kypreos' argument was much more compelling ... even if it wasn't entirely complimentary.

"Ovi's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can tell you that he will be smart enough to know this is his last chance to prove to everybody he's not a coach killer," Kypreos said.

Kypreos pointed out what many analysts have noted: Ovechkin is cutting way back on his endless shifts. According to Kypreos, Ovi's average power play shift is down from 1:40 to 1:10 while his regular shifts have dropped from 1:20 to a little over a minute. Both are still too long, but they are steps in the right direction. And while we don't have a metric (yet) to measure his intensity away from the puck, it does seem to be higher than in recent years.

Whether you want to credit Trotz for his ability to impose his will on Ovechkin or credit Ovechkin for taking the proper steps to improve his game really doesn't matter. The bottom line is the team's most important player is moving toward becoming a better team player. And that's a start.

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Maybe the real question, then, isn't whether Ovechkin is coachable, but if he's capable of adhering to Trotz's plan. Their success won't be determined by results in the first few weeks of the season but by his ability to stick with it over the long haul. What happens to his commitment when Washington hits the inevitable rough patch? Will those shift times bloat again as Ovechkin tries to solve the problems himself? Does he have the fortitude to stick to playing (some) defense during the season's dog days when legs start getting heavy and playing becomes more of a grind? Or will we get more "controller disconnect" moments like we saw last season?

We have to give this a little time to play out ... but we also have to give Ovechkin credit for his early efforts. Even if Healy doesn't recognize them.

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