James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Are Ovi's top pick days over?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Most sports have an obvious number one fantasy draft pick. Some are so good that it almost becomes a point of contention.


Characters in “The League” violated societal norms to try to secure Adrian Peterson. One can only imagine the kind of blood feuds that went down to determine which owner landed Wayne Gretzky in his unparalleled prime years.


For quite some time, Alex Ovechkin has been the Adrian Peterson of hockey. He’s almost always among the league leaders in goals and points, but it’s the extras that really make him special. Playing on a strong team like the Washington Capitals often helped him generate a robust +/- and plenty of power-play points. His aggressive nature only bolsters his value in leagues that include some combination of hits, shots on goal and penalty minutes.


With that in mind, I didn’t even flinch in picking him when I “lucked” into the first pick in a draft.


On paper, Alex Ovechkin hasn’t been a total bust, either. Maybe he isn’t putting up eye-popping numbers, but he still produced 10 points in 10 games.


That being said, visuals matter and Ovechkin hasn’t looked quite “right” during much of his first 10 contests. He started the year off sluggishly and apparently played poorly enough in Tuesday's game that Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau decided to keep him on the bench when the team emptied its net against the Anaheim Ducks. Nicklas Backstrom managed to tie the game in that situation and then added the game-winner in overtime (although that time with Ovechkin on the ice).


A low shooting percentage seemed like a reasonable single stat to explain some of the Russian star’s struggles last season, but he’s connecting on 13.5 percent of his shots this season. So with that easy excuse out of the way, the question is: should Ovechkin owners be worried?


The big picture answer is “No.” He’s still firing a solid amount of shots on net (3.7 per game) and remains on pace for 40+ goals and 80+ points. Ovechkin remains an elite threat. Now, if you’re wondering if Ovechkin’s days as the unanimous top pick in most drafts are over, then you might have a point because:


1. He already got his money. If you know that you’re going to make $100 million playing hockey whether you score 30, 40 or 50 goals, are you going to be that depressed when a tough month hits? Most importantly, how driven will you be to fight through tougher times?

2. His team isn’t a freewheeling bunch anymore. The Capitals are a great team – my pick to win the Stanley Cup – but they’re not the reckless locomotive of an offense they once were.

3. A crowded field. The Capitals have a bit more offensive depth than before (especially in the “elbow grease” category). The other factor is that the league’s elite forwards might have passed him by, at least at the very top. In the future, it might be safer to go with a more consistent option like Daniel Sedin (who still gets a lot of goals and a decent amount of shots) instead.


So, again, there’s no reason to freak out about Ovechkin – but don’t write his name in permanent marker for the number one spot for next year just yet.



After a tough opening month, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks gave their fans some reason to believe that they’re going to return to favor.


That should be most relevant to Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, the latter of whom faced an unbelievable amount of heat in the first month of the season.  Bobby Lou was about 30 seconds short of his first shutout of the season Tuesday night, but Alex Tanguay ruined the fun. (Tanguay is the Calgary Flames’ leading scorer with 9 points, by the way.)


Hopefully you had the patience to stick with those two top goalies, even if it’s quite possible that they’ll each face a few bump runs before the 2011-12 season is over.


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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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