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Let’s hold off on the Ovechkin-to-Yzerman comparisons

May 11, 2012, 12:39 PM EDT

Steve Yzerman Getty Images

The Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell has a question – why isn’t Alex Ovechkin being “lionized” for sacrificing personal success for team success the way Steve Yzerman was in Detroit?

Campbell also has a theory:

This wouldn’t have anything to do with a bias against Russians would it? Didn’t think so.

We don’t need to get into Ovechkin’s reduced ice time under Capitals coach Dale Hunter. If you still don’t know the story there, just scroll PHT and you’ll find a few thousand posts on the topic.

But some of you might be less familiar with Yzerman’s career progression.

From a 2006 Sports Illustrated article, we’ll let Red Wings GM Jim Devellano bring you up to speed.

“We had some really good teams in the early ’90s, but we couldn’t get it done in the playoffs,” said Devellano. “So we brought Scotty Bowman in to get us over the hump in 1993. Up until then Stevie was a tremendous one-way player, which we’d encouraged. In his early years we needed his goals and assists and, well, his glitz to sell tickets and to promote the team. Scotty didn’t care about any of that. He was determined that players were going to play his way.”

Sound familiar?

However, with all due respect to Campbell, that’s where the comparisons stop. Because not only did Yzerman become a better two-way player, he became the best two-way player, winning the Selke Trophy in 2000.

To state the obvious, Ovechkin’s nowhere close to winning the Selke. He hardly sees the ice when the Capitals are trying to protect the lead, and he hasn’t spent a single second killing penalties in the playoffs.

I’m not trying to pile on the guy — Ovechkin does deserve praise for sacrificing for the team — but to argue Ovechkin doesn’t get the same respect as Yzerman because one is Russian and the other is Canadian is specious. Pavel Datsyuk’s Russian and he gets plenty of respect for playing a two-way game.

As Yzerman recounted for SI, “Since I came into the league, there’s been three types of hockey played. At first it was a high-scoring game, very violent in terms of fighting, in which everyone concentrated on offense. Then, starting in about 1994, the trap took hold, and offense was more of a counterattack. It was a methodical, plodding game with less fighting. Now, since the resolution of the strike, it’s more of a flowing game, more open, very tightly refereed, with less violence than any time in my career. The thing is, a good player can adjust to any type of hockey.”

  1. scoops1 - May 11, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Not even close. Yzerman is the greatest captain in all of sports.

    • polegojim - May 11, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      If Campbell really doesn’t understand…. he’s in the wrong profession.

      Team results prove there is no comparison. For all the reasons Jason noted… and Steve’s Stanley Cup Ring(s)… not just one, which Ovi doesn’t have…but 3, one for each syllable of his last name!!!

      Steve made the guys around him better. We just don’ t see that with Ovi. The guys around Ovi are good, but not ‘better’ due to his presence.

      Respect Ovi for his personal production and flash, but nothing more. He’s a one way player. Take away the run and gun… and…. he’s DONE.

    • jpelle82 - May 12, 2012 at 10:38 AM

      here is really the only thing that is comparable, will make this easy for everyone – they are/were both captains of teams that wore red jerseys. end.

  2. whipwell - May 11, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Agree. OV is no Stevie-Y. But what is interesting his how in general, the media is very nit-picky AND flip-flops when discussing his game…too offensive/not defensive enough, too many shots/not enough shots, too much hitting/too cautious post-suspensions, too much ice time/too little ice time, too selfish/now he’s a team player, etc. I hope he wins a Cup because I am a huge fan, but also because I can’t wait to see if the media will embrace him as a champion, or make the claim that he’s “not as good a champion as players X, Y and Z.”

    • ravenscaps48 - May 11, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      This might have been the most perfect post ever put on this website… Bravo

  3. stakex - May 11, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    These type of comparisons are impossible to make. First of all, we will never get to see if Ovechkin is really becoming a better two way player since he hardly plays when the Caps have a lead under Hunter.

    Second, Hunter is not nearly as good as Bowman. People expect players to just be good… but a lot of it has to do with the coach they play for. Hunter doesn’t seem to care about teaching Ovechkin, instead he just takes him off the ice. Its sorta kinda maybe working so far this year, so it hard to question… but will that be true if the Caps lose tm?

    And finally…. Yzerman was a center. When you play center, you are suppose to be a good two way player. Ovechkin on the other hand, plays left wing. As a winger, he has less defensive responsibilty then Yzerman was suppose to have. Centers will always be better defensively then a winger. This is always where the comparisons between Crosby’s two way play and Ovechkin’s fall apart. One plays a position where two way play is a main focus…. the other doesn’t. So to really trash Ovechkin for lack of two way play is a cheap shot, since he plays the least defensive position in hockey.

  4. daryllh - May 11, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    I don’t know what’s more of a facepalm….

    Comparing Yzerman to Ovechkin or having Dale Hunter mentioned in the same story…the same internet as Scotty Bowman.

    • rfoster75 - May 11, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      I mean, there many reasons why you can’t compare the two. We’ll have to wait and see until Ovie’s career is over is the main reason. But more obvious than that is that, Yzerman was a center??? My first line center had better be the best two way player on the ice, not my sharp shooting winger. Silly argument.

  5. bhwksr1 - May 11, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Even being a blackhawks fan I can say Yzerman had class as a player. Simply stated I cannot say the same for Ovechkin.

  6. danaking - May 11, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Ovechkin seems to be “getting” it right now; let’s see how it holds up over a period of years before we start comparing him to Yzerman. True, 8 is not a center, but wings should consistently backcheck, as well. he’s looked better lately. let’s see how that holds up.

    And, sacrificing his stats or not, Ovechkin has quite a way to go before being compared to Yzerman as a leader.

    • polegojim - May 11, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      Great thought… Ovi hasn’t developed into the team player Steve did. I think Ovi enjoys the personal spotlight more than anything else.

      To bad it’s taken him soooooooo long to start getting it…. but maybe he can make up some lost time.

  7. jkay1818 - May 11, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    it’s simple, it also comes down to leadership. You can count numerous, numerous comments by even caps fans how laich should be the captain or other players. You would never hear a wings fan saying there should be another captain aside from yzerman.

    • fedfedcaps - May 11, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      I thought Laich should’ve been the captain before the coaching change. Since then, Ovechkin stepped it up in both ends and now we see who should be the captain, it’s clear.

  8. fedfedcaps - May 11, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Between Bowman coming to Detroit and Yzerman winning the Selke, there were 7 (!) years. Ovechkin plays defensive-minded hockey for half a year, and it already gives fantastic results.

    • polegojim - May 11, 2012 at 5:26 PM

      Really??? That’s exactly my rub… Fantastic as in… all those Stanley Cup victories?

      I agree with your statement though… he typically plays quality hockey for about half a season.

      • fedfedcaps - May 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        Do you know that Yzerman won his first SC at the age of 32?

      • polegojim - May 12, 2012 at 10:14 PM

        Yep… and you know what the Red Wings were like when he started

        Ovi has had MANY good players around him for YEARS… straight.

        And now… Ovi will be at least 27…

        Game 7 and Ovi has…. no goals…. no assists… 2 shots… and -1

        Seriously… ‘LIONIZE’ that effort? Be my guest. Maybe Lioness.

  9. caps247 - May 11, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    First off, Ovie isn’t paid to defend, but to score goals.
    However he has been sacrificing more ever since the coaching change, and for the past few games he’s been blocking more and more shots.
    This means he’s making progress and has fully bought in to Hunter’s defensive system. Who knows, in a year or two maybe we will see a new Ovechkin that plays a better D.

    • stevefromsacto - May 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM

      Campbell never “compared” Ovechkin to Yzerman; he simply said that Alex has sacrificed personal success for team success–something Stevie Y did as well.

      You wouldn’t be setting up a “straw man” so you can take more cheap shots at Ovie, would you?

      And for those posters who are “comparing” Dale Hunter with Scotty Bowman, please share whatever it is you are smoking.

      However, given what Hunter has accomplished in less than a half season with the Caps–especially in the playoffs–you might want to withhold judgment for ten years or so before putting him down.

    • polegojim - May 11, 2012 at 5:27 PM

      All this talk about him ‘sacrificing’…. sacrificing what? Personal stats, that’s it.

      They changed their style because they COULD NOT WIN A STANLEY CUP with the strategy they had…. numerous seasons proved that.

    • jpelle82 - May 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      he just doesn’t want to be embarrassed anymore. getting benched will do something to your ego. so…if it takes him a few shifts of skating 20 ft inside his own blue line and falling down in front a puck or two to make sure he doesn’t get embarrassed by his coach again then my guess he will keep doing it. don’t confuse this with any sort of commitment or effort to buy into anything but his own minutes.

  10. blockedshotnyr - May 11, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    It’s apparent Ken Campbell does not watch these games as announced by Doc Emrick and Eddie Olcyzk because if he did – he’d know that Alex Ovechkin deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor for a hockey puck accidentally hitting his skate.

    Do not get me wrong, I am not a bitter Rangers fan (bitter of their lackluster effort in Game 6 – not looking to short-change the Caps) – Ovechkin has been awesome this series and his defensive game has picked up, but to say the media is not noticing is a COMPLETE understatement. Game 6 was like Capitals love-fest, they were better than the Gretz/Mess Oilers with Ovechkin right at the center of it.

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