Ovechkin’s game, in skiers’ terms, has turned into a “yard sale” — he’s the downhill skier who wipes out and litters the slopes with skis, gloves, poles, helmet, goggles, and lunch money. He isn’t making anyone else better, and no one seems to be able to help him work more effectively or productively.
Ovechkin is strong, powerful, equipped with a devastating slapper that he loves to unload. Entering Saturday, he had 107 shots on net, second only to Evander Kane’s 121. But for all that shooting, 33 guys with fewer shots had more goals.
Better career? Looks from here that the debate is over, although both players are young enough (Crosby 25, Ovechkin 27) that the trend could change. But I doubt it.
Crosby is tracking toward greatness, among the best ever to play the game. Ovechkin, once a lock for 50 goals a year, looks to be operating with a malfunctioning GPS, tracking toward a dead end.
MAKING HIS LIST
Chiarelli looks to go shopping
With the April 3 trade deadline fast approaching, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli continues to shape his wish list, one that likely includes help for his third and fourth lines, especially now that Chris Kelly is sidelined indefinitely with a cracked tibia (compliments of a menacing Chris Neil hit).
Two of Chiarelli’s best deadline moves came in the spring of 2011 when he acquired Kelly (via Ottawa) and Rich Peverley (via Atlanta) in separate deals.
Chiarelli also will look for help on the blue line, where last spring he added Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau as insurance at the deadline. Just a couple of names to keep in mind back there are Sergei Gonchar (Ottawa) and Ron Hainsey (Winnipeg), both adept at moving the puck.
Gonchar was here briefly (22 games total) as a deadline pickup in 2004. An unrestricted free agent come July, he could probably be had for as little as a fourth-round pick.
Hainsey, out of UMass-Lowell, is also headed to UFA, but no doubt would be harder to pry loose from the Jets, unless they plummet out of the playoff picture. Hainsey’s numbers are down (0-8—8 into Saturday’s play), but the ex-Habs first-rounder (No. 13/2000) still has the wheels and touch to help.
“It’s the same list every year, it really is,’’ said Chiarelli. “You look to add depth, and rather than target, say, a top six forward, I like to define [the process] as looking right through the lineup.’’
Sabres might lop off more
The move to ditch Lindy Ruff and bring in Ron Rolston as interim coach hasn’t changed fortunes in Buffalo, where what looks like a fourth DNQ in six seasons is raising questions about whether the Sabres will be able to keep franchise cornerstones Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, and Thomas Vanek beyond next season. All are on target to become UFAs in July 2014.
Such is the stuff that can lead to GMs getting fired. The Boston roster was very much in flux, and Joe Thornton just months beyond his trade to San Jose, when Mike O’Connell was canned in March 2006.
“Do we become a younger team or do we become a team that’s going to build and try to get this core group of guys a chance to move forward?’’ mused Miller last week. “Or are we not the core anymore? Who knows?
“They’re not decisions we make. We react off management and circumstance.”
Added Vanek, “It hits you, how quick it goes. Here are two guys [Chris Drury and Mike Grier] who mentored me, and they’re done playing hockey.
“You definitely want to be in a spot where you give yourself a chance of winning.”
Meanwhile, club owner Terry Pegula remains silent on all subjects.
The old college try
The old college try
No knowing whether NHL players will participate in the Sochi Olympics next February, although there is a growing sense of fait accompli that the league will OK a fifth journey to Olympus. If so, the likeliest coach of Team USA will be Rangers boss John Tortorella or perhaps the Penguins’ Dan Bylsma. Jack Parker, who last week announced he will retire from his Boston University job at season’s end, would be an interesting, poignant choice. He was runner-up in 1980 and eschewed other opportunities in years since. Typically, half the US roster has roots in the college game, so having a college coach back there wouldn’t be hard for the majority, if anyone, to accept. And, let’s not forget, Herb Brooks was a college coach when he helped make the miracle happen at Lake Placid.
As the weekend approached, Carl Soderberg remained in Sweden, though not in the Linkoping lineup. The future Bruin (we think) was suspended for four games last week for delivering a high stick during the Swedish Elite League playoffs. “From what his agent tells me,’’ said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, “the club they’re facing in the playoffs, HV71, had a guy chasing him all night, and finally he gave him a cross-check. The stick hit first in the shoulder, and then the head, but they’ve got a near-zero-tolerance policy over there, so . . .’’ So, without the 6-foot-3-inch pivot, it could mean Linkoping exits the postseason early and Soderberg is on Causeway Street sooner instead of later. “Who knows?’’ said Chiarelli. “Let’s not forget, I have to sign him first.’’Continued...