It’s that time of the week again and I’m here with another edition of the Three Periods blog.
It’s my weekly look at the latest news and notes in the National Hockey League.
This week I look at greatness of Alex Ovechkin after surpassing the 500-goal milestone, the underrated Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenville and Los Angeles paying “a Kings ransom” for center Anze Kopitar.
Let’s take moment to appreciate the “Great 8” Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. The Russian goal-scorer blew past the 500-goal mark with his 500th (and 501st) career goals in Sunday’s 7-1 rout of the Ottawa Senators.
Ovechkin has already cemented his status as the all-time leading Russian scorer, and will no doubt set a record that will be hard to top when his career is finished. “Ovie” came into the league in 2005 (winning the Calder Trophy for top rookie at the end of the year) and has picked up numerous individual honors such as the Hart Trophy (2008, 2009, 2013), Art Ross and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies.
However, there were questions about Alex’s defensive game. Ovechkin will never be like a Patrice Bergeron or a Jonathan Toews (who are both the best defensive centers in the game), but he was a ghastly -35 in the 2013-14 season. That statistic would turn around once Barry Trotz took over for Adam Oates in the nation’s capital.
Trotz is a defensive-minded coach, but knew Ovechkin’s offensive prowess would be needed for the team to succeed. However, Alexander the Great has improved because Trotz has utilized Ovechkin’s speed and put him in situations where he can succeed.
Ovechkin has also matured under Trotz and has been a dream to coach. Ovie and Evgeni Malkin were the only two Russian players to stay on the ice after their loss to Canada at last year’s World Championships. This is a new side to the Russian sniper.
The only thing lacking on his résumé is a Stanley Cup, and it could be sooner rather than later. (I did predict the Caps would finally win the title this season.)
In an era where coaches play musical chairs, it’s nice to see a guy like Joel Quenneville behind the bench and continue to succeed. The Chicago Blackhawks’ bench boss tied the late Al Arbour for second in coaching wins all-time with 782 victories after the Hawks downed the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Tuesday.
Quenneville has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension that takes him into the 2019-20 season. Quenneville has carved out a modern-day dynasty as Chicago has won three Stanley Cups in the last five years. It’s also a huge feat after having to remake the roster a couple of times thanks to the constraints of the salary cap.
It does help to have the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on your roster, but Quenneville has also done a great job coaching this team that changes its role players on a yearly basis.
The shelf-life for coaches in the “win now” world of sports is a short one, but he’s managed to make it work. It’s nice to see the Chicago coach get the respect he deserves.
Another hockey figure that needs a little more love from the casual fan is L.A. Kings center Anze Kopitar. The Slovenian pivot is on the verge of getting an 8-year, $80 million deal to stay in Southern California.
The Kings defense and goalie Jonathan Quick, but Kopitar has been one of the reasons that Los Angeles has won two Stanley Cups and currently leads the Pacific Division after missing last year’s playoffs.
Kopitar is well-rounded and plays good defense as well as good offense. GM Dean Lombardi is one of the better executives in the league and usually makes the right call in these situations. I trust his judgment in the length and cost of the contract.
The deal will also drive up the asking price that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos will have if he goes into free agency. Toews and Kane ($10.5 million) are the only forwards ahead of Kopitar in pay, and Stamkos will probably demand something in that ballpark. Will Tampa GM Steve Yzerman give Stamkos what he wants, or will he be forced to trade him at the deadline or at the upcoming NHL Draft?
Tweet of the week: One new feature I’m going to add is the tweet of the week. This week’s award goes to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ social media staff for zinging the Edmonton Oilers during Wednesday’s $1.5 billion Powerball drawing.
The Oilers have won the lottery four times in the last six years and the Jackets gave a nice shot to Edmonton on Twitter.
Honorable mention to Ben Bishop of the Tampa Lightning for his tweet after posting a shutout against the Colorado Avalanche. Bishop is from St. Louis and the city lost the Rams to Los Angeles. The Avs are owned by Rams’ owner Stan Kronke, and Bishop voiced his pleasure at getting a shot in on the Colorado owner.
That’s it for this week. We’ll see you next week with another edition of Three Periods.
Dan Mount is a producer for Spadora on Sports. He’s also a writer for NHL on the Ice and is the Nashville Predators beat reporter for The Hockey Writers. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.