We felt compelled to do a quick rebuttal to Neil Greenberg's defense of Alex Ovechkin in the Washington Post today. Greenberg compares Ovechkin to Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, the Hulls, Steve Yzerman, and "others who have tallied more than 50 goals in four different seasons" to make the point that a scoring decline at age 27 is predictable. I'm sure Greenberg's chart is accurate, but to compare him to the all-time greats borders on being insulting.
Gretzky: He scored 40 goals in 64 games at age 27 (a 51 goal pace) before being traded to Los Angeles where he immediately scored 54, 40, and 41 goals between the ages of 28-30.
Bossy: Look at Mike Bossy's stats, for God's sake. The guy scored 50+ every year until he was derailed by injures (and still managed 38 in 63 games in his final season).
Brett Hull and Bobby Hull: Both scored at a pace of 61-62 goals per 82 games from ages 27-30.
Lemieux: Mario scored 155 goals in 152 games between the ages of 27 and 30. And oh yeah, he had cancer.
|"Wake me up when Ovechkin does this. With cancer."|
Greenberg also tries to redeem Ovechkin by saying that he is "more engaged in the Capitals' offense than he has been in a while." Look at how much the bar for Ovechkin has been lowered ... he's the CAPTAIN of the Capitals and makes $9.5 million/year and he's getting credit for acting interested in playing hockey. O.J. was very involved in Nicole's life. It didn't make him a good husband.
Greenberg then cites another statistic: "His 64 shots on goal are fourth most in the league and reverse his three-year trend of declining shots per game." If you're Joe Vitale or Jay Beagle, then shots on goal may be a relevant measure of your effectiveness. When you're Alex Ovechkin, your shots on goal stats are a measure of nothing other than your effectiveness at getting shots on goal. If Ovechkin is shooting a lot but not scoring, it means that he is not scoring. If he isn't shooting a lot and is not scoring, it means that he is not scoring. That's it.
Finally, there's this: "Even with the lone even-strength goal he is still on a 27-goal pace over an 82-game season. Yes, that is low by Ovechkin standards, considering how he lit up the league upon his arrival, but 27 goals with almost no contribution during even-strength is not chump change either."
Putting aside the fact that 27 goals from a $9.5 million player is laughable (Pascal Dupuis had 25 goals last year and he makes $1.5 million), Ovechkin's inability to score at even strength should not be something that is factored OUT of his evaluation. If anything, it is the one thing that should be factored IN the most.
Again -- we take only minimal satisfaction in documenting Ovechkin's decline from terrifying offensive force to terrifying contract who shows occasional flashes. He was dynamic in his last game against the Pens, so maybe he will get back at least some of what he seems to have lost. But his decline is not comparable to any supposedly similar decline from the true best-of-the-best, and he doesn't need anyone making excuses for him by creating charts that, at their best, prove only that other unnamed guys started sucking later in their careers, too.