Toronto Maple Leafs: Maybe Don’t Take Ovechkin’s Advice After All

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 03: Capitals left wing Alexander Alex Ovechkin (8) stickhandles into the zone during the Calgary Flames vs. Washington Capitals on November 3, 2019 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 03: Capitals left wing Alexander Alex Ovechkin (8) stickhandles into the zone during the Calgary Flames vs. Washington Capitals on November 3, 2019 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Last week, Alex Ovechkin gave the Toronto Maple Leafs some unsolicited advice.

Today, another NHL star, Drew Doughty, was asked about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Who cares?

In both cases, each player gave a trite, obvious, completely expected sermon about “playing the right way.”

Why are these players even being asked about the Leafs?

Why do we ever expect anything good to come out of these kinds of questions?

Toronto Maple Leafs Don’t Need Advice

It would be one thing if the player being asked the question had a tangible connection to the Leafs, or if one had any reasonable expectation of an honest, thoughtful or non-cliched answer.

But neither Doughty or Ovechkin has any connection to the Leafs.  Jake Muzzin won a Cup with LA and currently plays for the Leafs, but I guess he’s just not a big enough star.

So why ask other players on other teams about the Leafs?

What is gained, expect predictable, meaningless controversy?

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS!  Did you hear what Ovechkin said?

Nothing. He said nothing. He offered the convenient narrative, and anyone who follows hockey at all could have guessed what he was going to say, before he said it, within an accuracy of four words.

Ovechkin, along with Sidney Crosby, was the face of the NHL for a decade.

The story goes that he had to stop being an individual and play like a team player in order to win.  He had to learn how to play defense and stop being so selfish. That his team

could only win when they learned the lessons of defeat.

Man do I ever hope I’m never naive enough to buy into this crap.

Ovechkin didn’t win his Cup until 13 seasons into his career.  But guess what? There were four Capitals teams superior to the one that eventually won, and Ovechkin’s defensive improvements, if they exist, were marginal at best.

Three of those Capitals teams had 118 or more points  (They had just 105 the year they won the Cup) and had they won a Stanley Cup in those years, they’d have been considered one of the best teams of all-time.

They had bad luck. The Washing team that had over 120 points, or the with 118 points were significantly better than the team that ended up winning, but that isn’t talked about because sports are about easy narratives, not complicated math formulas or luck.  (Capitals season information from wikipedia).

Ironically, in a year in which their Cup Window was considered nearly, if not fully closed, Washington happened to win.  Such are results of a sport whose every game is decided by a single player (a goalie).

But that doesn’t stop everyone from patting Ovechkin on the back and uncritically taking his words at face value.  “Hey this guy won when he changed his style, so he knows what he’s talking about.”  Except, that only in the universe of easy answers and easy digestible sound bytes is that in any way an accurate depiction of events.

The worst part of the whole situation is the idea that Ovechkin knows best. Even if you accept the fact that he learned to play defense and that that directly lead to him winning the Cup (total B.S, they won the Cup because Holtby had one of the best single playoff seasons of all time), then you at least have to stop getting so impatient about the Toronto Maple Leafs progress, ’cause they’ve cot another nine years to go if they do it the Ovechkin way.

Ovechkin’s words are meaningless.  He could easily have won the Cup back when his reputation was that he only played offense, it just didn’t happen to work out that way. We shouldn’t learn any big lessons because of the year he got lucky. If anything, we should look at Ovechkin and the fact that the Capitals were a contender for a decade, and learn from that.

We should learn that a team built around a set of (by reputation) one-dimensional players can be awesome.

Specifically, we should learn that you can have the best team four times in a decade, and be one of the best teams every single year, and it doesn’t mean you’ll win anything.  We should learn that all you can do is assemble the pieces and hope.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have their core locked up long-term, they’ve played just three full seasons since they bottomed out, and they’ve already got tons of playoff losses to learn from.

This team couldn’t be in better position.  They’re in better position than Ovechkin’s team was four years after they drafted him.

And remember, the day that Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner were dragged through the mud by every sports outlet in two countries for an entire day, they were, respectively, on pace for 60 goals, 80 points, and 90 points.   Their team, despite injuries, a brutal schedule and a low PDO, was still in a playoff spot.

Asking these legends their take on a great team during a time representative of the kind of adversity it’s said (in the Ye Ole Book of Hockey Chestnuts and Clichés) that you have to have, just goes to show the complete lack of ability of our culture to view anything in anyway other than the “perpetual now.”

Oh, and by the way, Ovechkin never learned to play defense either.  Check out the chart above, from,  which compares Ovechkin to both Crosby and Matthews last season.

dark. Next. Toronto Maple Leafs November CHL Prospect Update

But by all means, be sure to get Jonathan Toews opinion next week when the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Blackhawks.