In the wake of his knee-on-knee hit and the ensuing two-game suspension, more ink and pixels are being wasted debating whether Alex Ovechkin should change his style of play.
Lovable man-child or reckless wildebeest on skates?
Bruce Boudreau leans toward the former, telling reporters:
"I don't want him to change the way he plays at all. When I said 'reckless', I was using the term in fear of him getting hurt, not him hurting anyone else. He's got to be him. I don't want him to change."
Ovie's the kind of player who's running at 200 mph at all times. He's stuck in the fastest gear, and the brakes are out. He's constantly seeking out the puck, and his combination of size, speed and aggressiveness sometimes make it seem like he's completely out of control, and, well, sometimes he IS out of control.
But if you temper that, do you temper who Ovie is? Do you ask Peyton Manning to hurry up to the line and call fewer audibles? Do you ask Albert Pujols to bunt for more base hits? Of course not. They play the way they play because it matches up with their immense talents, making them all the superstars they are.
Writing for CBC, Elliotte Friedman makes the case that he should, if only because it will keep him on the ice:
"In the words of one GM, this great player is “out of control.” He has given the NHL no choice but to get tougher on him. If he continues the recent pattern of slew-foots, boarding penalties and knee-on-knee hits, he will spend even more time out of the lineup. The only question will be if it’s due to injury or suspension. "
But what really matters is what Ted Leonsis thinks. He writes:
"Alex does play fast and hard. It is why he is beloved. It is why he is the two-time and reigning MVP of the league.
"I believe if he changes and becomes a player that is managed by the media or fans or anyone else, he will put himself at risk. ” To thine own self be true.” That is the right motto to live by. That is what I have advised Alex. Be authentic and be respectful. Play the game with passion. Lean in, don’t lean back. Love the game. Have fun. Win."
And for what it's worth, when reporters asked him about whether he would change, Ovie responded, "I'm not going to change anything."
That's the answer anyone would've expected.