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Capitals owner Ted Leonsis concerned with Alex Ovechkin’s start: ‘He needs to play better’

Greg Wyshynski
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No matter where Alex Ovechkin has played, he’s been underwhelming this season for the Washington Capitals.

Stick him with Nicklas Backstrom, and watch the top line unable to generate sustained offense with Ovechkin on the left or the right side. Stick him with Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle and … well, it’s not exactly like skating with the Sedins.

So Ovechkin has one goal and one assist on the season, playing to a minus-2. This has led to some concern from Caps fans.

Among them: Ted Leonsis, Washington’s owner.

“We're concerned too,” he told WTOP Radio on Wednesday. “And I'm not sure scoring is going to be an issue, but it has been to date. Alex is off to a slow start, and I’m surprised because he did go play in the KHL. But he’s having to get integrated into this new system. We put him on the right side, and now he’s back on the left side.

“He needs to play better. I don't have the answers, obviously; I’m not running the hockey operations. But if I did, if I knew what to do, I would go see Adam and George."

Leonsis said Ovechkin was concerned about the transition between the KHL rinks back to the NHL ice after the lockout ended. Ovechkin had 40 points in 31 games for Dynamo.

“They have bigger ice. And when I saw Alex for those six days [of training camp], I mostly talked to him about his engagement, but I asked him what his biggest concern was and he said, ‘The KHL is different; the big ice to the smaller ice, I’m going to have to get adapted to, because you don’t have room to operate,’” said Leonsis.

So what’s wrong with the player that Leonsis has signed through 2021 and is scheduled to make $79 million over the next eight seasons?

“You know, he gets double-teamed all the time. He has to keep moving. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed when he doesn’t have a good game – he seems to be more stationary,” said Leonsis.

The Capitals have worked with Ovechkin on that last point, with two video coaches on staff this year: One for systems work, and one for individual players.

At this point, we’re in favor of seeing Ovechkin get time with Mike Ribeiro rather than Backstrom, just to see if that’ll get him going. But the Ribeiro line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward is one of the units that was going well for Coach Adam Oates.

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