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Why the Devils and the Kings are evidence the Capitals shouldn’t trade Alex Ovechkin

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

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In case it wasn't clear from the comments coming out of the Phoenix Coyotes' dressing room after their elimination at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, talking to someone after their team is eliminated from the playoffs is a little like talking to someone after they've eaten a big bag of mushrooms.

People think and act without sense right after postseason ousters. It's why, rather than start in on preparation for the 2012-13 season right away, Vancouver Canucks' GM Mike Gillis insisted on "a cooling-off period" before making any organizational decisions.

It's also why anyone thinking the Washington Capitals should trade Alex Ovechkin needs to sit down until the feeling passes.

Jim Matheson discussed the idea earlier this week, even finding a former NHL coach that didn't dismiss the idea outright. From the Edmonton Journal:

"I think it's possible," said one former NHL coach. "I think it would have to be a New York or maybe even a Montreal with the owner (Geoff Molson) there."

I know the Capitals have so much tied up in Ovechkin; he's the face of their franchise. He's one of the most marketable hockey players in the world. It would be difficult to trade a guy with two Hart trophies, with already more than 300 goals, with nine years left on his contract, and get full value.

But trading Ovechkin is not as farfetched today as it was a few years ago, though.

For what it's worth, putting "one former NHL coach" in front of the statement doesn't mean all that much. After all, Mike Milbury is "one former NHL GM". But still, the mystery coach isn't saying anything new. Calls for an Alex Ovechkin trade are, regrettably, gaining steam.

Ovechkin has faced several criticisms over the last few seasons. He plays a solo game. He can be undisciplined. He looks spent. He can't handle the pressure. He's Russian. (Pro-tip: One of these statements is crazy racist.) Now, after another early spring for the Washington Capitals, some are wondering if it's time for his failings to become someone else's problem.

I'll agree with one criticism against Ovechkin: the pressure is too much. The Capitals' captain has indeed failed to live up to his Messianic expectations. He is not, contrary to popular opinion, the type of player who can singlehandedly lead his team to a Stanley Cup.

But that's because that type of player does not exist. Hockey is not basketball, where having the best player tends to make you the best team. The idea that any one skater is the problem or the answer is pure crap.

Consider the teams in the Stanley Cup Final.

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Alex Ovechkin, skating alone and not winning, like a chump

If there's one thing the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings have in common, it's that they can roll four lines. That relentless, 12-forward attack is a trait that they share with last year's Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks of the year prior.

Sure, they've had standout performances. You need those too. Dustin Brown has been incredible. So has Ilya Kovalchuk. But neither of those players is doing it in spite of their team. Heck, a large part of their success stems from the fact that they've got so much firepower behind them, you can't focus solely on shutting them down. Do that, and the other three lines will have a field day.

Alex Ovechkin can do what Ilya Kovalchuk and Dustin Brown are doing. But he needs the same kind of help. He needs a relentless, four-line team, a team that doesn't tire because the minutes are well-managed, and doesn't send out an ineffective fourth line that allows the opponents to rest up for their next three-line wave. He needs to be the left winger on the 1st line and the 5th line.

This is the new new NHL. You can have star players, sure, but your star players have to be the standouts on elite teams. If you're counting on them to singlehandedly win you games, you will lose games.

Alex Ovechkin is not the problem. The notion that he's the problem is the problem.

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