Friday, June 1, 2018

Who should take Alexander Ovechkin's crown as the NHL star who can't win the big one?

Alex Ovechkin has heard it for just about his entire NHL career: He can’t win the big one.

Sure, he can rack up the stats and personal accolades during the regular season, winning Rocket Richards and Hart Trophies almost at will. But when it’s all on the line, either in the Stanley Cup playoffs or the Olympics, he can’t get it done. Everyone knows it. He’s basically the NHL’s poster child for coming up small when it matters most.

But now, Ovechkin has finally led the Capitals to the final, and he’s three wins away from a championship. He and the Caps will have their work cut out for them against the Golden Knights, but they’ve defied expectations all spring. And if they do pull it off and Ovechkin gets his skate with the Cup, the NHL’s can’t-win-the-big-one squad will need a new leader.

So today, let’s run through the rest of the NHL and figure out which players are in the best position to take over Ovechkin’s role as the star player who just doesn’t have what it takes to earn a ring. As it turns out, there are plenty of candidates. We’ll count down 10 options.

10. Patrick Marleau, Maple Leafs

Marleau’s name doesn’t come up all that often in these discussions, partly because he seems like such a nice guy. But the reality is that he’s now 20 seasons into his career and is still chasing his first championship. Most of that time was spent with the Sharks, a team that’s established a reputation for falling short of expectations in the post-season. This year, Marleau made the jump to the Maple Leafs in what some saw as an attempt to get closer to that elusive ring, only to see San Jose go further into the post-season than Toronto did.

Marleau’s playoff numbers are reasonably good, down only slightly from his regular-season production, and he’s at least played in a final. But with over 1,500 career games played without ever winning the sport’s ultimate prize, he has to be on our list.

9. Pekka Rinne, Predators

There are a couple of goaltenders who’ll rank higher on our list than Rinne, and we’ll get to them in a moment. But the Predators’ star is well worth a mention, even on the heels of what figures to be a Vezina-winning season.

Rinne has had some very good playoff runs in his 10-season career, including last year’s trip to the final that saw him post a .930 save percentage. But others have been decidedly average, and he’s coming off a rough 2018 run that ended in disaster, with him yanked from Game 7 against the Jets after giving up two softies in just over 10 minutes. That’s the kind of performance that creates questions even after an excellent season, and it will be interesting to see how much confidence the Predators still have in their suddenly beleaguered star.

8. Maybe nobody?

Hear me out. Maybe the whole “He can’t win the big one” narrative was fatally flawed from the start, not just for Ovechkin but for everyone it was ever applied to. And maybe instead of looking for an heir apparent for Ovechkin’s crown, we should use his appearance in the final as an excuse to drop the whole concept altogether.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

1 comment:

  1. You're the best. No really you are. Your writing is my favourite and is why I watch hockey or vice versa actually. But take the six edits returned to you in a month at face value. Ensuing not ensuring!