It's been Decade, Don't Give Up Now: Keep Ovechkin No Matter What
June 7, 2017, 11:58 AM ET [20 Comments]
Washington Capitals Blogger • RSS • Archive • CONTACT
When Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan recently left the door open - slightly - for an Ovechkin trade, it did little to quiet the idea of trading the best goal scorer of his generation.
I originally wrote the idea of trading the superstar off as a terrible move, brought on by a general frustration with the teams lack of playoff success and a saturated hockey media desperate to create content out of anything.
It's a great thing that people who are interested in hockey have an unlimited supply of things to read and talk about, but the negative side of such an intense competition for eyeballs is that bad ideas and silly narratives get blown up and take on a life of their own. Once something reaches a critical mass of hype/talked-aboutness it stops really mattering if it's true.
Take for example the idea that the Capitals are team that can't win for whatever reason - be it the mix of players, Ovechkin isn't a winner, they're chokers, they're psychologically damaged, etc. All of those things are objectively not true and it's really easy to prove that it.
The winner of a hockey game is often not the better team and a lot of times luck is the deciding factor. If you play poker, you can bet all your money with a pocket aces, get called by an idiot playing 7-2 and you can still lose. Hockey is like that sometimes.
Players can't control their shooting percentages.
Faceoffs don't matter.
Jake Gardiner is good at defense.
etc. etc. etc.
There are just things that, for whatever reason, are impenetrable to the psyche of the mob - by which I mean the public at large. And I am not disparaging them, we all are a part of that mob on one topic or another from time to time.
But if I sit down with a person over a beer for ten minutes, one on one,. I can explain advanced stats, the faceoff thing, why shot-attempts are important, etc. 100% the time, they end up agreeing.
In the non-personal world of whatever makes up the most popular public thoughts and ideas, you can't seem to get through to people, for whatever reason. It has nothing to do with intelligence, it has nothing to do with hockey knowledge or anything like that. I think it is just that any kind of change takes time. Instead of a new and exciting way to look at something, people feel like they're being called dumb, or they get defensive because they think they're being told they've been doing it wrong the whole time.
Either way, hockey or not, I think we can all agree that on a day to day basis, if we read twitter or anything like that, we see people with good ideas ignored in favor of passing on the easy answer. Add to that the newness (relatively) of social media and the way it multiplies it can be really crazy to avoid going with the crowd.
This doesn't mean that everyone who goes against the crowd is right or even half of them. It's complicated because a lot of people who push weird ideas are just weird. But today's culture has people saying "I'm never going to read this guy again" when he writes something they don't agree with. It has people calling for other people to be fired every time they read something they don't like. Sometimes those people are correct, because what has been said is horrible, but most of the time they're just whiners who are used to getting whatever they want.
All this stuff happens to me all the time, but I'm a hockey blogger and not important. But it happens to important people with good ideas that need to be heard, and it forces some people to just keep their mouth shut, or say the easy thing, and that's bad for us on so many levels.
I am an egomaniac and the kind of person who doesn't mind being called an idiot by dozens of people every week. The problem is that most people can only take so much negative criticism so they end up playing to the mob. If this keeps up, all that will exist is really safe boring generic easy answer stuff, and stuff from maniacs like me. All the people doing actual important work will get tired and feel its easier to just shut up rather than deal with a ratio of four trolls per published sentence.
I might actually be as crappy at this as some people online have told me I am, but I will still bet that if you studied it, you'd find that 100% of people who write any kind of online content that isn't crafted to be right-down-the middle are going to take an inordinate amount of criticism and abuse.
Just look at Eklund, the guy takes the funnest aspect of hockey fandom and makes an industry out of it. He can break a hundred trades, but because the actual point of his job is to report on rumours, 99% of which don't come true because they're rumours, people rip him for having a low success percentage, even though the better he does his job, i.e provides a ton of rumours, the lower his accuracy in predicting trades will be.
But good luck getting most people to realize that.
The danger is that we create a society that doesn't challenge authority, doesn't question narratives and doesn't have a wide variety of thoughts and opinions. One that only tells itself what we want to hear.
Like dude, do not tell me one more time about how faceoffs don't matter or I'm going to put my computer through a wall and then demand that you be fired.
Ovechkin doesn't need to be traded. The Capitals don't need to do much beyond the forced reshuffling that will occur because of various expiring contracts. Ovechkin is a winner, he just hasn't won. He easily could have. He just didn't. That doesn't mean we should credit him with a fake championship, it just means that we should believe that - based on his talent alone - he can and probably will eventually win a Championship.
Even if the Capitals traded Ovechkin and then won, doesn't that decrease what it would mean? Isn't it better to go down fighting with the guys that make up your team, than to replace them with hired guns? Isn't there something to be said - even if it's romantic and outdated - about going through something for ten, fifteen years until it pays off?
The Capitals have built a great team. Ovechkin is the leader of a team that has been the best team in hockey for two straight years. If they never win, they never win. But they should at least keep trying with the core they've had for a decade.