The Washington Capitals have knocked the passion out of Alex Ovechkin and turned him into an ordinary player.
No flash, no anger and no joy. Just a humdrum skate up and down the ice with the Great 8 pointless and dripping in mediocrity rather and the sweat of triumph we're so used to seeing.
Ovie, the smiling jester with a game full of heat and lust, is gone. In his stead skates a lost superstar.
The blame rests somewhere between Ovechkin and Capitals management. They want him to change and he has yet to buy in. The result is a player once feared by the entire league, no longer a threat.
With seven goals and seven assists through 17 games but nary a point in his last three, Ovechkin has become run of the mill.
Zeroes all around through three games. Almost unheard of for a player with 628 points through just 492 NHL games.
Maybe he's sulking and maybe management and coach Bruce Boudreau are squeezing too hard. Maybe it will all be better in a month. Right now Ovechkin is a shell of his former self.
The Caps want more balance from their team and captain. But in trimming Ovechkin's sails they've knocked the wind right out of him.
It was evident in his scrum with the media prior to Thursday's game and then driven home with a listless performance as the Winnipeg Jets drilled Ovie and his Washington Capitals 4-1.
The prevailing thought was Ovechkin was going to be the most exciting player on the ice win or lose. But he was mostly an afterthought this night except for a few shifts where he showed some of his old zip.
Ovechkin summed up his play in perfect but tragic fashion during Thursday's pre-game skate.
"So-so," he offered with a shrug of his shoulders.
Say what you want about Ovechkin's attention to detail and his zest for the defensive end of the game but his play has never been described as bland.
But that's the case today as he resembles one of those gutless four-cylinder Mustangs that Ford plopped off the assembly line in the '80s. The Capitals have robbed Ovechkin of all his horsepower and turned him into a mid-size grocery getter.
Boudreau has been charged with transforming the Capitals into a playoff contender instead of just a regular- season juggernaut.
The knock against the Capitals is they shrink when the games get tough. Despite one of the league's most talented rosters, they've never been considered a legitimate Cup contender.
And Ovechkin has been the biggest offender. So the strategy is understood but what good is balance if it dulls brilliance?
It's not enough to just let Ovechkin play and do his thing, he must be harnessed in order to put team first. Understood.
But pulling on the reins until he chokes is too far the other way.
If it's balance the Capitals want, maybe they should administer a little of their own.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @garylawless