Gleason: "Nothing wrong" with Ovechkin's style
The first suspension of Alex Ovechkin's career came earlier this season after a knee-on-knee collision with Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason. That was the hit that launched the days of "reckless" talk, and that certainly contributed to Ovechkin's reputation as a suspendable player. And that's no small thing, because even if you defend Ovechkin's latest blow, it's obvious that "reputations" are built as much by headlines and national chatter and suspensions as by actual behavior.
Anyhow, there will be dozens of players asked about Ovechkin's style this week, and many -- including at least one in the Capitals dressing room -- think he should occasionally tone it down a bit, for his own health if nothing else. But when I caught up with Gleason before last week's meeting with Carolina and asked him about Ovechkin's style, he suggested the opposite.
"I think it's one of those things where he's just gonna play the way he plays," Gleason said. "That's what's put him here, that's the way he wants to play. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. He's an aggressive player, so I've got no problem with it. I'm aggressive, so I understand it's how he plays and how he thinks."
Now, would Gleason say the same thing privately? I have no idea. Would Sunday's hit on Brian Campbell change his mind? Not sure. But I asked Gleason if any bad feelings linger from his own incident with Ovechkin, and he quickly said no.
"I don't have any [bad] feelings, no," he said. "You know, I was in his cross hairs, so he's gonna try to finish me. If he was in my cross hairs, I would try to finish him. That's the aggressive style that he's probably played with his whole life, and I play the same way. It's just one of those things where you want to play physical and play your game, and that's what he did, he was playing his game."
Which doesn't necessarily mean that Gleason thought the hit was clean. But I guess you could have a hit that goes badly without having bad intentions, which is something that happens in just about every contact sport.
"You know, there are some points in everybody's career where they might have a hit that's questionable, because there's hitting in every game," Gleason said. "When that was going on, I was realistic about just saying what's the big deal, he's just trying to finish his hits and play aggressive. He's an all-around player. He does everything but fight, and he doesn't need to fight. He's a great player."
So when I asked Gleason what he thought about Ovechkin's style of play, this is what he said:
"I've got nothing wrong with the way he plays. Actually, he's the number one player for a reason, and that's why the fans come to watch him: he puts the puck in the net and he's gonna hit you when he can. You know, he's one of those players that you just have to have your head up, but I'm sure everybody in this dressing room or any other dressing room would like him on their team. So I think it's just an aggressive style, and more power to him."
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