Doc Emrick on Ovechkin and the Caps
Alex Ovechkin is currently averaging 0.34 goals per game and 0.98 points per game. For his career, prior to this season, he had averaged 0.68 goals per game and 1.34 points per game. In his previous five seasons, Ovechkin has never averaged fewer than 0.56 goals per game or 1.12 points per game.
So something seems to be a little off, anyhow. A certain segment of Caps fans are anguished over this. I got a chance to ask broadcast legend Doc Emrick -- who will be calling next week's All-Star game for Versus -- about Ovechkin's statistical slide. He's not anguished. Not yet.
"People go through stretches like this," said Emrick, who has only seen Ovechkin play twice in person this season, but follows the league as closely as you'd expect. "You just have to recognize that this is a blip on a radar screen for a whole career. I don't see it as a prophecy that's going to be fulfilled. I'm sure people who pay the price of admission agonize more than I do, but I look at long-term performance. Alex Ovechkin doesn't worry me one bit. I don't see his star falling at all."
And yet the old standby phrases -- one of the two best players on the planet, for example -- seem to have fallen out of favor. At best, that's now one of the three best players on the planet. At worst, who knows? So with the league's stars set to assemble in one place, I asked Emrick where Ovechkin stands.
"It doesn't matter to me where he stands, really," Emrick said. "He's got the skill set. On any night, he's a player that you lean forward in the seat when he's got the puck. We had this debate 20 years ago with Gretzky and Lemieux. Now we can have this debate with several players, and not just Crosby and Ovechkin. It didn't matter to me [who was better in the '80s], because they were in the same solar system, and that's all that mattered.
"The most productive stocks are up and down. It happens in the lives of human beings that are athletes, too, but what you look at is long-term performance, and you look at an average of 106 points a season. That's pretty good long-term performance, in my mind. If he's not the flavor of the week this week, he probably will be next week. That's just the way it goes in our sport."
The last time I saw Emrick was in the bowels of Heinz Field, before the Winter Classic. That seemed, to me and a lot of people, to mark some turning point in the Caps' season, when they would once again be blithe and carefree as they smacked people around. Hasn't felt quite like that this month.
"I thought that was sort of a crowning thing that would not end, that would spin off more than it did," Emrick agreed. "They were playing so much better, and that sort of crowned that stretch they went through. But now, unfortunately, they're going through another stretch. They're made of pretty good stuff -- I'm not worried about them -- but it's easy for me to say from this distance. I think they'll be fine. They've got the skill set there to do things. It's fairly easy for a team, if they spot something, to tighten up on it. It's just a matter of confidence in the room."
As for whether Ovechkin will still be one of the All-Star game's premier draws, Emrick said he clearly would be.
"The H in hockey stands for hits, and he's always among the leaders," he told me. "You just don't find many big scorers who are that way. That is always going to make him an interesting player to watch. Now, he will become an extremely interesting player to watch if he hits someone in the All-Star game."
Versus will air the All-Star Game's fantasy draft on Friday at 8, the skills competition on Saturday at 7 and the actual game on Sunday at 4.
| January 20, 2011; 2:49 PM ET
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