Alex Ovechkin has had quite an offseason, from getting to know a new coach [Adam Oates] and getting to play in front of his family and friends [in the KHL] to getting engaged to Russian tennis star Maria Kirlenko.
In an exclusive conversation with CSNWashington, Ovechkin shared his feelings about his former coaches, his current coach and his goals for the Capitals season.
Chuck Gormley: Every season in your career has been a new chapter. Are you happy with what you’ve done or are there still things you want to do?
Alex Ovechkin: Of course everybody wants to get better and better. I’m happy what I did last year because it was a pretty hard year for me, starting with Bruce [Boudreau] and ending with Dale [Hunter]. I’m happy how I handled it. Of course sometimes I was pissed and there was a moment I was pissed [at Boudreau] and everybody see that and you learn from it. If you get pissed you don’t show it to everybody. Just go in the locker room and do whatever you want. Everybody knows -- my teammates and coaches and trainers -- but not you guys. So I learned a lot last year. Of course, last year was not my role on the team. With more ice I can give more to the team. It was [Hunter’s] decision and he had his own mind and his own kind of personality and his own systems. Of course sometimes I felt trapped.
How do you think that affected you?
I feel like I can make good decisions. When there’s a meeting and somebody asks me, ‘OK, what are you doing here?’ And I say, ‘Listen, I’m cold. What do I have to do? I play four minutes in a period. Do you want results?’ But I never said it to his face, I never said it to my teammates. I just keep it to myself. I learned that sometimes you can talk and sometimes you have to don’t talk, keep it quiet and do what’s right for your team. In that kind of moment, we were fighting for the playoffs, we made the playoffs and you have to put your things aside and put it in the garbage can.
You’ve had a chance to sit down with Adam Oates. What are your impressions of him?
I just feel trust. It’s the most important thing for any player. When you feel trust from your coach you feel unbelievable and you want to go play for him. Right away when I met him I just feel it. I remember I called him right away [after he was hired]. I was in Chicago for a meeting with the NHLPA and I called him and I said, ‘Welcome, and I’m looking forward to play for you.’ We start talking and everything he said was good.
Was it your idea to try playing right wing?
Yeah, we talked about it. We decided together it’s going to be better for the team and for me. It creates something new for me and for different teams to cover me. Of course it’s going to be a hard couple games, maybe one game, maybe one shift, and then I’ll get used to it.
What is this team capable of doing this year?
We can do bad things; or we can do good things. You never know what’s going to happen. We just go out there and try to do our best.
Do you judge yourself on goals, on wins on Stanley Cups? How do you measure yourself as a player?
Right now I realize one thing. You can’t look forward too much, too far. You live day by day. Of course you have plans, but I just talked to some guys and just decided that of course we want to win the Stanley Cup. Of course we want to score some goals and do some good things. But you have to think every second of every minute of what you have to do in this time. Tomorrow we have a scrimmage and I’m going to play on the right side so I have to get used to it. When the season starts, I have to take game by game.
Last season there was a lot of talk about you being unhappy. Are you happy doing what you’re doing?
To be honest with you I was not happy last year because I know I can play better and I know I can do more for my team. It is what it is. It was a situation where I had to suck it up and do what I can do for my team. Right now, in the system we are trying to learn, I think everybody is going to play well.
Does that mean more smiles from you?
I’m always smiling. It doesn’t matter. I’m always smiling.
In Part I of our interview, Alex Ovechkin talks about love and his fiance Maria Kirilenko.