October 05, 2016

Rethinking The Top 100: Alexander Ovechkin

Alexander Ovechkin's place in hockey history is the focus of my rethinking of the top 100 players in hockey history.

Back in 2013 I had ranked Ovie at 46th. Since then he has re-established himself as the most dominant goal scorer of his generation, and as such as one of the greatest goal scorers ever. Undeniably.

His career is continuing, obviously. Assuming he stays in the NHL and does not return to Russia at some point, it will be interesting to see just how high his goal scoring totals will be. It is not inconceivable he could rank as high as #2 overall. There is even an outside chance he could catch Wayne Gretzky for #1 overall, 

Obviously his detractors will tell you he has never won anything. His Washington Capitals remain a powerhouse and the window is still very much open for Ovie to get his Stanley Cup ring.

But the underlying theme in Ovechkin's career, both in the NHL and internationally, is his teams come up short. And always second to Sidney Crosby. Be it to Pittsburgh, or especially to Canada, winning has never been a word associated with Alexander Ovechkin. It is unfortunate, but a reality. 

So where does Alexander Ovechkin rank in the top 100 players of all time as of 2017?

Honestly, I think he could rank as high as the top left winger of all time by the time his career is done. In 2013 I already had him ranked as the fourth best, with Bobby Hull, Ted Lindsay and countryman Valeri Kharlamov ahead of him. 

Until he wins a Stanley Cup or a best-on-best Olympics, I will have to keep him behind Hull and Lindsay. But has his legacy allowed him to supplant Kharlamov as the greatest Russian player ever?

Kharlamov has long been the most revered player in Russian hockey history, the player every player dreams of being. He is the Gretzky of Russian hockey, so to speak. 

Time has seen Kharlamov's impact looking to had off that torch to the next generation. Sergei Fedorov may have briefly touched that torch, but Ovechkin has clearly been the torch bearer for sometime now. This legacy can not be underrated. In particular, Ovechkin has reinstated pride in the Russian national team and in Russian hockey. He is the face of Russian hockey, Russian sport, and maybe, Russia itself.

The question is, at this stage of his career has he surpassed not only Valeri Kharlamov (28th overall), but Vladislav Tretiak (33rd) and Viacheslav Fetisov (37th)?

In 2013 I created a series of lists to keep all players in check, so to speak. That means I ranked European greats in their separate lists, and when I created the top 100 master list, I had to respect the sub-lists based on positions, eras and international careers.

So in addition to deciding Ovechkin's place in Russian hockey history, I have to decide has he surpassed any other European players who ranked ahead of him in 2013. That list ranked Dominik Hasek (20th), Nicklas Lidstrom (21st), Jaromir Jagr (26th, and yes that needs to be reviewed too), Kharlamov, Tretiak, Fetisov, Jari Kurri (39th), Peter Stastny (40th) and Peter Forsberg (43rd) all outranked Ovie.

Hasek, Lidstrom and Jagr are the three greatest European NHLers, with the three aforementioned Russians ranked largely on their international careers. Has Ovechkin surpassed Kurri, Stastny and Forsberg on this list?

These are the thoughts in my head regarding Alexander Ovechkin. My feeling at this time is he will move into the 30s, ahead of Kurri, Stastny and Forsberg, but behind Tretiak and maybe Fetisov. 

1 comment:

Dan said...

I'm sure you've seen the adjusted for era argument that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer of all time. This is important to consider, and you made a similar point about Crosby's scoring prowess. I find a lot of people still underestimate just how ridiculous Ovechkin's scoring has been.