Im­pres­sive mile­stone

Four NHLers scored 500 goals quicker than Ovechkin, but they did it in dif­fer­ent era

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - Lyle Richard­son

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals left wing Alexan­der Ovechkin con­tin­ues to es­tab­lish him­self as one of the NHL’s great­est goal scor­ers.

The 30-year-old Cap­i­tals cap­tain re­cently be­came the fifth­fastest player to reach 500 goals. Hall of Famers Wayne Gret­zky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Brett Hull did it in less time, and they played in a wide-open of­fen­sive era.

More im­pres­sive is Ovechkin reached the re­mark­able achieve­ment in to­day’s game, where de­fen­sive sys­tems rule and op­po­nents are big­ger, stronger and faster. With 26 goals in 41 games this sea­son, Ovechkin once again leads the NHL in that cat­e­gory. He’s on pace for his sev­enth 50-goal sea­son. The cur­rent record is nine, held by Gret­zky and Bossy. It’s not a stretch to imag­ine Ovechkin ty­ing or even eclips­ing them.

Dur­ing the last decade, fans have de­bated whether Ovechkin or Pitts­burgh Pen­guins cap­tain Sid­ney Crosby is this gen­er­a­tion’s great­est player. With Crosby and his Pen­guins strug­gling while the Cap­i­tals dom­i­nate this sea­son’s stand­ings, the ar­gu­ment is tilt­ing to­ward Ovechkin. Lead­ing the Cap­i­tals to a Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­onship could push it fur­ther in his favour.

Speak­ing of Sid­ney Crosby, some ob­servers won­der if the 28-year-old cen­tre might ben­e­fit from a change of scenery. In re­cent weeks, sev­eral pun­dits sug­gested the Pen­guins cap­tain could be dealt be­fore the Feb. 29 trade dead­line.

Don’t hold your breath await­ing that move. For one thing, the Pen­guins are cur­rently up for sale. Sportnset’s El­liotte Fried­man re­cently noted trad­ing Crosby re­quires the bless­ing of cur­rent own­ers Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. The Pen­guins are more valu­able to prospec­tive buy­ers with Crosby and fel­low su­per­star Ev­geni Malkin on the ros­ter.

An­other rea­son is Crosby holds a full no-move­ment clause. If he doesn’t want to be traded (and there’s no in­di­ca­tion he does), there’s noth­ing the Pen­guins front of­fice can do about it.

One player who could be on the move soon is Tampa Bay Light­ning left wing Jonathan Drouin. Af­ter the 20-year-old was re­cently sent down to the Light­ning’s AHL af­fil­i­ate in Syra­cuse, his agent re­vealed the young­ster sought a trade in Novem­ber and re­peated the re­quest fol­low­ing the de­mo­tion.

Se­lected third over­all in the 2013 NHL draft, Drouin strug­gled to meet ex­pec­ta­tions with the Light­ning. The for­mer Hal­i­fax Moose­heads star saw lim­ited play­ing time as a rookie last sea­son, net­ting 32 points in 70 games and skat­ing in only six play­off games.

Prior to Drouin’s de­mo­tion, in­juries lim­ited him this sea­son to eight points in 19 games. There’s spec­u­la­tion he’s clashed with Light­ning head coach Jon Cooper over his role. De­spite his strug­gles, me­dia con­sen­sus sug­gests Drouin could blossom into a su­per­star on an­other NHL club.

Light­ning GM Steve Yz­er­man isn’t rul­ing out a trade, and more than a dozen teams have re­port­edly made in­quiries. Yz­er­man, how­ever, holds all the cards in this sit­u­a­tion. Drouin is signed through 2016-17 on an en­trylevel deal and has no lev­er­age in this stand­off. The Light­ning GM can take his time field­ing of­fers.

Lyle Richard­son is a free­lance writer with The Hockey News and runs the web­site Spec­tor’s Hockey. His col­umn will ap­pear in The Guardian through­out

the NHL hockey sea­son.

AP PHOTO

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals left wing Alex Ovechkin, right, skates with the puck against New York Rangers right wing Jayson Megna Satur­day in New York.

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