Barry Trotz was the coach who finally got Alex Ovechkin to climb the Mount Everest of hockey and win the Stanley Cup. He got to see the Great 8 score 64 goals during that 2018 campaign across the regular season and Cup playoff run and was his coach for four seasons.
Now, the Capitals captain is just one goal away from passing Jaromir Jagr for third all-time with tally No. 767. He very well could score that historic goal against his former coach as Washington faces the Islanders on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. Trotz wishes nothing but the best for Ovechkin -- with one caveat, of course.
“Every time we seem to come and play the Caps, Ovi’s up for another milestone, which is fantastic. And I do wish him all the best, but just not tonight,” Trotz said Tuesday after New York's morning skate. “When he passes the milestone, I’ll text him and congratulate him just like I would with [Nicklas Backstrom] or anybody that makes some of these significant milestones.”
Ovechkin is currently fifth in the NHL with 36 goals on the season. That number is a nice parallel for the left winger, who turned 36 on September 17. When a player with drive like Ovechkin takes the ice, Trotz says, age becomes irrelevant.
“The one thing that I’ve learned about Ovi is...when you doubt Ovi or you say he can’t do it, he digs in,” Trotz said. “I was one of the guys that say, ‘It’s absolutely amazing that this guy is the greatest goal scorer of all time’ — and will be, in my opinion, until someone else beats him — but how physical he is and how durable he is. That’s amazing. That’s even more incredible to me.”
Among active NHL players, Ovechkin is fourth in career hits. The three players who rank above him in hits have collectively scored 243 fewer goals than Ovechkin. He’s far and away the leading active goal scorer with 766 red lights to his name. The next highest active goal scorer is Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby who has 260 less goals and 2,298 less hits, per SportRadar.
Simply put, Ovechkin has carved out a unique legacy in the sport: a pure blend of physical power and goal-scoring efficiency that hasn’t been seen in this generation.
He sits tied for third-most career goals with Jagr. One more and he passes him. Thirty-five goals after that and he’d pass Gordie Howe for second all-time. Then, if good health and circumstances allow, Ovechkin would still need 93 more goals to pass Wayne Gretzky and put to bed any doubt that he is in fact the game’s greatest scorer ever.
Trotz would know, having coached the Capitals from 2014-18 that Ovechkin is one-of-a-kind.
“It’s not like he goes around quietly and just shoots the puck in the net -- I mean, he’s running over people. He doesn’t mind contact. He puts himself in dangerous positions.” Trotz said. “As we say, he’s 36, he’s getting older. You’d think that some place along the line he would break, but as you would say, ‘the Russian Machine never breaks.’”