To the casual hockey fan, T.J. Oshie is the guy with the crazy-good shootout moves who gained fame by scoring on four of six shootout attempts to lead the Americans to an Olympic victory over the Russians. [That was the second game of the tournament, by the way].
His Olympic shootout prowess earned him a phone call from President Obama and a guest spot on the Today Show, not to mention a comical Enterprise television commercial in which he shoots pucks through the legs of an unassuming guy in a suit.
But there is more to T.J. Oshie than Olympic fame.
There is a desire to write a different script than his NHL career has followed – namely, getting to the playoffs only to fall short.
That is the familiar crossroad where Oshie and the Capitals will meet now that they traded right wing Troy Brouwer, goalie Pheonix Copley and next year’s third-round pick for the talented, 28-year-old right wing.
As a member of the St. Louis Blues, Oshie has been to the playoffs four straight springs, but has been sent home after the first round three times and afer the second round twice.
So when it was announced that Ken Hitchcock would return as head coach after a first-round playoff loss to the Wild, Oshie knew he could be packing his bags.
“I felt like it was a very good possibility,” Oshie said Thursday night on a conference call with reporters. “I felt if we went back with the same team we would have done a good job [next season] and hopefully learned from some of our mistakes. But after I found out Hitch was coming back I figured there’d be at least one or two moves.”
Oshie said he’ll miss his friends and teammates in St. Louis, but he’s excited to turn the page in a career that has teetered on greatness without ever getting there. In seven seasons in St. Louis, Oshie has never scored more than 21 goals or scored more than 60 points, and in the playoffs, his 0.30 points per game are well off his regular season output of 0.70 points per game.
He hopes to change that history in Washington, where he’ll battle Justin Williams for the right to play alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
“I expected big things out of myself [in St. Louis] and I think the fans did as well. There’s a lot of disappointment after the way we lost out. … I think fans thought me and [Hitchcock] had a bad relationship or something like that. But changes had to be made and I couldn’t be more excited about going to Washington.
“I know in Washington they have some really good players on that roster. I’m looking to fit in wherever they think is the best fit for me. Coming in as the new guy I’m willing to go in there and earn my ice time and show them what I can do.”
If that means playing alongside Olympic rivals Ovechkin and Backstrom, Oshie said he can’t wait to get started.
“It would be something I never experienced before,” he said. “I’ve always played with very good players, players that have played in the Olympics, but never players that put up numbers like those two guys have. To get out there with them would be amazing, I’d feel like a kid in a candy store with that caliber of players. But I’m willing to come in and earn all the ice time I can get.”
At 5-foot-11, 189 pounds, Oshie is a smaller player than Brouwer, but he plays a big, in-your-face game that fans in St. Louis grew to like. Oshie is also more creative than Brouwer, capable of scoring from tight areas and also finding linemates with a quick pass.
And, of course, there’s always his patented shootout moves, which made him a fan favorite around the world. Oshie was asked if his role as a shootout specialist [he went just 4-for-11 last season] might be diminished with the advent of 3-on-3 overtimes.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to score more goals in overtime and regulation to make up for that,” Oshie said. “I think the new format is going to be exciting and if it ends up going to a shootout that’s great for me.”
Oshie said he’s also excited to be reunited with former North Dakota teammate Taylor Chorney, whom the Caps signed on Wednesday to help bolster their defense.
“He’s one of the first people I texted after my fiancé and my parents,” Oshie said. “I’m very excited for him and it’ll be nice to have that NoDak brotherhood going to Washington.”
[RELATED: Caps trade for former Olympic hero]