For a team that has lacked a super star goal scorer since the days of Pavel Bure, it makes you wonder what this team would look like now had the NHL allowed the Florida Panthers to draft forward Alexander Ovechkin in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Allow me to recall a situation that could have very well changed the landscape and record of this franchise on that summer day in 2003 in Nashville.
With the very last pick in the draft, the Florida Panthers with then coach Mike Keenan and general manager Rick Dudley at the table, attempted to use their final pick to draft the high scoring and electric forward. Unfortunately for the Panthers the pick wasn’t allowed. Two reasons which caused the powers at be to void the selection. First, Ovechkin was born two days after the cut-off for the draft, but since there has been more than 2 leap years since his birthday, it would somehow make him two days older than he actually was, making him eligible for the draft. Secondly, in order to be drafted a player must “opt in” to the draft to be picked. He did not, and the Russian forward would be taken first overall by the Washington Capitals the following season (2004).
Ho hum, all Ovie had to do was “opt in” and he would have been ours. There are conflicting reports that say it was Florida Panthers ownership who wanted this move made, while many others reported that then head coach Mike Keenan convinced then general manager Rick Dudley to make the pick. In either case, the selection was disallowed. Up until last year’s playoffs I had always wondered what it would have been like to have Ovechkin skating in a Panthers sweater. Watching him score 50 plus goals a year, seeing him fly up the wing ripping one of many slap shots past opposing goaltenders. Bringing the packed house of the Bank Atlantic Center to its feet night after night.
His recent three game suspension (the second time he’s been sent to the clink) however made me ask myself, would have he been worth the trouble. He decided that he wouldn’t attend this past weekend’s All-Star game because his heart wasn’t in it. Yet reports indicate that he flew to Florida to enjoy the break, and spend time at South Beach. While I cannot confirm or deny these allegations, I have to ask myself and you, could Ovechkin have survived the distractions of South Florida with his fun loving personality? Tennis, golf, the ocean, and South Beach all at his disposal on a daily basis gets me to think that it may have been a recipe for disaster.
Sure it’s quite possible that our Panthers would have had some significantly better seasons than they’ve had, and it’s also possible that attracting free agents may have been easier with Alexander the Gr8t in uniform. But the way he’s played this season gives me pause. At times he’s seemed uninterested and lazy. Did he have problems with Bruce Boudreau? We’ll never know for sure.
There are only a handful of players with Ovechkin’s talent and nose for the net. When he’s got his head in the game, he can be one of the most powerful and exciting players to watch. Yet when his party like personalty gets in the way, does it make you ask yourself is he worth it?
I’d love to hear your response.
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