Mailbag: Ovechkins chase of Gretzky, Reverse Retro jerseys

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With a shortened season the most likely outcome for 2020-21, does Alex Ovechkin still have a shot to break Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals? If so, how many goals will he need this season to keep the pace? — @UnleashTheHeshy

Having the regular season cut short last season due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the potential for this season to be shortened as well could hamper Ovechkin’s chances of catching Gretzky, but I think the Washington Capitals forward can do it.

Ovechkin scored 48 goals in 68 games before last season was paused March 12, leaving him 188 goals behind Gretzky and eighth in League history with 706 through his first 15 NHL seasons. The 35-year-old has one season remaining on his 13-year contract, and the Capitals plan to talk to him about an extension when he returns from Russia for the start of training camp. In an interview with Russian Television International earlier this month, Ovechkin said he wants to play his entire NHL career with Washington but also mentioned he’d like to play his final game for Dynamo Moscow, who he played for before joining the Capitals in 2005-06 and prior to the shortened 2012-13 NHL season. As for how many more NHL seasons Ovechkin will play, the Capitals captain said, “It is clear, in two, three, four years, maybe five, I will end my career in Washington.” So perhaps Ovechkin has five seasons left.

Although it hasn’t been ruled out that each team will play 82 games this season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week the League is contemplating a reduced schedule. At his pace of 0.71 goals per game last season, Ovechkin would score 42 goals in a 60-game season and 49 in a 70-game season.

But let’s say his pace drops a little, and he scores 38. That would leave him within 150 goals of Gretzky. If Ovechkin plays four more seasons after that, he’d have to average 37.5 goals per season to tie Gretzky.

That would be challenging for an aging Ovechkin, but not impossible.

Video: The guys talk Ovechkin chasing the all-time goal lead

 

Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Samsonov, Ilya Sorokin, Iaroslav Askarov, Alexandar Georgiev, Pyotr Kochetkov, Ivan Fedotov. What is in the water in the in Russia? How are they producing so much promising talent in net? — @theashcity

The influx of Russian goalies became a hot topic when Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars faced each other in the Stanley Cup Final, and after the Nashville Predators made Askarov the highest-selected Russia-born goalie by taking him with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The trend will continue this season with Shesterkin and Georgiev sharing the New York Rangers net, Samsonov expected to ascend to the Capitals’ No. 1 job, and Sorokin’s arrival with the New York Islanders.

Kochetkov, a second-round pick (No. 36) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 NHL Draft, and Fedotov, a seventh-round pick (No. 188) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2015 NHL Draft, could join the wave in the future.

NHL.com goalie guru Kevin Woodley points to the role played by legendary Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak after he was elected president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation in 2006. Tretiak, who was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989, instituted rules and financial incentives to ensure there were spots for Russian goalies in the Kontinental Hockey League and to discourage teams from using foreign goalies. That also forced Russian programs to develop goalies at the lower levels to fill those spots.

“Goalie coaching has certainly improved, and that is also widely cited, but it hasn’t been nationalized or institutionalized at too young an age,” Woodley said in an email. “And many of the goalies we see having success now started at a young age with old-school teachings that stressed skating and skills-based work, while being left on their own to develop their instinctual abilities to play, read and react to the game.”

 

How about one for fun: winners and losers of the Reverse Retro alternate jerseys for 2020-2021 season? Also, would it be good for the League to try something like this again but maybe all new designs for every team? — @raman_noob

I’ve always preferred the alternate jerseys that were throwbacks or honored the team’s history in some way. The Reverse Retro jerseys, which each of the 31 NHL teams will wear in multiple games this season, do that while modernizing the old look with a fun, new twist.

The Colorado Avalanche jersey is the best example, and judging by the reaction on social media, it is the most popular. The white sweater with Avalanche maroon trim recognizes the franchise’s Quebec Nordiques roots with their igloo logo and fleur-de-lis.

The Hurricanes did the same with their history, taking the Hartford Whalers’ home jerseys from their inaugural NHL season in 1979-80, but with gray instead of white as the primary color. The Pucky the Whale shoulder patches are a nice touch.

My next two favorites are the Los Angeles Kings’ and New Jersey Devils’. The Kings combined their original Forum Blue and Gold colors with the Wayne Gretzky/1990s era logo. The Devils used their original red, white and green jerseys, but with green replacing white (home) and red (road) as the primary color.

As for your suggestion of doing this again with each team coming up with an original jersey design, I would be against that. If you have too many different looks too often, you end up like the University of Oregon football team, which has so many different uniform combinations they are sometimes unrecognizable.

Video: The new adidas Reverse Retro jerseys are here!

 

Do you think the Capitals will trade one of Nick Jensen or Richard Panik? Seems like they have too many defensemen and still need to free up some cap space. — @GLaSnoST9

The Capitals have acknowledged that the NHL salary cap remaining at $81.5 million this season hasn’t left them with much space or roster flexibility, so it appears likely they’ll do something before the season begins. And the signings of right-handed defensemen Justin Schultz and Trevor van Riemsdyk appeared to make Jensen, also a righty defenseman, expendable. But moving Jensen won’t be easy because of his contract, which has three years remaining and an average annual value of $2.5 million, and because other teams also are dealing with financial constraints during the pandemic.

The same can be said of trading Panik, a forward whose contract also has three years remaining and carries an AAV of $2.75 million. The Capitals would like to add a forward to supplement their scoring depth on the third line, which was supposed to be Panik’s role when they signed him July 1, 2019. But creating the cap space to do that might require trading an asset such as a significant draft pick or a prospect to get one of the few teams with cap space to take on a player with an unwanted contract.

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