As a former Capitals teammate, Olie Kolzig watched Alex Ovechkin burst into the NHL with 163 goals in his first three seasons.
Now, the Capitals' associate goaltending coach wonders if the 26-year-old Russian is too caught up with his "rock star status" and has forgottten what made him an NHL star.
Speaking to a small group of reporters, Kolzig said Ovechkin, who is on pace for 34 goals and 65 points, needs to rekindle the enthusiasm of his youth if he wants to return to being one of the game's top players.
For Alex, its a work ethic," Kolzig said. "He just has to get back to being the way he was in his younger days and maybe not get wrapped up too much with the rock star status that comes with being Alex Ovechkin.
Kolzig said the absence of top-line center Nick Backstrom (concussion) has had a negative impact on Ovechkin's production, but believes a drop in work ethic has also contributed to the drop-off.
"Obviously, he's not scoring at the clip he's accustomed to," Kolzig said. "Part of that, obviously, is not having Nicky Backstrom in the lineup. You're seeing it a little more with Dale Hunter behind the bench, but Alex was getting away from playing the hard, no-nonsense, honest, exuberant type of hockey he displayed in the first three years he was in the league. I think that's what endeared him to everybody.
"Then, all of a sudden, he was still the same Alex, he was celebrating goals certain ways and what endeared him to everybody now made him look like a villain. So I think part of it is he's feeling not as loved as he used to be. He brings that on himself sometimes. Teams have kind of gotten a handle on him to close the gap on him and not allow him those fantastic one-on-one goals he's used to scoring."
Ovechkin acknowledged he needs to play better if he hopes to lead the Capitals to a fifth straight Southeast Division title.
"I have to lead the way," Ovechkin said. "I have to play much better than I'm playing right now. If I do that, everybody will do it."