It’s August and the Washington Capitals have been quiet since hiring Tim Hunter as assistant coach and Brett Leonhardt as video coach. But that didn’t stop Michal Neuvirth from making some August news with comments he gave to the Czech website iSport.cz.
Neuvirth told the site, as translated by the popular Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks, that Braden Holtby was his “weakest competition yet” and that Alex Ovechkin “isn’t what he used to be,” among other things.
“It’s true that until now, I have never been an official No. 1,” Neuvirth said, as translated by Karolina Martinková of hockey-on.blogspot.cz and published on RMNB. “I’m starting the season sure that I want to play 40/50 games and I am really sure that I have the weakest competition I’ve ever had. I will try to be No. 1 goalie this season.”
In further comments, Neuvirth clarified that he didn’t think Holtby was bad, just not as good as Semyon Varlamov or Tomas Vokoun, whom he recommended sign with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
More on Ovechkin:
“He isn’t what he used to be, that’s for sure. And if a team like ours wants to have a chance in Stanley Cup, we need Ovi to be the best,” Neuvirth said. “We all expect that from him; he has to be the real leader. But it’s hard you know, he achieved everything as a player. He was on absolute top, and then one can only fall down. I just hope that Ovi will stop falling and instead stops and maybe tries to get back on top. As for his attitude in the locker, he is still the same guy. Even when it’s not working out for him, he is in a good mood, he celebrates with the others. He is the right team player. He will stay like that forever.”
As for Dale Hunter, who claimed in an interview with the London Free Press that he disliked media questions about players and preferred to do it “one-on-one,” Neuvirth repeated a popular notion that the ex-coach did not communicate well.
“I had good relationships with [Bruce Boudreau] and with [ex-Hershey Bears coach and Caps assistant] Bob Woods, but not with Hunter,” he said. “I don’t know, he simply didn’t talk to us goalies at all, I think he criticized us sometimes for no reason. From my point of view, it’s good he left.”