While it might offend the sensibilities of many a fan to see the organization publicly air such laundry (it can't even be called dirty laundry, as it's a secret to no one that that part of AO's game could use some help), this is a well-calculated move by the organization to both challenge their superstar to take his game to another level and to challenge the team itself to be better. You don't think it's a coincidence that the general manager, head coach and unofficial team captain all say the same thing at the same time, do you?
Regarding what this does for the team, it's a shot across the bow to every single member of the organization that no one is bigger than the team. As OFB's EmptyMaybe put it (via email):
What will guys like Brooks Laich, Travis Morin or Eric Fehr think when they read that? They'll make sure they play defense, is my supposition. Because if the best winger in the game is expected to be a responsible two-way player, they know for sure that they will be, too.At the end of the day there are two ways to run your team - you can hold everyone to the same standard or you can play favorites. If you want to know what happens when you play favorites, give Bruce Cassidy a call (he probably even answers his own phone these days down at OHL Kingston).
Regarding AO himself, the fact of the matter is that he is at his best when he has something to prove. Being "second best" drove him to a Calder Trophy win last year (one wonders if the race would have turned out the same if it was AO that was the putative Rookie of the Year in the preseason). When the Ottawa Senators were allegedly taunting the Caps after jumping out to a 3-0 lead back in a November game, AO rallied his team to an improbable victory. And when the media vilified him for his hit on Daniel Briere back in early December, Ovechkin went on a tear, tallying 17 points in his next seven games.
Those are but three example, but you can see the pattern. And now AO has something else to prove - he has to prove that he is a complete player and one who can lead his team to the playoffs. All I can say is fasten your seat belts and watch him prove himself... yet again.