Thursday, May 11, 2017

Alexander...Still The Great 8?

You never want to say you hope a player was playing hurt.  But, that would at least explain the poor play from an otherwise great player.  In this case, that great player would be Washington Capitals' captain, Alexander Ovechkin.  One of the best pure goal scorers to ever play in the NHL, and named one of the top 100 players in the league's history during the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles this past year.  Ovechkin was barely noticeable in game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which they lost 2-0.  Today, it was announced that he was playing with a lower body injury, though no details as to when he got hurt was released.

The Capitals lack of playoff success, failing to move past the second round, again, can't all be blamed on Ovechkin.  Fair or not, though, as the captain and best player on the team, lots of blame is heaped on his shoulders.  And, it is, in some ways, deserved.  Not every great player who plays sports will win a championship, but their legacy doesn't quite have the same luster of another player who has even just one title to their name.  At some point, Ovechkin has to put this team on his back and get it to the next round, since nobody else seemed willing to do it.

So, what happens now?  Before it was found out that Ovechkin was hurt, I was beginning to think (probably others, too) that the Capitals should actually trade him, or at least consider it.  That would have been unthinkable just a year ago, but another failed playoff run changes everything.  Even as we find about Ovechkin playing hurt, I'm still inclined to consider moving the 3 time MVP.  He finished the regular season with only 33 goals and 69 points, his worst offensive season in a non-lockout year since 2011-12 when he had 38 goals and 65 points.  He bounced back then, recording three straight 50+ goal seasons prior to this year.  Will he next season when he turns 32?

Over the years, the Capitals have made changes.  Brian MacLellan took over as GM in 2014 after current Vegas Golden Knights GM, George McPhee, had his contract expired.  Barry Trotz became the head coach in the same year.  They have added and subtracted players, some with playoff success like Justin Williams, who has his name on the Stanley Cup 3 times.  At 35, he may not be back as his contract expires July 1.

The team can continue to move forward with the majority of this group, again trying to add another Williams type player or two.  After all, it did win the President's trophy as the league's best during the regular season.  They didn't do that feeding off the weak no longer existing Southeast Division, either.  Maybe, next year could be the year with this group.

Then, there is blowing it up.  Maybe not completely, but perhaps making a major move and trading one of their top players.  That could be Ovechkin or maybe Nicklas Backstrom.  The Swedish center didn't do much against Pittsburgh, either, and unlike Ovechkin, we haven't heard if he was hurt or not.

Either way, it will be an interesting summer for the Capitals.

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