Two For Roughing: Will Ovechkin ever return to elite status?

(Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

(Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Tim Kolupanowich: There was a lot of talk in Washington heading into this season that this would be the year Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals returned to their high-octane, firewagon brand of hockey. Instead, they are currently in 12th in the Eastern Conference, though they are climbing, and Ovechkin in playing well with 20 points in 25 games, but we were all expecting big numbers once again. Do you think it’s time we stopped placing high expectations on him? It’s been three seasons now since he scored 50 goals and 100 points and I’m having a harder time each year believing he can reach those totals again.

Chris Messina: Yes, he’s not the player he once was. That was more than evident when they played the Rangers on Sunday in a nationally televised game. Ovenchkin wasn’t very good, he was getting beat in tons of one-on-one battles and turning pucks over like crazy which showed on the stats sheet as he finished with no points and was a minus-3 in the loss. I think teams have figured him out and he hasn’t adjusted. Its too bad cause the Capitals still have him under contract for a long time.

TK: No kidding. Eight years and $79 million remain on his deal after this season, a heavy price to pay for someone opposing teams have figured out how to neutralize. As long as he’s been in the NHL, he never really got better or evolved his game the way other players have. Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos are two players who get better every season because of that determination to improve every aspect of their game. In my mind, he must work on his timing. He remains one of the most explosive players in the game, but constantly being on a different gear than his teammates throws off their sync. Also, for such a powerful player, he doesn’t crash the net as much as he could.

CM: It’s hard to even imagine that him and Sid were in the same conversation not too long ago. I agree on the part about how explosive his speed still is. He’s still one of the most talented players in the game and even just making efforts at both ends of the rink more often would go a long way in helping to restore his reputation. I’m not saying he needs to be a Selke candidate or anything but having him become more of a complete player would help his team a tone. We lose sight of the fact that he did score 38 goals last year. Maybe the days of 60+ are done, but I don’t understand why he still can’t be an 85-90 point player. Also, I didn’t like the way he came out and ripped the refs last week, although me might have a point on some of the calls it makes you wonder if he has his priorities straight.

TK: He absolutely should be a point-per-game player; he’s on pace to put up 66 points prorated to an 82-game season, but that’s just not good enough when he has the highest cap hit in the league. But while he receives the majority of attention in D.C., he’s not the only one failing to produce as expected. Other than Mike Ribeiro and Braden Holtby recently, there isn’t anybody playing like they are capable of. So is Ovechkin not putting up points because his teammates aren’t or are they slumping because of his play? Nicklas Backstrom is just as underwhelming with one more point, but only three goals on the season and Mike Green has been hurt the past three seasons, putting up just 38 points in 97 games. Surely he shouldn’t be expected to do it all.

(1995hoo/Wikimedia Commons)

Ovechkin receive the key to Washington D.C. after winning the Hart Trophy in 2008. Five years later he’s a shell of his former self. (1995hoo/Wikimedia Commons)

CM: I won’t argue that Backstrom and Green are shadows of what they once were, but if you want to be in that elite class with the Crosby, Stamkos and Jonathan Toews then you make the players around you better. Look at Crosby, he’s never really had top winger to play with, but he’s still capable of putting up ridiculous numbers while making the players around him better. Kunitz has 17 goals in 26 games this year, we are talking about a player that has a career high of 26! It’s just a shame that Ovi has fallen as far as he has the last couple of years, it was really good for the game when he was up an elite player. He was the type of guy that could sell the game not only because of his play on the ice but also because of his personality. I’m pretty skeptical about him getting back to that level but I hope I’m wrong.

TK: I hope so to. You’re absolutely right, he was great for the game especially with his rivalry with Crosby which was able to draw average sports fans just like Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning do for football. Something needs to change and it’s up to nobody else but Ovechkin to make it happen. He’s not going to wire a puck past a goalie from the faceoff circle anymore especially when everyone knows it’s coming. Stamkos is still known for his one-timer more than anything else, but he finds ways to score and gets a lot of goals from deflections and rebounds. Unfortunately I can’t confidently say right now we’ll ever see the old Ovechkin. He’ll still get 35 goals and 70 to 80 points a season which is still good, but he’s no longer a top five player.

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Comments

  1. I think part of the problem with Ovie is that he seems to lack energy these days. I have seen multiple instances of lack of hustle, and the team feeds off of those type of efforts in a really bad way.

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