Washington Capitals: How Bad Has Alexander Ovechkin Been This Season?

David SachsContributor IIMarch 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 24:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals reacts after a play against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center on February 24, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Alexander Ovechkin is on pace to have the worst season of his career. But just how bad has he been?

Define “bad.”

Like my colleagues say, numbers don’t lie. Ovechkin has 26 goals this season. He had 44 through as many games in 2009-10, his last 50-goal campaign. And his 23 helpers are grim.

Still, Ovechkin’s goals rank him tied for 21st in the National Hockey League. That can’t be considered “bad,” can it?

Taken alone, no. But if you have the expectations that come with captaining the Washington Capitals, it’s abysmal.

Everything is relative in the NHL. Fair or not, everyone—especially Caps coach Dale Hunter—expects greatness from Ovi. The media anointed him Alexander the Great for a reason.

And if Alexander isn’t great, he’s not good.

If the stats don’t convince you, the tape will. Against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Captain Ovechkin turned over the puck in the Caps’ zone before dodging a shot from Eric Wellwood.

He could’ve blocked it, but he dodged it.

“I try and make a play in the offensive zone and it cost us a goal. It was my mistake,” Ovechkin told the Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno. “It’s tough loss for us, I think. My mistake cost us two points, and it cost us the game.”

Costing your team two points to an Eastern Conference rival in a skin-tight playoff race isn’t good. Some might even call that bad.

Ovechkin had seven shots that game, one of only nine times all season he’s pulled the trigger that often. This is the same guy who’s outdone only by Phil Esposito on the all-time list for shots in one season. He's declining, or at least slumping.

There’s no statistic for costing your team games, but Ovechkin’s minus-9 rating doesn’t make pleasant for the Capitals’ best player.

Still, Ovi leads his team in points and is 53rd in the league. That’s good, right?

Define “good.”

Good would be Ovechkin taking his team at least to the Eastern Conference championship. It hasn’t happened yet. That’s why the Crosby-Ovechkin debate was over as soon as Crosby became the youngest captain to win the Stanley Cup.

Defenses have figured Ovechkin out, leading to his sagging numbers. He can have the patent on his outside-in charge from the left—no one else wants it. D-men stifle it with ease these days.

Great players, like great empires, are bound to decline. Russia was still the Soviet Union when Ovechkin hatched there as a puck-handling prodigy.

But Ovi is far from a fallen star. He just set the bar so high so early that even a 30-goal season will disappoint. He’ll revive his career next year. Until then, Ovechkin could get better, but it's fair to say he’s never been worse.