Washington Capitals: With Ovechkin in Decline, These 5 Players Must Step Up

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Washington Capitals: With Ovechkin in Decline, These 5 Players Must Step Up
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The past few weeks have seen a spirited debate here in the Washington Capitals section of Bleacher Report with respect to Alexander Ovechkin.

Should he be traded?

Or is he on the verge of a huge comeback season?

Does he still have it or are his best years behind him?

Much of the debate stems from the undeniable fact that the Great Eight's numbers are not what they used to be.

Since his monster season in 2007-08, where Ovie netted 65 goals and assisted on 47 others, there has been a slow, albeit steady, decline in Ovechkin's production.

The drop was hardly noticeable in 2008-09 when Ovie still had 56 goals and 54 assists.

The drop-off was again hardly noticeable for the 2009-10 season when Ovechkin still had 50 goals to go with 59 assists.

But the 2010-11 season was a different story entirely. Ovechkin's goal production practically flat-lined as he only found the back of the net 32 times.

Now for most NHL players, 32 goals would be a really solid season—but not for the man many considered, at that time, to be the best player in the world.

True, his assists were still very strong as he had 53. Nevertheless, his 85 points for the 2010-11 season represented a 24-point drop from the previous season.

But so what. Everyone is entitled to one average season. Surely, Ovechkin would rebound during the 2011-12 season...right?

Last season, however, was Ovechkin's worst season as far as production was concerned. His goals went up slightly as he netted 38. But his assists completely vanished as he only had 27. Ovechkin only had 65 points last season.

For those keeping score at home, that was a 20-point reduction from the previous season and an astonishing 44-point decrease in just two seasons.

Whether this decline continues for the 2012-13 season remains to be seen. But with Ovechkin's production being undeniably down the past couple of seasons, Caps fans have to face the possibility that, as implausible as it may sound, Ovechkin's best years are behind him.

If this decline does continue, then if the Caps hope to succeed in the upcoming season, several other players will need to step up and fill the void left not just by Ovechkin's lessened production, but also by the loss of Alexander Semin.

Who then needs to step up their game?

Here are five players who come to mind.

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