Washington Capitals: 4 Reasons Alexander Ovechkin Won't Have Bounce-Back Season
If you're talking about Alexander Ovechkin, 65 points in 78 games is an underwhelming statistic. Since he took the NHL by storm in 2005-2006, he's been almost an automatic 100 points every year, and anything less would have to be considered a slump, especially if that "less" is only 65 points.
There's no question that Ovechkin is still arguably the most talented player in the league, but his decline in production has seemed to coincide with the decline of the Capitals as a team. Whenever the NHL season does resume, Ovechkin will be counted on to shoulder a very different hockey club.
With a new head coach and a vacant Alexander Semin locker, Ovechkin might be the most consistent thing the Capitals have left—if he can't produce at a high level, the team is going to have a hard time keeping pace.
Ovechkin's slump is more than just a slump, and I believe it will continue for at least one more year for several reasons. Again, this isn't to discredit Ovechkin as a player, but I believe a lot of his trouble has to do with the team surrounding him. Allow me to explain myself.
Since he maxed out at 112 points in 2007-2008, Ovechkin has turned out less points in every season since (albeit in small increments) with his most significant drops in productions coming in the last two seasons.
This has been a slow process and has gone largely unnoticed, but just as the Capitals have gradually experienced more and more difficulty, Ovechkin's production has likewise taken a hit. If Adam Oates can't pull things together in Washington this year, Ovechkin's scoring touch will continue to weaken.
The Exodus of Alexander Semin
Even though Semin was more typically utilized on the second line, he was still second in command last year as far as offense was concerned.
The fact that Nicklas Backstrom only played 42 games, no doubt had an impact and enabled Semin to be the Capitals' second best scorer; but with Semin gone, Ovechkin will find himself in more of a pressure situation.
Semin was the "backup" in a sense, and without him, the weight on Ovechkin's shoulders will be much heavier.
Third Head Coach in Less Than a Year
Adam Oates might be just what the Capitals need, but there's no question that former coach Bruce Boudreau was a huge part of their success. Without him things just aren't the same in Washington, and the players will have to get acclimated to yet another head coach after spending half a season with Boudreau's replacement.
It all depends on how much of Ovechkin's success you want to attribute to Boudreau. It's certainly true that Boudreau is an offensive-minded coach that Ovechkin thrived under. While that's not to say he can't do the same under Oates, it'll take some time to develop the strategy and relationship, and then even more time to implement it on the ice.
If the Capitals repeat their "playoff making" habits from last season, they'll spend some time in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, fighting for the seventh and eighth positions. That will mean more playing from behind, more "must win" stressful game situations and less offensive opportunities.
These kinds of seasons have a way of reducing point totals for talented players, as they take a huge toll on confidence and can cause even the most prolific scorers to grip the stick a little too tight.
Admittedly this is conjecture, although based off of Washington's last season, they're running in the middle of the pack, especially with the loss of Semin and Tomas Vokoun. If they find themselves struggling to pick up a playoff spot, chances are they'll be having a hard time scoring as well.
Ovechkin is still Ovechkin. I'm not making the case that he has "lost his touch" or that he's "not the player he once was," but I believe that the team around him has gone through some significant changes and that it'll take more then one offseason to turn things back in the right direction and to get their superstar back in the 100-point column.
Personally, I hope it happens sooner than later.