Capitals captain and franchise player, Alexander Ovechkin.
When Alexander Ovechkin broke into the NHL in 2005, he changed the landscape of the Washington Capitals. Now, in light of the current labor disputes between the owners and the players association, Ovechkin is threatening to stay in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
“Of course, I said it before, before I sign contract, that if the league decides to cut our salaries, cut our contracts for what they want, I don’t know how many guys are coming back.”
Over the past few years, Ovechkin has emerged as an integral part of the Capitals franchise. If he leaves, the Caps would be losing more than an All-Star winger.
For these five reasons, the Capitals would be devastated if Ovechkin does decide to stay overseas.
The newest left-winger for the Capitals, Wojtek Wolski.
Without Ovechkin on the roster, the Capitals wouldn’t have nearly as much depth on the wings. If he stays overseas, head coach Adam Oates would need to promote either Wojtek Wolski or Jason Chimera to the first line.
Chimera proved this past season that he is an invaluable depth winger. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points last season. In addition, his sheer speed makes him a vital forward for the Caps.
That said, Chimera still doesn’t have what it takes to carry the offense as a top-line winger.
Wolski should also contribute a lot to the team. He is an experienced, but still rather young winger that could make an impact on the second line. In addition, he’s also a force in the shootout.
However, even if he can come close to scoring like he did in Colorado from 2006-2010, he still won’t begin to fill the gap left by “Alexander the Great.” The fact that Ovechkin's career-low 65 points matches Wolski's career-high speaks levels of how much Ovechkin's absence will affect the scoring depth.
Ovechkin celebrating with his teammates.
Ovechkin isn’t the best leader in the Capitals locker room, but the team will definitely feel his absence.
No. 8 was named captain in January 2010 after the Capitals traded then-captain Chris Clark to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team rewarded him for all his hard work with the “C” over his heart.
Then-coach Bruce Boudreau said that, as a leader, "Ovie is taking care of the ice. That's what Ovie is going to do."
Two years later, Ovechkin is doing just that. As the team captain, Ovechkin makes sure to take care of his teammates on the ice. He’s never been a fighter but the “Great Eight” will stand up for his teammates.
The Caps will definitely miss this leadership quality in Ovechkin.
Ovechkin lays a hit on an unsuspecting Bolts skater.
Alexander Ovechkin has never been the most defensively-minded player on the ice. This became especially apparent when the Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter eased the Capitals into a more defensively oriented style.
Even so, Ovechkin does have a reputation as a hard-hitter. In 2011-12, the Caps captain had 215 hits. With the “Great Eight” on the ice, no opponent carrying the puck is safe.
So, even though Ovechkin’s backcheck is considered unreliable, he is adept at using his body to force turnovers on the forecheck and in the neutral zone.
If Ovechkin stays in Russia, the Capitals will greatly miss their captain’s physical style of play.
The Caps aren’t limited in their scoring talent. Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Mike Ribeiro are all capable of finding the back of the net. None of them have Ovechkin’s prowess for scoring, though.
Despite the shift toward a more defensively-oriented game, the Caps will still focus heavily on offense. If that wasn’t the plan, the Caps wouldn’t have picked up Ribeiro and Wolski to add even more scoring depth to the forward lines.
Even though Ovechkin finished 2011-12 with career-low scoring numbers, he still ranked fifth in the NHL for most goals scored. There’s no doubting that Ovechkin contributes a great deal to the team’s offensive production.
If they lose him to the KHL, the Capitals may find it harder to score those crucial goals that Ovechkin makes look easy.
Ovechkin enjoying the US Open.
Without a doubt, Alexander Ovechkin is the face of the Washington Capitals. He’s been one of the NHL’s most sensational players since his debut in the league and has single-handedly taken the Capitals franchise to new highs.
Ovechkin isn’t the man to win the Caps their first Stanley Cup. No one player can win the Caps a Cup.
That said, Ovechkin is the kind of player to build a team around. That’s exactly what George McPhee and company have been doing. If Ovechkin packs up and leaves for Russia for good, McPhee will have to go back to the drawing board.
Sure, the team could carry on without Ovechkin skating down the left wing. They wouldn’t be the same team, though.
Other than the impact on their scoring totals, the Caps would lose a lot of intangibles–namely the electricity that Ovechkin brings to the Caps.
More so than anything else, if Alexander Ovechkin stays overseas, then Washington D.C. would lose an icon.