Alex Ovechkin will look to return to NHL elite status in 2013. Adam Oates, a former Capitals great, is the new head coach in D.C. and brings with him an uptempo offensive style that fits with the way Ovechkin likes to play the game.
Oates is already talking about moving Ovechkin out of his normal left wing position and placing him on the right side, setting him up for more success. The coach made the same move with Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey last season and caused a rise in his production.
Over the past two seasons, Washington moved away from its offensive style and switched to a more defensive-minded set. The change was unsuccessful. The Capitals still never made it out of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Ovechkin's numbers have dropped since the 2009-2010 season.
In 2007-08, the first of six straight trips to the playoffs for Washington, Ovie enjoyed his most productive year as a professional. He scored 112 points, scoring 65 goals and providing 47 assists.
That was the season that head coach Bruce Boudreau brought a fast, score-first attitude to the team.
Fans are hoping that 2013 brings the same results.
Ovechkin should now be allowed to do what he does best: score goals and skate at a break-neck pace. The fact that the season is shortened should only help him. Though games will be played more often, the season is no longer seven months long.
That bodes well for Ovechkin.
Another factor that will help the Great Eight vault to the top of the stat sheet is that his top line will be centered by a Nicklas Backstrom. The star Swede, who missed time with an injury last season, is a dynamic playmaker who has a knack for putting the puck exactly where Ovechkin needs it.
Backstrom, who can also put the puck in the net, played in all 82 games in 2009-2010 and racked up a career-high 101 points. Playing on the same line, Ovechkin put up 109 points that year.
Not only does 2013 bring the prospect of a healthy Backstrom, the offseason acquisition of another center, Mike Ribeiro, could also help with Ovechkin's production. He is a proven assist machine, who has averaged 46 helpers per year since 2005 as a member of the Dallas Stars.
Though Ribeiro is slated to be on the second line, Oates may figure out a way to get the setup man playing with his top scorer.
The final piece of the puzzle that will get Ovechkin back to the top of the NHL leaderboard is Mike Green.
The defenseman was hit hard by injury and has missed 83 games over the past two seasons. His last full season came in 2009-2010, in which he accumulated a career-high 76 points with 57 assists.
When playing at his best, Green is a one of the best offensive-minded blueliners who specializes in manning the point position on the power play. His slap shot will leave many opportunities for Ovechkin to clean up a rebound and find the back of the net.
It's no coincidence that as Backstrom and Green have missed time over the past two seasons, Ovechkin's numbers have seen a decline.
This looks to be a year that everything could right itself in Washington.
Taking advantage of talented, healthy teammates and rededicating to an offensive style that saw much success just a few short seasons ago, will all play a part in making Alexander Ovechkin the points leader by season's end.
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