The once-stellar combination of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals may be reaching a point of no return.
Ovechkin may soon be much better off if the Caps trade him away from Washington D.C.
Ovechkin was on a course to become one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game, scoring 50 or more goals in four of his first five seasons with the Capitals. In the season he failed to reach the 50-goal mark, he scored 46 goals.
But Ovechkin has not been the same player since the start of the 2010-11 season. He scored 32 goals that season and followed up with 38 goals last year.
Those aren't bad numbers, but they leave a very disappointing taste in the mouths of Caps fans and owner Ted Leonsis, who were expecting a lot more.
Leonsis is doing more than expecting productivity. He is paying big money for it.
Ovechkin is earning $9 million per season with the Caps through the 2013-14 season (source: CapGeek.com). At that point, his salary will increase to $10 million per year. Ovechkin will continue to get paid that amount through the 2020-21 season.
That's a huge burden for the Capitals. Leonsis has been expecting 50-goal seasons and the excitement that goes with it.
After two less-than-stellar seasons, the pressure was on Ovechkin to get off well in the 48-game season. He has scored two goals in his first 10 games. Both of those goals are power play markers, meaning that he has not scored one goal with both teams playing at full strength.
The pressure is clearly getting to Ovechkin.
When you have established yourself as one of the game's true superstars and you get paid the kind of money that Ovechkin is taking to the bank, you are not going to get away from the pressure.
However, starting over in a new location might be the best thing for both parties.
Ovechkin does not seem to be a good fit for new coach Adam Oates.
If we look a little deeper, Ovechkin does not seem to be the kind of player who absorbs what his coaches say and applies that information to game situations.
Ovechkin is best when he just goes out on the ice and creates.
Under Bruce Boudreau, the Caps tried to change their image from an offensive-minded team to one that could play team defense.
That did not work for Ovechkin and Boudreau was let go last year. Dale Hunter seemed to get more out of the Caps than Boudreau did, but Hunter wanted no part of remaining with them.
Oates earned the head coaching job after his stellar playing career and solid run as an assistant coach with the Devils.
Should the Caps trade Alex Ovechkin?
Oates was as creative and inventive as any player of his generation, but Ovechkin does not seem to understand.
That's why it may be time for him to leave town. It won't be any easier in many different locations, but if the Caps could find a trading partner who would give Ovechkin the freedom to be himself, it could work out.
But it's not just the environment. Ovechkin needs to make some changes in his own game.
Nearly every hockey fan knows Ovechkin's favorite move. He loves to carry the puck up the left wing and then cut to the middle before ripping off his shot.
That's been his signature, but he needs to change it up. Everyone expects that move. Ovechkin needs a few more.
It's very close to the point of no return in Washington. Both Ovechkin and the Caps would appear to be much better off if a trade could be made that would ship the superstar out of town.