The Washington Capitals have made the playoffs five consecutive seasons—but the streak is in jeopardy this season.
Washington is currently 11th overall in the Eastern Conference with 31 points—four points out of the final playoff spot.
Offense was once a strength for this team—but it has gone down significantly in recent years. In 2007-08, they ranked eighth in league scoring with 238 goals. The next season, their 268 goals was third in the league.
In 2009-10, the Caps led the league in goals with an astonishing 313.
In 2010-11, they scored 219, which plummeted them to 19th overall in the league.
The offense slightly improved in 2010-11, notching 218 goals which was ranked 14th in the league.
One major reason for that is the declining play of the 2004 first-overall pick in Alexander Ovechkin.
He took the league by storm in his first two seasons—scoring 98 goals and 198 points in his first two seasons, but Washington missed the playoffs both of those years.
His point total has gone down every year since qualifying for the postseason in 2007-08.
Here are the stats (via NHL.com)
Season Goals Assists Points
2007-08 65 47 112
2008-09 56 54 110
2009-10 50 59 109
2010-11 32 53 85
2011-12 38 27 65
Although Ovechkin doesn't deserve all of the blame, plenty of it will always fall on his shoulders.
Which leads to one very interesting question: Should the Capitals considering moving their franchise player?
Back in February, The Washington Post's Lindsay Applebaum had this to stay about the struggling superstar:
A topic that wouldn't even have been entertained a few seasons ago has been raised countless times recently as the Capitals have fallen to 2-7-1, last place in the NHL. Their star player, Alex Ovechkin, has just two goals (five points). His 13-year, $124 million contract is through 2021, and the simple fact is that he's not worth it at his current production level.
Is a trade something the Capitals should seriously consider? What would they need in return, and what could they realistically get?
Ovechkin has improved his play significantly since, with 16 goals and 32 points—which is 18th in league scoring. Washington's offense has also improved by scoring 93 goals—good enough for ninth overall in the league.
That is still unacceptable for a franchise player carrying such a heavy contract. He should be a top-five scorer, considering the talent he has surrounding him.
Ovechin's rapid fall from grace is a mystery to hockey pundits.
The Capitals are always a popular pick to win the Cup, but that hasn't happened yet. Sooner or later the Washington faithful are going to become rightfully impatient and perhaps demand a major roster overhaul.
That overhaul could include moving Ovechkin.
Washington could easily get a king's ransom for Ovie. Fans from all over the world pay specifically to see him play. Any team who acquired him would fill up more seats for their home games.
There would certainly be no shortage of teams willing to take on his contract and sacrifice plenty of their future to take Ovechkin.
If Capitals general manager George McPhee decided to pull of an Ovechkin blockbuster, then he would have no problem receiving an NHL-ready player, at least two high draft picks and an elite prospect or two.
It isn't easy to move and bid farewell to a fan favorite who has done so much for the franchise. We saw that on Wednesday night when Calgary traded Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh. Ovechkin almost single-handedly turned a struggling franchise into a powerhouse that sells out every home game.
Although it isn't a move that's mandatory, it's something that the Capitals front office should strongly consider, especially if Ovechkin and the Capitals fail to improve their play and fall short of making the playoffs for the first time in six years.