Of all the suggestions in this article, this one is going to be the most controversial.
Let's at first acknowledge what a great season Alexander Ovechkin just had. The man just became the first three-time winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy, and he is also in the running to win a third Hart Memorial Trophy.
Ovi led the league with 32 goals this past regular season. In the playoffs, however, Ovi, inexplicably had his worst outing ever. He had only one goal and one assist during the entire seven-game series with the New York Rangers.
Compare that to Ovi's only prior series where he only played in seven games—the now infamous series against the Montreal Canadiens in 2010—and you can see how far down Ovi's numbers slid.
In that 2010 playoff series, Ovi still had five goals and five assists. If the Caps had gotten even half of that from Ovi during the 2013 playoffs, the Caps would likely still be playing.
That is not what happened though. A bigger problem for the Caps is that they need someone to truly lead them as opposed to just trying to take over the game by himself. More so than in the past, Ovi did try to lead by example in the series against the New York Rangers, but it was still not enough.
Ovi is an immensely talented player with amazing stick skills and a fantastic wrist shot. But he cannot get the Caps to the Eastern Conference finals. For six years now, Ovi has tried and he has failed every time.
He has been the team's captain since January 5, 2010, and having that responsibility bestowed upon him has not helped at all. This past series, when the Caps needed their captain the most, he just did not deliver.
Hockey captains are a different breed of player. In hockey, one player—and one player only—is given the honor of having the "C" placed on his sweater. There may be one or two alternate captains who get to wear the well-recognized "A" on their jersey, but the man wearing the "C" is different—and everyone knows it.
This is one of the main reasons the captain of a hockey team is, arguably, more important than the captain, or captains, of teams in other major sports. In football or basketball, the team captain(s) is quite often the superstar of the team, or the best player or perhaps even the most marketable.
In hockey, the team captain might not be close to being considered the best player on the team. Very frequently in hockey, the team captain is not the best skater, or the best scorer or the toughest guy on the team.
The single most important trait of a great hockey captain is that he leads. He leads by example on the ice and he leads by example off the ice.
While captains in other sports are certainly leaders in their own right, only in hockey can that leadership be merged directly with the ability to influence a game.
Being the captain of a hockey team is also not a task to be taken on lightly. The captain is usually the one to speak up for his team and defend their actions. This requires a level of confidence that most other players just don't have.
This is where Ovechkin has failed. He is a great player, no doubt about that. He is one of the most gifted players in the world. But he does not know how to truly lead. For years now, people have compared Ovechkin to Sidney Crosby. So let's draw some proper comparisons.
Crosby does all of the little things a captain is supposed to do. He leads by example. When his team is down, you can count on Crosby doing something to try and get either the crowd back into the game or to somehow gain some momentum for the Penguins.
Ovi will try and do the same, but the results are just different when the games count the most. Look at the numbers for the playoffs alone for both guys. Crosby has played in 76 playoff games with 39 goals and 63 assists. Ovechkin, on the other hand, has played in 58 playoff games and he has 31 goals and 30 assists.
Crosby has a definite edge over Ovi as far as stats are concerned—but Crosby has played in more games. Crosby also has something Ovechkin does not—a Stanley Cup championship to show for his efforts.
When one considers all the things that Crosby does for his team in the playoffs, and then they look at the steady string of playoff failures for the Caps, one may very well reach the conclusion that perhaps Ovi needs to be removed as the captain.
It would be a controversial decision to be sure. Still, Ovechkin has repeatedly shown that he cannot get the Caps to the next level. As great a player as Ovechkin is, when you compare him to great captains of the past—such as Ray Bourque or Steve Yzerman or even Crosby—Ovi just does not measure up.
So I say to remove the C from Ovechkin's jersey and give it to someone who would be a more effective team captain? Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer would seem to make good candidates for such a job. Both men know how to lead and they would provide some great insight for the Caps as well as for the younger players.
Make Ovechkin an alternate. That's fine. He deserves at least that. But removing the C from his jersey might actually be somewhat liberating for the Great 8 and might actually remove some of the pressure he has likely felt the past few years.
Ovechkin has had more than enough chances to lead this team to the next level, and unfortunately, he has failed. It is time to let someone else be the captain and see if the results are any different.