Photo: Sporting News
The Presidents’ Trophy, what does it mean? Apparently, it doesn’t mean much when it comes to the playoffs. Only 8 teams who have won the Presidents’ Trophy have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since its inaugural in 1986 and as we well know, that doesn’t include the Washington Capitals who won it in 2010 & 2016.
As Alex Ovechkin gets ready to begin his 12th season with the Caps and also inches closer to his 31st birthday (September 17th), does he still have the drive, desire and determination of what it takes to win the Stanley Cup?
“I start thinking about summer, training and all that kind of stuff,” Ovechkin recently told Chuck Gormley of CSN Mid-Atlantic. Alex went further to say, “Right now you have to take months off or whatever and start doing it again. It’s not fun, to be honest with you. When you get older, you have to take more time to practice and train (than) when you were 21 or 22 years old. But again, it’s life and you have to live with it.”
The “Great 8” and “The Great One”. Gretzky played 20 seasons in the NHL, Ovi starts his 12th this Fall.
Ovechkin had decent numbers in the playoffs for the Caps, scoring 5 goals and 7 assists (12 points) and a +3 in 12 games, but it still wasn’t enough for the Caps to advance to Round 3.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing. Obviously you don’t want to stand here and talk about finishing the year and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “It sucks when you lose in the first round, second round or third round – it doesn’t matter. Your goal is to win the Cup, obviously.” Alex said.
At 30, Ovechkin may not be old, but how much more can his body take as he plays such a physical game? In the 2015-2016 season, Alex ranked 17th in the league in hits, with 225 hits during the season, averaging 2.85 per game and 8.42 per 60 minutes. How much playoff disappointment can he endure year-after-year? And can the Caps keep icing a competitive team?
Ovi blasts Jaromir Jagr in the 2012 Olympic Games – RUS vs. CZE.
After a disappointing second round exit to the Caps longtime rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Capitals GM, MacLellan said it’s up to him to make sure Ovechkin’s playoff window doesn’t close too soon. ”Our job is to surround him with a little more depth so there’s not the pressure,” MacLellan said. ”I think he can play a lot more if he doesn’t feel that pressure that he needs to win the games. … I think he can play longer given a good team, a deep team. I mean, if you’re going to put pressure on him every night to carry the team, he’s not going to be more excited about playing.”
Every year teams have decisions to make on players and the Caps are no exceptions. The job of the GM is to evaluate each player during the off season and navigate within the budget. ”I don’t know that the window closes off, but it’s got to change because money needs to be allocated to different players and that sometimes squeezes out other players,” MacLellan said. ”The situation will change after next year.”
Ovi’s “1928” right hand man, Backstrom is now 28 and understands that time is of the essence for him and Ovechkin to win sooner than later. “It absolutely crosses your mind,” Backstrom said. ”Even if we have long contracts, it’s up to the GM and the owners to evaluate everybody and how they want to go forward here, which players they want to have here and stuff like that.”
“Frustration is probably at a different level with Nick and Ovi because they’ve been through a lot over their careers,” MacLellan said. ”It’s hard when they don’t achieve the success they wanted to achieve as a team.”
With the arrival and hopefully the right development of some of the Caps young stars, like Kuznetsov and their first-round pick in 2013 Andre Burakovsky, the Capitals should once again be among the league’s best in 2016/17 and compete for the Presidents’ Trophy and fingers crossed…the Stanley Cup!
The big question is, can GM MacLellan make the right moves or know when not to pull the trigger. Knowing the teams chemistry, both on and off the ice can be the difference between winning the Cup and getting knocked out in the second round.
By Chris Couch