It’s become somewhat of a tradition. As soon as the Capitals’ season ends, stories begin to swirl about how Ovechkin is washed up, and the Capitals should trade him. Here’s a few reasons why that might not be a good idea at this point in time.
It’s true, the 2016-2017 season was not a banner season for the Great 8 (in relation to his own standards). After totaling 50+ goals in the previous three seasons, Ovechkin managed “just” 33 goals this season. It’s also true that 5-on-5 goal scoring was down significantly and the dreaded “eye-test” seemed to reveal a slower, often sluggish Ovechkin in 2016-2017.
However, consider that Ovechkin has had similar dips in goal scoring and overall production in his career and subsequently returned to the 50-goal plateau. Also, consider that Ovechkin seemed to fully embrace the team game this season and played with reduced ice time for a good portion of the season.
Statistically, a single season is more of a single data point than a trend-line for a career. We need another season to draw any kind of elementary trend line for Ovechkin’s career. A look at his career stats clearly illustrates this.
The truth is, the media has been writing “The Decline of Ovechkin” articles for most of his career. A good example can be seen in the story “A Season-by-Season look at Alex Ovechkin’s decline“, written in 2013. Ovechkin would go on to score 50+ goals in the next three seasons. Or consider this article, “The Decline of Alex Ovechkin“, written in 2011. A simple Google search returns page after page of “Ovechkin Decline” articles. I think you get the point. It borders on silliness.
The overarching point is we’ve heard and seen all of this before. Ovechkin has responded well to each and every career dip. The Capitals would be foolish to make any move at this point without more data. It’s true, the Capitals need to be smart in how they handle the back-end of Ovechkin’s career and ultimately do what’s best for the organization. At this point in time, that means standing behind and sticking with the Great 8.
On top of that, Ovechkin already sounds motivated for the 2017-2018 season. “I still have three months until training camp. Come back here healthy and strong and back on track.”, said Ovechkin on Friday. As a fan, I want to see this – a refocused, re-energized Ovechkin, at least for one more season.
By Jon Sorensen