Evaluating The Capitals’ Forwards 30 Years Of Age And Older: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

In the next part of our series of posts evaluating the Washington Capitals‘ forward group during the 2022-23 season, we’re going to break down the forwards that are 30 years of age and older. In this case, we’re going to be observing the performances of players who are perceived to be outside of their prime years of their career. [You can access our previous analysis on forwards under the age of 30 here.]

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to be leaving out Conor Sheary and Craig Smith, since they’re unrestricted free agents and it’s seeming more and more likely that they’ll test the open market.

The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, Dobber Sports, and HockeyViz. Contract and transaction information are courtesy of CapFriendly. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.


First up in our evaluation of Capitals forwards who are 30 years of age or older, we’re going to take a look at the Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin was drafted 1st overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Ovechkin is entering the third year of his five-year contract that carries a $9.5M cap hit, which he signed in July of 2021.

Ovechkin posted 42 goals, 33 assists, and 75 points in 73 games this season.

Five-on-Five Possession and Chance Generation

Here’s how Ovechkin fared in the underlying key metrics during five-on-five play this season:

The concerning part here is that all of Ovechkin’s metrics fell below the 50% threshold this season, meaning that although Ovechkin scored at above a point per game rate, he was often taken advantage of defensively. To be clear, when Ovechkin, as a single player on the ice, contributes 177 shots on goal on 322 total shot attempts during five-on-five play and you’re still controlling under 50% of shots for (SF%), Corsi shot attempts for (CF%), and Fenwick shot attempts for (FF%), you’re giving up a bevy of shot attempts and shots on goal defensively.

What’s concerning to me is that he scored fewer goals than expected (53 vs 54.5). It’s a slight deviation, sure, but you’d expect the greatest goal scorer of all time’s actual GF to outpace his xGF. That’s especially the case when you’re defensive impact is minimal at best.

Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)

Here’s Ovechkin’s Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus, which is used to compare a player’s performance in key metrics at a rate of sixty minutes of play to the league average:

I mentioned that Ovechkin’s defensive impact is minimal at best…

Ovechkin is still very effective offensively, but the marks in expected goals against per sixty (xGA/60) and Corsi attempts allowed per sixty (CA/60) are jaw-dropping levels of bad. The reason why Ovechkin’s underlying metrics we covered previously are under that target 50% threshold is not because his line isn’t creating some level of offense, it’s that when Ovechkin is on the ice, the Caps are giving up a surplus of shot attempts against and scoring chances against.

Obviously, Ovechkin is going to be effective on the power play. That’s basically an expectation at this point, so there’s no use going too much into that here. That’s where he posts his main value on the ice at this point, mainly because he still has an elite shot, is effective offensively, and defensive chances against are going to be limited.

Isolated Impact

Here’s Ovechkin’s isolated impact that displays the Capitals’ performance with Ovechkin on the ice versus the Caps performance with him off the ice:

Overall, on the top half of this graphic, it’s pretty much as expected. Ovechkin adds offensive value during even-strength and the power play. The even-strength defensive value is…rather painful. The Caps have an 18% higher xGA/60 when Ovechkin is on the ice versus off the ice.

Now, Ovechkin is going to be 38 when next season rolls around, so it’s not likely to expect a ton of improvement and he’s definitely not going to become Patrice Bergeron or Anze Kopitar defensively over the off-season. The key is managing Ovechkin’s deployments and linemates a bit differently. He could definitely use a more defensively capable linemate, whether that’s an addition at center or at wing this off-season.


We’ve previously covered Backstrom’s performance more in-depth in an earlier post this off-season, but it’s important to present his performance in context with the rest of the forwards in his age group.

Backstrom is entering the fourth year of his five year contract that carries a $9.2M cap hit that he signed back in January 2020. Backstrom posted 7 goals, 14 assists, and 21 points in 39 games played in the 2022-23 season.

Five-on-Five Possession and Chance Generation

Let’s take a look at how Backstrom fared in key underlying metrics around puck possession and scoring chance generation:

One thing I’d like to point out here is that if Backstrom had played in more games this season, there’s no shot that his GF% sits at 34.15%. With his xGF% sitting at 50.3%, it’s more likely that his GF% would be closer to his xGF%. Although the Caps didn’t control possession at an optimal rate when Backstrom was on the ice, they did control the slight majority of high-danger chances for (HDCF%), which will drive up his xGF%. Since both his high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%) trailed behind their counterparts in HDCF% and xGF%, it’s more than likely that Backstrom would have eventually rebounded offensively.

Otherwise, outside of his xGF% and HDCF%, it was a pretty lackluster underlying performance by Backstrom this season, and I can understand MacLellan’s lack of optimism around Backstrom’s potential strides this off-season.

Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)

Here’s Backstrom’s RAPM chart:

It’s not surprising to see Backstrom’s GF/60 fall well below league average, considering the lack of goal scoring output the Caps put together this season while he was on the ice. There is a bit of a bright spot defensively for Backstrom, but he’s being doled out a $9.2M cap hit each season to deliver offensive value.

Backstrom also showed some struggles on the power play, and part of that might be due to his effectiveness on the ice, but could also be related to the fact that the Caps’ power play was largely mediocre at best.

Isolated Impact

Here’s Backstrom’s isolated impact chart:

This is kind of harrowing. The Caps were worse offensively and defensively during even strength with Backstrom on the ice, and it’s a considerable drop in performance.

Now, part of this is Backstrom returning to the ice after an intensive surgery on his hip. I don’t envy the decisions that Brian MacLellan might have to make this off-season, and my hope is that Backstrom can return to being the player he once was. The issue is, when you age, the odds are slim.


Evgeny Kuznetsov was drafted 26th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He’s been a considerable piece of the core group of forwards for the Capitals for the past eight seasons. He’s currently entering the seventh year of an eight year contract that carries a $7.8M cap hit.

Kuznetsov had a down year in offensive output, posting 12 goals, 43 assists, and 55 points in 81 games compared to last season when he scored 24 goals, 54 assists, and 78 points in 79 games last season.

Five-on-Five Possession and Chance Generation

Let’s take a look at how Kuznetsov fared in key underlying metrics around puck possession and scoring chance generation:

Overall, Kuznetsov’s performance during five-on-five play in these key underlying metrics are just as disappointing as his offensive output this season. His HDGF% is the only metric that shows me that Kuznetsov is a top-six capable forward. The rest are pretty daunting. The next set of graphics will help explain this rather paltry performance for Kuznetsov this season.

Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)

Here’s Kuznetsov’s RAPM chart:

This might be the most painful RAPM chart I’ve looked at this season for a Capitals’ player. Is Kuznetsov, at 30 years old, really just this ineffective on the ice, or is it something else? My thoughts are around effort and buy-in.

Defensively, he was basically awful. He’s at least three standard deviations below league average when it comes to xGA/60. This might be the most concerning RAPM chart in this post. Kuznetsov is the youngest player in this grouping, and had probably the most disappointing season on the roster.

Isolated Impact

Here’s Kuznetsov’s isolated impact:

This is painful. The Caps were 11% worse offensively in generating xGF/60 (which is something you’d really expect Kuznetsov to thrive in), and were 11% worse in suppressing xGA/60. On top of that, the Caps’ power play was worse when Kuznetsov was on the ice.

On top of it all, why are the Capitals using Kuznetsov on the penalty kill? Obviously, it’s nice to have a player with offensive talents on the penalty kill to hopefully create some shorthanded scoring chances, but you’re probably best suited managing Kuznetsov’s deployments to be more offensively focused. That’s especially the case when you have players like Aliaksei Protas and Nicolas Aube-Kubel who are considerably better defensively getting very few deployments on the PK.

I’m expecting some sort of “shake up” trade this off-season from MacLellan. And I think Kuznetsov will be at the center of that shake up.


Oshie was acquired from the St Louis Blues on July 2, 2015, costing the Capitals Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley, and a 2016 3rd round pick. Oshie is entering the 7th year of the eight year extension he signed in June 2017. His contract carries a cap hit of $5.75M through the end of the 2024-25 season.

Oshie posted 19 goals, 16 assists, and 35 points in an injury-riddled 58 game season.

Five-on-Five Possession and Chance Generation

Let’s take a look at how Oshie fared in key underlying metrics around puck possession and scoring chance generation:

There’s been a key theme building here: the Capitals’ core group of forwards have been really underwhelming during five-on-five play in these key underlying metrics. Oshie gets a slight pass because he was dealing with a slew of injuries this season, but these metrics don’t exactly cause a ton of optimism for a return to form next season.

Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)

Here’s Oshie’s RAPM chart:

Basically, Oshie’s struggles in his underlying key metrics are due to a lack of shot attempts and scoring chances generated. His CA/60 being right below league average indicates that he’s not quite as bad defensively as the past few folks we’ve covered in this post, but a bit worse offensively in creating high quality chances.

Oshie is still effective on the power play, and is really effective in the bumper position in front of the goal on the power play formation the Caps have used for the past 11 seasons. We’ll see how much that changes with a new staff and vision in place.

Isolated Impact

Here’s Oshie’s isolated impact:

Like I mentioned previously, Oshie might not be the best defensively in the league, but he’s significantly better defensively in reducing xGA/60 than the players we’ve covered previously in this post (although that’s not quite a high hurdle to jump). What’s concerning here is that the Caps really struggled to generated xGF/60 while Oshie was on the ice.

Oshie may benefit from engaging a bit less physically and seeing his deployments lessened a bit. He has a lot of mileage on his tires and could be used more in a third line role with power play time.


Dowd has been a stalwart on the fourth line for the Capitals, effectively filling in Jay Beagle’s slot as the fourth center after he departed in unrestricted free agency. The Caps signed Dowd to a one year, $650k contract in the 2018-19 season. The Caps extended him in April of 2019 to a 3 year, $750k AAV contract. Dowd is currently entering the second year of a three year extension that carries a $1.3M cap hit.

Dowd posted 13 goals, 12 assists, and 25 points in 65 games played this season.

Five-on-Five Possession and Chance Generation

Let’s take a look at how Dowd fared in key underlying metrics around puck possession and scoring chance generation:

A sight for sore eyes. Dowd was extremely effective this season, although he dealt with his fair share of injuries this season. Throughout the year, the fourth line, with Dowd centering that trio, was likely the Capitals’ most effective line. The only metric where Dowd fell below the 50% threshold was in HDGF%, which isn’t necessarily unexpected considering they’re mainly going up against opponents’ top offensive players. That’s what makes the rest of his metrics so impressive; they’re coming against teams’ best players.

Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)

Here’s Dowd’s RAPM chart:

This really exemplifies Dowd’s effectiveness in his role as a shutdown center. He’s very effective in limiting xGA/60 and CA/60. As a fourth liner, it’s not likely that you’re on a line with really effective offensive talent, so it’s not surprising to see his xGF/60 falling below league average. That’s not necessarily his line’s role.

Isolated Impact

Here’s Dowd’s isolated impact:

As we saw in Dowd’s RAPM chart, his offensive capabilities are a bit limited due to his role on the team, but the Caps weren’t substantially worse in generating xGF/60 while Dowd was on the ice. The Caps were much more stout defensively when Dowd is on the ice during even-strength, resulting in 7% fewer xGA/60. Again, this is impressive because it’s likely coming against opponents’ top offensive threats.

Dowd is the picture of who you want as your defensively focused fourth line center. He can chip in offensively at times, but is very effective defensively.

Overall Takeaways

For me, this was a rather painful post to research and write. Key core pieces of the roster we’ve come to know and love for a long time are really starting to hit that regression window. The worst part is, these key pieces are the most expensive players on the roster. The Caps are in a difficult place where they want to stay competitive, but expensive contracts for aging players with diminishing returns are really hampering the ability to ice a complete, Cup worthy team.

In order to really have success as a team with an aging (almost aged out) core, you have to have young players around them that play bigger roles. Luckily, the Caps do have some young players that are ready to take the next step in their growth and development. The question really is, what can you do to improve the top-end talent of this team? That’s the million dollar question for MacLellan this off-season, and it’ll be the most important off-season of MacLellan’s career as the general manager of the Capitals.

There’s a very real chance that this team could look considerably different come October. It’s not far-fetched to think that Kuznetsov could have played his last game in Washington. The first pin to drop will be seeing how the Capitals fare in the draft lottery Monday night. After that, you know what you can address in the draft, and what you’ll have to explore in a trade. The skilled young forward free agent class isn’t loaded this off-season, so expect trades from MacLellan.

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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13 Responses to Evaluating The Capitals’ Forwards 30 Years Of Age And Older: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

  1. redLitYogi says:

    excellent piece. We’ve all seen it with our own eyes. Those are the numbers. What is unknown to us are the injuries and health issues. Ovechkin, I thought, was clearly ailing at the end of the year. If the effort required for him to play even minimal defense is too much for him, we need to manage his minutes to where he’s got gas left in the tank. Otherwise, it’s PP and offensive zone starts only for him. He has to at least help the team break out. He’s not the incredible, defense stretching threat he once was on the rush and that just make his defensive liabilities that much worse.

    • Anonymous says:

      Very possible Ovi was ailing. Hard to say. It’s also a challenge to decipher how much all the other injuries affected individual performances.

    • Thanks for reading! For Ovi, it skates under the radar a bit because he’s still a prolific goal scorer. I do agree that the next head coach needs to manage his deployments a bit better.

  2. redLitYogi says:

    On to Kuznetsov: is it just that he became so disenchanted that he became disinterested or is there an injury problem? He and GMBM did allude to an injury Kuznetsov was playing through. Even with those awful numbers, he’s still young enough to be very impactful. Who would be the trading partners? Colorado badly needs depth up the middle. If Bergeron and Krecji both retire, Boston is absolutely desolate at center. Toronto could use the help also. Of the remaining teams, it is Florida that seems to have the most quality depth up the middle. I think only a good team would be interested in Kuznetsov and they wouldn’t have a whole lot to offer. Maybe he goes to Boston for their number 1 and something else?

    • My opinions for this off-season largely hinge off of tonight’s draft lottery. The trade has to make sense for the Caps, but if you can find a top six center in a separate transaction from the potential Kuznetsov trade, you could potentially approach a team that’s top six winger heavy and needs a center and make a hockey trade there.

  3. redLitYogi says:

    And Oshie: 90% Oshie is great. We’ve gotten that for about 20 games over the last two years. 60% Oshie hurts the team. I think he doesn’t need to retire or be traded: I’d say he needs half a year off the schedule to get his body as close to right again as is possible. Keep him on LTIR until February at the earliest. If he can heal whatever it is, he can come in and be a force. At that point, all he’d become is a good trade chip, however, since the team won’t really be going anywhere then, I don’t think.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Agree on Oshie. He’s still very efficient when healthy. Maybe give him the first half of the season off.

    • I think as long as Oshie can avoid being overly-physical next season (something he mentioned trying to fill in for with Wilson out of the lineup), he should be healthier next season.

      Managing his minutes and deployments should help keep him effective. Third line and power play usage would be perfect for him and add some depth scoring down the lineup.

  4. andrew777dc says:

    Can’t say I’m surprised. More like, petrified. This is really daunting. Really drives it home. Lots of tough choices for Mac to make this off-season. But as soon as one tough decision is made, whatever it may be, the subsequent decisions (whom to let go, take on board, put on LTIR, mold into reduced roles) become that much clearer… Much trepidation for this off-season…

  5. Jon Sorensen says:

    Greetings folks! Just a quick note, if you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to NoVa Caps posts in the “subscribe” box located in the upper right corner. Thank you!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Makes the decision to play man on man defense even more questionable when you have an old roster and stars that don’t try in the defensive end. Hope for better things from new coach.

  7. I regret Kuzy is no longer happy here in DC, I think he is still a top 6 player. Perhaps injury to Hagelin made Laviolette put Kuzy on the PP. Agree with how to cut back on Oshie’s ice time to third line & PP. I think this will be a prove-it year for Backstrom, even though he’s owed team loyalty for bringing us the Cup. We need to keep Dowd healthy, he really actors that 4th line.

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