Alexander Ovechkin was once one of the most recognizable names in hockey. There was a time when Ovi and Sidney Crosby were considered to be the star power behind the resurgence of the NHL‘s popularity. Unfortunately, after the Washington Capitals failure to generate playoff success from the buzz surrounding Ovi, “The Great Eight” has faded from the spotlight and yielded to younger players like Steven Stamkos.
Whether Ovechkin is still one of the most recognizable figures in hockey is unimportant. The Washington Capitals continue to dominate a mediocre division, though this season is off to an admittedly slow start, and the Caps don’t need star power or a psuedo-rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Making the playoffs means nothing if the Washington Capitals aren’t a legitimate contender, and they won’t be unless their captain is still capable of carrying this team on his back. Their slow start fuels speculation that Alexander Ovechkin has lost a step, and the numbers back up claims of diminishing skills.
Alexander Ovechkin is averaging a little over four shots per game, which is good enough for second in the NHL in shots. Still, the number represents a sharp decline from Ovi’s prime. Five years ago, when Ovechkin was a given to score well over 100 points each season, Ovi was averaging closer to seven shots per game. An inability to get to the net is driving Ovechkin’s inability to finish.
In every year since 2007, Alexander Ovechkin has seen his production diminish despite the talent around him remaining comparable. Shot totals have fallen in every year since 2008, and in addition to his shots falling, his shooting percentage is at an all-time low this year. Offensively, it seems Alexander Ovechkin is no longer the dominant player he once was.
Still, that may not be entirely due to a diminished skill set. Ovechkin has been relegated to more of a two-way role with the Washington Capitals in recent years, which obviously affects his ability to throw pucks at the net. With less shots, and less focus on offensive production, comes less impressive numbers. Part of the decline of Alexander Ovechkin can be explained away by new coaching philosophies and a different role as captain of the Washington Capitals.
What I’ll always remember about Alexander Ovechkin, despite his relative failures in the postseason, will be his will to win. When the Caps knocked out the New York Rangers from the playoffs a few years ago, Ovechkin mashing away at Henrik Lundqvist to lead the Capitals to victory late in a playoff game will stay with me forever as a symbol of his drive to win as well as his clutch scoring ability.
As Ovechkin slows down, he is less able to take over a game and will his team to victory like he did in the past. Other players around him will need to take on a bigger role in offensive production, or the Washington Capitals will see their reign atop the Southeast division and in the NHL playoffs come to an end. Alexander Ovechkin’s decline in production is a result of many factors, one of which may be that Ovi is slowing down a bit, but he’s still one of the game’s best players. The team around him, the system in which he plays, and a two-way approach are all factors that are behind his decline, not just an inability to dominate a game.