As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $9,538,462 in 2010-11, $9,538,462 in 2011-12.
The year that was: No player’s statistical dropoff was more widely discussed this season as Alex Ovechkin recorded a career low in points (85) and goals (32), even though he did still lead the Capitals in both of those categories. Part of that can likely be attributed to his numerous nagging injuries this season — one which is believed to have required minor knee surgery and caused the left wing to miss two games in March, and another that prompted a cortisone shot in his arm in January.
Ovechkin appeared to have less open ice this season as opponents took away his options and appeared better braced for some of his familiar moves. On the day of the team’s exit interviews, Ovechkin acknowledged that he had a season-long focus on the playoffs and added that he might change his offseason training techniques. “I’m at a time where I want to be better and better. So, I don’t want to stop finding the right way to be better,” Ovechkin said.
While several elements likely played a role in his scoring slump, it was most noticeable on the man-advantage. Would Ovechkin have scored more if the Capitals’ power play was functioning better? Undoubtedly, but it’s almost a chicken-or-egg type of question.
Ovechkin led Washington in points in the playoffs with 10 but he also led in a discouraging category, with 10 penalty minutes — including an ill-timed charging minor in Game 4 against Tampa Bay that led to a goal for the Lightning.
Ovechkin is far from the only player who will be asked for more in the coming year, but questions about whether he can lead Washington to its Stanley Cup aspirations remain to be answered.
Looking ahead: It will be interesting to see when the Capitals open training camp in September if Ovechkin went through with his plans to alter his workout routine, as well as how he approaches the coming year.
The message from owner Ted Leonsis and General Manager George McPhee since the team was ousted from the playoffs has been to stay the course in the search for postseason success. After four years of failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs with this core of players, though, it’s unclear how many more times the group as currently constructed will have the opportunity to keep trying.
Where there is little doubt, however, is that Ovechkin will continue to be an integral part of the Capitals. His challenge is to find a way to push himself and his teammates over that hump.
Etc.: When Jason Arnott arrived at the trade deadline, Ovechkin began spending time with the veteran center and picked his brain on how to be a captain and leader. Their lunches and dinners together weren’t simply educational, though, as they provided backdrops from some of the more interesting interviews and side stories.
During an interview on 106.7 The Fan, Arnott surprised Mike Wise by saying he was at lunch with Ovechkin, who later chimed in and said they’d split the bill.
The more notable dinner out in D.C. for the two came when Ovechkin noticed First Lady Michelle Obama, at the same restaurant. Ovechkin asked if he could get a picture and Arnott snapped the photo.