(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

What’s wrong with Alex Ovechkin?

That question has been asked countless times this season by everyone who has seen the Washington Capitals left wing go from an exuberant two-time MVP to a player burdened by the weight of a franchise that needs him to be much better.

The Post’s Rick Maese and Tarik El-Bashir talked to nearly two dozen people around the Capitals and NHL about the changes in the 26-year-old Russian’s game and personality.

Some say it’s the people he keeps in his inner circle:

Ovechkin has “been hanging out with a whole new set of people,” said one person with knowledge of the locker-room dynamics. Among teammates, Ovechkin remains closest to Alexander Semin, a fellow Russian. “I don’t know, things have changed. They don’t hang out as much any more and it’s caused an uncomfortable situation within the team now, the chemistry with the guys. There’s no more ‘Young Guns,’ or whatever you guys in the media called it.”

Another says his mother is too involved. Many believe that the Olympic loss in 2010 and the two suspensions that followed dented his confidence.Others say his work ethic is a problem — “No one holds him accountable,” said one person familiar with the situation — along with his unwillingness to play a different way.

Regardless of the reason for Ovechkin’s struggles, the Capitals have to believe their franchise player will return to form. “The league has adjusted to Ovi,” General Manager George McPhee said. “Now it’s his turn to adjust.”

Read the full story here, and share your thoughts on what the future holds for Ovechkin in the comments section below.

More on Alex Ovechkin:
Video: From Russia, With Game (2005)
Washington Post Magazine profile (2006)
Photos: Ovechkin’s goal celebrations (2009)
Video: Ovechkin’s top 3 goals (2009)
Profile: Ovechkin’s need for speed (2010)
Photos: Ovechkin through the years (March 9)

View Photo Gallery: A look through two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin's nearly seven seasons as a Washington Capital.