The question being asked in Washington these days is, who will replace George McPhee
as general manager of the Capitals
The question that will most certainly be asked once that is answered is, should the Capitals seriously consider trading Alex Ovechkin
As strange as it might seem to some to even remotely consider trading the NHL's top goal scorer, a change of scenery might be exactly what both he and the organization need. It is becoming abundantly clear Ovechkin cannot find team success in the U.S. capital.
Easily the most dangerous scorer in the league, the 28-year-old Russian has a rich history of failing to come up big at critical times. He bombed at the world junior championship, in two Olympic Games and in Game 7 against Pittsburgh in 2009, when he was trumped by his rival Sidney Crosby.
Washington and Pittsburgh were tied 3-3 in Round 2 when, in the big deciding game, Crosby had two goals and three points in a convincing 6-2 victory for the Penguins. Ovechkin had a goal for the Capitals but was thoroughly outplayed by Crosby. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup that season.
With all of that said, you'd have to think there are still teams that would be overjoyed at acquiring Ovechkin. He is, after all, one of the most dominant scorers in the world, rivaled by the likes of Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
More and more, though, it appears the time is right for the Capitals to move their captain. Monster contract
Ovechkin was unable to get his team into the playoffs this season, one year after he managed just one goal and two points in a seven-game first-round series loss to the New York Rangers. While his 51 goals this season was an impressive total, he was minus-35 -- the third-worst plus-minus ranking in the entire NHL.
With the firing of Adam Oates, Ovechkin has now had four head coaches in his nine-year career, including three in the past three seasons. Bruce Boudreau let Ovechkin run wild and the team was unable to make it to the Eastern Conference final. Dale Hunter tried to make his superstar understand and appreciate the benefits of responsible defensive play and the Capitals were unable to make it to the East final. Oates switched him from his customary left-wing position to the right side and the team missed the playoffs.
If we are playing the blame game, Washington's failure to make it to the post-season this year does not sit solely at the feet of Ovechkin. On a team that included Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Marcus Johansson and Mikhail Grabovski, not to mention goalies Brayden Holtby, Jaroslav Halak and Michal Neuvirth (for most of the year), there is plenty of blame to go around.
Ovechkin has seven years remaining on his monster 13-year, $124-million US contract, so that could scare some teams away. He will be paid $10 million a year until his deal runs out following the 2020-21 season.1-dimensional
Still, if you are an organization searching for an identity
and desperate to put your team on the map, acquiring Ovechkin can accomplish that instantly. One thing is certain, however -- he cannot carry a team on his own and in a league where defence wins championships, Ovechkin's one-dimensional game is exciting, but it thus far has not led to his team winning.
Surely, Washington owner Ted Leonsis has to be aware of this. It is Leonsis, a hands-on owner if there ever was one, who will dictate Ovechkin's future. As much as he seems to love the player, it is hard to imagine thoughts of trading him have not crossed the boss' mind.
With three Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player, an Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer and four Rocket Richard Trophies for leading the NHL in goals, Ovechkin's place in the Hockey Hall of Fame is secure. It must drive him crazy, though, to be on the sideline this time of year when the trophy that has eluded him, the Stanley Cup, is being competed for.
One certainly gets the feeling Ovechkin cares about winning. You don`t put up numbers like he has -- 422 goals and 814 points in 679 games -- without caring. But in a career that is probably more than half over, he has yet to come to the understanding that hockey is a team game.
Despite winning the Richard Trophy this season, his year was a bitter failure. Russia was defeated by Finland in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in Sochi and his Capitals missed the playoffs.
McPhee is out. Oates is out. One can't help but wonder if Ovechkin isn`t next as the Capitals complete an overhaul of the organization.
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