Whats going on with the Washington Capitals? There’s a question I think every hockey fan and analyst are asking themselves these days, especially when you look at the southeast standings. The Florida Panthers have a four point lead over the Caps for the division lead, something I would think no hockey analyst would ever have guessed at the start of this campaign. Ovechkin and his Capitals have been unable to do much of anything since the start of the season when they looked unbeatable and like they would coast their way through another division title. Then it all (finally) started to implode. The players stopped listening to their coach and the engine of their team decided he didn’t really like Bruce anymore. The problem is, and I believe always will be, that the organization has handed the keys of the franchise to their start forward, Alexander Ovechkin.
One of the main reasons why I very much dislike the Caps and their exuberant captain is simply because they let him dictate everything. When Ovie wants a shift he gets a shift. When the Great Eight wants the puck they make sure he gets the puck. Does anyone out there know of any other player that keeps one leg over the board and shouts at his teammates to get off the ice so he can get on? If so the player most likely isn’t a captain or for that matter on the team for too long. A team’s success is based on a team game, not one player. When Boudreau was fired, beside the fact the team was in a tail spin, you have to know that a lot of it came down to the fact that Ovechkin did not want to play for a coach that would bench him in a pressure situation, even if he had been playing like a minor leaguer. I am probably Bruce’s biggest critic but in that situation he finally grew a pair and did the right thing with his star player. And what does he get for it? A new job with another massively disappointing franchise with the Ducks.
This team will never win a cup if they continue to allow it to be an Ovechkin centered team. He is too predictable, teams have figured him out and he is too cocky to admit that he needs to change his game in order to be better. Ovie has one of the greatest shots in the game and he can handle the puck but he needs to become more diverse and allow the other forwards to create more opportunities for him.
The great teams in the NHL all have star players but the big difference is the best ones play both ends of the rink with passion. The only time you see any kind of passion out of Ovechkin is when he crosses the other teams blue line. He lacks the leadership of the best players for the simple fact that he does not play both ends of the rink. He hardly back checks, he doesn’t block a lot of shots, and he doesn’t go after the puck like say Kesler or Datsuyk. The problem is that all his effort, as well as the teams effort for that matter, is put into getting Ovechkin the puck and making him happy. When I see a player coasting back to his blue line followed by a goal during a two on one type play I believe that that says a lot about the coaster. More times than not that’s the case with Alex, he lacks the drive to become a complete player.
Now that the old coach is gone and the new one is firmly in place I hoped to see a change in the teams mentality. However so far it’s pretty much stayed the same. In order for this team to become the playoff powerhouse it so desperately wants to be, it needs to become a team orientated one. Every player needs to feel like they are on the same playing field, and if you’re not doing your part you’re gonna sit a shift or a game. This needs to start in the front office and work its way down to the coaching staff and players. Ovie will not and can not single handedly bring you a cup, but I suppose he can make your team a lot of revenue with his over the top celebrations and exciting one dimensional play. The Capitals have a long way to go before they are a cup contender in my mind. Although for the most part they have all the pieces needed, the problem in my mind is that they aren’t using them in the right way. The entire organization is so focused on the face of the franchise that they are missing out on getting everyone else involved as well as holding their star player accountable for his lack of two way play. In the most successful franchises in the NHL you find players being treated fairly and star players being held accountable for their actions. The Wings, Canucks, Penguins, Sharks, Flyers and Hawks all have been pretty much powerhouse teams for a while now and every one of those teams has the same amount of talent as the Capitals. The big difference is that all the stars on each of those teams is part of the team not THE team. They are successful because their captains do more than just shoot the puck well, they sacrifice for the team and play a complete style of hockey.
If I’m a Washington Capitals fan I would start asking these types of questions and wondering when they were going to be addressed. Their window for a cup is getting smaller and smaller, and the other great teams won’t be waiting around to see when the Capitals get their team put back together.