Friday, February 1, 2013

Question: What happened to Ovechkin?

For those not in the know, Alexander Ovechkin is a National Hockey League player with the Washington Capitals. He was one of the most tauted prospects a half a dozen years ago. He started his career with impressive numbers, but in the last few seasons, has slowed in terms of production.

First of all, I don't think it's as bad as people think. For five years, his numbers were consistent. From 05/06 to 11/12, his point totals are 106, 92, 112, 110, 109, 85, 65. One could argue that his only 'bad' year was the last one, because the 85 points he scored two years ago is very respectable and not that much less than the 92 he had in his sophomore year. Also, in that second year, his plus/minus was -19, his worst by far, though to be fair, he's been as good as +45 in his career, that coming in 09/10.

Looking specifically at his goal scoring numbers, which some claim is the real issue, also turns up some misleading information. Though he's scored fifty goals or more four times, last year he scored 38, which was not that far off the 46 he scored in that sophomore year. His lowest total was 32 a few years back, but he still had his consistent assist total.

The above information doesn't prove any sort of argument that his effectiveness hasn't fallen off. Rather, I think it tempers the expectations a little. Besides last years 65 points, I don't see a blatant bad season. I saw a radio show the other day where the guy was claiming that if he scores under sixty goals, it's not good enough. But he's only scored over sixty goals one time. It's like the expectations for him were so high, that they thought he'd keep going up and up. And a man who was for five years a consistent fifty goal-ish scorer got romanticized into a guy that was supposed to go on to score sixty or seventy.

Also, to throw more flame on the fire, he didn't play as much last year in terms of ice time (averaging just under twenty minutes, 19:48 to be exact), and his shooting percentage wasn't bad at 12.5, the third best he's put up as a professional. (He only shot the puck 302 times, his lowest total by far.)

Is he past his prime? Maybe. Some claim his off ice attitude hurts him, others say his physical style of play has lessened his offensive effectiveness. I don't know his attitude, and flinging himself around like a crazy person has always been part of his game, and he's never missed substantial time with injuries, so I don't see that as much of a problem. He also had the fewest penalty minutes of his career last year, if that means anything.

My conclusion is that we created a monster. Why do we expect 70 goals and 120 points from Ovy? Maybe that's what we need to consider. That, and of course, this years statistics. Another below point a game showing might lend some weight to the claims that he'll never be what he was, or never reach the potential everyone saw.

Short Answer: Factors like his youth and his salary may fit in here somewhere.

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