by PuckStopsHere on 02/23/12 at 03:24 PM ET
Most people expected the Washington Capitals to win the Southeast Division and be a Stanley Cup contender. That hasn’t been happening so far this season. Currently Washington sits in third place in their division and tenth in the East Conference. They have a record of 29-31 with five regulation tie points. That is the best record in the division if we do not count regulation tie points, but it is not a good record. Who would have thought Washington would have more losses than wins?
Few teams can match the Capitals in their front-end talent. I ranked Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Tomas Vokoun and Alexander Semin in my top 50 players last summer. None of those players have lived up to expectations so far this season.
Ovechkin was expected to compete for the Hart and Art Ross Trophies this season. He may be the Caps top scorer this season but he is well below point per game level. He isn’t in the running for any post-season awards. He has been criticized for enjoying his superstar status and not working as hard as he once did in his training. That is a convenient excuse for his offensive drop-off, whether it is true or not. I would expect Ovechkin scores better in the future than he has this year. His talent level is unmatched in the league.
Nicklas Backstrom is the Washington player who has come closest to achieving his expectations. He has scored at better than point per game level so far this season. The problem is he has been limited to 38 games due to a concussion. He hasn’t played an NHL game since early January.
Mike Green has also had injury issues this season. He has been limited to only 13 games played. He is back in the line-up now, but hasn’t hit his stride since his return from ankle and groin injuries. Green is a top offensive defenceman when he is healthy and is important to the Caps because of his puck moving ability.
Tomas Vokoun has not played badly but he hasn’t been a superstar either. His .917 saves percentage and 2.52 GAA are solid numbers for a starting goalie but they won’t make you an All Star. More was expected from him when he joined the Caps as a free agent this summer. Perhaps at age 35 his superstar days are behind him and were lost from the spotlight in places like Florida and Nashville.
Alexander Semin is very talented, but he hasn’t lived up to his expectations. He has 39 points in 56 games so far this season but should be much closer to point per game rate, if not surpassing it. He has been criticized for his attitude and work ethic on a more persistent basis than Ovechkin has.
Quite simply, for a team to be a top team their best players must be their best players. Washington’s best players have underachieved. In some cases this is due to injury, but none of their five star players have lived up to expectation. No team would be a big winner in that situation. The talent exists that should things get on track in time for the playoffs, the Capitals could be a lower seed that could make a playoff run. This assumes that they make playoffs at all, which is far from a given at this point.
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