by PuckStopsHere on 06/22/14 at 06:34 PM ET
A couple days ago I posted the worst 20 players in the 2013/14 season by adjusted +/-. One of the most talented players in the NHL was second worst. Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals posted a -30.8 adjusted +/-. Only Alex Edler of Vancouver was worse. What does it mean when one of the best players in the NHL (the reigning MVP) is among the worst players in these puck pssession numbers?
On the simplest level it means that when Alexander Ovechkin was on the ice at even strength, Washington's opponents tended to score. This is a bad situation and a big part of the reason Washington missed the playoffs. It is very hard to win when your number one line is losing its match-up.
This doesn't make Ovechkin a useless player to Washington. He was dominant on the power play with 39 power play points. This was second in the league behind teammate Nicklas Backstrom. Power play situations are not recorded in stats like this and clearly have significant value. The problem was Ovechkin played at even strength the same way he played on the power play. Namely he didn't worry about defence.
It hasn't always been this way. In 2007/08, Ovechkin ranked seventh in the league in adjusted +/-. In his younger days he was a more dominant player because he made a defensive effort. In fact he could get a couple misguided Selke Trophy votes came his way. Bruce Boudreau was the last Washington coach that got a two-way commitment from Washington.
It is necessary to point out that using +/- to gage puck possession is not as useful as Corsi because of the limited number of events measured. Random statistical fluctuations are much more common in +/- measurements. Nevertheless a player of Alexander Ovechkin's talent should not be among the worst players by any puck possession standards. It hurts his team in Washington. The Washington Capitals will not turn themselves around unless their opponents stop having so much success against their number one line. The biggest task for Barry Trotz is to get Ovechkin to play defence again. It won't be so easy. Other coaches have failed.
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