by PuckStopsHere on 12/11/13 at 01:32 AM ET
In the first half of last season there was open speculation about whether or not Alexander Ovechkin's best days were over. He was off to a relatively slow start. Things turned around and he finished with the NHL goal scoring lead and won his third Hart Trophy. I argue it was a poor choice, but it wasn't a totally off the wall selection. This year he is again leading the NHL in goals. With four goals scored today, he is up to 26 goals on the season. The problem is none of his numbers other than goals are as impressive.
Ovechkin only has nine assists on the season. This is good enough to put him in sixth place on his team tied with Martin Erat. His -10 +/- rating is a team worst. His once dominant Corsi numbers are long gone. In short, Ovechkin has abandoned several parts of his all-around game to concentrate on goal scoring. He is very good at goal scoring, as his league leading totals show, but he would be a more valuable player to his team if he played a more well-rounded game and let his goal totals fall a bit.
Washington has fallen in the standings from the days when Ovechkin was a better all-around player. There were coaching casualties in Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter as these coaches tried to keep their star player in a two-way game when he wanted to concentrate on goal scoring. It is true that Washington had a strong second half last season after Adam Oates gave up on that fight and let Ovechkin play his game, but I think that most of that credit goes to his Washington teammates.
Alexander Ovechkin may be a great goal scorer today, but he is playing a very soft defensive game. He is significantly less valuable than five or six years ago when he was an MVP-level talent. Given his reputation and his past and his goal scoring level, he will get some MVP consideration, but he shouldn't be in the top ten MVP contenders based on his play so far this season. The Alexander Ovechkin we saw a couple years ago playing a more complete game was more valuable to his team. Today's Ovechkin who is scoring goals at a higher rate is not the same Ovechkin we saw in 2008. He is a far more one-dimensional player.
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