Photo credit: Bill Wippert
By all accounts it was a disappointing individual season, as much as you can call 32 goals and 85 points “disappointing.” No Hart nomination. No Lindsay, Art Ross, or Richard trophies either — none of the individual accolades we are used to seeing from the game’s most dynamic player.
So what can we expect next year for Alex Ovechkin? Will we see another Hart-worthy performance, or is another 30-goal season in the offing? The most glaring change from this season to the others, besides the diminished scoring, was the way Ovechkin was used throughout the season. Using data from Behind the Net, we can see some definite trends during even-strength and when Washington has the man advantage.
|Season||Age||GP||TOI/60||G/60||P/60||Corsi Rel QoC||On ice Sh%||Ozone%|
Ovechkin’s 5v5 ice time per 60 minutes (TOI/60) has been astonishingly stable over the past few years. Bruce Boudreau makes sure his best player sees as much time on the ice as he can. The team as a whole got very lucky in 2009-10, especially when Ovechkin was on the ice during 5v5 play. The team shot 12.5 percent (On ice Sh%) and got a good amount of starts in the offensive zone (Ozone%) against relatively weak opposition (Corsi Rel QoC).
This year, we saw the opposite: fewer starts in offensive zone, lower shooting percentage and stiffer competition, resulting in Ovechkin’s worst year statistically since he broke into the league in 2005. The outlier is clearly the 2009-10 season. While it is unlikely the team will see a 12 percent Sh% or be matched up against weak competition when Ovechkin is on the ice, the coaching staff can control how many offensive zone starts he sees during even-strength, which would go a long way in putting the NHL’s best scorer in prime scoring territory more often. An offseason priority, to me, needs to be a specialist who can take defensive zone face-offs so Ovechkin’s line doesn’t have to. Maybe that is Boyd Gordon, maybe that is a free agent, but it seems clear that is a step that helps solves the part of the problem that is within the organization’s control.
Now for the power play. Uh oh.
|Season||TOI/60||G/60||P/60||SFON/60||On ice Sh%|
Ovechkin, who plays 90 percent of Washington’s power play minutes, has consistently seen his man advantage ice time go down in the past four years. Shots generated (SFON/60) has been high, especially last year. The “puck luck” (On ice Sh%) wasn’t there this year, but that is largely out of the team’s control. What is in their control is generating shots on the power play and drawing more power plays than the opposition. More power play time would certainly help Ovechkin’s boxcar stats, and that requires Washington to play more disciplined hockey. And it’s not just Bad Sasha. Only four Caps skaters were in the black for net penalties (penalties drawn – penalties taken) as opposed to eight last year.
So what can we expect next year for Alex Ovechkin? If things stay the same we probably see another 30-35 goal season. If the organization uses the offseason wisely, we could see at least one more spectacular season where Ovechkin is the league’s best player again.