Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee finally pulled the plug on coach Bruce Boudreau and hired Caps legend Dale Hunter today. McPhee said he felt like Boudreau had “emptied the tank” and wasn’t getting the players to perform to their capabilities. When asked about two-time MVP Alexander Ovechkin’s part in the coaching change, McPhee deflected and said the goalies were letting in too many goals, defenders weren’t clearing the puck and the offense wasn’t forechecking and scoring. That may all be true. But let’s be real. If the Capitals are to win a Stanley Cup, Dale Hunter must get Alexander Ovechkin to play like one of the best players in the NHL.
This season Ovechkin has scored just 8 goals in 22 games. Does that sound like MVP numbers? Ovechkin’s 17 points leaves him currently tied for 54th in the NHL. OV doesn’t even lead the Caps in points anymore. The question is will Dale Hunter be able to get Ovechkin back on the right track?
We first saw signs of OV’s decline last season. Ovechkin finished with 32 goals and 85 pointss not too shabby. But those numbers were significantly down from his previous three seasons when he finished with 112, 110 and 109 points respectively. We had fun last season speculating on whether OV was out of shape. Maybe he was? But this season was supposed to be different. This season everybody said OV showed up in terrific shape. So why the lack of production?
I don’t know if it was Coach Boudreau’s fault. I’m certain he was a fantastic strategist. His regular season record was undeniably good. And maybe Ovechkin’s decline has nothing to do with Boudreau and everything to do with the Russian superstar himself. Still, something had to change. Now we’ll see if Dale Hunter can get Ovechkin back to form. OV is just 26 years old and two seasons ago he scored 50 goals. That’s not ancient history. Ultimately OV may turn things around and lead the Capitals to multiple Stanley Cups. None of us can predict the future. But I do know that now more than ever OV’s play will be scrutinized. Now more than ever it is on OV to step up and produce. And now more than ever the captain of the Washington Capitals must lead. Let’s see if he can.