Ramblings: Changing of the Guard? (Mar 17)

steve laidlaw

2017-03-17

Ramblings:Are we witnessing a changing of the guard in goal-scoring supremacy?

 

Alex Ovechkin ended his career-long goal-scoring drought earlier this week but we’ve been talking about his down season all year. He had a hot run about a month ago, when the Capitals were rolling through the league but he has otherwise failed to live up to his lofty standards. His minutes, shooting and scoring are all down this season.

I enjoyed this piece from Andrew Berkshire examining Ovechkin’s decline:

Over the past nine seasons, there has been a slow, but mostly steady decline in Ovechkin’s shot numbers. He’s still the king of shot volume overall and that linear trend line of decline could easily level off if he were to have a dominant season next year. But the evidence of decline is there.

Actually, Ovechkin is no longer the shot king, having been usurped by Brent Burns. Hell, even Patrice Bergeron was ahead of Ovechkin in SOG (by one) going into last night’s games. If you want to argue that this is a one-off, by all means make that argument. Betting against Ovechkin in fantasy hasn’t often worked. But, I’d point out that he’ll be 32 going into next season potentially dealing with the wear and tear of a lengthy playoff run (don’t laugh too hard.) There’s also the looming specter of the Olympics, which Ovechkin says he is going to whether the NHL joins him or not.

Cutting two weeks out of his season would not endear Ovechkin to fantasy owners. And if the NHL does go to the Olympics then you are adding even more wear and tear.

Now, Ovechkin’s durability is one of his many freakish qualities. He has missed more than four games in a season only once, missing 10 games back in 2010 and he went ahead and tied for second in scoring that season anyhow. But between this year’s World Cup, this season, the playoffs, next season and the Olympics, we might be looking at Ovechkin having played in the neighbourhood of 200 games in a 20-month span.

Where this all leads me is to wonder if this is the season we look back at this season as the year we passed the torch from Ovechkin, the greatest goal-scorer I have ever seen, to the next generation. It is almost certain that Ovechkin’s run of four straight Rocket Richard trophies will come to an end. We just witnessed David Pastrnak and Rickard Rakell hit the 30-goal plateau, joining Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov as 23-and-under players to reach that mark. Filip Forsberg and Mark Scheifele will be soon to follow.

It might be worth throwing some cold water on that notion, however. As impressive as this young group is, seven