Capitals

Capitals

The Capitals want Alex Ovechkin to make adjustments to his game and the way he prepares in the offseason following a dip in offensive production this past season, General Manager Brian MacLellan said Tuesday.

“I think he had a down year,” MacLellan said bluntly during a lengthy interview with local reporters at the team’s headquarters.

And, oh yeah, MacLellan doesn’t envision stripping Ovechkin of the captaincy or dealing the 2004 No. 1 overall pick anytime soon, either.

But more on those two points later. First, let’s talk about Ovechkin’s declining production. He finished the 2016-17 season tied with T.J. Oshie for the team-lead in goals (33). It was Ovechkin’s lowest goal total in a non-lockout season since 2010-11, while the 16 goals he scored at even strength were his fewest in a non-lockout year ever.

RELATED: Trotz, staff will return next season

In this year’s playoffs, Ovechkin finished with five goals and eight points, good for second (tied) and fifth (tied) on his own team.

“I know the [lower] the ice time would correlate with less production,” MacLellan said, referring to the fact that Ovechkin played two minutes fewer per game than in 2015-16. “But even talking to him at the end, he’s disappointed in the playoff performance, the results he had and the results our team had.”

So how can Ovechkin turn things around? MacLellan indicated that the team believes it begins with how he trains over the summer. He also hinted that Ovechkin might have been a bit distracted last offseason by his wedding and the World Cup.

 

“For him moving forward, he’s getting into the low 30s and he’s going to have to think of ways that he can evolve into a player that still has a major impact on the game,” MacLellan said of Ovechkin, who will be 32 in September and has four years at a $9.5 million cap charge remaining on his contract.

Ovechkin is listed at 6 foot 3 and 239-pounds. That might be too much weight for No. 8 to carry given his age, the high mileage on his body and the quickening pace of the NHL game.

“The game is getting faster; he’s going to have to train in a different way, a more speed way than a power way,” MacLellan said. “He’s going to have to make adjustments to stay relative in the game.”

“It’s a fast game now,” the general manager added. “You have to be able to forecheck. There’s a lot of backside pressure. He’s going to have to evolve into that type of player to play top minutes.”    

Asked if he believes Ovechkin can still score 40 goals, MacLellan said he’ll need to be more productive at even strength. Which gets back to finding a way to skate and play faster.

“He’s always going to have potential on the power play because he has a great shot and is a good fit on our power play the way it’s set up,” he said. “Five-on-five goals is going to be the key for him, how much he can create 5-on-5. He’s going to have to make adjustments in the way he approaches the game in the offseason to get to that point where he can score 5-on-5 goals.”

RELATED: A quick guide to Capitals free agents

Okay, now back to the captaincy and trade talk, which has been hot take fodder for weeks.  

“I don’t know that that’s an avenue we want to pursue right now,” MacLellan said, asked if there’s been any consideration to removing the ‘C’ from Ovi’s sweater. 

“He’s our captain. He’s been a big part of this franchise over the past number of years. It’s nothing we’ve talked about recently.”

As for those trade rumors? Yeah, that’s probably not happening anytime soon, either.

“Part of it is, [critics] watch for certain things in his game and then it shows up and they say, ‘That’s not acceptable,’” MacLellan said. “He’s a big part of our franchise, a big part of our history. [He's] been a big part of where we’re at as organization and to just to casually say, ‘Let’s trade him.’ For what? For who?”

 

“I don’t think it makes sense from an organizational point of view,” he continued. “Maybe at some point if there’s a legitimate hockey deal that came up available. But I don’t know that’s where we’re at right now. I just think he has a history here. He’s a big part of this franchise and he’ll continue to be going forward.”

MORE CAPITALS: 20 questions: Should the Caps re-sign Alzner?