A professional athlete can go from face of the franchise to the trading block in a very short period of time – just ask Rick Nash or Roberto Luongo.
But has it really come to that for Alex Ovechkin in Washington? Once again the Capitals failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs after coming into the season with Stanley Cup aspirations. And unlike past postseason failures, this time the captain spent a lot more time on the bench, finishing with just five goals in 14 games.
“I think it’s possible (he gets traded),” one former NHL coach told the Edmonton Journal. “I think it would have to be a New York or maybe even a Montreal with the owner (Geoff Molson) there.”
That’s just one opinion. Personally I don’t see it. Not yet anyway. Let’s not forget Ovechkin still scored 38 times in 2011-12, the fifth most goals in the league. And he did it without Nicklas Backstrom for half the season.
More importantly, for all the criticism he’s faced, Ovechkin’s still the main reason the Capitals are a thriving franchise. Before he arrived in 2005, Washington was an afterthought in the NHL. The team was bad. Attendance was miserable.
Today the Capitals are one of the league’s showcases. If they trade Ovechkin, they risk becoming just another team again. (No offense to Backstrom, who’s good but has one tenth the star power.)
That said, I could see a point in the somewhat near future where Ovechkin moves on. Clearly he’s been unhappy at times the last few years as the Caps made the sweeping transition from run and gun to dump it in and fall back.
If that’s the way the team is going to play from now on, i.e. a style that diminishes his strengths and magnetizes his weaknesses, it’s not hard to picture him requesting a trade. Again, these things can escalate quickly in professional sports.
But that’s a big if. For now, an Ovechkin trade seems inconceivable.