Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reality Time: The Capitals Have To Trade Ovechkin

I've been doing a lot of soul searching after the Capitals devastating shootout loss last night to the Bruins – their staggering first loss in a row – and after grappling with it I've decided it's time to blow up the team.

The Caps are 55 games into the second not-locked-out season of its sweeping rebuild, and all we've seen is marginal improvement over last year. How long can I possibly be expected to wait before seeing some results?

Alex Ovechkin, probably hanging his head because of his many disappointing years in the nation's capital.
Image stolen from Puckhead's Thoughts, who likely stole it from somewhere else.
So with that in mind, I think it's time to say what's been on everyone's mind for several days now:

The Washington Capitals need to trade Alexander Ovechkin.

They brought him in as the alleged savior of this franchise, paid him the big bucks to lure him away from perennial Stanley Cup contender Dynamo Moscow, built a supporting cast around him with solid NHL veterans like Matt Bradley and Ben Clymer, hired defensive stalwarts Brian Muir and Mathieu Biron Ivan Majesky Milan Jurcina to police the blue line, and still Washington has no Cup.

Even the scrappy group of never-weres that General Manager George McPhee astutely rescued from the junk heap several years ago managed to make the playoffs in 2003, shocking teams who had left players like Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Robert Lang for dead or wrote them off as classic cases of "project" players that never panned out. Those guys had heart, though.

Legendary coach Bruce Cassidy pulled that team together and led them on a surprising run that saw them get six games deep in the playoffs.

Now what do the Caps have? A bunch of overpaid guys slacking off and keeping the team from going out and acquiring that 38-year-old once-superstar, now "gritty veteran and true leader" that could put them over the top.

Damn this salary cap.

That's why the team needs to trade Ovechkin. He's an albatross. With incentives he can make almost $4 million a year. That's slightly more than the Caps are still paying Jagr! Ridiculous.

I know Ovechkin's value isn't high right now, what with him mired in an extended scoring drought of three games that would make even Joe Reekie and Brendan Witt blush, but it's time for action and the Caps can't afford to wait and hope his value magically goes up. How many players can you remember who improved after turning 22? Without doing the research, I can tell you the answer is "not many."

Alex will be on the wrong side of that hill in just a shade over seven months.

I'll wait while you let that unnerving reality set in.

As the days go on, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Caps will never win a Cup with Ovechkin logging 25+ minutes per game, only barely clinging to the league lead in goals as his salary bumps the team dangerously close to the salary cap.

And let's not forget the locker room squabbles – it's been literally minutes since I've read an article about how genuinely nice and well-liked Alex is. Not a good sign.

I know it's difficult to let go, but you have to use your head, not your heart. Yes, it will be odd to see all those number 8 jerseys around Verizon Center that were foolishly purchased by overzealous fans who failed to realize that Ovechkin could not possibly be in the long term plans of this franchise when he was inked to a deal at 20-years-old – well after he had surpassed his prime – but that's the reality of the situation.

Professional sports are a business, and sometimes you just have to put a player out to pasture. Better to do it now when you might be able to sucker some team into giving you something of marginal value in return.

1 comment:

CapsChick said...

Is it sad that I had to read for a while before I figured out you were kidding?

...You were kidding, right? ;)

Ah, Thursday morning. I'm with you now, though!