Alex Ovechkin is arguably the NHL's biggest star (although Sidney Crosby has a pretty good case). He recently had a wax statue in his likeness unveiled. He was picked as the face -- literally -- of the Mr. Big bar. He even was in a bunch of odd, yet funny (some people will just stop at odd). You could say he's kind of a big deal.
He's also our biggest Fantasy star -- among non-goalies, of course -- in this season's projections. His predicted numbers are still a touch below his torrid pace of a few years ago, but 45 goals and 52 assists ain't too shabby. He just edges out Steven Stamkos of the Lightning among the skaters.
Henrik Lundqvist is the top player overall based on the projections. Remember this valuable lesson when assembling your Fantasy team: In most scoring formats, Miikka Kiprusoff is about as valuable as Ovechkin. That's just the quirk of goaltending in Fantasy.
But back to Ovechkin. Here's how high he has set the standards for himself: Last season's 32-goal, 53-assist season was a disappointment. As somebody who spent a first-round Fantasy draft pick on him, believe me. It was hardly his usual output.
He still ended the season with more points (85) than games played (79) but it was the lowest total of his career, seven points lower than his sophomore season. It was the lowest goal total of his career by a longshot; the 32 goals were 1 4 fewer than his previous low of 46, again in his sophomore campaign.
It's pretty easy to identify the culprit in this case. Not much changed from season to season that would have led to such a steep drop from a personnel standpoint. He's been playing with Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and the rest of the Capitals core for a few seasons now. He was also injury free, as far as we know.
No instead it's easy to pinpoint what was different, and that was a new philosophy. When Ovechkin was putting up monster numbers like his 65-goal season in 2007-08, the Caps basically said to hell with defense and rushed all day long. It was succesfful in the regular season, but they could never sustain it when it mattered most, the playoffs. So coach Bruce Boudreau decided to change the focus, make the Capitals play with a more defensive conscience. All of a sudden Washington was no longer the league's top-scoring team. They weren't even in the league's top half of scoring teams. Their 2.67 goals per game was good for 19th in the NHL.
So it's easy to beg the question: which Alex Ovechkin will we see in 2011-12?
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At 26, he's just entering the prime of his career (that's scary to think about), so the natural inclination is to expect he'll have a return to normal, which is around 50-plus goals. That seems to be what the oddsmakers are thinking, enlisting Ovechkin as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy with 4/1 odds.
The Capitals are going to try and find a balance this season between offense and defense. Boudreau says that they are going to try and be more opportunistic to jump into scoring plays. If that holds true, then naturally we can expect a climb in his numbers again. After all, there is hardly anybody faster and Ovechkin on the rush is a killer.
Getting Mike Green back fully healthy will help, too. The hope is he will help make the Washington power play more than just average, which is exactly what it was last season. In a related note, Ovechkin, who once scored 22 goals on the power play in a season, had a very modest seven in 2010-11.
Now you have a better picture of why there is optimism he'll have a bump back up in his numbers. When you stack his six seasons together, there's an anomaly, and it's 2010-11.
Herein lies some concern. Last season Ovechkin had one less shot than he did in 2009-10. That season he had 50 goals on 368 shots. Last season he had 32 on 367. That means his shooting percentage went from 13.6 to 8.7, the first time in his career he was below double digits. The hope for Ovie drafters is that is rectified by the team trying to open back up a little.
But this is the time to remind of perspective. We're still talking about a guy who will be better than a point-per-game player. That's not about to change. It's hard to imagine you can keep a good player like him down.
Plus, having him atop your team lends itself to some great Fantasy team names like Ovy One Kenobi.
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