The Next Question
So we know at least four Senators (ahem) will be there. And we know Dion Phaneuf will be there.
And we know Sidney Crosby won't be there.
So what about Alexander (The Great) Ovechkin? Will the Washington "superstar" be among the next group of 36 veterans named on Thursday to play in this month's all-star game in Ottawa?
Great question. No easy answer.
If the game, as Sens fans apparently believe, is all about what the fans want and has nothing whatsoever to do with stats or actual all-star quality, then surely Ovechkin is one of the most prominent players in hockey and should be there.
He's not as charismatic, mind you, as he once was, and it's doubtful he'll lead the league in fun and smiles as he did when the all-star game was held in Montreal.
But he's one of the game's most recognizeable faces, and certainly he's on the marquee whenever he's in the game. NBC has already announced that Pittsburgh and Washington will be its first regular season contest of the season later this month, in no small measure to the fact Ovechkin is still a very watchable player.
Leaf fans, of course, watched him gently torture Phil Kessel in the player draft a year ago, and would like to see Ovechkin sit around in Ottawa to wait and be picked this year.
But does he deserve an invitation for his actual play?
That's where the debate gets interesting.
After recently scoring seven goals in seven games, the GR8 went scoreless in California, minus-4 in two games against San Jose and Los Angeles as the Caps' road woes continued. He's 39th in NHL scoring with 17 goals and 16 assists, and after a down season last year will need to really kick it into gear just to match the 85 points he registered in Bruce Boudreau's last full year.
So this isn't an off-year for Ovechkin. This is a step back statistically from the off-year he had last year. That said, opponents still seem to accord him the same level of respect.
"The media and fans always look at goals and assists," Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle told the San Jose Mercury News. "But players know that sometimes someone can dominate on the ice and have nothing to show for it. He could come in here with five points, and I wouldn't treat him any different than if he had 45. I just know how he plays."
Under new head coach Dale Hunter, Ovechkin has been slightly more productive (9 goals, 7 assists, minus-1) in 18 games than he was in the first 22 games of the season under Boudreau (8 goals, 9 assists, minus-7), although still nowhere near as prolific where he once was.
As a team, however, the Caps have been slightly less successful under Hunter (9-8-1) than they were under Boudreau (12-9-1) and currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
Hunter played Ovechkin 22:27 in the loss to the Kings on Monday night, the second most ice time he's given the winger since arriving. The Caps went back to their old ways in California, giving up 10 goals combined to the Sharks and Kings after seeing their goals-against numbers reduced sharply under Hunter. As a team, Washington is nowhere near the offensive force it once was, with eight NHL clubs having scored more goals this season than the D.C. bunch.
So it's an interesting debate. Is Ovechkin getting back to the level that once made him the world's best player prior to the Vancouver Olympics? Or is he permanently stalled and unlikely to be that explosive scorer again?
And, of course, is he an all-star?
The answer right now probably is no to being a bona fide all-star, but most would want to see him in the all-star contest in Ottawa. It'd be a big surprise if he wasn't.