How Many Years Have The Capitals Wasted In The Alex Ovechkin Era?

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

You cannot win every year. Great teams can tell you that. The Tampa Bay Lightning, possibly the best hockey team we have seen in decades, have not won every year. They obviously won the Cup in back to back years in 2020 and 2021, but they have also been really good since about 2014. They have two Cup wins, but they also have about seven seasons where they did not win.

Just because you do not win does not mean it was a wasted season. Maybe the players and the organizations can look at it that way, but we as fans shouldn’t. At the end of the day we are not more successful if we watch our favorite teams win. If they win, great! Have fun and enjoy the memories. If not, well join the club, pretty much every team did not win as well.

While not winning may not mean you wasted the season, there are plenty of teams who have had very good teams that went on to achieve nothing. The Washington Capitals are definitely one of those teams.

They are not alone. Look at the fierce rival Pittsburgh Penguins. They have some wasted seasons with Sidney Crosby and company. Remember 2012? That looked like an excellent Penguins team. They lost in the first round to the rival Flyers.

What about that Lightning team we talked about? They were one of the best regular season teams ever in 2018-19. Not only did they lose in the first round that year, they got swept.

Those are just two of I am sure many, many examples of something you could call a wasted season. A team that was very, very good, clear Cup contenders, who did nothing in the playoffs.

That is something the Capitals know a lot about. A lot of regular season success, not a whole lot of playoff success.

Since Alex Ovechkin has been a member of the Capitals this is a franchise that has made it past the second round of the playoffs once. In fifteen years, with all of those great teams this is a team that has gotten at least eight wins in the postseason just one time. I don’t need to tell you when that was and I don’t need to remind what happened that year.

But again, does that mean that there were fourteen wasted years? No. There were some “good losses” in those years. Losses to teams that you can accept more than others. Some losses were worse, and that is what we are going to look at today.

How many times did the Capitals waste a year in the Alex Ovechkin era?

We’re starting in 2008. The first year in the playoffs during Ovechkin’s time in D.C. I don’t think you can call this a wasted year. It’s the first time in the playoffs. I’ll be honest, I was not watching Capitals hockey during this time. But it was still their first time in the playoffs. It looked like a weird season, they got off to a bad start, finished strong and won their division. But they still ended up playing a team with more points than they did in the first round. Fell down 3-1 in the first round, battled back but lost. From what I’ve seen about that year, it’s not a wasted year.

Now we go on to 2009. A second round loss to the Penguins. Again, not a wasted season. That was a very good Penguins team coming off a Stanley Cup final appearance and, as we know, would then go on to win the Cup later that spring. It’s disappointing to lose to your main rival, especially after going up 2-0 in that series, and having a chance to go up 3-0 after losing in overtime in game 3. But that was a tough series, great teams. They lost. No shame in that loss.

Then we go on to what I think we can all agree is the first wasted season in the Ovechkin era. 2010 vs the Montreal Canadiens. The Presidents Trophy winning Capitals. A team that finished 54-15-13 and topped the NHL with 121 points. The closest team to them was the San Jose Sharks with 113 points, the closest eastern conference team was all the way down at 103, which was the New Jersey Devils.

Bad matchup with the Montreal Canadiens? Sure. Ran into a hot goalie? Yep. But you’re the best team in the league. You have got to find a way through the first round. Especially after going up 3-1 in that series. That is the first wasted season.

2011 is a tricky one. The end result for that year was a second round sweep by the Tampa Bay Lightning. That was a really good Lightning team. They came within one goal of making the Stanley Cup final that year.

The Capitals that year, again, were the best team in the eastern conference. Is getting swept in the second round a wasted year? I guess this one is just up for debate. They lost to a really good team that year. You would probably just want the loss to look a little better. Something like a six or seven game loss would sit better. I don’t know if you could call this a wasted season.

2012, not a wasted year. A bit of a stranger year if I remember correctly. Bruce Boudreau gets fired early, Dale Hunter comes in. Not a great year, they kind of just squeak into the playoffs, getting in by just three points.

But then they knock out the defending Cup champion Bruins in the first round. One of the better moments during the Ovechkin era, at least in my opinion.

Unfortunately the run didn’t last long, they would fall in the next round to the east’s best team that year, the New York Rangers in a back in forth seven game series. 2012, not a wasted year.

2013 was a lockout shortened year. They won the division that season, but lost in the first round to the New York Rangers, again. The Capitals finished with 57 points that season, New York finished with 56. Two good teams going at it again. I can’t call that season wasted either I don’t think.

The Capitals then missed the playoffs in 2014. I think you have to call that a wasted season. The Capitals probably should have been like the Penguins during this time. While they were not always the best team, they probably should have made the playoffs basically every year during the Ovechkin era. Wasted season, we are now up to two wasted years.

With Barry Trotz now at the helm the Capitals made the postseason again in 2015. The first round was a hard fought seven game series win vs the Islanders before meeting the Rangers once again.

That was once again a very good Rangers team, they won the Presidents Trophy that season. The disappointment here comes from the fact that the Capitals had the Rangers down 3-1. They could not finish them and eventually lost in game 7 in overtime. It’s not a wasted season, but it’s a hard to swallow finish at the same time.

I’m going to make these next two seasons short. Back to back Presidents Trophies for the Capitals. Both team lost in the second round. Both times being to the Penguins. Again, it sucks, but as we know, those Penguins teams were great. I’m not calling those wasted seasons either. Sometimes your best comes at the worst time possible. See the Utah Jazz as an example of that. Great for a long time. The best came against Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Oh well!

Capitals win the Cup in 2018. Was that a wasted season?

And now we move on to the present time. The Capitals won the Cup and have done nothing since. I am going to cut to the end here, every season since then has been a wasted season. That is five seasons. We instantly jump from two wasted seasons in the Ovechkin era, to seven.

2019, they are better than the Hurricanes, the Canes just wanted it more and won. Wasted. 2020 was a disaster in the bubble. It was still a good team and they got dismantled by the Islanders in five games. Wasted. 2021 I am not sure they were ever really in it vs the Bruins, they just got out classed that year in my opinion. Wasted. 2022, even with the Florida Panthers doing everything they could to give that series away the Capitals still could not capitalize and lost in six games. Wasted. Then you obviously have this year where they missed the playoffs completely. Completely wasted.

I don’t think the Capitals wasted many of Ovechkin’s years earlier. The Montreal series and the missed playoff season in 2014 are the only obvious ones. Other than those they really did run into good teams. Specifically the Rangers and Penguins.

But the Capitals have had good teams in the last five years and have absolutely crapped the bed in each of them.

After the Cup win in 2018 I know I was not the only one to think, “they won, now they know what it takes. Now they know what it feels like. Now they can go on a run like the Penguins in 08 and 09 or the the Pens in 16 and 17. Or maybe like the Blackhawks in 2010-15, or the Kings from 12-14 or what the Lightning are doing now”.

But they have done nothing. They have wasted the last five seasons. And Ovechkin’s career is on the back nine which might make it worse.

They have had good teams, Ovechkin and his core group of teammates are getting older now. You would think there would be some urgency from the team. And when the games get the most important, that urgency just doesn’t seem to be there.

You can’t and won’t win every year. You just hope through most of failures that you put your best foot forward. For the most part, I think that the Capitals have done that. But for the past five seasons I don’t think they have.

Related Story. A look at the regular season of the Capitals. light

So when you look at this Capitals franchise I think  you could easily say that this team has wasted at least seven years of the Ovechkin era. And that number is way too high.