The soap opera that is Evgeny Kuznetsov

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

When you lead your team in playoff scoring en route to a championship, usually that means you get a free pass for the rest of your career. Ask Tom Brady. Ask Michael Jordan. Ask Derek Jeter. So why hasn’t Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals gotten that free pass.

By the way little editors note, I almost wrote the rest of your life and then I remembered Tom Brady got divorced. So maybe not a free pass for the rest of your life. But come on man, gotta pick the wife and kids over football especially when you’ve got more rings than most NFL fans dream of.

OK besides the obvious answer of the Caps not having a dynasty like the New England Patriots, Chicago Bulls, or New York Yankees the reason why Kuznetsov hasn’t gotten that is very complex. And it is an issue that has divided the fan base since 2019, one year after we all came together and watched the team parade down Constitution Avenue with the Stanley Cup.

Kuznetsov was an explosive player at the time and did everything right that regular season and spring. He scored a goal that ended generations worth of heartbreak. It didn’t matter if you watched the Caps since 1974 or if you started watching them in the early Rock the Red era, everyone felt what that win meant when Kuznetsov had that breakaway.

I don’t know how this happened but when I was at the beach this summer I stumbled across an old Caps Facebook post from their official page. It was the final score of Game 7 of the first round of 2019, a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

For the heck of it, I read the comments. While a lot of them were “I’m still proud we won the Cup last year yada yada yada” there were several that asked where Kuznetsov was. That was when it began.

In the spring of glory Kuznetsov had 12 goals along with 20 assists for 32 points. He had just one goal in that seven game series in 2019 along with five assists for six points. He still had 21 goals in the regular season. Not bad.

But the next year even though he had 19 goals the inconsistency started to show. Combine that with the four year international competition ban from Russia for using an illegal substance that just ended and fans began to get frustrated.

When he had nine goals in the COVID shortened season the trade rumors heated up. They died back down when he had 24 goals the next year. They picked right back up with just 12 goals last season.

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Now here we are. Apparently Kuznetsov doesn’t want out after all but no matter what this will be a debate around Washington that won’t end anytime soon unless Kuznetsov has the season of his life. But hey at least it’s not politics.