Evgeny Kuznetsov's Final Capitals Grade Of 2023-24

How would you grade Kuznetsov's season before the infamous trade to Carolina?
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

"Don't be sad that it's over, be grateful that it happened." I feel like that is a good way to start a piece on Evgeny Kuznetsov. One of the most frustrating players that I or we have seen. That is fair to say. But also, when he was on, one of the most talented and fun players to watch too.

For most Washington Capitals fans it won't be about what he didn't do. It will be, and frankly probably should be, what he did do. For a few seasons he brought some terrific hockey to the fans of Washington D.C. He was a key part in the Caps winning their first Stanley Cup in 2018. I think you could make a solid argument he should have won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP that year.

Kuznetsov also might have the biggest highlight of that postseason as well. We all know "The save" from Holtby in game 2 was massive. But just personally speaking, I see the Kuznetsov goal vs the Penguins in game 6 a lot more than I see the Holtby save. That was, and is, one of the best moments in Capitals franchise history. The Capitals couldn't get past the second round for years. They couldn't get past Sidney Crosby and his Penguins in three tries. All of that gone in just a few seconds with Kuznetsov scoring in overtime, in game six, in Pittsburgh.

With that moment Kuznetsov forever put himself in Capitals history. There's no changing that.

And now we must move on to the 2023/24 season. It's time to give our final grade to Kuznetsov. Lets just be real. It was not a good season for him in Washington.

It was another season that had some hope for him coming into the new year. Peter Laviolette was gone as head coach. It didn't sound like those guys exactly saw eye to eye. They then hire a new coach. A coach in Spencer Carbery that seemed would bring some more offensive freedom and creativity. That sounds like good news for Kuznetsov.

Well, just like all of the other years where there was hope for a "new Kuznetsov", or at least a rejuvenated one, we just got the same one we had been watching for pobably close to five years. A guy that looked uninterested on the ice. A guy that rarely made an impact. A guy that the Capitals needed to act and produce like a top six or a top line center and they simply just never got it anymore.

Kuznetsov ended up playing in 43 games for the Capitals this season. In those games he was only able to score 6 goals and 17 points. If he were to play a full 82 game season with the Capitals, at that pace he is going to put up, what? Around 12 goals and 34 points? Just call it what it is. That's awful. One of, if not the most skilled player on the team. One of the highest paid players on the team. Those are the numbers you're putting up? His previous season of 12 goals and 55 points in 81 games was not good. And he was on pace to score twenty fewer points this season.

On the 5th of February Kuznetsov went into the NHL Player Assistance Program. He would not play again for the Washington Capitals. His final Capitals game came on January 27th, a 5-4 overtime defeat to the Dallas Stars. Kuznetsov had 2 assists that night in Dallas.

In early March Kuznetsov was cleared to return. The Capitals however ended up waiving him and he went unclaimed. He practiced with the AHL's Hershey Bears and that is essentially the end of Kuznetsov on the Caps.

March 8th saw the Capitals trade their once top line center to division rival Carolina for just a 2025 third round pick. Try telling that to fans in 2018. A guy that could have/should have won the playoff MVP was gone a few seasons later in exchange for a third rounder in a future draft.

We could go through numbers. We could dig through all the stats and say, "well he's good here and hes bad there." Sometimes, you just don't need to look further than the surface. The answer is there for all of us to easily see. He was given some new life with the coaching change. He didn't perform well at all. He goes to the Players Assistance Program. That's not what anyone wants to see. It was a bad season for Kuznetsov on the Capitals in all kinds of ways.

Grade: F

He seemed pretty happy when he left. Maybe he really was just completely miserable in Washington for his final few years. Maybe a change finally, finally gives him new life next season. For the person, I hope it does.

For Kuznetsov and the Capitals, it will now be about memories. There are plenty of good ones too. But his final season in Washington was not a pretty one. I don't give out F's easily. But I think this one is deserving.