Now that Adam Oates and his right-left obsession have left town, is Alex Ovechkin a right wing or left wing?
When Oates interviewed for the job of Capitals head coach two summers ago he laid out his plan to resurrect the career of Ovechkin, who was coming off a career-low 65-point season as a left wing under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter.
At first, Ovechkin resisted Oates’ bold move, but he relented and began scoring goals by the dozens, winning the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s goal leader with 32 goals in 48 games last season and again this season with 51 goals in 78 games.
Oates would tell you that Ovechkin had better looks and more scoring opportunities from the right side of the ice, but he’d also acknowledge that most of Ovechkin’s 24 power-play goals came from his old familiar spot in the left offensive circle.
So where is Ovechkin most effective? Or, more to the point, are the Capitals a better team with Ovechkin on the right side or left?
Here are potential line combinations if Ovechkin plays left wing under a new coach:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson
Jason Chimera – Brooks Laich – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle – Eric Fehr
And here are potential combinations if Ovechkin plays right wing:
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson – Brooks Laich – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Of course, a new general manager is likely to remove a few pieces from the puzzle the Caps have now, but he may also pay attention to where and how Ovechkin plays in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Minsk, Belarus.
Ovechkin will join Caps teammates Kuznetsov and defenseman Dmitry Orlov when Russia opens the tournament against Switzerland on Friday.
In other matchups on Friday Canada, led by Chimera, Ward and Brouwer, will take on France; while Belarus [Grabovski] faces USA [David Leggio] and Slovakia takes on CzechRepublic.
Here are the Capitals representatives for the World Championships, which run from May 9-25:
Team Canada: Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera
Team Russia: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov
Team USA: David Leggio
Team Belarus: Mikhail Grabovski
Team Germany: Philipp Grubauer