From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up, Viktor Kozlov.
#25 / Center / Washington Capitals
Feb 14, 1975
UFA; $2,500,000 cap hit in 2008-09
Interesting Stat: Kozlov's average time on ice per game was cut by 1:55 over a season ago, with 30 seconds of that coming on the power-play.
The Good: Let's start with the post-season, where Kozlov not only scored his long-awaited first career playoff goal, but he'd go on to score three more, have the best five-on-five GAON/60 of any forward on the team (minimum two games played) and the second-best +/-ON/60 and plus-minus of any forward, behind only Alexander Ovechkin.
Backing up a bit to the regular season, Kozlov was fifth on the team (behind the Young Guns) in points per minute of ice time (which is a little misleading, as it dings players who kill penalties), and third (behind Jeff Schultz and Karl Alzner) in fewest penalty minutes per minute of ice time. When he got the chance, he was an "excellent" producer five-on-four (though 57% of his production there came via secondary assists) and he had ten multi-point games on the season (the flip side of that coin, however, is that in he had 18 single-point and 39 scoreless outings playing largely on the top line for the third-highest scoring team in hockey).
The Bad: After playing approximately 55% of his even strength shifts on a line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and managing the fewest points per game in a season since his miserable campaign in New Jersey coming out of the lockout, Viktor Kozlov has officially flunked out of the Dainius Zubrus School of Statistical Inflation (right, Headmaster Clark?). In fact, Kozlov finished eighth among the team's regular forwards in points per sixty minutes of five-on-five time, has only scored fewer goals in a season four times in his career (and in three of those seasons he played fewer games) and has only once had fewer points in a season in which he played as many games as he did in 2008-09. He had as many goals in the playoffs as he had from January 1st through the end of the regular season (in 34 games), his shots per game were down, and he had fewer game-winning goals for the Caps this past season than Shaone Morrisonn, Donald Brashear or Alexandre Giroux. And while he was busy not putting up points, Kozzie was posting the worst GAON/60 on the team (minimum four games played). Oh, and "Kozlov the shootout specialist?" One-for-five.
There may have been a time when Kozlov was the Caps' Lebowski Rug, but that time seems to have passed.
The Vote: Rate Kozlov below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: With Kozlov all but assuredly not returning to the Caps in 2009-10, where does "first-line right wing" rate among the team's needs? Is the man to fill Kozlov's skates currently in the organization? If not, what type of player (or specific player) should the Caps be looking at to fill that role?