Joel Ward is coming off a career season in 2013-14 as he was called upon to become a bigger player in the Washington attack. Ward registered 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) in 82 games with Washington this past season, setting career highs in goals, assists, points and power-play goals (6). This season also marked the first time in Ward’s career he played in all 82 games in a season and did so helping what many called the Washington “other first line”.
Ward had a very productive season with the Capitals finishing the 2013-14 season ranked third on the team in goals scored and points. Ward had multiple short handed goals as a key member of Washington’s Penalty Kill and recorded his first career hat trick in early November.
As Ward looks forward to represent his home country of Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus one can’t help but think the forward has quite the career ahead of him in Washington.
When Ward was acquired prior to the 2010-11 season he signed a four-year contract worth $12 million and was thought to be an improvement to then a very potent offense. Ward stepped in and helped with postseason goals against the Boston Bruins to win the series in 2011 and he was thrust onto the scene in DC. Since, the Capitals have declined each season and now find themselves on the outside of the postseason looking in.
If Washington is to get back to it’s winning ways it will be expected that Ward continues his improvement. His career high 82 game mark will need to become a regularity as he will be called upon to man a second or third line with Washington that will need to again be claimed as the “other first line”.
With so much in question heading into the offseason there can not be questions surrounding it’s stars heading forward. Ovechkin, Backstrom and even Ward will need to take back control of an offense that for much of the year ranked as the league’s top Power Play. In 2014-15 the Capitals will need to continue their top Power Play dominance, but will need to other areas of the offense to step up it’s performance. Washington used the Power Play as a crutch in 2013-14 and, although Ovechkin lead the league in goals at 51, was able to do little at full strength. Along with the defensive performance down the stretch, the five-on-five offense will need to be addressed this offseason.
Hopefully this offseason will spark a fire under the Washington players to propel them to return to the position many believed they would be in this season; the Playoffs. With the addition of Evgeny Kuznetsov, and giving him a full offseason, Washington’s attack should be much improved. While Washington certainly is out of the postseason and a disappointment in 2013-14, don’t look for it to be a trend moving forward. Look for the Capitals to build off the successes that were and look for Ward to emerge as a star for the Capitals moving forward.