It was only a few seasons ago that the Washington Capitals were considered Stanley Cup favorites.
They were a young team on the rise that just needed to make some improvements in the talent level on the ice and also in the leadership department. I wrote about those very things just three springs ago.
Unfortunately, the team did very little of what I suggested in that blog from May of 2011.
Three seasons later, they have missed the post season for the first time in seven years.
It’s not surprising to me. Just two games into the season I blogged that the defensive personnel was an area of concern. The weaknesses on defense ended up dooming this Capitals club. Washington used 14 different defensemen in 2013-14, many of which had little to no prior NHL experience. It was a big time gamble by GM George McPhee and it failed miserably. Add the poor personnel to the fact that the coaching staff didn’t properly address the talent weaknesses with system modifications, going so far as to try changing goalie Braden Holtby’s style, and you have the recipe for a bad season.
Simply put, this club needs big time changes off of the ice and on it. McPhee has had 17 years to try and win a Stanley Cup in Washington and he hasn’t done it. It’s time for some new blood in the GM slot. With a new GM comes a new coaching staff and that is needed as well. Sure Adam Oates didn’t have the talent he wanted, but his staff’s inability to adapt made things worse.
In addition, Washington had three players ask for trades this year. Those kind of things are major warning signs of an organization gone wrong.
On the ice, it’s pretty clear this team needs to be built around Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and John Carlson. Braden Holtby, who was invited to Team Canada’s Olympic camp last summer, would be my choice to be the #1 goalie. I still don’t understand why the club tried to change his game this season when he’d been so successful in the past?
Anyways, Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are promising young players that you can add to the mix that should play a bigger role next season.
As for the rest, they are fair game.
Washington does have salary cap room heading into next season so they have some flexibility to address some of their major holes.
They need talent and leadership on and off of the ice.
Owner Ted Leonsis and Team President Dick Patrick need to find the right person to lead this ship in the GM slot. Bringing someone in with Stanley Cup winning experience seems paramount.
Time is ticking on the careers of Ovechkin and Backstrom so the Caps can’t afford to swing and miss again this summer.