Once the Washington Capitals were shellacked 5-0 at home in Game Seven May 13, it was clear that some changes needed to be made.
However, based on the offseason activity from the team’s front office, it would suggest that the organization is content with building through the draft and with young talent, rather than through free agent options.
Traditionally, the Capitals have had the “win now” mentality in our nation’s capital and it is evident with the club’s trade deadline deals for veteran players in the past. Long-time Detroit Red Wings center Sergei Fedorov comes to mind and most recently winger Martin Erat joined the Capitals via trade.
Despite the focus on winning, the Capitals have won nothing more than Southeast division titles and as the divisions are realigned next season, those banners in the rafters at Verizon Center won’t come as easy.
Especially with little to no young talent sprouting through the minor league system.
Sure, Steve Oleksy was a nice addition from Hershey for the Capitals for the third defensive pair, but he is still somewhat immature in the ways he can’t escape the sin bin.
And what the club has up front in the minors isn’t exactly promising either… especially considering the club lacks a true No. 2 center.
Mike Ribeiro… gone.
I’m not saying that Hendricks was a capable option on the second line, but I’m not as high on Brooks Laich moving forward. And the same goes to winger/center Marcus Johansson.
Laich’s health is the main concern as he suffered a plethora of injuries last season, but the one of most concern is the sports hernia. This type of core injury can linger for quite some time and has a tendency to never totally disappear from an active athlete.
Brooks’ playing still appears to still fit the role of a third-line centerman, but is that what the team wants or needs at this point?
MJ90 will most likely not grab a choke hold of that second line center spot due to his diminutive efforts in the faceoff circle. Knowing the importance of having more than one scoring line — look at how the Chicago Blackhawks built their rosters for their two Stanley Cup championships — it will be interesting to see how the club addresses this issue heading into September.
Looking at the defense and goalie spots on the roster, Washington seems to be content with goalies Braden Holtby and Michael Neuvirth moving forward… and that isn’t a bad sentiment to have.
Holtby provided yet another solid postseason and his regular season efforts post-February confirmed what team officials believed that had in the netminder — a young, budding goaltender looking to establish himself in the NHL. While he still made a few mental mistakes — just watch the Rangers series — his abridged 2013 campaign exceeded most people’s expectations.
Neuvirth didn’t have as many positives as Holtby, especially with his health, but the Swede will provide solid depth and experience for the 22-year-old.
Along with no changes in the net, the Capitals defense will look roughly similar to last season… but is that the right approach?
Time and time again, the Caps defense has received credit for being great offensive blue line players, but have seemed to take a backseat approach on the defensive end. Luckily, the one defenseman whose defensive efforts take precedence over everything else has been inked for the next four years… Karl Alzner.
If the Capitals are going to get over the hump and take the next step, they need to seriously evaluate this group in particular. Sure, Alzner, John Carlson and Mike Green have been there consistently for the club, but the other three spots have seen constant turnover and inconsistent play from the like of Dmitry Orlov, Oleksy and John Erskine.
The one move this club should’ve made was for a second-line defenseman to provide more stability to this roster, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Taking a “build from within” mentality may work for this club, but trading away your top propsect in Filip Forsberg, banking on an unhealthy veteran from that trade and expecting teams not to gameplan solely for captain Alex Ovechkin and Green — especially after watching the Rangers series — are risks that seem to large for the Caps to be a winner in 2013-14.