It has been like Groundhog Day in Washington for too long now. Ovechkin scores in bulk. The team looks fine in the regular season then does nothing in the postseason. Disappointing. Wasted potential. It's premature to expect anything different until it happens, of course, but things feel different. They have the best coaching situation they have had in a long while. Ovechkin is playing his best hockey in a while. It was a strong offseason that clearly made them better. If they can't make a deep run this year then maybe it's really time to go back to the drawing board.
Washington Capitals Offseason Moves
The team made some fairly aggressive moves for a team in their position. Gone are four pretty big pieces of this team over the last few years. Mike Green, Joel Ward and Eric Fehr left as free agents, and Troy Brouwer was traded away. Green had been a big part of the defensive corps, but he was often a defensive liability despite his offensive production and certainly wasn't worth the $6 million a year he got from Detroit. Brouwer and Ward weren't producing offensively as needed, and it was time for a change. Fehr might be missed most, but his departure is far from fatal.
Brouwer was traded to St. Louis for T.J. Oshie. Justin Williams, who has loads of playoff experience with the Kings and is very clutch in big games, joined
as a free agent. Those two are both right wingers, and both are better offensively than Brouwer and Ward. One of the two is going to get the assignment of
a lifetime - playing on the wing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. If chemistry can be found then Ovechkin could be in for a massive year, and the
team will benefit. Green wasn't replaced with an equivalent talent, but that might not be a bad thing. John Carlson had a great year last year, and without
Green around Carlson gets to be the offensive leader of the unit. It's a good role for him, and he should flourish. The third pairing defensively remains a
concern, but the top two are strong.
Washington Capitals NHL Outlook
Barry Trotz proved to be a very good fit for the team in his first year. Now he is in his second year with the Capitals. That means that his systems are more entrenched, and he knows his personnel better than ever - and they know him, too. It is reasonable to expect a step forward from the pairing this year.
Braden Holtby will be a player to watch this year. He was fantastic last year - by far the best he has been. He was handsomely rewarded - more than $30 million over five years. He has a coaching staff that works for him, and he's confident. He's easier to trust than a Washington goalie has been for a while, and that's a big asset.
The biggest issue for this team hasn't been talent. It's been mindset. It's like they have known how talented they are, and they weren't willing to do the work required to take advantage of that talent. They had a lousy attitude, and it was a coach killer. The sooner we can see evidence that the team is willing to get dirty and go as far as they possibly can, the better.
Washington Capitals Schedule
Oct. 28 is the date that should be circled on the calendar. That is the date of the latest chapter of one of the better rivalries in hockey right now. Pittsburgh comes to Washington for the first time this year. Both teams have worked hard to get better this summer and keep their windows open. This will be an excellent test of where both teams are at.
Washington Capitals NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Capitals are +1800 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them behind eight other teams. They are the fourth choice at +700 to win the Eastern Conference and the third choice to win the Metropolitan behind the Rangers and Penguins.
2015-16 Washington Capitals Predictions
At least in relative terms there is value in betting on the Capitals at these prices. They have the potential to be very good, and I am bullish on their chances of finally making a step forward. Ovechkin is going to have a massive year, and that could lead his team far. If I was going to pick one team to bet in Stanley Cup futures, the Capitals would be hard to look past.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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