2014 Washington Capitals Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/7/2014
Sometime teams don't have all the success that they should have on paper. I get that - it happens in sports, and there are only so many wins to go around. What I really can't handle, though, is when a team chronically underperforms and really doesn't seem to give a damn. That's the Capitals - and I am tired of it. And of them. Alexander Ovechkin is a megastar who doesn't seem to want to be one - or at least not if it involves making the team around him any better. Last year he led the league with 51 goals yet was minus-35, which was better than just two players. The only way one player can have those numbers is if he only gets involved in the play when he has the puck in front of the opposing net. It should be hugely embarrassing, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't bother Ovechkin at all.
The team made some much-needed changes early in the offseason. Long-time GM George McPhee was booted. It was a good move, but my enthusiasm is tempered dramatically because they tabbed Brian MacLellan, who has spent 14 years in management with the team already, to take over. Never has a team needed completely new blood more. Barry Trotz, who was the only coach the Nashville Predators had until last year, was hired to take over from Adam Oates and hopefully to stop the revolving door behind the bench - he is the fourth head coach since 2011. While he is a talented and very well-respected coach, I am not yet convinced that he can get through to the superstar better than those before him have. Trotz has dealt with largely blue-collar players in Nashville, so having to massage the ego of a world-class diva, and a surrounding cast that isn't exactly low maintenance, is a concern.
Washington Capitals Offseason Moves
The team had to get much better defensively. They have done that by adding both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen as free agents from Pittsburgh. I like them both, though the price was too high in both cases, and I am concerned about the impact that has on the players and the team. Aside from that, the addition of goalie Justin Peters is the only other somewhat noteworthy thing they did - and that only barely qualifies. Aside from the two defenseman, they are essentially going forward with the same team as last year. That's remarkable for a team that underachieved so badly. It is also a massive statement about the faith they have in Trotz.
This year's first-round pick in the NHL Draft, Czech winger Jakub Vrana, was returned for another year of seasoning in the Swedish league after spending some time in camp.
Washington Capitals NHL Outlook
It mostly comes down to just how badly Ovechkin wants to succeed this year. He can make this team very good, or he can break Trotz like he has broken three coaches before him. Predicting where his mind is at is impossible. Beyond that, there is talent on the team - though their offensive depth is a concern. Defensively they will be improved - both because of the new players and because of Trotz. Goalie Braden Holtby has had the most thankless job in the NHL because of how often he is hung out to dry by his teammates, but he has the talent to be better with more support. He's not the problem now, and he has never been. Add it all up and it is a very tough team to predict. I could see Trotz winning Coach of the Year. I could also see him wondering why he didn't just retire after a great run in Nashville.
Washington Capitals Schedule
The Caps open with Montreal, at Boston, and home again for San Jose. That's a very tough stretch of games. It gets much easier than that the rest of October, but that's a stiff test out of the gate. For us it's a good measuring stick of the mindset - and the immediate impact of Trotz - to help us gauge how to judge the rest of the season.
Washington Capitals NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
Oddsmakers are not impressed. The Capitals are tied with three other teams at 33/1 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them behind 14 other teams and right in the mediocre middle. They are tied with Columbus and Philadelphia as the seventh choice to win the Eastern Conference at 16/1 and with the same teams at 7/1 as the third choice to win the Metropolitan Division.
2014-15 Washington Capitals Predictions
Trotz is a great coach in the wrong spot here. I just don't see how it works out well - or at least it isn't most likely to. There is a logjam of second-tier teams fighting for playoff berths in the East, and I just don't think Washington is better than any of them. They could certainly make the postseason, but I am betting that they won't. You can't basically stand pat when you team is as fundamentally flawed as this one is.
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