The 2013 season was a rollercoaster ride for the Washington Capitals. They started off looking like they were going to be in the running for the #1 draft pick having won only two of their first eleven games. It wasn’t until April that they earned a winning record. With the collapse of Carolina and the help of an extremely potent power play, the Capitals snagged a playoff spot. Unfortunately, after taking the Rangers to a game seven, they ran out of gas and lost 5-0. The off season has arrived, and management has some wiggle room with a little over 5.6 million to spend on patching the holes left by Matt Hendricks and Mike Ribeiro. With only two players that still need to be resigned and a few roster spots to fill, the Caps are in a good position financially. With their new division comes a much rockier road to the playoffs. The Caps won’t have the luxury of a slow start next year.
The Dynamic Duo – Nicklas Backstrom / Alexander Ovechkin (6.7/9.5 mill): The two players that were crucified at the start of the season became the saviors by the end of the year. The two combined for 104 points in 96 games. Backstrom lead the team with 40 assists and also potted 8 goals in the process. Ovechkin was the top goal scorer by a mile with 32 goals, and he also had 24 assists. Ovechkin was the most dangerous player on the team on the power play. He snagged himself 16 power play goals. Both of these players will need to come out the gates strong if they want to help make up for the loss of Ribeiro.
The New Guy – Martin Erat (4.5 mill): I do not envy Erat. Well, other than the fact he is making millions to play the greatest sport on earth. If I ignore that and look at the big picture, it’s easy to see that he needs to have a better season with the Caps than he did last year. When you give up a prospect like Filip Forsberg, it’s fair to expect a bit in return. I know Erat had an “upper body injury” against the Panthers and a dislocated elbow in the playoffs, but the Caps gave up a very promising prospect for him. As Hawks fans, we saw a lot of Erat, and we know that he has the ability to be a difference maker in a game. If he can stay healthy, his work ethic and talent should be a nice boost to the Caps on both ends of the ice.
The Glue – Troy Brouwer (3.66 mill): Troy Brouwer has always been a fairly standup guy no matter what team he was on. He’s a big body player with skills and a nose for the net, but he is also always willing to stand up for his teammates as well. He had another solid year for the Caps coming in second in scoring with 19 goals and 14 assists. Brouwer’s role as the “team guy” might become even more vital with the loss of Matt Hendricks. Hendricks was another player always willing to come to the aid of a teammate. It’s tough to lose that type of player as they tend to be fan favorites due to their dedication to the well-being of the team.
Prognosis: Poor. If they were in the same division as last season I would be backing the Caps team, but not so much with their new rivals. With the addition of the Pens, Flyers, Rangers, and Islanders, the Caps have a lot of strong competition to go through in their division. When you look at the Atlantic Division and see the Bruins, Canadiens, Red Wings, and the pesky Sens, you realize the East got cramped fast. The Caps have the raw talent to claw their way into the playoffs, but they will need to come out strong and rely on the system Adam Oates has in place.