Adam Oates was at the helm for two seasons and posted a
65-48-17 record, but missed the playoffs in 2013-14.
Matt Niskanen – D Mikhail
Grabovski – C
Brooks Orpik – D Dustin
Justin Peters – G Tyson
Strachan – D
Chris Conner – RW David
Leggio – G
Missing the postseason for the first time since 2006-07
prompted the Washington Capitals front office to cut ties with Oates and hire
longtime Nashville Predators‘ head coach Barry Trotz. The 52-year-old coach
spent 15 seasons behind the Predators bench and won 557 games, making the
playoffs seven times, most of the time with a largely under-manned roster.
Trotz is known for his defensive style of coaching, which should
help improve the Capitals’ 21st ranked team goals against average (2.79) from a
season ago. The big question is, can he get Alex Ovechkin to buy into the
There is no doubting Ovechkin’s offensive talent and drive
to win. He had his fifth 50-plus goal season in 2013-14, but he finished with a
dreadful minus-35 rating (third worst in the NHL). Trotz will no doubt try to
change the way Ovechkin plays in his own end, but will Ovi be down? For the
Capitals sake they are hoping so, but will his offensive production suffer
because of it? It is going to be interesting to see how it plays out over the
course of the season.
Joining Ovechkin upfront is a combination of young, skilled
players and gritty veterans. Nicklas Backstrom is one of the league’s premiere
playmakers and will again centre the top-line with Ovechkin and take a shot at
60-plus assists (61 last season). They are expected to start the season with
Eric Fehr on their wing, but it has been a revolving door on that line for
years. Troy Brouwer does not play a pretty game, but has proven to be a
consistent 20-goal scorer. Brouwer should have 19-year-old Andre Burakovsky or
22-year-old Evgeny Kuznetsov as his pivot to start the season. Both are dynamic
offensive talents with years of overseas and North American experience under
their belt. Marucs Johansson should round out the top-6 and has proven to be a
capable playmaker, but the Capitals will be looking for more out of the
24-year-old in 2013-14.
On defence the Caps added Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in
free agency. Both players came over from Pittsburgh and should provide a huge
boost to the blueline. Orpik is a strong defensive D-man who will pair with
John Carlson, who will be able to open up his game more with the stay-at-home
tendencies of Orpik. Niskanen, is much more offensive. He cashed in big-time
after posting 10 goals, 36 assists for 46 points, all career-highs, in a
contract year. On opening day he will lineup next to Karl Alzner, who like
Orpik plays a safe defensive game that allows his partner to join the rush
without fear. 28-year-old Mike Green rounds out the group. Remember when he had
31(!) goals and 42 assists (73 points) in 2008-09? How about 76 points the
following year? Well he is not the same player anymore, because he has had a
hard time staying healthy. That said, he still has a ton of offensive skill and
will eat up a lot of power-play time, but he is much more likely to max-out at
15 gloss and 35 assists, and that’s likely the best case scenario.
Between the pipes, Braden Holtby returns as the team’s
starter. He had a tough time in 2013-14 but the hiring of Trotz should help him
immensely. A focus on the defensive aspect of the game has not been a strong
suit for the Capitals in his first two years as a starter. The 25-year-old is a
top-candidate for the biggest bounce-back year from a goaltending perspective
and his numbers should look more like his 2.58 GAA and .920 SV% from 2012-12
than the 2.85 and .915 from a year ago. In addition to a new coach, he will
also have a new backup after the Caps signed Justin Peters from the Hurricanes.
Peters is expected to push Holtby for playing time, but it would take a
meltdown for him to become the starter.
Season prediction: The Capitals will fall to sixth in the
tough Metropolitan Division and miss the playoffs for a second straight season.
View the Capitals’ entire roster and cap space heading into
the 2014-15 season.