Rant Sports NHL 30 in 30: Washington Capitals Preview
2011-2012 Season Recap
The Washington Capitals had quite a wacky 2011-2012 season as the team played under two coaches, Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter , but almost advanced to the semi-finals of Stanley Cup playoffs. The team entered the season with high expectations, a new goaltender in Tomas Vokoun but failed to produce. Capitals coach, Bruce Boudreau was fired in the early part of the season leading to the hiring of Dale Hunter. Hunter developed this Capitals team to a defenisve team. Players started blocking shots. Not just the grinders, but scorers like Alex Semin. However, the offense did struggle mainly due the Hunter’s new defensive system. Expect new head coach, Adam Oates to employ a more aggressive system, but to rely on Wasington’s defense. Alex Ovechkin had a down year offensively, only producing 38 goals and 27 assists. The team barely made the playoffs, but surpised many when they got there. Joel Ward stunned the Boston Bruins in game seven of the first round, cementing Washington to second round contest against the New York Rangers. The Capitals battled hard, but just didn’t have the talent to beat the New York Rangers. Braden Holtby was outstanding in net for Washington, averaging less than two goals a game in net. Overall a good season for the Capitals, but fans must be getting sick of seeing Washington eliminated with such high expectations.
The Capitals added some important role players this off season. On the first day of free agency, Washington signed former Toronto Maple Leafs forward, Joey Crabb. Crabb should earn a chance to play on Washington’s penalty kill while potentially playing on the Capitals third forward line. George McPhee also inked Wojtek Wolski, still a young player but has struggled staying healthy the past two seasons. Wolski could potentially play on Washington’s second forward unit, along side Mike Ribeiro and another winger, possibly Marcus Johansson. The biggest addition for the Capitals did come on draft day as Washington acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars in exchange for prospect Cody Eakin and a draft pick. The Capitals also made an impact last season signing defense man, Cameron Schilling to an entry level deal after his season ended with Miami University of Ohio. Schilling spent time in Hershey following the ending of his college season and could see time with the Capitals this season.
The biggest loss for the Capitals this off season was highly touted scorer, Alex Semin. Semin signed a one year deal worth seven million with the division rival Carolina Hurricanes, likely due to a high asking price. Tomas Vokoun also left the team this off season, signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins to play as a backup goalie between Marc-Andre Fleury. Other than Semin leaving, George McPhee was able to keep the young core intact, but still needs to sign restricted free agent John Carlson for the long term.
Perhaps the biggest key to the Capitals season will be their defensive core. One player who can make an impact is Dmitry Orlov. Orlov played a majority of his 2011-2012 season in Washington, but didn’t see much time in the postseason. Orlov is capable of becoming a solid two way defense man and an offensive skilled defense man who could play the point on Washington’s power play. Another player to look for this season is young defensive prospect, Cameron Schilling. Schilling has been compared to Karl Alzner, but could have more offensive production than Alzner when he begins his career in the NHL.
Under the Radar
With some many young players pushing for spots in the everyday lineup, veterans could elevate their game this season. One player who could is forward, Marcus Johansson. Johansson registered 14 goals and 32 assists for Washington last year and had the fourth most points scored on the entire Capitals roster. With the departure of Alex Semin, Johnansson could fill in on the second line with Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski, while playing on the first power play unit.
Season Outlook for 2012-2013
Washington stayed young this off season, maintaining their plan for the future. The Capitals are a year or two away from returning to a contender, but could easily reach the conference finals if their young players develop quickly. This year will be crucial, most for the Capitals goalies moving forward, with Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth set to battle to become the starting net minder. New players need to help produce offensively, as Washington’s scoring has diminished the past few seasons. Ovechkin must return to his form from year’s past if he wants to lead this team to a Stanley Cup. Who knows, if Braden Holtby plays like he did last postseason the Capitals could be playing in June.