NHL Washington Capitals

New Division Should Help Washington Capitals Be Playoff-Ready

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Gone from the NHL in 2013-14 is the Southeast Division, a place the Washington Capitals owned. Over the last six years, Washington won five Southeast Division titles, but the lack of serious competition in the division hurt the Caps in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Well, that will not be the problem as the new 2013-14 NHL season is just one week away, and the level of intensity in the new Metropolitan Division should be just right.

Washington will now find themselves sharing space in their new division with some old rivals and fan favorites. Head coach Adam Oates knows that his top players like Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green love playing all the teams in their new division. He also knows that this high level of competition is very good for his team.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins will certainly test the Caps on a regular basis. One thing you can count on is that Washington is very unlikely to win five out six straight division titles in the new Metropolitan.

Most of the early predictions for the 2013-14 season and most have the Caps battling with the Rangers and the Penguins for the top spot in their new division. That will be fine with Caps fans, who will likely fill the Verizon Center for a sixth straight year with regular season and playoff sellouts.

Washington has become a very good hockey town and seeing the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers and Islanders on a regular basis will keep the home barn full each night the Caps are at home Rocking the Red.

Last year’s head-to-head battles with the Rangers were very interesting to say say the least. The two teams split the four games at two each, with the Rangers winning their two games at the Verizon Center while the Caps were the victors twice at Madison Square Garden.

As for the head-to-head battles with Pittsburgh, 2012 saw something very similar to the Rangers. The Caps took two games on the road in Pittsburgh, while it was the Pens who won the only meeting in Washington. It will be the opportunity to face all of these great rivals in more intense competition that will truly make coach Oates’ team a stronger, tougher and more playoff-ready than they may have ever been before.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven time Emmy Award winning producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc.