The Washington Capitals‘ current record of 1-4-0 is certainly not the start to the 2013-14 NHL season that anybody in D.C. wanted to see. It’s time for head coach Adam Oates to reinvent the club; he must take action soon, or calls for him to go will get increasingly louder.
The Caps had a bad start last season too, but were able to turn things around and eventually win the Southeast Division. However, Mike Ribeiro (now with the Phoenix Coyotes) was instrumental in that turnaround, ending up with 49 points including 36 assists. Who’s the guy this season to get the scoring juices flowing? It could be Ribeiro’s replacement, Mikhail Grabovski, once he gets the system down. I think it’s less about chemistry between the top lines and more about the defense, or lack of it.
There are a lot of young and inexperienced D-men playing for the Caps right now, and teams will exploit that all season long. It’s a massive problem for Oates, and I don’t see a quick fix available. The Capitals have allowed 20 goals so far — only the Edmonton Oilers have let in more goals. Allowing an average of four goals per game is unacceptable, because it makes the offense feel as though their efforts are worthless, no matter how hard they try.
Saturday night’s 5-1 drubbing of the Caps by the undefeated Colorado Avalanche is a perfect illustration. The Caps’ offense hammered away, throwing 41 shots at Capital alum Semyon Varlamov while the defense was weak at the other end. For every eight shots the Caps zinged at Varlamov, they were rewarded with one goal against. It’s demoralizing and deflating, and it has to change.
It’s not all the defense’s fault though. The whole team is guilty of lapses in concentration and it turns over the puck too many times.
“It’s about wanting to work hard, wanting to help your teammates out, wanting to win,” forward Troy Brouwer said after the game on Saturday. “That’s all it comes down to. Our talent level’s there, our effort’s not. We’ve got to be better all around.”
Brouwer is correct, but getting better “all around” must be done in degrees of urgency, and the most urgent need for improvement is in goal and in the defensive department. Oates reflected on his netminder Michal Neuvirth’s performance after the game.
“I’m sure there’s one or two Neuvy wants back,” said Oates. “But he hasn’t played, so in fairness to him, he’s got to get his chance.”
It’s time for Oates to do what he’s promised to do and shake things up a bit. Change the lines, alter the system, anything to inject some freshness into an increasingly stale and frustrated club.
If Oates doesn’t shake things up soon, general manager George McPhee will.
G.J. Cosker is a Washington Capitals writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.