By Tyler on August 5, 2014
The Washington Capitals open up 2014-15 regular season play on Oct. 9 against the Montreal Canadiens, although the club has a ton of work to do before that date. New head coach Barry Trotz will be tasked with the job of making sure the Capitals make it back to the playoffs after narrowly missing out in 2013-14, and he must answer these five questions to make this happen.
Washington has tried to hand over the reigns of starting goalie to Braden Holtby for each of the last two seasons, but the 24-year-old hasn't developed the consistency necessary to take this job. Now, Philipp Grubauer is knocking down the door to become the starter, and Justin Peters is sitting on the outside looking in for an opportunity. Neither Grubauer nor Peters is the favorite to start, but don't put it past Holtby to blow the gig.
Over the last two seasons Alexander Ovechkin has enjoyed a career renaissance, posting 83 goals in 126 games, which has largely been attributed to a switch from left to right wing. But Barry Trotz has not committed to leaving Ovechkin on the right wing, clearly leaving questions in the public and the star player's minds. Whatever Trotz is going to do, it is obvious that a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later.
The loss of Mikhail Grabovski through free agency leaves an opening in the No. 2 center slot, and it looks like it will come down to a battle between Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. While it is obvious that Kuznetsov is much more talented than Johansson, Trotz will surely value the latter's emphasis on defensive play and veteran presence. Neither option is bad, but it is clear a decision needs to be made for team stability.
The likes of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Connor Carrick, Philipp Grubauer and Andre Burakovsky are all entering their first or second seasons and are all heavily favored to see serious playing time in Washington. There is no doubting that each is very talented, but the Capitals' ability to manage expectations and the mental and physical toll of playing in the NHL will surely dictate each player's success and the team's success as a whole.
The signings of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, and the presence of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, leaves Mike Green on the Caps' third line, which makes no sense for a guy earning just over $ 6 million. There is little doubting Green has struggled in past years, and his trade value will likely never be very high again. It would make sense for Washington to trade Green in the not too distant future, clearing up salary cap space for a future trade.
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