Capitals don't really need Ovechkin after all.

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I know that everyone — well, everyone in Washington — is upset
about Alex Ovechkin being forced to miss two games after being suspended
by the evil Colin Campbell. I don’t think the Capitals have anything to
worry about after destroying the Florida Panthers 7-3. I know that
beating Florida isn’t exactly a great accomplishment, but chasing Tomas
Vokoun isn’t exactly happening on a nightly basis.

The Capitals
had something to prove tonight, it seems, that they can get by without
Ovechkin and that they’ll tech the NHL a lesson for throwing their
captain under the bus. I’m sure that’s not exactly what the players were
thinking, but the Caps certainly played with a chip on their shoulder.
Says J.P. of Japers’ Rink

In the nine games that the Caps have played this season without the
two-time reigning League Most Valuable Player, they’re now 7-2-0 after a
7-3 win Tuesday night in Sunrise. Impressive.

Every bit as impressive is how they’ve played in those games, piling
up the goals in the absence of the League’s best goal-scorer to the tune
of 4.78 per game (three times scoring at least seven goals in a game)
and a scorching 41.7% efficiency on the power play. They’ve also allowed
just 2.67 goals per game in those nine and have killed off 81.5% of
their shorthanded opportunities. Just a reminder to the rest of the NHL:
this is not a one-man team.

Suspending Alex Ovechkin is not exactly the worst thing to happen to
the Washington Capitals. In fact, it may make them a much more dangerous
team. They’ve learned that they don’t need Ovechkin to win and score
goals in bunches, which adds even more confidence to an
already-confident team.

Hmm. Maybe Ovechkin really isn’t needed. The Capitals weren’t playing
very well before he was tossed against Chicago, and the Capitals then
stormed back from a three-goal deficit. Then they destroy one of the
NHL’s best goaltenders without him. Is it best if Ovechkin takes a
diminished role with the team?


Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado