Of the 12 NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup, there may not be a more optimistic one heading into 2015-16 than the Washington Capitals.
— Alex Ovechkin just won his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy. At 29, he remains the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorer. On top of that, the Caps appear to have found the right coach for the Russian superstar in Barry Trotz.
— The Caps also appear to have found a second-line center in young Evgeny Kuznetsov. If the 23-year-old continues to progress — and there’s no good reason he shouldn’t — Washington could have quite the 1-2 combo at center in Nicklas Backstrom and Kuznetsov.
— Defenseman John Carlson is emerging as one of the top blue-liners in the NHL. And at 25, he may get even better.
— Goalie Braden Holtby continues to post strong numbers. His .923 save percentage last season was tied with Pekka Rinne and one point better than Tuukka Rask.
Now throw in the additions of veterans T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to go with youngsters Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson, and what emerges is a roster where a glaring weakness is pretty tough to find.
OK, sure, there are concerns. Like maybe the Caps will miss Mike Green more than they think. Ditto for Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and/or Eric Fehr. If Washington’s young players don’t step up next season, it’s hard to picture this team hoisting the Cup.
But that’s true of any team, really.
“I’d say the next three or four years is the window,” GM Brian MacLellan said in May.
Given how quickly the landscape of a young man’s league can change, it may turn out to be a shorter window than that.
The Caps have a real opportunity in 2015-16. Can they finally get it done?