Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Washington Capitals.
If ever there was an accurate way to describe the Capitals season last year it was a roller coaster ride. At one point they were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and looking like a team that made a mistake hiring Adam Oates as their new head coach.
That’s when the team finally got comfortable in his new system and Alex Ovechkin took over on his way to a Hart Trophy-winning season. Scoring a league-leading 32 goals in a shortened season and looking like the Ovi of old had fans in Washington believing whatever Oates was selling.
While the team took down a very weak Southeast Division on their way to another division title, they bowed out yet again to the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. With a full season to work with, Oates has a real test ahead of him in a new division.
Things were shaping up to be yet another quiet summer in D.C. until recently when GM George McPhee made, arguably, the best signing of the summer landing recently bought out centerman Mikhail Grabovski. The Capitals’ glaring weakness was at their second center spot after Mike Ribeiro grumpily bolted to Phoenix. Grabovski gives them a guy who will push their offense and score goals as well.
The team had a buyout of their own in defenseman Jeff Schultz who moved on to Los Angeles. Free agents Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks (Nashville), and Joey Crabb (Florida) all landed elsewhere while the team made some depth signings to help fill out their AHL roster in Hershey.
Here’s to hoping new blue liner Tyson Strachan (signed from Florida) doesn’t have an awkward first day on the job with Jason Chimera.
The Capitals are sticking to their guns with the roster the way they had it, for the most part, last season. That’s not a new strategy in Washington, but maybe this time it can prove to be successful.
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Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz surprised some fans by asking to be traded. After all, he’s played there for seven seasons and has been a blue line fixture.
It turns out his demand to be moved was, indeed, true and Caps GM George McPhee says he’ll do his part to accommodate him as Ben Raby of CSNWashington.com shares.
“He did ask for a trade,” McPhee said. “As we’ve told every player, if you ever want to be traded or you’re not happy then let us know and we’ll trade you. So we started working on it and we’ll see what develops.”
What may prove to be the hard part in moving him is how he’s played the last couple seasons on top of his salary cap hit. Schultz has a $2.75 million cap hit next season and for a guy that’s played second or third-pairing minutes with the cap going down next season, that might be a bit pricey.
It was yet another disappointing playoffs for the Washington Capitals and owner Ted Leonsis knows all too well about that by now.
Leonsis took to his own blog to address how things went for the team this season and sprinkled in plenty of hope and positive thoughts it what turned out to be a bummer of a finish for the team.
Most notably, he has a word for the fans who had hopes of seeing the team win their first Stanley Cup: Sorry.
I’m sorry it ended when it did. I thought we were peaking at the appropriate time and it would translate into more playoff success and a deeper run. We played well, but we weren’t good enough. I remain proud of our team and appreciative of our fans – perhaps that’s why losing hurts so much. I feel we have let you down; I know we have let you down, and we let ourselves down. And we will continue to explore all avenues to improve our team in this new hard-cap era.
Overall, Leonsis praises the effort of coach Adam Oates for winning the Southeast Division in his first season and for the team doing it for five of the last six seasons.
He also says they’re busy prepping for next season. It’ll be an important one for him and GM George McPhee as their division is going to be a tad more competitive next season.