The Caps were the class of the league during the regular season, finishing atop the standings with 56 wins and 120 points.
Yet in the playoffs, they met a familiar fate.
In what’s become a repeat trend throughout the Alex Ovechkin era, Washington failed to advance to the Eastern Conference final, bowing out to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Round 2.
The end result was disappointing, no doubt.
But it’s hard to look at the ’15-16 campaign and not pull some positives.
Year two of the Barry Trotz era — which ended with Trotz winning the Jack Adams as coach of the year — saw eight different capitals score 17 goals or more. Ovechkin hit 50 for the third consecutive season, while newcomers T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams netted 26 and 22 respectively.
Evengy Kuznetsov had a breakthrough campaign, leading the team with a career-high 77 points, and Braden Holtby was terrific all season, capturing his first Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.
The club’s special teams were also a force to be reckoned with, finishing with the fifth-best power play and second-best penalty kill.
Which explains why GM Brian MacLellan was relatively quiet this summer.
MacLellan’s biggest move came at the draft, when he appeared to fix the club’s third-line center issue by acquiring Lars Eller from Montreal. Though Eller did face criticisms during his time as a Canadien, he is coming off a 13-goal, 26-point campaign and should be an upgrade over last year’s bottom-six centers, Jay Beagle and Mike Richards.
The Caps then added some decent depth up front by signing Brett Connolly and Brad Malone in free agency, and MacLellan took care of business with RFA forward Marcus Johansson with a three-year, $13.75 million extension.
The end result?
Next year’s Caps will look an awful lot like this year’s Caps.
The most notable departure is Jason Chimera, the veteran speedester who racked up an impressive 20 goals and 40 points last year.
Outside of that, though, it’s largely the same group returning — no big surprise, given MacLellan said the current group had “a two-year window” to try and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.