Imagine having a hangover without the party.
That’s how some in the Washington Capitals organization felt during the off-season. It was bad enough that they fell – again – to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a second-round series, even with home-ice advantage thanks to their run to the Presidents’ Trophy.
As Brian MacLellan would say, they suffered the losses you’d normally see after a team went all-in and won it all. Kevin Shattenkirk is gone and Karl Alzner also left via free agency, while Nate Schmidt was scooped up by Vegas. Keeping Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie at hefty prices played a big role in Marcus Johansson being traded. Justin Williams won’t bring his clutch credentials to the Caps any longer, either.
Pretty brutal stuff.
Even so, there’s still some serious talent on the Capitals roster.
Braden Holtby ranks as one of the best goalies in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin, even at 31, remains an elite sniper. Washington boasts a great trio of centers in Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Lars Eller. Alex Burakovsky could be on the rise, there are still some nice defensemen, and the Capitals still have an experienced, respected head coach in Barry Trotz.
If you weren’t preoccupied with the surplus of talent from recent seasons, that would be the sort of group that plenty of teams would envy, especially if they somehow find a way to remain absurdly healthy once again.
It’s plausible that the Capitals could still find a way to run away in the standings even after all of these painful losses. There’s the remote chance things instead go sideways in a drastic fashion.
The most realistic scenario might be Washington drawing a middle or even lower seed in the playoffs, and that might not be such a bad thing. All things considered, we’ll likely learn a lot about this group (and Trotz as a coach) based on how they fare in 2017-18.
PHT breaks down the many factors heading into next season for the Capitals on Wednesday.