Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Washington Capitals are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Capitals!
2009-10: 54-15-13 (1st in East, Eliminated in conference QF by Canadiens)
General Manager: George McPhee (13th Season)
Head Coach: Bruce Boudreau (4th Season)
What they did in the off-season:
Although the Capitals fell well short of their goal last season with a first round ouster at the hands of Jaroslav Halak and the Canadiens, there was no panic in DC this off-season as the team enters the season with a similar roster to the one that bowed our early last year.
The most noticeable transactions in Washington were the departures as Jose Theodore, Scott Walker, Shaonne Morrisonn, Brendan Morrison, Joe Corvo, Milan Jurcina, Eric Belanger and Quintin Laing no longer call the District of Columbia home. It was not a complete mass exodus in the American capital region as Nicklas Backstrom, Jeff Schultz, Boyd Gordon, Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr were all retained. Brian Wilsie was signed as a free agent while prospect Stefan Della Rovere was obtained in a trade with the Blues for little used tough guy DJ King. The lack of significant moves is a clear indication to the team that management believes in the team and sees last season's playoff collapse as an aberration.
Biggest issue facing the team:
Virtually everything went the Capitals way during the regular season as they piled up goals and racked up wins en route to the President's Trophy as the league's top team. All of that changed once the post-season got underway. Regular season superstars Alex Semin and Mike Green were invisible while Alex Ovechkin clearly became frustrated by the close checking of the Canadiens defenders paired with the stellar goaltending of Halak. Management has to be hoping that the loss will teach the team a very valuable lesson about how much effort is required to win in the playoffs and that sometimes you have to lose before you can win. The window for winning a championship at the NHL level is extremely small; by leaving the team largely unchanged, Capitals' managment are sending a message to the league that they believe that they are good enough to win, and that last season was simply a fluke. It is a very bold move considering how several other contenders have bulked up their roster in the off-season. Another playoff disappointment and you can bet that major changes will undoubtedly be on the way.
Player to watch:
Considering how well everything went for the Caps last year, it was a disappointing season on a personal level for Alex Ovechkin. After watching rival Sidney Crosby raise the Stanley Cup the season before, Alexander the Great entered last year as a man possessed. Unfortunately for the Caps, Ovie's all-out style of play cost him six games with a shoulder injury and another four games due to a pair of suspensions. While Ovechkin's Russian side entered the Olympics as a co-favourite to bring home the Gold, the Red Army stumbled and were humiliated by Canada in the quarterfinals. For virtually the first time in his professional career, Ovechkin was being criticized for failing to lead his talented team to Promised Land. That trend would continue when he and his Caps running mates were stonewalled by Halak and the Habs in the first round. After dominating the post-season awards for two straight years, Ovechkin went home empty handed, missing out on the Hart, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies.
A highly competitive player, you can bet that Ovechkin has a great deal of added motivation heading into the season and will do everything in his power to prevent another disappointing campaign (for his ridiculously high standards anyways). A motivated Ovechkin is a dangerous Ovechkin. Opposing goaltenders beware.