|Matt Niskanen – D||Mikhail Grabovski – C|
|Brooks Orpik – D||Dustin Penner- LW|
|Justin Peters – G||Tyson Strachan – D|
|Chris Conner – RW||Julien Brouillette – D|
|Tim Kennedy – LW||David Leggio – G|
Adam Oates was at the helm for two seasons and posted a 65-48-17 record, but missed the playoffs in 2013-14.
Missing the postseason for the first time since 2006-07 prompted the Washington Capitals front office to cut ties with Oates and hire longtime Nashville Predators‘ head coach Barry Trotz. The 52-year-old coach spent 15 seasons behind the Predators bench and won 557 games, making the playoffs seven times, most of the time with a largely under-manned roster.
Trotz is known for his defensive style of coaching, which should help improve the Capitals’ 21st ranked team goals against average (2.79) from a season ago. The big question is, can he get Alex Ovechkin to buy into the 200-foot game?
There is no doubting Ovechkin’s offensive talent and drive to win. He had his fifth 50-plus goal season in 2013-14, but he finished with a dreadful minus-35 rating (third worst in the NHL). Trotz will no doubt try to change the way Ovechkin plays in his own end, but will Ovi be down? For the Capitals sake they are hoping so, but will his offensive production suffer because of it? It is going to be interesting to see how it plays out over the course of the season.
Joining Ovechkin upfront is a combination of young, skilled players and gritty veterans. Nicklas Backstrom is one of the league’s premiere playmakers and will again centre the top-line with Ovechkin and take a shot at 60-plus assists (61 last season). They are expected to start the season with Eric Fehr on their wing, but it has been a revolving door on that line for years. Troy Brouwer does not play a pretty game, but has proven to be a consistent 20-goal scorer. Brouwer should have 19-year-old Andre Burakovsky or 22-year-old Evgeny Kuznetsov as his pivot to start the season. Both are dynamic offensive talents with years of overseas and North American experience under their belt. Marucs Johansson should round out the top-6 and has proven to be a capable playmaker, but the Capitals will be looking for more out of the 24-year-old in 2013-14.
On defence the Caps added Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in free agency. Both player came over from Pittsburgh and should provide a huge boost to the blueline. Orpik is a strong defensive D-man who will pair with John Carlson, who will be able to open up his game more with the stay-at-home tendencies of Orpik. Niskanen, is much more offensive. He cashed in big-time after posting 10 goals, 36 assists for 46 points, all career-highs, in a contract year. On opening day he will lineup next to Karl Alzner, who like Orpik plays a safe defensive game that allows his partner to join the rush without fear. 28-year-old Mike Green rounds out the group. Remember when he had 31(!) goals and 42 assists (73 points) in 2008-09? How about 76 points the following year? Well he is not the same player anymore, because he has had a hard time staying healthy. That said, he still has a ton of offensive skill and will eat up a lot of power-play time, but he is much more likely to max-out at 15 gloss and 35 assists, and that’s likely the best case scenario.
Between the pipes, Braden Holtby returns as the team’s starter. He had a tough time in 2013-14 but the hiring of Trotz should help him immensely. A focus on the defensive aspect of the game has not been a strong suit for the Capitals in his first two years as a starter. The 25-year-old is a top-candidate for the biggest bounce-back year from a goaltending perspective and his numbers should look more like his 2.58 GAA and .920 SV% from 2012-12 than the 2.85 and .915 from a year ago. In addition to a new coach, he will also have a new backup after the Caps signed Justin Peters from the Hurricanes. Peters is expected to push Holtby for playing time, but it would take a meltdown for him to become the starter.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Capitals’ Fantasy Players)
- Alex Ovechkin – RW
- Nicklas Backstrom – C
- Mike Green – D
- Braden Holtby – G
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – C
- Matt Niskanen – D
- John Carlson
- Troy Brouwer- RW
- Marcus Johansson – C
- Andre Burakovsky – C
Click HERE for the Capitals’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: The Capitals will fall to sixth in the tough Metropolitan Division and miss the playoffs for a second straight season.
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