Wednesday, May 04, 2011

What's Next 2011: Washington Capitals

Another year of expectation and another year of playoff disappointment. There were a lot of ups and downs through the year, but the fact is they tried to adapt to the system that was put out for them after their playoff failure last season-- yet it seemed to elude them in the second round this year.

The biggest question is what to do with the coaching staff. Bruce Boudreau is going to be at the front of the fire storm, but odds are-- he won't be fired....yet. While he's almost in year five of the five-year plan, I'm sure the brass of the Capitals will keep a close eye on the coaching staff and see how they play out at the start of the season to see how the player's react to any new style that may come through the pike from this off-season test.

This season was one of different looks from the Caps. Alex Ovechkin was exciting, but not as productive as previous years, with only 32 goals and 85 points. Nicklas Backstrom was definitely off his game, being down 36 points from last season-- which will probably result in us learning that he had an injury holding him back, with only two assists in nine playoff games. Two big questions is (1) can they afford to keep Brooks Laich in the Caps jersey and (2) what to do with Alex Semin?? The first question should be an easy "yes", but depends on how much is too much for the Caps. The second, like the player, is much more difficult and could change at any minute.

Another big question for the Caps was goaltending, but it seems that Michal Neuvirth stepped up and took over the role as the top goalie in the Caps fleet. The next question is who to keep for a back-up or 1b?? While Semyon Varlamov has been injury proned and threatened KHL migration-- Braden Holtby has been a great surprise for the Caps. Odds are that Holtby will be retains and Varlamov could be on his way out.

Defensively, it's hard to argue that the pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson were the go-to combination; but the Mike Green and Jeff Schultz pairing created some headaches in the playoffs; coupled with Green's injuries that limited him to 49 games. Luckily, John Erskine upped his game and a full year out of Dennis Wideman should provide some added help on the blue line.

When all is said and done, this will be a disappointment for Caps fans and fodder for the people who think the Caps are overrated from their sudden rise to popularity; yet for those (like me) who have been through the ringer with the Caps-- it's not unexpected. In the immortal (paraphrased) words of the Great JonnyP, "The Caps are like the girl at the bar who you flirt with and she flirts back and you think you have something. You exchange numbers and you call and leave a message and she never calls back. The Caps never called back."

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