Blow it all up! Trade Alexander Ovechkin! Fire Barry Trotz! Change the entire team!
Hold your horses and settle down that raw emotion.
The Capitals fell to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semis in six games. It was a hard fought series from both sides and was top notch entertainment from two of the league’s best. This year marked only the second time in the Alexander Ovechkin era that the team made it to the second round. Fresh off a Presidents’ Trophy campaign, the team was poised to take a big leap in the postseason. It didn’t play out the way and that has sparked the conversation about the Capitals’ future.
For a team like the Capitals that has arguably the NHL’s most well rounded roster, a loss like this is surely disappointing. That being said, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to take a step back and gear towards the distant future. Washington’s window for success is still now.
The Capitals have two gems in two of the most important facets of the game with the NHL’s best goal scorer in Ovechkin and the league’s best goaltender in Braden Holtby leading the way for the Caps. Along with that, valuable pieces from top to bottom that range from grizzled playoff vets like Justin Williams to young up and coming stars in Evgeny Kuznetsov highlight the talented roster at the forefront for the Caps.
Major changesdo not need to be implemented for this team to be successful. There may be things to improve on, but you don’t need to shake up the entire roster.
It does raise eyebrows that since Alex Ovechkin became the face of the franchise, the team has reached the playoffs 8 times ( including two president trophies) but has yet to reach the conference finals. In each of those seasons, the team’s core looked to be contenders year after year.
What is holding this team back from getting over the hump?
It certainly isn’t a lack of playoff experience. This core has been to this stage many teams, they know the drill and what it takes.
It’s certainly not the leadership of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom has done everything that he can in his 9 seasons as a Capital. He has emerged as a true leader and one of the leagues most underrated playmakers. Ovechkin has been as dedicated as he can be to the organization . He’s a generational player that has been amongst the most exciting in the league since he entered the league.
In professional sports, it’s easy to blame the stars for their teams failure. But in hockey, one player can’t define a team. With having a team being compiled of 20 players, hockey is truly a team sport. Unlike a sport like basketball where one or two players can instantly change the fortunes of a franchise, hockey is a different animal.
Ovechkin was criticized earlier on in his career for his game away from the puck, his defensive play and his leadership. Under the guidance of head coach Barry Trotz, he has changed his game for the better. Maintaining his aggressive offensive style and physical play while also being responsible in his own zone has turned him into a better leader for his team. He’s becoming a player that is proud to wear a ‘C’ on his chest and leads by example in all areas of the game.
Trotz has had a huge impact on this club. Any discussion of his job being on the line is straight nonsense. If anything, you’ve got to give praise to the man that’s trying to start fresh and focus on winning with the group he’s got and not dwell on the past groups that have donned the Capitals sweater.
“It actually started last year, just coming into this market.” Trotz told the Washington Post before a crucial game 6. “In this market, it seems that everybody brings up the past. It’s funny because the past, a lot of times, it’s not relevant, it’s just the story for you guys. But it’s really not relevant to the group for me because every group changes from year to year.”
You can talk about the Bruce Boudreau era all you want and the past failures, but it doesn’t affect this current group of players. It’s a different team this year and they don’t need drastic moves to get over the hump.
If anything, making a minor tweak to their defensive core could make a difference. The Capitals’ back end looked depleted in the final stretch of their season with Karl Alzner unable to finish off Game 6 and with Brooks Orpik suspended for games 3, 4 and 5.
The thing is, there is really nothing else you can do with this roster. That’s the hard pill to swallow for the Washington faithful.
The reality of the situation is the reason the Capitals couldn’t get over the hump wasn’t because of them. In playoff hockey, anything can happen. And in Game 6, the Penguins won and that knocked out Washington. You can’t control what happens in sudden death overtime. The Capitals were and still are built to win, but it still takes some luck to make it through to the Final.
Capitals management should shy away from making a big move in this upcoming offseason. With the sour taste of defeat lingering with the players, that alone could create enough motivation to get them over the hump next season.