We thought with the lockout would cancel the 2012-13 season and with the bitterness between the players and owners (specifically Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman), that was the likelihood. Sure enough, they agree on a new CBA and the 2013 season was on…which wasn’t good initially for the Caps.
As the season started, the Caps had to know Adam Oates’s system on the fly and as the result, the team struggled from the gate. Instead of thinking about the playoffs, the Caps were in the Popeye Jr. (Defenseman Seth Jones, projected to be the number one prospect of the 2013 NHL Draft) Sweepstakes. As the season went on, the team got use to the Oates system, Alex Ovechkin was onboard, and the Caps won the Southeast.
Although the Caps were coming to the playoffs hot, the Rangers were as hot. Although the Caps had home-ice advantage, and all the home teams won in this series, it was the Rangers who prevail and the Caps with an early exit…again.
Caps fans have to admit this team is the New York Knicks of hockey. The have the offensive flair, some defense, and they prefer to shoot from the perimeter. The only difference is the Knicks are selfish, while the Caps are passive.
This was a team that should’ve learned from Dale Hunter last year to learn about defense and be mentally tough. Instead, it’s the old Bruce Boudreau teams of a high-octane offense, but with little grit. Most people want to blame the players and coaches, which is fair, but I think it’s more of the culture of the team, which starts with owner Ted Leonsis. Yes, the Stanley Cup is the hardest-earned trophy in sports, but it seems Leonsis is satisfied of the business side of the sport than the result. He says he might care, but you have to act on it.
This leads to the GM of the Washington Capitals, George McPhee. He has done a good job shaping the team in the late 90s, early 2000s and rebuilding the team around Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green (and Alex Semin). Since 2008, the team has made it to the playoffs, but have not passed 2nd round. Although McPhee has drafted and got great talent from free agency and trades, he has focus on talent and not character that can counteract with Ovechkin.
Speaking of Ovechkin, one of the biggest faults for the Caps is making him captain. He is a talented player, but his personality is the culture of this team and fair or not with the passing and the perimeter shooting, he is shaping this team and from the looks of it, he does about winning, he doesn’t know how.
As for next season, there will be a new conference, an actual 82 game season, and new players who can fit in Oates’s system and be the Yang to Ovechkin’s Yin. If we get Oates as the assistant coach who learned about the trapping defense from the New Jersey Devils, the Caps are set for a potential deep run.
Next year will be Ovechkin’s biggest year yet as the Caps will try again to make it in a crowded playoff field with the Devils, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Islanders, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets. In addition, next season is an Olympic year and it is in Sochi, Russia so we might see a motivated Ovi or an uninterested Ovi depending on the result. Marketing wise, of the six outdoor games, none have the Caps, which tells us the Caps have lost their wide appeal.
Next year is very crucial for the Caps in more ways than one. You get the subplots and the players, but the most important question every year since the 1980s is can the Caps stay with the status quo or do they breakthrough? It’s up to them.