As we trudge through the dog days of the offseason summer, it’s impossible not to daydream about next season. This particular daydreaming episode will be about Tom Wilson and his expectations for next season.
Wilson is currently in the Caps’ development camp. He recently tweeted his humorous beef with a little kid in the stands who was wearing a Blackhawks jersey (link here: https://twitter.com/tom_wilso). First of all, props to Wilson for this tweet. I love his enthusiasm and sportsmanship that are on display here. Also, get that Blackhawks kid out of there!
Hopefully, however, Wilson is focusing more on his business on the ice, which I’m sure he is, because he has a legitimate shot in making the Capital roster this fall. With the departure of Matt Hendricks, I could certainly see, and wouldn’t mind, Wilson starting the season on the fourth line.
I really like the experience that Wilson got a couple of months ago in the playoffs. After seeing overtime ice for a couple farm teams, Wilson got sparing minutes against the Rangers. He didn’t record any points, but he didn’t necessarily look out of place, either. You expect a guy making his NHL debut in the postseason to be a little overwhelmed at first, and this was true with Wilson. However, the only thing you want from a guy in that position is for him to not show up on the wrong end of a highlight, and Wilson didn’t.
Wilson certainly has more developing to do, and the Caps have to figure out the best way to nurture that development. That may mean more time in the minors next season, but so be it. The Caps desperately need a power forward, like most teams not named Boston and Chicago. Milan Lucic and Brian Bickell, or Boston and Chicago, respectively, provide immeasurable value in today’s game. Back in the day, guys with that kind of size provided enough value just by lurking around and hitting people. Lucic and Bickell crash the net and are actually quite deft with the puck. This is a very difficult kind of player to stop, and one that is perhaps the most useful in postseason play. It’s no coincidence that Lucic and Bickell’s teams made the Stanley Cup finals. The Caps, and their fans, can only dream that Wilson can fit that kind of mold going forward.
To me, the way that postseason series came to a close for the Caps last season showed me that, once again, the Caps are lacking grit. Adversity during the course of a game or series still seems to rattle them, although some of that can be attributed to the revolving door at the coach position. The Caps, in their never-ending identity crisis of late, lose confidence in their game when the pressure is turned up. The solution to this is to add more “sandpaper” guys, ala power forwards.
With any love from the Sports Gods, Tom Wilson will be crunching defensemen and chipping in pucks come next postseason.