All this World Cup action has got me thinking: What if the Washington Capitals were a soccer team? Who would be their starting lineup? Who would be their subs? Here’s how things might be if the Capitals were a soccer team.
Starting Goalie: Braden Holtby. I tried to think of anyone who might make a decent goalie, but nobody on the Washington Capitals has the hand-to-eye coordination, the athleticism, or the competitiveness to be a good goalie. Holtby has all those skills.
Right Outside Back: Dmitry Orlov. Orlov has a blend of offense and defense that makes him a good fit to be an outside back. He’s a good puck handler too. Normally, that wouldn’t translate over to ball handling necessarily (I’m a terrific example of that), but this is my hypothetical situation, so I say that it does.
Center Back: Karl Alzner. Your second back has to be somebody who can match up against his opponent’s best forwards. Alzner fits that description to a T.
Center Back: John Carlson. Normally, I’d like to have Carlson on the outside, where his offensive skills can be better utilized. However, he is also the Washington Capitals’ best overall defenseman. Center backs can be used on offense if you are creative. The chemistry between Alzner and Carlson makes this an easy decision.
Left Outside Back: Nate Schmidt. A bit of a bold decision considering Schmidt’s inexperience, but Schmidt is a very talented player who is a perfect fit in an outside back role. Orlov and Schmidt could generate a lot of offense on the outside.
Right Midfielder: Mike Green. Green is frustrating on defense but very good on offense. How do we solve this conundrum? By letting him play midfield! Green would be an above average defender for a midfielder, and he’d be able to contribute a lot on offense.
Center Back: Nicklas Backstrom. The center midfielder is arguably the most important player on the soccer team. A great center midfielder can change the entire complexion of a team. Backstrom would be a great center midfielder with his blend of offense and defense.
Center Back/Defensive Midfielder: Brooks Laich. Considering that I used to be a defensive midfielder, I’m not about to overlook that position. Laich would be a perfect fit in this role. He’d be the first line of defense while still being able to contribute on offense.
Left Midfielder: Evgeny Kuznetsov. I have a feeling that Kuznetsov would be really good at soccer. He’s very athletic and his footwork stands out. Kuznetsov would complete a very well balanced midfield that could contend with just about anybody.
Right Striker: Tom Wilson. Most people would probably not put him in the starting lineup, but I’m not like most people. Wilson, though inexperienced, is very competitive and very skilled. His physicality would be very tough for defensemen to match up against him. Wilson didn’t get the chance to finish much last season, but when he did, he finished strong and consistently got the puck on net.
Left Striker: Alex Ovechkin. I would pay good money to see Ovechkin play soccer, assuming that all of his hockey skills translated over to soccer. He’d be a terrific goal scorer and I’m sure his celebrations would be epic.
Backup Goalie: Philipp Grubauer. Perfectly capable goalie, just not as good and not as experienced as Braden. Nice to have a very good backup goalie in case Holtby allows a couple of early goals. Also, Grubauer is German so he’s probably good at soccer.
Defenseman: Connor Carrick. What if the Washington Capitals are down 1-0 with roughly 30 minutes left to play? This is where Carrick could come in and add some offense to the defense.
Defenseman: John Erskine. What if the Washington Capitals are leading but they’re getting dominated in the middle? Sub out Schmidt, move Carlson over to the outside, and sub in Erskine at center back. Nobody would mess around if Erskine’s patrolling the middle.
Defenseman: Patrick Wey. What if the Washington Capitals are leading with 15 minutes left to play? Sub out Schmidt or Orlov, and put in Wey! Patrick would solidify the defense at the expense of offense.
Defenseman/Midfielder: Madison Bowey. A very physical and strong player who has a unique skill set for someone his size. Deceptively fast. If/when Laich got injured, Bowey would probably be next in line for the Washington Capitals at defensive midfield.
Midfielder: Marcus Johansson. MoJo would be a fit at any of the midfield positions. If the Washington Capitals are trailing, you could sub out Laich and put in Johansson.
Outside Back/Midfielder/Forward: Eric Fehr. Fehr would be a fit just about anywhere on the field. If the Washington Capitals are leading, they could sub out Wilson and add Fehr as a midfielder. He’d be fairly low on the depth chart as an outside back, but he could easily play there in a pinch and do a respectable job.
Midfielder/Forward: Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky would be a fit at outside midfield or forward thanks to his athleticism, speed, quickness, and play-making ability. If the Washington Capitals needed to add speed to their lineup, Burakovsky would be a great way to do that.
Forward: Joel Ward. The veteran who isn’t quite as good as the young gun, but is still pretty good. If the Washington Capitals find Wilson having a bad day, they could sub out Wilson and put in Ward.
Forward: Jason Chimera. Chimera’s a forward because his speed is his best asset. His puck handling? Questionable. His shooting? Sort of good, but inconsistent. Chimera could sort of be like Jozy Altidore for the Washington Capitals, stretching out defenses and creating mismatches for his teammates.
If the Washington Capitals re-sign Mikahil Grabovski, he’d probably be my pick for defensive midfield. He’d be a unique talent at defensive midfield. Grabovski is very good defensively, but he can also contribute on offense.