The Capitals Cannot Be Afraid To Make Big Moves

Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Washington Capitals are in a very unenviable spot right now. You may be able to argue that they have actually been in this spot for a couple of seasons now. What is that spot? A good team that can make the playoffs, but not a good enough team to make a run unless they get lucky. Luck can be a couple of things I suppose.

One of the bigger things that can happen is your goaltender gets hot and takes your team farther that you should go. Maybe like a Jaroslav Halak back in 2010. Or you can run into teams that you match up well against and that team does not play well in the process. That actually did happen last season with the Florida Panthers.

I said and still say that the Panthers tried everything they could to throw that series away and the Capitals still could not beat them. Florida then played Tampa in the next round and got spanked like their play deserved, and like the Caps could not do.

As for the now, the Capitals seem like a team that is very, very average. A team that you couldn’t really call bad, but they are not a playoff team at the same time. Some would call that bad, but we all have different standards. To me bad is top of the lottery, Anaheim, Chicago, teams like that. Washington is obviously not there.

The Capitals are in that ugly spot of a first round exit team or a borderline playoff team. They are not good enough to challenge the true contenders, but they are not bad enough to finish low in the standings and then get high draft picks and get good exciting prospects.

So what do you do? Do you stay the course and hope things work out? That has seemingly been the plan for this Capitals team in recent years. This is a team that hasn’t really shaken up the team that much even though they have four straight first round exits. The star players remain the same, the only difference is they are now older with more miles on their bodies.

I would argue the absolute best time to sell has already passed. That, to me, would have probably been after the 2020 bubble embarrassment courtesy of the New York Islanders. But you know the old saying. The best time to plant a tree was yesterday, the next best time is now. The Capitals should have started making moves a few years ago, but they still have some time to do it.

Those moves need to be made now.

This Capitals team has some pieces they could probably get some good value for. Maybe in order, Kuznetsov, Orlov, Mantha, Oshie, Eller, then basically every other defenseman not named Carlson.

That is a lot of moves that can be made. The bigger ones obviously would bring back to most. Get rid of the thirty year old, high priced players, get younger and get players that are hungrier than a lot of this team has shown.

You cannot be afraid to send out fan favorites. It’s harsh, it sucks, and these are human lives we are dealing with. Not just the players but their families as well. But this truly is a business. The players sign up for it, and families are unfortunately caught up in it as well. The Capitals need to do some business.

You can look at at least two examples of teams making big moves and switching up there teams on the go.

The first to me is the 2013 San Jose Sharks. That was a team going nowhere. Coming off a disappointing year, a first round exit and then being a very average team the next season. Near the trade deadline that season the Sharks were 13-11-6. That was also after starting that season 7-0. Average, if not bad. They then trade a couple of older fan favorites in Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe and seemingly overnight that team got faster and started going places. After the Murray trade the team went 12-5-1. They got in the playoffs, swept the first round opponent in Vancouver and then went on to lose a hard fought seven game series vs the defending champion Kings.

As a Sharks fan it was hard to see Murray and Clowe go. Quite honestly it wasn’t much fun to welcome Raffi Torres into the fold either. But you cannot deny what happened to the team after making the big moves. They turned into a different team. A team that could have easily missed the playoffs that year lost in a close second round series to a great team. Those trades, at least in my opinion, vaulted that team forward as well. The next season they secured 111 points in the standings going 51-22-9, tied for the fourth best in the league.

You could also potentially look at the St. Louis Blues, maybe a couple of times. Two of their biggest players a decade ago, David Backes and T.J. Oshie were both moved. They won the Stanley Cup a few years later.

After winning that Stanley Cup in 2019 they haven’t had much success either. Now here we stand. Alex Pietrangelo, gone. Ryan O’Reilly, gone. Vladimir Tarasenko, gone. Two of those three happening just in the last couple of weeks, the other coming a couple of seasons ago. This team is not afraid to make the big move and move some players that were once very important and that the fans loved.

Now there are even rumors that the Blues may be in the buyers market. Using the assets they acquired in trades to get younger, good players.

To me this is simple. I understand I am not a general manager with my neck on the line having every move I make judged. I also get that I am not an owner of the team and it is not my millions on the line either.

The options are this. Stay the course, remain a first round playoff exit at best. Or, move on. Trade the valuable pieces you have and you could do a retool of the team fairly quickly. This team does have some prospects that could make an impact maybe soon. McMichael, Lapierre, Miroshnichenko. Some are having more challenges that others, but all of them still have promise. Add to that young “core”.

Do what the Blues are potentially doing. Trade some older veterans and use the picks you get to maybe go after Timo Meier. A 26-year-old, two time thirty goal scorer who is on pace for forty goals this year. I don’t know if that is possible but I am just using that rumor as an example.

At the end of the day something needs to be done. I would argue the Capitals have stuck with this team for way too long. Sticking with them now makes no sense.

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After what this team has proven for the past four seasons and all of this season they simply cannot be afraid of big moves. The team needs a shakeup. If done right this team could jump back into contender status quickly. It’s been done before. It can be done here in my opinion.