Prospects and young players
I mean, this is the definition of hope. We have no idea what young players and prospects will look like in the NHL. They can have success everywhere and for some reason it does not click in the NHL. There is a lot of hope, and a lot of positive talk coming out around Connor McMichael. There is a ton of hope Ivan Miroshnichenko is the next big numbers producer for the Capitals. Can Aliaksei Protas turn into a very good NHL player? Can Hendrix Lapierre find his way in? What about Vincent Iorio? What is Lucas Johansen going to be?
And we just talked about defense and goaltending. Prospects always come with their questions there. If the goaltending isn’t great and the D looks as questionable as it does on paper how much do the young guys help or hurt the Capitals?
Hey, at the end of the day, Capitals fans, you can be thankful you’re not the Pittsburgh Penguins. While they are old like the Caps are, they do not have a lot of promising young guys coming. The Caps have done a very good job at refilling the cupboard. Now the question becomes what do those promising young players look like when the lights are on brightest?
Who do the Capitals jump in the standings?
If the Capitals do show some improvements, how far up can they go? I do think this Capitals team will be better. I just don’t really know what that means. It took 92 points to make the playoffs in the east last season. It will likely take something like that again, if not slightly more. So the Caps will have to make up about 10-15ish points. Where are they getting them, and more importantly, who are they jumping over to get a playoff spot?
Lets just look at the division. The Carolina Hurricanes are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They’ll be a top three team in the division. I expect the New Jersey Devils to take a step back. But I still expect them to be very good. Instead of 112 points like last season, maybe it is only about 102-105. I think they’re a top three team. I’m not sure why you’d expect the New York Rangers to be much worse, unless you’re a Laviolette hater. He’s a coach that has had success almost everywhere he’s been except Washington. Maybe look at yourself there. It’s still a good team, you’d expect them to be top three as well.
The Capitals were 13 points behind the Islanders last season and 11 behind the Penguins. Can Washington jump either of those teams? I think it’s possible, but I’m not betting on that right now.
You also have to think about the Atlantic division. If we assume the top three in the metro is taken up who do you have to worry about in the other east division. Well, they have Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay. They also have the reigning east champions in Florida. Teams like Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit are coming. Maybe Montreal takes a bigger than expected leap?
This could be the Capitals biggest problem. Even if they do improve, are they better than some of the teams they have to catch? Hell, even if they do improve and get into the playoffs are they a legit contender? Or are they what they have been since they won the Cup? Get into the playoffs and get promptly ejected in the first round by a true contender.
I really and truly do believe this Capitals team will be better. I just don’t know what that really means. They can be a little better, but if the teams around you are still better it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line the Caps need to improve by probably around 15 points this season and that is no small task. They will potentially need to improve by about 20 points to get into a division playoff spot. I just don’t know why you would expect that when you consider the questions this team has and how good teams around them still are.
Should we expect this team to make the playoffs? No. They can surely improve. And sure, they can make the playoffs. No one here is saying they will 100% miss. But there are still a ton of questions this team needs to answer, some we didn’t even talk about today. We didn’t talk about Kuznetsov, much. We didn’t talk about a guy like Mantha. We didn’t really talk about the offense and if it will be better this season. There are still a lot of questions that need a positive outcome.
With all of these questions and with the amount of good teams around them I don’t know why we should expect this Capitals team to make the playoffs. But we can still hope. Quite frankly, sometimes hope is all you have to do. It’s just about time to drop the puck. We’ll see how this season goes.