Is Being An Average Team An OK Thing For The Capitals?

It's usually a bad thing to be average at this point in the season, but the 2023-24 season may be an exception in the NHL.
Washington Capitals v New York Rangers
Washington Capitals v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

It hasn't been a great season so far for the Washington Capitals. At the same time that doesn't mean this has been a bad season either. In a world where everyone is trying to make something bad or good, black or white, most people forget there are a lot of in-between things. There are a lot of colors between black and white, and there are many shades of gray.

Gray is a pretty bland color isn't it? It's kind of just there. It's not an ugly color, but it definitely doesn't have the greatness of something close, like silver. It's an average color. Much like the Washington Capitals this season. They're gray, they're average.

More times than not, saying a team is average is not a great thing. It usually means you are in that tricky area of not being good enough to contend or go on a run, but not really bad enough to get a higher draft pick and really start stocking up your prospect pool. But this year, being average may not be the worst thing.

We should point out some things. Starting with the good of this season.Connor McMichael has had a good season. He has slowed down recently but he has shown what he can do at the NHL level. Anthony Mantha, while also slowing down recently has had a good resurgent year. The defense has been way better than I thought it would be. The goaltending has also been mostly good and a lot of that is thanks to Charlie Lindgren who has been mostly fantastic. One of the better goalies in the entire world.

But then there has been some bad too. The offense still looks pretty weak. The power play has been terrible pretty much all season, ranking towards, or at the very bottom of the NHL. The greatest goal scorer ever in Alex Ovechkin isn't scoring goals at or anywhere close to his usual pace. And, more than halfway through the season the Capitals are in fifth place in the metro division being just one point out of seventh place.

When I watch this Capitals team there is nothing about this team that scares me. That meaning, if I was another team and I am matching up with the Capitals, maybe in a playoff series, I am scared of this. Maybe goaltending and Lindgren, but personally, when it comes to goaltending, I like guys proving it before I start to get scared of them.

Today, I'm scared of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Back in the day, Capitals fans, when you were about to play the Rangers in the playoffs, weren't you a little scared of Henrik Lundqvist? Those guys were are/were great and proved they could take their teams on runs. Lindgren has been fantastic, I need him to prove that he can take the Caps on a run before I get scared of him.

The hard part here is the Capitals need to make the playoffs. This average Capitals team needs to actually make the playoffs and there are a lot of teams right around Washington right now.

This is my whole point here today. There are a lot of teams around the Capitals and I think the Caps are average. Which I suppose means a lot of the teams around the Caps are average. Which also means, maybe being average this season isn't such a bad thing.

We've already said how they are only one point out of seventh place in the division, but third place isn't that far away right now. The Hurricanes who currently sit third have 53 points compared to the Caps 48 points. That's just five points. Even the first place Rangers are "only" ten points up. A small winning streak by the Capitals and a small bump for New York and we have some action here for these two teams.

Lets go to the other division in the eastern conference. I keep saying how I think the Toronto Maple Leafs are a scary team, and how they are a Cup contender. Well, you look up and you don't have to look up very far. The Capitals and Leafs have played the same amount of games, Toronto has 50 points, the Caps have 48.

There are probably a lot of people with better memories than me. People who can tell you, "oh this year was this way and that year was similar to this year and..." blahbity blahbity blah, right? I personally cannot remember a year quite like this one in the NHL.

I can't remember a season where we are passed the halfway mark, near the all-star break and I don't see one or two, maybe even three or four front runners. Usually at this time isn't there at least a couple teams that you look at and say, "Man, that team is going to be tough come playoff time. They have a real shot to win it this year." or something along those lines? Who are we saying that about right now?

Sure, a team like Boston has been at the top of the Atlantic basically all season. I haven't heard people say they are a "cup favorite" though. Usually it's more of a, "how they heck are they doing what they're doing after losing all of the pieces they did last year?" that's what I hear from people when talking about the Bruins. That's also a team that was better last season and got knocked out in round one, so I think there is also some "prove come playoff" thought there.

The Rangers are similar. They've been at the top of the Metro for most of the season. The Capitals have played them four times this season, they've won twice. The numbers against the Rangers look pretty good as well. I think the Rangers are clearly better than Washington, but the games don't lie.

Again the toughest thing for the Capitals will be making the playoffs. There are three playoff spots in each division, and two wild card spots. Looking at the standings right now it looks like there could be six teams fighting for those two spots. That is counting out teams like Montreal and Buffalo, who again, are not that far back. They're just five or six points back of the Capitals as we speak right now.

Are you scared of the Canadiens or Sabres? You probably shouldn't be. Who are you scared of? You scared of the Penguins? Not that long ago they absolutely destroyed the Islanders 7-0. But then again, the game before that they lost to Ottawa in overtime 5-4. And a couple of games before that they lost to the Leafs 7-0. Pittsburgh is a very up and down team.

Are you scared of the Islanders? Well we just said how they got beaten up by the Penguins. They have played well against the Capitals this year, but the Caps are still 2-2 against them this season. New York beat the Capitals 5-1 on the 29th of December, it's now the 17th of January when I'm writing this. The Isles have just one regulation win since then.

I'm not going to go through this for every team around the Caps and who they will be fighting against for a possible wild card spot, or even a metro playoff spot. But I think you should be getting my point. All of the teams around Washington have some pretty big flaws. All of them have the potential to go on a pretty good run and have a nice result or two. Those same teams can also have some really ugly games and go on a pretty nasty rough patch. Like the Maple Leafs are right now.

You know who also has some pretty big flaws? You know who also can go on a run or two then throw up a couple of duds right after? The Washington Capitals.

It seems like the Capitals are one of the many teams this year who are just plain and simply average. The Capitals, at least in my opinion, have not had a great season. They are an average team. But they have picked a pretty good season to be average. Just one small run in the regular season and they can find themselves in a playoff spot. Once they get into the playoffs, who knows what can happen then.

While being average might not sound like the best thing, this season it might just be fine.