The Capitals Are A Team Of Many "Ifs" Going Into Next Season

Lots of burning questions this summer and many "ifs"
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages
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Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Young Guys

This should be about three, four or maybe more "ifs" but in the interest of saving us all some time we'll just put them all in the same section here. What if the young guys don't take a step up.

Let me use some former Capitals as example here. Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana. Both guys had a lot of potential, neither guy ended up reaching it, for various reasons. In his second season Burakovsky had 17 goals and 38 points for Washington. His career high in goals is currently 22. His high point total is an impressive 61, but that also came on a stacked Avalanche team in 21-22. His high other than that season was 45 his first season in Colorado.

Vrana has struggled for other reasons. He looked like he was going to be a sure thirty goal scorer, if not more to me. He had a few good seasons in Washington, got traded for Anthony Mantha and unfortunately has had trouble staying in the NHL since.

There is no guarantee. It's a nice hope, that's about it. Guys like Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas and Hendrix Lapierre have proven that they can play at the NHL level. Now what?

Connor McMichael had a pretty good season last year. He finished the year with 18 goals and 33 points. A nice building block season. Now he has to take the next step. Hopefully he does.

What is Protas? Is he someone the Caps have a lot of faith in in terms of higher in the lineup guy? He had 6 goals in 78 games played last season. Maybe he is just a better bottom of the lineup guy. A terrific fourth line guy on a contending team. Can the Caps turn into a contending team with him on it?

How does Lapierre fare next year? He had 8 goals and 22 points in 51 games with the big club last season. He also had a goal and an assist in the playoffs. Including a dazzling goal in game 4 vs the Rangers. Can he take that next step?

There are other young guys to like and be hopeful for their future with the Capitals. Again, to save you time we'll leave it there. The point being, what if they take the next step? If they do, things could look up quickly for Washington. You're suddenly looking at a younger center lineup of Strome, McMichael and Lapierre. Hopefully all guys capable of scoring 25+ goals a year. All guys also having skill and the ability to set up their teammates as well.

But they havn't proven that yet. And, until they do, it's an if. What if they don't improve next year? There are tons and tons of guys who prove they can play at the NHL level and then they plateau early in their careers. Maybe they turn into nice NHLers, but not someone to build a team around. Which is why you don't buy if you're the Capitals right now. You have to wait to see if these guys are worthy of that.

It's good to be hopeful. I'm hopeful for these young players too. But hopeful doesn't and shouldn't mean blind faith. They've taken a step, I'm waiting to see the next step before calling them key parts of the team. Until they do, they are all "ifs".

There are probaly even more questions for this team as things stand. To me these are the biggest ones. If one of these, what I call "ifs", ends in a negative way for the Caps it could be bad news. That being said, if maybe all of the young guys do take that step up, this could be a heck of a year for the team. Maybe Ovechkin can take that step back. While it would still be annoying if the goaltending regressed, maybe the young guys are able to score enough to cover that up for a while.

Maybe Ovechkin has a last fifty goal hurrah in him, the goaltending is terrific and the young guys don't matter. There is obviously a combination of things than can happen here.

But there are plenty of ifs going into next season. It will definitely be interesting to see what the Capitals do this off-season to help with all of these questions.