The Capitals Could Have One Big Advantage Next Season

Pierre Luc-Dubois could be an advantage
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Washington Capitals
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Washington Capitals / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

In sports you are always looking for that one little advantage. Just maybe one little thing that you can do either for yourself or against your opponent to give yourself a better chance at winning. It's early in the offseason, but it feels like the Washington Capitals might have already given themselves a couple of advantages for the 2024-25 NHL season.

It goes without saying the Caps have had a pretty good offseason. The names and talent they have added so far will surely help this team next season. The way the team looks right now you have to assume this is clear playoff team. An obvious improvement from last season where they barely made the playoffs in a down year in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division.

The talent that they have added is one thing. The thing, or maybe a better way to put it, the attitude these talented players might bring is the thing that could give the Capitals a big boost, or a big advantage next season.

Chip on the shoulder

Having a chip on your shoulder can be a big thing in sports and definitely in a sport like hockey. Remember the 2017-18 Vegas team? Well, who doesn't, and how could Capitals fans forget them? That was a team that had a good amount of talent on it, but more than anything, it seemed and felt like most, or probably all of that team had a chip on their shoulder. For good reason. It was an entire team of guys who were willingly let go for nothing from their former team.

As talented as that team was it felt like it was the compete, it was the effort level, it was the chip on that entire teams shoulder that drove them during that incredible season in Vegas. Do the Capitals have that many guys with something to prove? No, but they have added some guys that probably do, or should.

Look at the biggest move the Capitals made this year. Pierre-Luc Dubois. Who knows how that move is going to work out for Washington. That move could be one of the best moves any team has made in recent history, it could backfire on Washington. Nobody knows. Dubois has shown he is a very good player in the past. Now, he should also have a bit of an attitude. He should have a chip of his own on his shoulder.

Like it or not he is starting to get a reputation. Or starting to probably isn't even correct. He probably does have reputation. He forced his way out of Columbus. He basically forced his way out of Winnipeg. He got a trade to Los Angeles, signed a big deal, obviously saw himself playing in the "City of Angels" for a long time and one year into a long contract he gets traded. For very little.

No disrespect to Darcy Kuemper. But he was a struggling goalie and you usually don't get a potential top six center for a struggling goalie in a one for one deal.

That has to be a little embarrassing for Dubois. Forget embarrassing, that just simply has to give him a little extra fire, right? "You sign a big, long term contract, and one year in you're pretty desperate to get rid of me? Ok, watch this." You would think that is what a high level competitor would think. Will that be the case for Dubois? We'll see. But if the Capitals get that kind of competitor, that kind of drive to go along with his skill and talent. Oh, boy. Watch out!

Dubois is clearly not alone too. Just a bit later the Capitals went out and traded for Andrew Mangiapane. A guy who scored 35 goals for the Calgary Flames just a few seasons ago. Even if he is not an every year 30+ goal guy getting a guy that can score somewhere between 17-25 goals a year is nothing to sneeze at. And they got him for just a second round pick in 2025?

After scoring just 14 goals last season, a down season for what sounds like various reasons, It sounds like he is ready to get to work and rebound.

Did the Capitals trade for a guy with something to prove there? I think they did. He says he's a hard worker who likes to get on the forecheck and take it from there. The Caps might have traded for a hard working, physical player who can score goals, AND he has a little something to prove? For a second round pick, this could also be an absolute steal for GM Brian MacLellan.

And we're not done yet. How about another pretty big deal? How about the Capitals trading for Jakob Chychrun?

Chychrun was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Ottawa Senators back in the middle of the 22-23 season. That was a big deal. At least in my memory that was supposed to be one of the last blocks the Senators needed to turn themselves back into a playoff team and back on the path to contendership, if that is even a word, it is now.

It didn't work. His fault? Probably not. His numbers were decent. He scored 14 goals and added 41 points to the team. Then again in 82 games played he was a -30. Say what you want about the +/- stat, when it gets outrageous one way or another it deserves to be looked at and mentioned.

Does he have something to prove. Can he prove that he can be a very good defenseman on a good team with higher expectations? Does he have that little extra in him this coming season knowing he will be on a better team with good talent around him? Talent that has done something at the NHL level.

Talent like John Carlson. A top ten defenseman, at one point a top five guy. Alex Ovechkin. One of the best to ever play the game. Tom Wilson, one of the best power forwards in the game today. All of these guys have had success in the NHL, and more importantly I think, have had success in the NHL in Washington. These guys aren't trying to lead in a different city on a new team. They know the Capitals. They know what works in that room. Chychrun will now walk into that. Compare that to Ottawa, a younger team, no NHL success yet, with veteran leaders who came from other teams.

It sounds like there are plenty of reasons it didn't work out too well in Ottawa for Chychrun. But Chychrun is now on his third NHL team with very little team success. Will he have that little extra giddy up to prove to everyone, including himself, that he can be a key player on a very successful team.

Again, it was a deal that didn't cost the Capitals much. It cost a third round pick in two years, 2026, and Nick Jensen. Jensen is a good player. He is also 33-years-old compared to Chychrun who is 26. Again, no disrespect to Jensen, but I think if you ask most hockey people they would say Chychrun is the better player.

It didn't cost much, they got the "better" player, they get the younger player, and that player just might have a little something to prove. Right now, that's an incredible deal.

Do the other new guys have something to prove? Logan Thompson? A potential starter? "Vegas? I was close to being your guy in net and you just ship me away?" Any of that thought creep in the mind of a high level athlete? Does Matt Roy have any fire after not being re-signed by the Kings?

What about the young guys the Capitals already had? McMichael, Lapierre, Miroshnichenko, the other younger guys who just helped the Hershey Bears win back to back Calder Cups. Do they now have a chip on their shoulders as well? "I deserve a shot and I'm not getting one. I'm going to go take the job of the new guy they basically replaced me with."

I personally don't like how the Capitals have added "blockers" to their lineup. They have added guys who block the young guys who I think deserve a clean shot at NHL jobs. But there is clearly something to be said for competition. "You want a job? Earn it!" I think the young guys who have proven they deserve a shot at the NHL should be a little peeved. Now they can take that fire and add it to their game this coming season. That should help them, and it could help the team even more.

Bottom line I think the Capitals will have a bunch of players this season who will have something to prove. When you have skilled players who have that little chip on their shoulder, special things can happen. We'll see if special things happen in D.C. this coming season.