Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Try Something Different

Don't worry, I'm not going to do what everyone thinks I'm gonna do and FLIP OUT, man! At least not yet. Seriously, if you've read like even one post from this season, or more than two hockey tweets of mine, you'd know that I am far more shocked that the Caps season lasted as long as it did rather than ending in the second round. But before I start writing about all the problems and how to address them, I want to point out that there are a number of good things to look forward to for next season. Is that because I think it's a lot easier and quicker to talk about those than the bad stuff? Partially, yeah. Over the next few weeks I will probably have several posts for y'all about my thoughts on this season, individual players, management and coaching strategies, free agency, and of course next season. But for now:
  • Let's look at the fact that they did in fact make it to within a goal of the conference finals. Sure, we're all sick of Game 7 losses over the past... well, forever, but they did win their first-ever road game seven. They took out the defending champs. They held damn near even with the top team in the conference, and the rookie goalie matched the almost-certain Vezina winner shot-for-shot.
  • Expanding on that: You gotta believe we finally have a franchise goalie, a clear number one in Braden Holtby. Granted, I still think we did with Varlamov, but it is an accepted fact these days that between the coaching, management, and perhaps most importantly, the (lack of) medical care, Varly's future in DC was limited. Holtby was lights out, displaying skills and confidence nearly unseen in rookie goaltenders. If you think Neuvirth should still have any claim on the starting job, despite being the statistically worst goalie to wear a Caps jersey in every single season he has played, then GTFO and go watch another sport, we don't need you here in hockey land. I know this includes a majority of Washington bloggers, but these same people also expected a banner year for the team and think/thought that Fleischmann is a streaky hockey player (he has 82 points in 104 games since being traded).
  • The effectiveness of the team's commitment to "defense" (I am still not sure I'd go as far as saying the Caps are an elite defensive squad the way they give up shots and scoring chances) may be questionable at best, but it has showcased the team's talent for shot-blocking. In an ideal world, you don't want to ever have to block a shot, but knowing your guys can and will do so, and do it well, is great going forward.
  • Sophomore slumps happen. Just ask John Carlson, and to a lesser extent, Marcus Johansson. On a lot of teams in the league, their seasons wouldn't be considered disappointments. Be grateful that the Caps have a couple young players with such high expectations based fairly on the respective players' skills that an average season is considered a letdown. I have both of them pegged for big comeback seasons.
  • Goodbye to Dale Hunter. Last offseason, I was one of the people who was hoping he would in fact be called in to coach in place of Boudreau. I also thought, clearly incorrectly, that a guy with over 3,000 career points would be a bit more offensive minded in his coaching strategy with one of the most offensively talented teams in the league. It didn't take me long to retract my previous hopes and expectations about him, and he left the team almost immediately after Washington was eliminated. This is for the best, and it is a good sign that things will change, yet again.
  • Ovechkin showed signs of breaking out of his two season slump. He was scoring at a breakneck pace in the last quarter of the season, and he never really let up on his physical game, either. If nothing else good comes from this season, we do know that Ovechkin can play more defensively than people have given him credit for in the past, that his passion for winning has not diminished, and that his game is a bit more well-rounded than before. That all being said, here's hoping he puts that punk Stamkos in his place next year.
  • Chimera had a career season. I had him pegged as the team goat in my season preview, but he proved me wrong. So very wrong. The guy we saw on ice this season was the guy many thought McPhee got from the Blue Jackets a couple seasons ago. Chimera should be a lock for 3rd line left wing for the next couple seasons, and can hopefully continue to build on his surprisingly effective year.
  • America. Just thought I'd throw that in there. America is great. Don Cherry isn't from America.
  • Players like Jay Beagle are given the opportunity to display their worth in tight games. I still completely disagree with how much he was utilized given his limited skill set, but he showed that the team has a very solid fourth-line center signed and ready to go, and at this point any players that you know are a lock for a specific position are a huge help. Knowing what spots you have filled narrows down the spots in flux and figure out who is expendable elsewhere in the lineup. Kudos to Beags for his strong role playing and helping the team figure out one more piece of the puzzle along the way.
  • Stanislav Galiev may not yet be a name you all know. But he will be. He all but made a mockery of those around him in the QMJHL playoffs, and appears slated for a solid Caps training camp next preseason. Do not be surprised if (read: when) he gets a Caps sweater. He is Russian, he scores, and he has a personality. He is already active on twitter (@Galixon_97), and loves to self-promote. In short, he and Ovechkin will get along famously. Not to mention that other young Russian scoring phenom, Kuznetsov, would have someone else over here to convince him to leave the motherland behind in the coming years. Both youngsters have serious top-six potential in their first or second NHL seasons. All hope is not yet lost. It just might be delayed a bit.

No comments:

Post a Comment