Sunday, January 6, 2013

Back, Baby!

A few of you may notice that the last post of mine was June 30. A lot has happened since then, but I honestly felt like I had nothing new to contribute to any discussions about adding Wojtek Wolski, Joey Crabb, Jack Hillen, minor-league player moves, or, above all, the lockout (RIP). A good bit has happened in my own life, including finally securing a full-time, permanent job. But now that the lockout is over, and everything is settled down, it's time to get back to what matters: My opinions on the current and future state of the Washington Capitals.

Current Caps Outlook - Trust Me

If you look back at my early summer postings, you will see a lot of optimism about the 2012-2013 Caps. That was before the signing of Wolski, who I think will be a breakout player this year, earning a spot on the top six. Crabb and Hillen will make excellent backups for the 4th line and 3rd pairing, respectively. I still love this roster, especially under new coach Adam Oates. I just don't think there are any glaring weaknesses in terms of skill.

That being said, I think Washington will be something of a mess this shortened season. They won't look in sync, they won't execute a system well, and only a few players will live up to their potential as a result. Why, you may ask? Well there's this, and this, and that. Locker room strife, like it or not, is going to be an issue. When Neuvirth, statistically the worst Caps goalie on the roster every season since he has been on the roster, is talking down about his teammate and criticizing his captain, that doesn't make for a lot of trust on the ice - the kind of thing goalies rely on. When Troy Brouwer openly says he does not trust veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik and Neuvirth, you're looking at mistrust between a valued forward, the defense, and again the netminder.

These guys are pros, all of them, and you would expect them to put aside their feelings and play hard and play well. And don't get me wrong, they'll try their best (except maybe Neuvirth, that kid irks me with his sense of entitlement earned not from skill but from horrendous coaching choices). But trust and respect are huge in all relationships, sports included. Feelings get hurt, people hold grudges, and things gnaw at the back of your mind. This doesn't even include any possible feelings about half the team jetting for Europe and Ovi threatening to stay there. Those feelings I think can be dismissed far more easily than those related the specific name-dropping in press interviews. No other team had as many attacks between teammates during this admittedly contentious lockout, if any.

Throw in a new coach, and likely yet another adjustment to strategy, and I think you'll see Ovi trying to do it all by himself, defensive players getting frustrated, and a rotating cast of second line wingers never really finding a way to synchronize with Ribeiro. Speaking of rotating second liners, think back pre-lockout and the supposed promises McPhee made to Mathieu Perreault. He seemed to really believe that he would be in the top six. With Ribeiro, MoJo, Wolski, Backstrom, Ovi, Laich, Chimera, and Brouwer, you have nine guys going for six spots. Three of them will be on the third line, just by math, but then you have Hendricks and Ward, who have probably each earned a third line spot, stuck getting minimal ice time after all. McPhee has certainly done his part to hurt trust in the Caps organization with his handling of trades and free agency signings over the past 15 years.

It's the emotional side of things that are going to hurt the Capitals this year, not the roster and not the coaching. Thankfully, we have a shortened season, two buyouts, a slew of incredible prospects, and a smaller salary cap next year that will make 2013-2014 a different story. We just have to last til then. But more on that later.

Welcome back folks, I'm glad to be back and blogging again and I'd love input throughout the season!

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