After looking at the Phoenix Coyotes yesterday, today we move back to the East to analyze the Washington Capitals’ 2013-14 campaign. The Caps finished with a 38-30-14 record and 90 points. This was the most points among non-playoff teams putting Washington 3 points back of Detroit for a Wildcard spot and 4 points behind Philadelphia of a Metropolitan Division playoff spot.
Going into the season, expectations were fairly high for this Capitals squad. The core had been together for a few years now and the team had the benefit of a lockout-shortened season to work out any kinks with new Head Coach, Adam Oates. With Alex Ovechkin playing at an MVP form, Braden Holtby improving on a good .920 save percentage and 2.58 goals-against, and Mikhail Grabovski bouncing back as a bonafide second-line centre, Washington could be among the best teams in the Eastern Conference and could very well be the best team in the Metropolitan Division outside of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Ovechkin further proved why he is an elite goal scorer in the National Hockey League, putting up 51 goals. This was by far first in the league, 8 clear of Corey Perry’s second-place total of 43.
- After somewhat falling off the map the past couple of seasons, Nicklas Backstrom bounced back by piling up 61 assists (third to only Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton).
- Wingers Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward pitched in with some great secondary scoring, with 25 and 24 goals apiece.
- Three Capitals forwards were named to Team Canada’s World Championship squad in Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, who was appointed the role of Assistant Captain.
- Despite putting up the aforementioned 51 goals, Ovechkin somehow managed to compile a minus-35 rating, third-last in the entire league. The fact that Ovechkin was involved in both the high and low of the Capitals’ past season pretty much sums up where we’re at with Ovie at this point. Backstrom didn’t fare all too much better, finishing at minus-20, which was in the bottom 30 of the NHL.
- Washington’s ownership group, led by Ted Leonsis, cleaned house by firing both the Head Coach, Adam Oates, and General Manager, George McPhee.
- The goaltending position was an overall low point for the Caps this season, which has been a theme for this core for quite some time. With Braden Holtby unable to truly become a reliable #1 netminder (.915 save percentage, 2.85 GAA), Washington made a deadline move to acquire Jaroslav Halak. The trade seemed decent on paper, but the acquisition was a mess from the get-go and a distraction for the Capitals down the stretch. Halak put up decent numbers in 12 starts but had multiple run-ins with Oates, including arguments about starts and private conversations being leaked to the media.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
Both the short-term and long-term future in DC is very much up in the air and is dependent on the direction ownership takes in hiring the team’s next Head Coach and GM. It appears as though the Capitals have some strong pieces in place, both up front (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Ward, Johansson, Brouwer, Chimera, Kuznetsov, Fehr, Laich) and on defense (Carlson, Green, Orlov, Alzner) to be a strong team, there are certainly areas where the Capitals must improve to be a playoff squad, let alone a contender. For one, Braden Holtby seems like “the guy” going forward and will have to become an improved, more consistent goaltender. As well, the new staff coming in will have to try and find a way to improve the defensive play of its top line, who were a combined minus-76 this past season.
5 QUESTIONS WITH STARS AND STICKS
Thanks to Dave Stevenson, staff writer with starsandsticks.com, who answered 5 questions about the Capitals past season and what the future looks like, moving forward.
1. Who was the biggest surprise for the Capitals?
Biggest surprise for the Washington Capitals was the production of the “Green Line” of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward. They were the team’s most consistent forward line.
2. What was the biggest disappointment this season in Washington?
Biggest disappointment was the defense. The Capitals were consistently outshot by wide margins. You can’t get outshot like that and expect to win.
3. What is the biggest need going forward?
Biggest need going forward, outside of a new head coach and general manager, is a top 4 defenseman.
4. Who was the Capitals’ MVP this season?
The MVP of the Washington Capitals was Alex Ovechkin. Without him, the Capitals would have been nowhere close to a playoff birth.
5. What #hashtag best describes Washington’s season?
#ThankYouTed. Owner Ted Leonsis finally decided to clean house, firing head coach Adam Oates and general manager George McPhee. Change was needed, and change is finally coming.