Washington Capitals: 2016/17 Season Strengths and Weaknesses

How do you determine what works and what is broke in an organization? One way is to start by taking a dive into what strengths the organization has exhibited in recent times and then to balance those advantages against areas in which they are less strong. This helps to provide a framework to discuss how to draw from and expand on those strengths and how to minimize the weaknesses.

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Let’s start with:

Strengths:

 

  • They have had the best regular season record in the league two years running.
  • The Capitals’ top six players were their top six scorers:
  • The top lines have been strong scorers with Oshie and Ovechkin scoring 33 goals (13th in the league) and Backstrom with a high 86 points making him fourth in the league and second in assists (63).
  • The second line held its own for most of the season. Johansson with 24 goals and 34 assists; followed by Williams with 24 goals and assists each and Kuznetsov rounding them out with 19 goals and 44 assists.
  • Ovechkin is still a top shooter in the league as well as top goal scorer, tops with overall points, ranks high on creating goal opportunities, and one of the three highest power play goal scorers. He remains one of the best players in the league.
  • The team has a strong defense:
    • Orlov and Orpik are among the NHL leaders in plus/minus =  they are on the ice when the Caps score.
    • Holtby had another strong season and they have a strong back-up goalie in Grubauer.
  • They have a coach that has changed the culture of the team and a team that is closer personally then seen since the Young Guns!
  • They have strong assistant/associate coaches who play active roles in leading the team.
  • There is a strong sense of unity in the team, on and off the ice.

Weaknesses

  • An inability to get past the second round of the playoffs despite regular season records.
  • The consistent loss may be leading the players to mentally doubt their ability.
  • The maturity of the team is beginning to be outweighed by the aging of the team with seven players over 30 and 14 who are 25 or older.
  • Holtby’s statistics were down this season and he was unable to block enough shots against opponents in the playoffs.
  • Core players seem to be stuck.
  • The organization is cash strapped and may not have enough money to hold onto top players and bring in a couple of strong players to shake up the mix.
  • Barry Trotz has never taken a team all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
  • Capitals, for all their shots, could not covert or get around goalies although they were well familiar with their playing style.

Opportunities

  • Popular consensus is that Dmitry Orlov could have a real breakout season.
  • Andre Burakovsky has proven he is ready to join the top six after scoring three goals against the Pens in the playoffs.
  • Tom Wilson was another playoff surprise and could strengthen any line, if he gets his penalties under control..
  • Nate Schmidt also proven himself when brought into the playoffs as a strong defenseman.
  • The Caps have a strong pool of prospects from which they can pull from the AHL Hershey Bears. Can you say Jakub Vrana, Riley Barber, Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd,

Threats

  • Pay Cap
  • Las Vegas
  • If Grubauer goes to the Golden Knights, they need a strong second goalie= $$
  • Aging players the Caps can’t trade yet.
  • Getting out of their heads.

Analysis: When one considers the strengths and weakness for the Capitals, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. The weakness; however, are not things that can easily be fixed over the summer. There are two core issues: getting players out of the rut of crashing in round two of the playoffs and making necessary adjustments with limited financial resources. These are the two main elements that could continue to threaten their success in the playoffs.

The Caps have limited opportunities to improve their position going into the new season because of the salary cap. If Philipp Grubauer goes to Las Vegas, the team’s top priority will be finding a replacement of his caliber. If they bring in a junior goalie they are unlikely to have someone who can relieve Holtby to the extent that Grubi did. If they want to bring in a more ‘seasoned’ goalie, it will cost them some big bucks, which as we said, they don’t actually have to spend. If they sign the younger players: Burakovsky,  Kutznetsov, Orlov, and Schmidt; they have a core foundation for a team that could increase its speed and prowess on the ice. Orlov and Schmidt in particular give the team an edge as excellent defensemen who are also capable of scoring, if given a greater role on the team. Burky and Kuzy are on the brink of becoming top notch players who could make all the difference.

The good news is that the Capitals are still in a good position for the 2017/18 season, even with minor changes during the coming weeks. If they can play the way they did in the previous two seasons, we remain confident that they will move forward in the playoffs as strong contenders for the Stanley Cup.

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