Everyone seems to be frustrated with the Washington Capitals inconstant play. And while there is frustration, there is also an understanding that the team is still adjusting to a summer of roster changes. And then there is the rookie element.
Coach Trotz hit the nail on the head in his post-game comments following the loss to the Panthers Saturday. The team doesn’t have an identity yet and they are really struggling to find a way to make it all click. By his own admission, he can’t get a handle on the mistakes and which players need to get some consistency back. Hearing that from the Caps coach is troubling.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 22, 2017
It’s important to remember that the Caps are only nine games into the season. Seven of the forwards and defensemen have played six or fewer games. Tom Wilson was out for his suspension (5 played), Madison Bowey was called up from Hershey and has only played three games, and Nathan Walker has only played three games in the NHL.
In all there are eight players on the roster who are just starting their career in the NHL. Nine, including Philipp Grubauer, have five or less years in the NHL. Only Tyler Graovac and Madison Bowey have yet to record a point. That’s a huge percentage of the team that Coach has to bring into the fold and teach the playing strategy. Sprinkle in some new coaches and equipment managers, and the Caps are dealing with a lot of change.
It is time to stop using that as an excuse. Take a look at the Vegas Golden Knights. A completely new team that is playing under the umbrella of a national tragedy. And yet they 6-1-0. Fifteen of the players have four years or less in the NHL and all but two of the forwards/defensemen have a recorded a point. Everything is new to them!
Or how about the LA Kings who have only lost one game in regulation. They have a new coach and nine players with under five years of NHL experience. They have figured it out.
These Caps players have been practicing together since training camp began in mid-September. After five weeks, we would hope they were more in the groove than they appear to be. The defense is struggling- maybe it is the shift to a more offensive play- but they certainly are not big on protecting the net or their goalie.
And let’s not forget the penalties. This has been a major problem since game one of the preseason yet their doesn’t appear to be any course correction. It is hard to keep the momentum when you are constantly on a penalty kill.
We are hopeful that the Caps coaching staff will figure this out and stop making excuses. We know they are missing some the the sense of family with the loss of so many players this summer but it is time to rebuild those connections. Veteran players must mentor and guide the junior players. Each side needs to ask the other – “what do you need more of from me to be successful.”
As Trotz said: “The young guys have been fine’ They’re going to make mistakes. They make the same mistakes some of the older guys are making. To just put it on them, I don’t think that’s accurate. I think the young guys are coming along just fine.”
It is still early. We aren’t totally freaked out. We are a little concerned. Rebuilding is fine but it doesn’t have to mean losing. It doesn’t have to mean sloppy plays leading to penalties. It can be an exciting time- as we are seeing on the west coast.