Washington Capitals 2005-2006
Team Payroll: $18,897,905
General Manager: George McPhee
Head Coach: Glen Hanlon
Forgotten Moves: The Capitals headed to the rebuilding program in the 2003-2004 season by trading away their biggest assets in Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, and Sergei Gonchar. They kept that pace by concentrating on their big shot draft pick in Alexander Ovechkin throughout the 2004 off-season and signed him this year. Other than that, the Capitals made no moves prior to the lockout.
Team Mode: Washington will have nothing to capitalize on this season, and probably in the next few years. They are in a complete rebuild mode as they are keeping the team young with few veterans of any significance. They may keep pushing for the rebuilding program throughout the season as the likes of Olaf Kolzig and Brandon Witt, who requested to be traded, could be put on the block. The Capitals are far from contention and competition.
To Take Charge: The first pick would obviously be Brandon Witt, but his future with the Capitals is questionable. The second pick could have been Olaf Kolzig, but how could he even carry such a team to at least a decent season? So the third pick is Alexander Ovechkin. The young Russian star has a shot to prove his stardom in the nation’s capital of DC. Though he has high expectations, Ovechkin finds his luck in the media, believe it or not. The one who is stealing the show is Sidney Crosby. This releases pressure on Ovechkin, which can allow him to fit in comfortably. Ovechkin MUST show his potential as a franchise player though. The Capitals are actually depending on this guy, which may even damage his development.
ON THE RUSH (OFFENSE): The Capitals have almost next to nothing as far as offensive potential. Alexander Ovechkin will most likely be the go to guy, but the addition of Andrew Cassels may show a bit more brightness to this team’s “tank the season” project. If Cassels can keep healthy, his sharp passing skills could make Ovechkin a bigger factor. If Cassels gets injured, as he often does, then the Capitals find themselves as a very weak team on the offense. Alex Semin is having legal complications with his native country and he is not starting for the Caps. Danius Zubrus also seemed dubious to return, but he did. He has stepped up his play and is starting to click on the offense. Still waiting to hit the 20 goal mark, this is a much needed chance that Zubrus has to take in order to help his team.
COVERING THE D-ZONE: Washington’s defense remains young with little experience and could be another trouble spot for the franchise. The Caps may even get out-Witt-ed by their best defenseman if he demands to get traded early in the season, which could likely happen. That would put the Caps in a position where they can acquire more future valuable assets, but also make them the worst team in the NHL. Eminger needs to step up his play. Shaone Mirrisonn will be an NHL regular for the first time in his career, but will take time to develop. Ivan Majesky and Matthieu Biron were signed to add some more depth. Biron had his few good moments with Florida, but needs to stay consistent. A good addition is former WolfPack defenseman Lawrence Nycholat who proved to be a solid blueliner in the AHL the past couple of seasons. He keeps a simple two-way game and will most likely make the squad. Overall, the Caps defense is a major question mark as it possibly lacks a leader to even help the younger defensemen.
GUARDING THE NET: I remained puzzled when Olaf Kolzig never got traded in the 2004 deadline, and not even in the months prior to September. Why would the Caps hang on to this guy when they did not even re-sign long time franchise player Peter Bondra? Kolzig is pretty much useless for the Capitals unless their interest is for him to pave the way for prospect goalie Maxime Ouellet, acquired from the Flyers a few years back. Still, it is unlikely to see Kolzig perform as the “mentor” when his services could be of great use for a Cup contending team. Kolzig still remains a great goalie in the league, and he will do his best for the Capitals, but how much can he handle? Poor defense and offense won’t get Kolzig anywhere as his career is heading towards the finish line. Mixime Ouellet is a well touted goalie, but at 24 years of age, he must make it to the NHL, especially when playing on a rebuilding team. His competition is Czech goalie Rastislav Stana who had a short stint in the NHL, but had an outstanding season in the AHL posting a save percentage of .941 in 24 games.
TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION!: His name will be the main one coming out of DC, Alexander Ovechkin. He is seen as the next Capital’s franchise player and a world class star. Hockey fans of his generation will grow up with him and witness a young player becoming an all-star forward in the NHL and in the international competitions. A package best described as elite skill, Ovechkin will bring a lot of hope to Capitals fans in the future. Aside from Ovechkin is Eric Fehr, who brings grit and scoring power to the offensive. Though he stands 6’3 in height, Fehr will need to add more muscle mass to his frame in order to become a noticeable power forward. At age 20, expect the right-winger to make the Capitals line-up.
PROJECTED LINES: Possibly:
EXPECTATIONS: The Capitals have too many weaknesses on the forward lines and defensive pairings, plus the questionable goaltending. What can you expect out of a team that does not even meet the regulations of the floor salary cap? The Caps have yet to hit $20 million dollars in their player budget. As they have a lot of room, the Caps may find upgrades via the trade market by negotiating with the Devils as a possible seller, since they need to be below the salary cap. Expectations have the Capitals finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference, maybe even in the whole league.
PROJECTED: I think this team has been poorly managed by ownership and management. The Caps tried to make a Cup run with the acquisitions of Jagr and Lang years ago, but failed to even come close. Ownership handed out big contracts to then see themselves in a financial struggle and selling those contracts to other teams. What does it tell you when a businessman pays nearly half the contract of a player just to have gotten rid of him? Something did not go right. I project this team to be the worst in the league, and although they can improve themselves via trade acquisitions, they have a long way to go to even come close to normalcy.