The Washington Capitals are not the President’s Trophy threat they once were. However, does that mean they’re not Stanley Cup contenders anymore?
There has been lots of talk surrounding the Washington Capitals. This is mainly because they don’t appear as powerful as they did a season ago. They seem to be lacking something, or perhaps many things.
This offseason was a big one for them, and not in a good way. The Capitals lost quite a few key players, and it’s noticeable in their current play. During the past two seasons, the Caps steamrolled over their competition. But now, they don’t have several of the players who helped them dominate.
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One of these players is Kevin Shattenkirk, a trade deadline acquisition from last season. He is currently playing for the New York Rangers. The other is Marcus Johansson, who, because of lack of cap salary, was traded to the New Jersey Devils). Anytime you lose guys like them, it leaves some empty spaces in the lineup.
Factor in Andre Burakovsky’s injury and they’ve got some problems on their hands. Particularly, some offensive issues. While Shattenkirk was a defenseman, he was a huge reason for their power play success going into the 2016-17 Stanley Cup playoffs, quarterbacking it along with fan-favorite Alex Ovechkin.
And speaking of The Great Eight, he is a reason this team has any chance. The Capitals know this, whether they’d like to admit it or not. Even Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t looked like himself this season. Of course, that could be because he wasn’t on the same line with Ovechkin to start.
Which brings us back to the original conclusion- this team has nothing without their Russian powerhouse. Well, almost nothing.
Don’t worry Capitals fans, Braden Holtby has not been forgotten amidst the aforementioned problems. The Holtbeast is one of the main reasons this team has any ground to stand on if they want to argue that they are more than just Ovechkin.
Excluding The Great Eight, Holtby has been the Capitals’ most consistent player the past few seasons. Over the offseason, the team signed Philipp Grubauer to a short-term contract because they know their starter will need a solid backup to remain sharp if and when this team gets to the postseason.
All that said, let’s answer the essential question. Are the Washington Capitals still true Cup contenders?
The answer is no. They’ll need to make some changes before they can call themselves Stanley Cup contenders for real again. And those changes can’t happen overnight. It’ll take more time than they’d like for them to climb out of this hole.
However, once they realize they can’t solely rely on Ovechkin, things will begin to turn around. Until then, this season doesn’t appear to be an extremely promising one in the challenging Metropolitan Division.