Will that carry over into the new season? Can goaltender Braden Holtby step up and perform like an All-Star? Can the Capitals finally get over the playoff hump? If you’re a betting man, I wouldn’t put your money on it.
Biggest Offseason Loss: Mike Ribeiro
The Caps have spent freely over the last couple of offseasons, so they weren’t able to retain Mike Ribeiro in free agency. He did express interest to stay but the money just wasn’t there and he ended up signing with Phoenix.
It’s a significant loss for the Capitals as Ribeiro finished second on the team with points (49) and assists (36). This will have an impact on their league-leading power play as 27 of his points came with the man-advantage. Ribeiro isn’t held in the same regard as, say, Henrik Zetterberg or Claude Giroux, but it might surprise you to note that he had more points than both of them last season.
He’s not exactly a sniper but he’s one of the better facilitators in the league, he will be missed, especially by his backers and their NHL picks.
Biggest Offseason Gain: Mikhail Grabovski
The Caps hope that the addition of Grabovski can offset the loss of Ribeiro and they are probably somewhat right in that thinking. Grabovski was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs and signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Caps that should slot him in as the team’s second-line center.
The key here is that Grabo has to have a bounce-back year. In 2011 and 2012, Grabo finished with 29 and 23 goals, respectively, while totaling more than 50 points each time. For the most part, he flashed the potential to be a 20-goal man. However, he is coming off an awful season that saw him notch just 16 points (seven goals) in 48 games, which is why Toronto cut ties with him.
State Of The Franchise:
It’s hard to gauge exactly where the Capitals are in the NHL pecking order. In the last few seasons, they’ve had spells where they look disjointed but they’ve also had spells where the light bulb goes on and they play like the best team in the league. Case and point: they started the year 2-8-1 but finished the year on an 11-2-1 run.
The question is: how much room does this team have to grow? They can’t seem to get over the hump in the playoffs as they’ve made the playoffs six straight times but have not been past the second round. Making matters more difficult is that they are pretty tight against the cap.
The key to the Caps 2013-14 season will be goaltender Braden Holtby. For the Caps to be a Cup contender, he needs to become of the league’s elite goaltenders. The Caps have some scoring, their blue line is adequate and their goaltending is above average, but Holtby will need to shine for this team to exceed expectations. The reason: that’s the only place where this team can grow. We know what the forwards can do (score easily in the regular season, struggle in the postseason), we know what the blue line can do (play fairly reliably) but for this team to take the next step, Holtby has to lead the way.
To me, that seems very unlikely so I would expect more of what we’ve seen from Washington: a middle of the pack regular season finish and a first or second round exit in the playoffs.
2013 NHL Odds To Win The Stanley Cup At Bovada: 25/1