May 12, 2012, 10:35 PM EDT
The Washington Capitals’ 2011-12 season is hockey’s answer to the adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
If you compare their ultimate results to the expectations they carried into the season, then one could argue that losing 2-1 to the No. 1 seed New York Rangers in a tight seven-game series still remains a disappointment. Context changes matters, however, as the Capitals pleased many who wanted them to play a more conventional, defensive-minded style after years of being hockey’s answer to “The Greatest Show on Turf” era St. Louis Rams.
Ultimately, the takeaway is very much a subjective thing, but the most rigid, bottom-line result is that the Alex Ovechkin Capitals still haven’t played a single conference finals match.
The Capitals bounced back from some big challenges, yet they ultimately ran out of rebound opportunities once Game 7 rolled around. Washington shook of a triple-OT loss and perhaps an even more brutal last-second OT loss in Game 5 to push the series to the limit, but the Capitals couldn’t beat the Rangers at their own game in the end.
Who takes the blame?
Assuming that you’re on board with Dale Hunter’s decision to convert the Capitals roster to a defense-first-second-and-last machine, Alexander Semin is the easy target as usual. He had a -2 rating in Game 7 (representing both Rangers goals, whether they were his fault or not) and only had one assist in the entire series. In fact, he sandwiched that assist between two four-game pointless streaks, so it’s unlikely that the pending free agent made himself much money in the playoffs.
Plus, he’s Alexander Semin – his middle name might as well be “scapegoat.”
What will they do about it?
That’s where things can get very interesting.
First things first, it’s no guarantee that Dale Hunter will return as head coach – and it might be his choice, which is pretty unusual in this profession. If he wants to come back, Capitals GM George McPhee needs to determine that he really wants to go in the direction Hunter took them.
If his answer is “Yes,” the Capitals can clean house to a staggering degree. Go-to scapegoats such as Semin, Mike Green and Dennis Wideman headline the list of guys whose futures are foggy. Meanwhile, it seems likely that Tomas Vokoun and Mike Knuble won’t be back while John Carlson‘s restricted free agent negotiations should be interesting to watch.
Vokoun brings things to an interesting third factor (beyond coaching and free agent yes-or-nos) for the Caps: should they go after a veteran goalie? Braden Holtby had a fantastic playoff run but hasn’t ever carried an NHL workload. Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth has been solid-but-unspectacular on the NHL level.
If the orders are to go all-defense all-the-time, then they might just want to invest in a goalie with a heftier resume.
That’s the interesting thing about the Cap; beyond Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom‘s lengthy contracts, McPhee has an intriguing opportunity to make sweeping changes. So let’s leave that to you, then: what would you do with this odd but still seemingly promising group?
Aug 31, 2015, 10:22 PM EDT
His first game against Boston is scheduled for Feb. 9.
Aug 31, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
The start of his rookie campaign is approaching.
Aug 31, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Who will take advantage of the opening?
Aug 31, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
The two have previously played together on the Czech national team.
Aug 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Former coach Jeff Daniels is also staying within the organization after being relieved of his AHL coaching duties.
Aug 31, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Looking to score an AHL deal.
Aug 31, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
You can expect this question to be asked throughout the year.
Aug 31, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Heck, the ‘Hawks are still over the salary cap ceiling.
Aug 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Chicago’s star forward remains under police investigation.
Aug 31, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Can his KHL success translate to North America?
Aug 31, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT
Plenty of changes in the Windy City.
Aug 31, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The defending Stanley Cup champs dealt away key pieces in the offseason.
Aug 31, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Aug 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
The 36-year-old is still looking for a contract after being bought out by the Wild.
Aug 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
The Wild ranked 27th overall last season with the man advantage.
Aug 30, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Granlund scored just eight goals last season while playing between Pominville and Parise.
Aug 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
He’s hoping to crack the Wild’s opening night roster after three seasons at the University of Minnesota.
Aug 30, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
He’ll have to prove last season was not a fluke.
Aug 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Both blue liners are unrestricted free agents.
Aug 30, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Can they take a step forward this season?
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