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Poll: Will Washington get back into the playoffs?

Aug 18, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT

Washington Capitals Introduce General Manager Brian MacLellan And Coach Barry Trotz Getty Images

Last year marked the first time in six seasons that Washington failed to advance to the NHL’s second season. Oh sure, the Caps have flirted with missing before — during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, they had to go 11-1-1 in April to rally and win the Southeast Division — but actually missing the dance was different, and carried grave consequences.

Coach? Fired. GM of 17 years? Also fired. Those came on the heels of private exit interviews by owner Ted Leonsis — the first time he’s conducted such meetings in private — which strongly suggested the status quo wasn’t an option.

(Remember it was Leonis who, in 2011, said the Capitals “will make the playoffs — as I promised — 10 to 15 years in a row.”)

There’s clearly an organizational mandate to get back in the playoffs, and almost everything the Caps did this offseason reflects that. They believe they addressed their biggest (perceived) area of weakness, defense, by signing Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. They believe that, in Trotz, they’ve found the ideal head coach — one with an extensive NHL resume, that knows how to win and possesses the ability to implement defensive philosophies and ideas.

But will that be enough?

While the Eastern Conference is weaker and more wide open than the West, Washington will still have its hand full in the Metro. The Rangers are the defending conference champs, Pittsburgh’s still a formidable foe (that ran roughshod over the Metro last year, going 20-8-2 in-division), Columbus is a team on the rise and Philly, while flawed, was a playoff team last year.

What’s more, Washington has a bunch of new parts to implement. Trotz is the fifth head coach of the Ovechkin era and will undoubtedly bring some new things to the plate; Orpik and Niskanen are going to demand ice time which will cause a ripple effect across the blueline.

Up front, it sounds as though the Brooks Laich-at-center era is over — he’s destined for the wing — meaning there’s a trio of young guys auditioning for minute at center: Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. It’s probably why Leonsis was so adamant about everybody being “in sync” to start the year — the Caps have a lot of moving parts.

“So far, so good on that,” he said in July. “I think that’s a good move in a positive direction to have the organization all singing from the same songbook.”

With that said…are the Caps going back to the dance? Vote away…

  1. lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Yes. As I’ve been saying on most of the Caps posts today, this is a playoff team. It’s a more talented team than some of the teams that made the playoffs last year as well. Barring some horrible implosion, which basically already happened last year, this is an improved team with a great coach who can lead us there. If Jay Beagle as our first line center for part of the season can nearly bring us to the playoffs, a full season of Kuznetsov, and the additions of Niskanen and Orpik, rebound season from Holtby, and more Ovi and Backstrom, this is a good team with pretty good depth. I’m really excited for this, last season didn’t show we aren’t a playoff calibre team, it showed that we often didn’t play like one as didn’t play as a team–that is what Trotz will change, that is what our problem has always been, and that is what has me so hopeful and excited for this season.

  2. hockey412 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    I think a lot depends on how they buy in to Trotz – and what Trotz tries to do with them. We saw it when Torts went to Vancouver and AV went to NYR – even NYR had a tough time adjusting, and VAN never did…the Caps have had how many coaches now in such a short time. It’s really not easy to learn a new system and make it your first ‘instinct’ at game speed, especially when everyone has the past 3 systems still burned into their heads.

  3. patthehockeyfan - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Tough call. New coach. New players.

    Hope springs eternal. Go, Caps!

  4. timmons94 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    Will ravanator ever get a life ?? The answer is no and no to the caps in playoffs
    #caps0pens3
    #ovi<Sid

    Ovi how negative can u go

    • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:29 PM

      Ravanator is a troll and not a real Caps fan, just as much a troll as milkmemalkin or blomfeld or any others. If you believe him or think he’s a genuine Caps fan you’re not much smarter than him.

      • bethgoesglobal - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:28 PM

        Hey, maybe ravanator’s just a positive thinker and is willing them to win :)

        Or he could just be a troll.

    • blomfeldsux - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      Will you ever grow up? No and no to the pens not whining and diving.

    • bethgoesglobal - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      Considering the Pen’s playoff disappointments of the last few years I would think they, as much as any Caps fan, can understand that merely making the playoffs is not enough. (and yes I realize the Pens made it to the “dance” while the Caps did not- and yes the Pens did improve slightly from their ’12 and ’13 meltdowns).

      Yes, I think the Caps will make the playoffs this season. For the majority of the past 20-25 years the Caps have been a fairly regular playoff team, but has only had ONE chance to win it all in the finals.

      50% of the NHL teams make the playoffs every year. I’m 35 and have been a heartbroken fan for 25 years and counting (because I’ll always be a Caps fan).
      For Caps fans merely getting into the playoffs itself is no cause for celebration. I want to see them make the EC finals, play for the Cup, and be the “Last Men Standing”, per say.

      That is the goal. Period.
      – but until that day I will continue to be yet another heartbroken Caps fan, because I’ll always love the Caps. Period.

  5. bsaures - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    The team is somewhere in the 5-12 range. Teams like bos, pit, mon, tb, nyr are def ahead but teams like tor, fla, buff, and Car are def worse. It wouldnt surprise me if the made the playoffs or if the just missed out

    • jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      they’re in the metro where pitt and nyr will probably be locks…we’ll see what columbus does but i think caps will be duking it out with them and philly for 3rd spot in the metro.

      • bsaures - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        Which puts them in the 5-12 range. The team still has some major holes and question marks. The teams I listed above are far more complete especially in net where holtby is still a massive variable

      • jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        i totally agree. i dont think they get in personally, i think philly is ready to bounce back and columbus is just getting better. maybe the 8th wildcard spot but thats assuming detroit doesnt pull a detroit and make it in somehow.

      • jdlinder11 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        I would personally put CBJ ahead of the caps, mostly because it will be hard for them to adjust to a totally new system in just one offseason.

  6. ravanator - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    The title of this story is laughable. Everyone knows the Caps will make the playoffs as number one in the east. They will destroy whoever wins the weak west, and Ovi will be MVP. I have spoken. Cheers!

    #jealousofwhatwearebuilding
    #capswinthecup
    #ovi>gretzky

    • govtminion - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      #layoffthedrugs
      #heymanwhoisyourdealeranyway?

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:25 PM

      Not hardly. Caps would not make it to the playoffs in they had to compete in the WC. They may make it as a 4th place team in a weak EC.

      Stars will likely finish 4th in the central, would likely be 2nd in the metro.

  7. jpelle82 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    they better with 28 million tied up in 7 defensemen. i just wonder what they’re gonna do next year when a bunch of cheap forwards either need signed or replaced and there’s no money to do it. green’s 6 million comes off in 2015 but they will have to turn that into contracts for kuznetsov and a goalie (if holtby stays he will need a raise). fehr, beagle, ward and mojo are key role players and they will have contracts due and will either need replaced or resigned. new gm has his hands full, winning makes his job easier though

    • Dave Stevenson - Aug 23, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      Mike Green and Joel Ward will both be free agents after this season, that’s how. Factor in the assumed rise in cap room and they’ll definitely have money to spend.

  8. stepanup - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    Probably the 8 seed with a 40-32-10 record.

    More importantly, IS NHL15 GOING TO HAVE EASHL ON NEXT GEN!?

  9. govtminion - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Honestly? It’s close either way.

    The Caps are one of the teams that are most difficult to read this season going in, second to Vancouver in that regard, because of the number of changes. Will it mesh and they get off to a good start? Will it crash and burn and require salvage as they go? It’s really hard to gauge a team like this- sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I think Trotz can make it all work.

    …And that said, it’s not that I’m looking at the Caps and saying ‘they suck’, I’m looking around at the rest of the East. There’s six teams I’d say are just not going to give way to the Caps in the standings (BOS, PHI, NYR, PIT, TAM, MTL, not necessarily in that order). That leaves two playoff spots remaining for several teams to fight over- call it the Capitals, Leafs, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Islanders, all fighting for that last two spots. Are the retooled Capitals better than at least three of the others, enough to get an eighth seed? My gut says no- the Islanders and Blue Jackets right now would be my picks to get those spots if I had to guess.

    I DO think this team gets back in next season, and who knows- a lot can happen before April, including the trade deadline. But for now, I’m going to say the Caps do exactly what they did last season- fight all the way to the very end, and come up a couple of heartbreaking points short in the last couple of days of the season.

    • bethgoesglobal - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      You DO think they will get in, but for now you think they will have a repeat of last season. Huh??? Well I suppose right now I’d have to agree with you 100%. They either WILL or WILL NOT make the playoffs this season. They DO have 50/50 chance after all.

      (sorry, I just had to be the smart-ass there for minute)

      ANYWAY, I’d have to say that beyond PIT, BOS, and maybe NYR the rest of the EC slots are up for grabs. Who knows who will show up in Philly? Who’s going to score goals for the Habs? Will a healthy season for Stamkos be enough for Tampa? Will another year in AV’s system see the Ranger’s continue to improve despite their losses this summer? Are the Jackets going to keep all NHL fans smiling? Will Detroit get back to form?

      And of course, What WILL the Caps look like this year???? The list goes on and on.

      I can’t wait!

      • govtminion - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        Well, my point on the Caps is that I do think it’s a repeat of last season- they’ll get very close either way, either making it barely or missing it barely. A couple of weird bounces either way and they could have just easily been the 8th seed last year (and after last time, this B’s fan would NOT have been happy about that!). That’s the trouble with predicting those low-end playoff spots before the season even starts- who knows what we’ll get? As you noted, take Philly. If you’d told me at Christmas that Philly would make the playoffs at all- let alone be the league’s hottest team after New Years- I’d have laughed my ass off.

        …hell, somewhere on this site, I probably did just that.

        But, that’s what happened. Same with the Rangers- a rough month or two for the season’s opening, I thought they were sunk. And they were, if being the Eastern champ and coming up just short of a Cup championship counts. By the same measure, I thought Vancouver would be a powerhouse in the West, up there with Anaheim and Los Angeles. I know I’m not alone in that thinking at this time a year ago.

        So, tough to say. But my gut is that the Caps will repeat last year, come up a few points shy, but not enough to call it a dismal failure of a year or anything- and who knows, maybe they’ll surprise us all and get into the playoffs as this year’s big Colorado-style surprise team. (Where they’ll invariably face the Rangers, because they ALWAYS get the Rangers.)

  10. bullwinkle88 - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    I think they make it. Niskanen and Trots will make the difference.

  11. gunwin77 - Aug 18, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    I think Pittsburg, Boston, TB, and NYR are locks in the East; Philly, Columbus, Montreal, Toronto, Washington, and Detroit will be in a dog fight for the other 4 spots. I don’t think Carolina, New Jersey, NYI, Buffalo, Ottawa, or Florida are quite there yet.

  12. vbcaps - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    They better. No one left to blame if they don’t

    • bethgoesglobal - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:01 AM

      There’s always Leonsis for hiring GMGM’s second-hand. GMBM. I don’t know about that decision???

  13. Skillet - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    Caps are going to surprise a lot of people this yr. I see them improved at every level. Put this better defense in front of Braden and that should be a huge plus, they will certainly have no trouble scoring goals. Beware, I see an awesome team in the make and when it all comes together (no later then next yr.) these guys hoisting the Cup for the 1st time in Washington.

    • bsaures - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      You need to stop hanging out with ryan malone

      • bethgoesglobal - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:05 AM

        Hehehe. I always feel bad when I enjoy seeing someone’s demise. What can I say- the guy’s a prick.

  14. blomfeld - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    NO, THEY WON’T DO THAT !

    look for these fools to finish 10th at ‘best’ in the EC this year … and even that may be a bit of a stretch ?

    • capsnbohs23 - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      Elvis is dead, time to move on

    • blomfeldsux - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Anal King.

  15. capsrockva - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    I think they will make the playoffs as we addressed our key needs. Bringing in Trotz, and while I disagreed w/ bringing in Orpik for several reasons I think that will help.

  16. ronniethec - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    I think 7 of the 8 teams that made it last year make it again. The caps will replace Philly as the 8th team.

  17. washcraps - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    IMO:

    – WSH > NYR, PHI, CBJ, NYI
    – PIT regressed a bit
    – WSH will be 1-4 in the East, 1-2 in the Metro.

    I think NYR has better goaltending and slightly better defence, however, their forward depth doesn’t scare me one bit, especially after losing Richards. I really believe the Capitals are definitely a more dynamic team than the Rags.

  18. Dave Stevenson - Aug 23, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    I think they will make the playoffs. Definitely improved their blue-line, and they’ve stopped doing everything they can to screw up Holtby. Their forward play should improve solely based on the premise that they now have a head coach who (hopefully) won’t think that letting Jay Beagle be a first line center is an acceptable idea. Despite their lack of forwards in Nashville, the Predators under Trotz outperformed the Capitals under Oates at even strength. If Trotz can fix that, the Capitals will definitely be a playoff team.

    Their power play will be good enough, but I admit it probably will suffer a little bit without Oates. Hopefully Trotz will implement a power play offense that doesn’t revolve solely around getting the puck to Ovechkin.

    I’m extremely curious to see how Trotz sets up the forward lines. Who centers the Chimera-Ward wing pairing? Who’s the other first line wing? Who gets second line center duties, Johansson or Kuznetsov? Where does Laich play? How is Trotz going to make Wilson a top nine forward (like he said in that NHL.com article a while back)? Where does Fehr play? Looking forward to finding out!

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