With the NHL lockout over and the start of the shortened season just around the corner, it's time to actually start talking about action on the ice. The Washington Capitals' 2013 season brings several interesting storylines that should be watched over the course of the season.
Hockey has seen a resurgence in DC. Since 2007, fans have been excited about the Capitals as they have made the playoffs for five straight seasons. Washington is consistently one of the largest crowd-drawing teams in the entire league.
Much of the success can be attributed to a core group of players who all entered the league around the same time. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green have been mainstays who have helped bring a winning culture to the team.
This should be an interesting season in Washington. Former Capitals great Adam Oates is now the head coach. He is the third coach in the last two seasons. His commitment to put more of an emphasis on offense has the team primed to make a run in the playoffs.
Washington has been bounced from the first or second round of the playoffs in each of the last five seasons.
With a shortened season and no regular training camp, it's hard to predict what to expect from any team.
The following slides look at four things that Capitals fans will want to keep an eye on as the season begins.
Superstar Alex Ovechkin was used to being on the ice often for the Washington Capitals, and why wouldn't he? After all, he's one of the best players in the NHL. Since entering the league in 2005, Ovechkin never averaged under 21 minutes of ice time in a season.
Things changed last season when Washington decided to go to a more defensive approach and coach Dale Hunter began to limit the time his superstar was on the ice. Ovie finished the year with an ice time average of just 19:48, well below his career average.
His 65 points last season set a career low. That has to be a direct result of his reduced time on the ice.
During the playoffs in 2012, a time when a team's best player is needed the most, he saw just 19:51 a game. That included a miserable 13:36 of time in Game 2 against the Rangers.
Ovechkin's production has dropped over the last two seasons, scoring just 32 and 38 goals respectively. It's yet to be seen how this year will go, but if new head coach Adam Oates is smart, he will have number eight on the ice as much as possible.
Oates is expected to bring back the uptempo offense that Ovechkin flourishes in.
During the lockout, the left winger went back to his homeland and played for Dynamo Moscow of the KHL. In 31 games, he scored 40 points with 19 goals, proving that his skills have not gone anywhere.
Look for the "Great Eight" to have a monster year in 2013 as he tries to bring the Stanley Cup to our nation's capital.
Since the 2007-08 season, the Washington Capitals have lacked stability at the goalie position. Seven different players have all started in net over that time span. Obviously, the perfect fit has yet to be found.
Caps fans hope that trend is now over in 2013.
Braden Holtby's emergence during the 2012 playoffs was a pleasant surprise to the team. That performance should give him the opportunity to start and stay in goal for the Capitals moving forward. His 1.95 goals against average in the postseason proved that he doesn't shy away in big moments.
Holtby's backup, Michal Neuvirth, was thought to be the new starter. However, he has been inconsistent at times and dealt with some injuries. He does, however, have a great career record of 51-30-9.
Head coach Adam Oates heads into the 2013 season with the luxury of having two solid backstops to choose from. While Holtby will see most of the starts, Neuvirth will be a solid backup.
The tandem should be able to provide some sustained stability in goal, something that has been lacking in DC for some time.
The Washington Capitals would love to have the Mike Green that they had from 2008 to 2010. During that span, he scored 50 goals, had 99 assists and was a whopping plus-63.
He was considered one of the best defenseman in the NHL who was known more for his offensive skills. His skating ability and slap shot certainly made him a beast on the ice and a prized possession for the Capitals.
Unfortunately, that production did not last. Green was bit hard by the injury bug. Over the past two seasons, he has appeared in just 81 regular season games. That averages out to about half a season each year.
With head coach Adam Oates bringing back an offensive attitude to Washington, a healthy Green could be in line for a bounce-back season. He still has a wicked shot and does a great job of manning the point on the power play.
For the Caps to be successful in 2013, they will need all that Green can give them. Seeing which form actually shows up will bear watching this season.
The Capitals made two big acquisitions during the offseason that should help the team gain back some offensive success, something that lacked in 2012. Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski are both offensive weapons who have the skill to land on the top two lines.
Ribeiro is a playmaker who's best asset is his ability to pass the puck and set up his teammates. He is the true second-line center that the Caps have been looking for and will give the team an instant boost.
Over the past six seasons with the Dallas Stars, Ribeiro made 284 assists and also averaged 20 goals a season. Star winger Alex Ovechkin has to be excited knowing that Ribeiro loves to dish the puck.
Wojtek is with his fifth team since coming into the league in 2005 with the Colorado Avalanche. Though he has been passed around, don't let that fool you. He is a talented skater who has the potential to start on the Caps' first line this season.
Wolski, who has 95 goals in his career, had his best statistical year during the 2006-07 season with the Colorado Avalanche. He posted 22 goals and 28 assists.
Those are numbers that Washington would be more than happy with.