5 Burning Questions for Washington Capitals' 2013-14 Season
As has been the case for the past six seasons, the Washington Capitals will enter the 2013-14 campaign with lofty expectations sitting ahead of them.
And while there are many teams across the league that would be envious of the Caps' ability to earn favorable postseason spots on an annual basis, the franchise's three playoff series wins over that span are undoubtedly the elephant in the room.
That being said, this is a hockey team that has an undeniable amount of talent, firepower and experience, and as such, there's reason to believe that Adam Oates could take D.C. to the next level in 2014.
With that in mind, here's a look at the five biggest burning questions facing the Washington Capitals in 2013-14.
Will Ovechkin Be as Good as He Was in 2013?
After a pair of disappointing seasons from an individual standpoint, Alex Ovechkin rebounded in a big way in 2013, which was a relief for Capitals fans.
With a league-high 32 goals and the third Hart Trophy of his decorated career, the Russian superstar reminded the rest of the hockey world that he's still among the game's most dangerous scorers. And when he's on, there's no one better at lighting the lamp than Ovechkin.
Perhaps more importantly, Ovechkin finally managed (with help from Adam Oates) to diversify his game and find new ways to create scoring opportunities, especially after his move to the right wing.
He's got all the tools to dominate this league like he did during the lockout-shortened 48-game season, but for Ovechkin, the question has never been whether he's got the talent, power or skill required to score.
Which Mike Green Will We See?
For the past three seasons, Capitals fans haven't had the pleasure of consistently seeing Mike Green on the ice, as the two-time First Team All-Star has dealt with a long series of injuries that have kept him on the shelf for prolonged periods of time.
When healthy, Green's among the game's best at generating offense from the back end, but his free-wheeling style often leaves him vulnerable to injuries, so that will always be a worry in D.C.
Last season, Green bounced back in a big way by leading all NHL rearguards with 12 goals despite missing nearly a third of Washington's games, and with a berth on the Canadian Olympic squad hanging in the balance, one has to think he'll be motivated to be even better in 2013-14.
Is the Power Play as Good as We Think It Is?
One of the big reasons why Adam Oates was able to right the ship in Washington last season was his ability to redesign the Capitals power play, which ultimately became the league's best by season's end.
But with Mike Ribeiro gone, the Capitals will need to replace his shifty playmaking abilities on the half-boards, and though Mikhail Grabovski is an interesting option there, it remains to be seen whether he'll be as good at keeping everyone as involved as Ribeiro was.
If this power play unit can produce at a similar clip it was firing on in 2013, this is a playoff team. If not, all bets are off.
Can Brooks Laich Stay Healthy
After missing virtually all of last season due to injury, assistant captain and two-way forward Brooks Laich went down with an injury on the first day of training camp, per The Washington Post.
And though he's since returned to the lineup, Laich's health is a big question mark for the Capitals, because without him in the mix, this team is simply not nearly as good as it is when he's on the ice.
He's one of the team's unquestioned emotional leaders, and he does all the little things well for the Capitals. Not to mention, he's got 25-goal, 55-point potential, so Washington needs Laich to stay healthy this season.
Can Mikhail Grabovski Replace Mike Ribeiro
After Mike Ribeiro left via free agency for Phoenix, the Capitals were left with a big void to fill down the middle, as the former All-Star was arguably the team's most consistent playmaker in 2013.
Luckily, former Toronto Maple Leaf Mikhail Grabovski fell into the team's lap late in the summer, and though he had a dreadful 2013 season, the skilled yet defensively responsible pivot appears to have the ability to fill Ribeiro's role on the second line.
But whether he'll be as capable offensively remains to be seen, especially after a down season. However, it should be noted that the 29-year-old is just two seasons removed from a stellar 29-goal, 58-point campaign.
Grabovski will be playing for his next contract in 2013-14, so he'll have all the motivation in the world to meet expectations.