Washington Capitals' Biggest Underachievers So Far in 2013-14
With the 2013-14 campaign nearly at the quarter pole already, the Washington Capitals still haven't truly given us an accurate depiction of what kind of team they really are.
Sure, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson Mike Green and Marcus Johansson have generally looked like the the difference-makers that they're paid to be, and that's why Washington sits in a playoff spot through the team's first 19 games.
However, beyond them are a number of respected veterans who have not lived up to expectations, and until they do, the team will not fully meet its potential as a unit.
Though it's still pretty early in the season, here's a look at which members of the Capitals have underachieved thus far.
While Jason Chimera and Joel Ward have stepped up to provide the Caps with much-needed secondary scoring, Troy Brouwer, who was a key offensive threat last season, has struggled to generate quality scoring chances.
After posting 19 goals and 33 points in just 47 games during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, Brouwer's currently on pace for 25 points, which would be the lowest total since the 26 he netted as a rookie in 2007-08.
Yes, Brouwer's five goals through 19 games put him on pace to notch somewhere close to the 18 goals he racked up during his first season in Washington, but given the amount of time the former Stanley Cup champion sees on the power play, that number has to be viewed as the bare minimum for the 28-year-old winger.
More importantly, Brouwer has a grand total of one point at even strength, and that simply has to change going forward.
Since coming over from Nasvhille at the trade deadline last spring, longtime Predators standout Martin Erat hasn't quite found his groove in Washington.
So far, Erat has a meager one goal in a Capitals uniform, and that's unacceptable for a veteran winger with the amount of skill the Czech Olympian possesses.
Some of this isn't Erat's fault, as he spent much of the earlier part of the schedule on the Caps' fourth line, but after going scoreless during the first seven games of the season, the 32-year-old winger has improved, with six assists in his last 12 outings.
However, given Erat's $4.5 million cap hit, as well as the recent opportunities he's received to play alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom, Erat's production has to start picking up.
Capitals fans have undoubtedly been pleased to see assistant captain Brooks Laich back in the lineup on a regular basis after his injury-plagued year last season, but other than leadership, the 30-year-old hasn't provided the team with much else.
Despite receiving top-six minutes, Laich has just two goals and four points on the season, and given his price tag, those numbers aren't good enough.
In addition, Laich's faceoff percentage of .458 is his worst since 2009-10, as well as the second-lowest of his career, which is troubling given that he's generally considered one of Washington's most reliable men on draws.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Laich's performance has been his dreadful minus-10 rating, which is also the worst of his career to date.
Like Erat, Eric Fehr's lack of success this season has been in large part due to a lack of opportunity to prove himself, but regardless of the reasoning, the former 20-goal man has not lived up to expectations in the early going.
After surprising many by earning a regular lineup spot with the Caps last season, scoring 17 points in 41 games, Fehr was given a chance to solidify himself as Washington's third-line center out of training camp, but couldn't hold on to that spot.
Sure, Fehr's produced about as much offensively as he did last season, with six points in 14 games, but his defensive play has been far less impressive, as his minus-5 rating is third-worst on the team among forwards.
The former first-rounder will certainly get a chance to earn back his lineup spot at some point, but given the team's recent success, Fehr may be waiting for a while.