After a January 9th win over the Colorado Avalanche, the Washington Capitals are sitting at 18-20-5.
Their 41 points leave them tied for third in their division and 12th in the Eastern Conference.
On Thanksgiving, Caps fans woke up and found their team dead last in the NHL at 6-14-1...and begging for a change.
That change's name was Bruce Boudreau, and what a change the new coach has been.
Since the switch behind the bench, the Caps are 12-6-4, an incredible record. The old-school coach is firing up his players with a new offensive scheme, and it's taking the NHL by storm.
But as the cliché goes, a team is never standing still, and can only be going up or down. So, how do the Caps make sure to keep going up instead of down?
The key at this point is realizing that nothing is out of the realm of possibility for the Caps this year. They could go on a tear and finish third in the Eastern Conference, as division winners, and it wouldn't surprise anyone given the current state of the Southeast.
As it stands, the Caps are seven points out of that spot.
How do they get there?
Well, more of the same, really.
The Caps are soon going to be faced with some very difficult choices, as the team will be getting three very talented players off of IR in Chris Clark, Tom Poti, and Brian Pothier. These three routinely lead the team in quality minutes at even strength, on the power play, and, with the exception of Pothier, on the penalty kill.
The problem is that the recent play of Quentin Laing shows he deserves to be in Washington—not riding a bus around the AHL. The Capitals will be unable to sneak anyone back to Hershey without putting him on waivers, and so their options become cut or trade.
How does GM George McPhee address this situation?
He evaluates his assets, and he moves something. A trade could behoove the Capitals greatly, depending on its scope.
The top four lines are set; the only possible change would be highly-touted but injury-stung Eric Fehr cracking the top club. Fehr's debut last night in Hershey saw him notch an assist, which is great news for anyone who has seen him play.
All told, the system of two scoring lines, one energy line, and one grind line seem to be working in DC. The Caps' problems stem from poor play in their own end, and a top defender could change that.
Depending on who's selling come the deadline, the Capitals could easily package Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Matt Pettinger, or Matt Bradley with some draft picks for a player like Adam Foote, maybe in a two-for-one swap.
The need for a veteran stay-at-home defenseman has been glaring. It's the only hole the Caps need to fill, and it's the only thing keeping them from contender status.
Hopefully McPhee realizes this, and makes a move to bring in a player instead of draft picks, as is his custom.
With all of the free agents the Caps need to sign in the coming offseason (a young Russian scorer named Alex Ovechkin and a great young defenseman named Mike Green come to mind), a playoff run could go a long way towards solidifying the roster.
And with Bruce Boudreau's current 105-point pace over a full season, who knows what next year could bring.