What now for the oft-favored Caps?
Regardless of how the San Jose Sharks finish this postseason, they are no longer the poster boys for underachievement.
After being swept out of the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning it's fair to say that this has become the status quo—albeit an unacceptable one—for these Capitals. They've been at the top of the Eastern Conference for the last few years, winning plenty of hardware during the regular season with nothing to show for it in the postseason.
Not even making the Cup Finals yet again won't sit well in the belly of a fanbase with reasonably high expectations and an ownership team that has been spending towards the cap to compete with the best teams in the league.
Needless to say this summer will probably be a season of change in the nation's capital. Here are the five immediate names that come to mind as far as heads that may be on the block.
In no particular order...
A Coaching change is almost a given at this point.
Bruce Boudreau is a good hockey coach—no one doubts that. Washington has been lucky to have him.
But I think it is pretty clear now that he isn't the guy for this team anymore. He helped turn the Caps into the regular-season behemoth that regularly challenges for the top spot in the NHL. He just can't seem to get them over the playoff hump. They have done nothing but disappoint, let's be honest.
At what point do the postseason O-fers stack up beyond the point of forgiveness? At what point does Bruce lose the keys to this castle? The leash to the golden goose?
Use whatever analogy you'd like. The facts are simple. This guy has had control of one of the youngest, most outstandingly talented teams to come along arguably ever, and hasn't been able to get them to the Cup Finals.
That "ain't gonna" cut it. Not anymore.
There are several teams looking to land new coaches this offseason. Expect the Caps to be the best option among them. Perhaps this will be a turning point for this underachieving squad. Remember the effect that the same move had on an equally young and talented Penguins team?
They have rings now, for those of you who forgot.
Holtby proved that he could be an NHL level goaltender, and is third on the depth chart for the Caps.
The Capitals are in a position of envy amongst NHL teams: three professional-level, kick-butt goaltenders. All under contract.
Michal Neuvirth may be on thin ice after flopping out of the second round against the Lightning. He went 27-12 during the regular season however, and is a bit young to give up on. (Carey Price, anyone?) It's always tough to part with a young goaltender. I suppose it's always tough to part with a young anything, but I digress.
The math here is simple. The Capitals need two goaltenders on the pro level, and they have three that can flat-out play—at least in the regular season. Do they deal one of them in the offseason? Wait to see who battles for a spot in training camp?
Regardless of what route the team takes I think it would be wise to consider dealing from a position where they have good depth, and perhaps prior to training camp while all three 'tenders are healthy and at good value. Two of these guys have had shots in the postseason, and two haven't fared well. There are plenty of netminders who share the same story, but not many could garner what these guys could coming off the trading block.
Nick may find himself the odd man out if one helluva deal comes the way of the Caps.
Nick Backstrom is an outstanding playmaking center. He's uber-talented and has vision like your above-average study hall teacher. Read: He sees everything. But he is missing in the sand paper department. Is this the kind of guy you can carry on your deeper lines and win a championship?
One may point to the Euro twins in Detroit or Malkin in Pittsburgh as evidence against that need, but the fact is those guys have been able to carry teams deep into the playoffs. Backstrom seems to turn ghost-like come crunch time.
The asking price would be astounding, I am sure. But, if at the draft, a center-starved team like (insert team that missed the playoffs here) steps up with a big package, bet on the deal going through.
He is coming off a bit of an off year, but there is no reason to believe he won't bounce back to his 85- or 90-point self. There is also no reason to believe that his place is safe in Washington. After another failure, no one is safe.
That being said, he is probably just too damn good with AO to consider trading. There are two other players in the capital that I think are much more likely to be dealt...
Mike Green is another talented player that has nothing to show for his stay in Washington.
This seems to be the story with most of Washington's top young players. Over-the-top skills, great hands and presence in the offensive zone while coming up short in the neutral and defensive zones. Ovie is out there throwing the big hits for the squad while creating as much offense as possible.
But how much would this team thrive with a workhouse like Pronger or Chara?
These kinds of blueliners come with a high asking price, but so do puck-moving rear guards like Green. He plays like a forward, puts up points like a forward and is slowly becoming better in his own end. He is strong on the power play, and has a great shot.
If Tomas Kaberle could fetch as much as he did towards the deadline, what could Green bring in?
At the right price—say, a strong power forward or a rock-solid guy on the back end—I think that Green could be had. The formula in Washington just isn't working. The collection of several young, outstanding offensive players isn't getting the job done for this team. Come next season, the fauxhawk could be no more for the Caps.
Semin finally showed up in the playoffs. Will his teams short comings cost him his job in Washington?
This is a dollars and sense trade.
The question is pretty simple. What else could the Caps be getting for this kind of money?
No one questions Semin's talent. Just like no one questions the talent of Backstrom, Green, etc. What are under the microscope now are the results. Something has to change for the Caps.
The coaching change seems imminent. As far as personnel changes I think Semin is the most likely guy to find himself heading elsewhere next season. He's another player that plays on the perimeter that just won't equal a Cup.
Trading for Arnott at the deadline was a great move, and the guy brought just as many points to the board as Semin did during the Caps' recently ended run. That should tell you all you need to know about "Other Alex." He's good, but there has got to be someone else out there who fills the roll better than Semin.
Perhaps let him walk and take a run at Richards? One way or the other, $6 million or so is a lot of green.
Some of these things may happen, or half of them (2.5?) may happen. One thing is for certain: The winds of change are blowing for the Washington Capitals.