The Washington Capitals have made several changes to a team that suffered a heart-wrenching playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. The team looks different, new. Six or seven new NHL-quality players have come, and they will be all be fighting for limited roster spots. This below seems to be the general consensus among Caps fans as to what the opening night roster will look like:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Bäckström - Mike Knuble
Troy Brouwer - Marcus Johansson - Alexander Semin
Joel Ward - Brooks Laich - Mattias Sjögren
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Jason Chimera
(Jay Beagle - DJ King)
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Mike Green - Roman Hamrlik
Dennis Wideman - Jeff Schultz
With those lines in mind, here are a few predictions as to what each individual Washington Capitals player might be able to accomplish points wise this season. For the sake of the article, each prediction is made with the assumption that that particular player will play all 82 games, unless otherwise noted.
5 G - 15 A - 20 P
2010-11: 82 Gm - 2 G - 10 A - 12 P
While Alzner's primary job as John Carlson's partner is to be a good shut-down defender and the defense-first half of the pairing, he has shown in the past that he can put up points and be at least somewhat offensively able. Last season, he put up two goals and 12 points. This season, look for him to build on that.
30 G - 65 A - 95 P
2010-11: 77 Gm - 18 G - 47 A - 65 P
Expect a big bounce-back season from the former 100 point Swede. You know you're good when a bad season sees you put up 65 points. He played much of last season injured, and the signing of Jeff Halpern means he'll see more offensive starts. If the power play clicks again, the Super Swede will be back.
2 G - 3 A - 5 P (40 Games)
2010-11: 31 Gm - 2 G - 1 A - 4 P
Unless he comes in with a really strong training camp, Jay Beagle will not be in the starting line-up on opening night. He will, however, be the first injury replacement whenever a player on the bottom two lines goes down with injury, so he can expect to play about 40 to 50 games, and, mathematically, if he improves a little from last season, he should see about five points.
20 G - 25 A - 45 P
2010-11: 79 Gm - 17 G - 19 A - 36 P
Troy Brouwer comes into the new season with a lot of possibilities as to what his role may be. Realistically, he could fit into all three of the top lines. He could be the physical force on the first line, a complement to Alex Semin on the second or a grinder on the third. His versatility on both wings makes him extremely valuable. In a full season, he is likely to improve on last year's third line totals, especially given the chance to play with the likes of Semin, Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich.
10 G - 40 A - 50 P
2010-11: 82 Gm - 7 G - 30 A - 37 P
John Carlson may have been half of Washington's elite shutdown force last season, but it is important to remember that he is, after all, an offensive defenseman. Many seem to forget that he put up 37 points as a rookie last season. Caps star Mike Green made a jump of 44 points from his rookie season to sophomore season. If Carlson can improve anywhere near as much, he will likely put up points looking like the ones above.
8 G - 12 A - 20 P
2010-11: 81 Gm - 10 G - 16 A - 26 P
First and foremost, Jason Chimera could well be on the trade block. The emergence of Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle, as well as the signings of Mattias Sjögren and Jeff Halpern, might mean he has no place. If he stays, however, he will likely play primarily in a fourth line role, competing for team with the players mentioned above. Last season, he put up 26 points spending time on all four lines. If he stays on the fourth, his numbers will take a hit.
3 G - 8 A - 11 P (60 Games)
2010-11: 73 Gm - 4 G - 7 A - 11 P
John Erskine had a significant breakthrough season last year, but as much as Caps fans want him to play, he's likely to be primarily an injury replacement. He's valuable because he can come in as a seventh defenseman and be effective. Points wise, it's unlikely we see too much deviation from the totals he put up last season.
20 G - 35 A - 55 P
2010-11: 49 Gm - 8 G - 16 A - 24 P
Mike Green had a tough season, like all the Caps big guns, but you have to remember that he is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. This season, he should finally have an effective partner in Roman Hamrlik, and his points totals should see an increase because of that. In a full, bounce-back season, it wouldn't at all be surprising to see Green put up 20 goals again.
10 G - 12 A - 22 P
2010-11: 72 Gm - 11 G - 15 A - 26 P
Jeff Halpern was brought in to fill the same role as the departing Boyd Gordon, but to bring more offense. He's a great penalty killer and he's strong in the dot, but Halpern can score some goals, and that will be very welcome on the Caps new-look fourth line. Ten goals would be a greatly appreciated contribution of the fourth line for Halpern.
5 G - 30 A - 35 P
2010-11: 79 Gm - 5 G - 29 A - 34 P
While Hamrlik is getting older, it wouldn't be surprising to see his numbers go up just a little. He is, after all, playing with Green. Last year, Hamrlik played mostly with defensive defenseman in Montreal, but the former first overall pick comes to be a better offensive team this year. He can expect to see some power play time, which will help his numbers.
10 G - 15 A - 25 P
2010-11: 77 Gm - 9 G - 16 A - 25 P
People don't appreciate what a breakout year last season was for Matt Hendricks. The former college fourth-round pick had spent a career toiling in the minors, and the season before was the first chance he was given a chance with Colorado. He became an extremely valuable player in Washington, as he displayed a willingness to drop the gloves while adding more offense than most fourth-liners in the league. He will continue to be a key player for the Caps in 2011-2012.
20 G - 30 A - 50 P
2010-11: 69 Gm - 13 G - 14 A - 27 A
If you think a jump of 23 points is a lot for Johansson, consider this.
1. He'll likely be playing with one of the best wingers in the league in Alex Semin. It won't matter who's playing the left wing, whether it be Troy Brouwer or Brooks Laich.
2. He's a year better, faster, stronger. He'll be more physically able to match up against defenders.
3. With Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon out, he'll see more shorthanded ice time, and he's shown an ability to be offensive on the penalty kill before.
4. If he played like he did at the end of last season all year, he would have put up 35 to 40 points anyway.
1 G - 1 A - 2 P (15 Games)
2010-11: 16 Gm - 0 G - 2 A - 2 P
Provided DJ King makes the roster, he'll probably have a similar role as last season. He'll be the team's fourteenth forward, playing against tougher teams and standing up for his teams. He won't play too much, and his stats won't be too impressive.
20 G - 18 A - 38 P
2010-11: 79 Gm - 24 G - 16 A - 40 P
Knuble has aged like fine wine. He will continue to do so. He will likely start the season on the first line as the drive-to-the-net component that Bruce Boudreau has fallen in love with. If he can stay on there, he'll reap the rewards of the two superstars. Odds are, he won't be on there all season. With a little time on the second and third lines, Knuble should be able to put up around 20 goals.
20 G - 30 A - 50 P
2010-11: 82 Gm - 16 G - 32 A - 48 P
Brooks Laich needs to rise to the occasion to make the six million the Caps are paying him next season worth it. Players like that do. On my line-up, Laich comes in as the third-line center. If he plays there, he needs to make that third-line the best third-line in the league. If he plays as the second line winger, he needs to be that Knuble-esque force with Johansson and Semin. With increased penalty kill and power play time, his numbers will go up.
18 W - .915 SV% - 2.45 GAA (31 Games)
2010-11: 48 Gm - 27 W - .915 SV% - 2.25 GAA
Michal Neuvirth enters the season as the back-up. He needs to understand that. He's likely to play about 25 to 30 games as Tomas Vokoun handles the majority of the workload, but those games will be against weaker opposition. His goals against average should see an increase because of that.
"Neuvy" needs to see this as a good thing. He gets mentored by arguably the best Czech goalie ever to play the game. He needs to make the most of it.
50 G - 50 A - 100 P
2010-11: 79 Gm - 32 G - 53 A - 85 P
Expect a big bounce-back season from the Great 8. He's taking his offseason training a lot more seriously, and he is set to come into the new season in great shape. With the exception of the 2008-09 season, Ovechkin's career point totals have been up and down year-by-year. This is an up year. If Bäckström and the power play perform, Ovechkin will top the 100 point plateau for a milestone fifth time.
1 G - 5 A - 6 P (20 Games)
2010-11: 21 Gm - 2 G - 5 A - 7 A
While Poti isn't on my opening night roster, you have to count him in. When healthy, he is a key defenseman for the Capitals. If he gets healthy at some point this season, expect him to play and not be a healthy scratch. This is assuming he does get healthy toward the end of the season.
2 G - 10 A - 12 P
2010-11: 72 Gm - 1 G - 9 A - 10 P
After a breakout season in 2009/10, Schultz had a really tough year last season. If he can bounce back and get anywhere near where he was that plus-50 season, he'll be an important player for the Caps this year. Unless he gets beaten out by John Erskine or Tom Poti, Schultz enters the new season as Dennis Wideman's partner.
30 G - 30 A - 60 P
2010-11: 65 Gm - 28 G - 26 A - 54 P
Caps fans have been calling out for Alex Semin to be traded, but the truth is that 30 goal scorers don't grow on trees. Alex Semin cannot be traded. If Semin is allowed to stay on a line and develop chemistry with his line-mates, he has shown that he can produce. Johansson is an uber-talented playmaker that can pass the puck to Sasha as well as be solid defensively, and Brouwer can drive the net on that line. I can see Semin putting up great numbers again.
10 G - 20 A - 30 P
2010-11: 51 Gm - 7 G - 17 A - 24 P (Färjestad - SEL)
As far as what to expect from Mattias Sjögren, it is difficult to predict. I will say this. His last season in the Swedish Elite League saw him put up more points than Marcus Johansson did, on the same team. While you can't compare the two, Sjögren does have more offensive ability than people give him credit for. He is the best grinder outside of the NHL, and the Caps are lucky to have him. He'll likely play on the third or fourth line, and with the increased offense from those lines, look for him to put up very respectable numbers.
32 W - .925 SV% - 2.50 GAA (51 Games)
2010-11: 57 Gm - 22 W - .922 SV% - 2.55 GAA
Tomas Vokoun comes to a winning team for the first time. His numbers will improve. His primary role as the Caps new goalie is to be a workload carrying mentor to Michal Neuvirth this season. He will play the majority of the games, and if he can bring home a Stanley Cup while he's at it, that would be much appreciated.
15 G - 20 A - 35 P
2010-11: 80 Gm - 10 G - 19 A - 29 P
Joel Ward comes into the new season with a pretty three million a year contract. I see him spending time on all four lines, but primarily seeing action on the third. He's a great grinder and a heart-and-soul guy who really turns it on in the playoffs. He will become an invaluable player for the Capitals this season.
15 G - 25 A - 40 P
2010-11: 65 Gm - 10 G - 30 A - 40 P
Dennis Wideman has never played a game together with both Mike Green and John Carlson. With all three of them in the line-up, the Caps defense will be really strong. Wideman is playing on a better team this year, and he showed an ability to log big minutes. He'll spend time on both the penalty kill and the power play. With upwards of 25 minutes a game, Wideman's numbers will look impressive.