Washington Capitals 2011 Offseason: 5 Reasons It's Been an A+ Summer
When the Capitals found themselves on the losing end of a devastating four game sweep by the Tampa Bay Lightning in May, it was obvious changes were coming. A Cup-caliber team has crashed out early again, and it was ultimately another disappointing season.
Nobody could have guessed we would have seen this many changes. The team has been remodeled. Whether it is for better or worse, we cannot tell yet, but it is certainly a new look.
That said, it has been an immensely successful offseason for the Caps. Here are five reasons why.
5. Impressive Late-Round Draft Haul
The Capitals sacrificed their early picks in the 2011 draft to get immediate help. Their second rounder went to Carolina to get Joe Corvo at the 2010 deadline, the third rounder brought in Dennis Wideman at the 2011 deadline, and the first rounder was shipped to Chicago for forward Troy Brouwer at the draft.
The Capitals were not impressed with the quality of the draft eligible players, and so they decided to take a pass for this year.
That said, the Capitals were strong in the later rounds. In the fourth they picked up goalie Steffen Soberg, who, while raw, is extremely talented, and if he is nurtured correctly could turn into being an elite backup at the NHL level.
The fifth saw the team grab defenseman Patrick Koudys, who could easily have gone a lot higher. He adds good size (6'4") to a prospect corps low on it.
In the sixth, they grabbed Travis Boyd, an energetic center from the USNTDP. He was impressive in development camp, and projects as a good fourth liner down the road.
Finally, they picked up defenseman Garrett Haar, arguably the most impressive player at the development camp.
The bottom line is, all four of these players could realistically see time with the Capitals organization somewhere down the road.
4. Mattias Sjögren
When they picked up Mattias Sjögren, the Capitals got a sought after bottom liner who can play all situations. He was easily among the top grinders outside the NHL last season.
Sjögren will come in to training camp fighting for a spot on the roster with a few other youngsters. That is a battle he will likely come out on top in.
The 23-year-old is more experienced and more physically mature than the other rookies he'll be competing with, and the Capitals have made an obvious effort to get bigger and stronger this offseason. Sjögren could win a spot as the team's third line center come opening night.
3. Tomas Vokoun...
The deal that brought in Tomas Vokoun was arguably the best move General Manager George McPhee has done in his entire managing career. He got one of the league's top goalies for a bargain $1.5 million, and picked up the best possible mentor for youngster Michal Neuvirth.
This season, the Capitals have Stanley Cup aspirations. There cannot be anyone just along for the ride; everyone has to contribute as much as the next guy. That is the only way to go.
Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are great young goalies by all accounts, but they were unexperienced and not necessarily ready to be thrust in. Vokoun has that experience, and he is desperate for one last shot at the Stanley Cup.
He is likely to get that shot with the Caps.
2. ...And the Other Free Agents
Tomas Vokoun wasn't the only big player to come in, however. McPhee made a big splash in free agency, making the mentioned effort to get tougher.
Roman Hamrlik, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern and Sjögren come in along with the traded for Troy Brouwer. The Capitals look a lot more threatening in the physical game this year.
The players McPhee was able to bring in will improve this team. The reason for their postseason failures has been the lack of solid contemplating players to go along with the superstars. Now the team has those players. The final piece of the puzzle is in place. Now it is time for a long, successful playoff run.
1. A Hybrid New Style
Training Camp has yet to open, so it is difficult to predict what style the Caps will go with. That said, signs are pointing towards there being a new one.
The past two playoffs have seen the Caps operate in two different styles. One a run-and-gun, all offense style, the other a conservative, defense first style. Evidently, neither has worked.
Reports have the Caps trying out a third, more hybrid style, designed by Mr. Boudreau himself. This one would be primarily defensive, but not only. It would allow the Caps' superstars to play their game, with players covering. It is a style built on teamwork and chemistry. It is the perfect style for the Capitals.
It could be what brings them the hallowed Stanley Cup.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95