The Capitals will be eager to get the 2011-12 campaign underway following two straight seasons of early playoff exits. While the preseason does not bring games that count toward the standings, it does bring individual and team performances that can affect the shape of the roster throughout the season.
The preseason cannot be counted towards the relative success a team can expect, but you can look at individual performances to see how certain players may be entering a season and what they will eventually contribute to the team. Some of these players may be difference makers, even though they feature much less in preseason contests than marginal players do.
Let’s take a look at four players that look to make an improved contribution to the Washington Capitals this season.
The 27-year-old winger will look for another season of prosperity, perhaps eclipsing his career-high, 40-goal mark set in 2009-10.
However, the Caps will need more continuity out of Semin if they want to experience success in the playoffs.
Former teammate Matt Bradley sounded off to a sports talk radio show in Ottawa about a month ago regarding Semin’s contributions and general attitude—and he placed emphasis on what goes on during the playoffs.
If Semin is to prove Bradley wrong, he will need to back up a tremendous regular season with a strong playoff campaign. While his stats are on par from the regular season to the playoffs, the general feeling is that the Russian tends to disappear in big situations.
Semin will need to change that feeling for himself and for the success of the Capitals this season.
The versatile defenseman is coming off an injury-filled season that saw him compete in only 49 regular-season contests.
A season before that, Green was one of the most talked about players in the NHL, breaking a handful of offensive records and positioning himself as a finalist in the voting for the Norris Trophy.
Like Semin, Green will need to show he can rise to the occasion when the postseason arrives. He has shown he is one of the most dynamic d-men in the league, but he will also need to show that when it matters in order for the Caps to forge ahead in the playoffs.
Halpern returns to the District after journeying from coast to coast for five seasons.
The Potomac, MD native will most likely feature in a fourth-line center role, taking over where Dave Steckel and Boyd Gordon left off.
While someone in his role generally does not log a great deal of ice time, Halpern’s play will be vital to the Capitals. He will receive regular shifts and special teams play will boost the amount of playing time he sees.
Can Halpern’s leadership qualities be what it takes to get the Capitals to the next step?
One of the few Capitals that has shown he can get to the net and score goals where most are scored, the utility forward will slide into a slightly changed role in the new season.
With a new addition in Troy Brouwer, Laich’s offensive output should be a smaller factor. Also, Laich is depended upon on special teams and the penalty kill; that will not change this year and it may increase.
If Laich’s stats do go down, do not be disappointed. The forward has a chance to play a larger role with the Capitals in terms of defense and special teams and to contribute more to the overall success of the team.
While the core of the team is still in place for the Capitals, certain players will need to show they have what it takes to be on a winning hockey team not just in the regular season, but also in the playoffs.
The aforementioned players do not need to bring much to the preseason discussion because they already have their roles defined—and that is unlikely to change. However, they will need to prove they are worth the contract value and stock that the Capitals management has placed in them.