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Washington Capitals' 2010 Offseason Is the Most Important in Franchise History

Ryan DavenportContributor IJune 9, 2010

Still reeling from the mind-boggling Game Seven loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Washington Capitals have a long offseason ahead of them.

The most valuable thing the team and management can take from this season is this: The team's on-ice product is the most entertaining in the league, but changes need to be made if a championship parade is to take place in D.C.

The Caps offense is an absolute juggernaut, with four of the game's best offensive talents ready to strike at any time. However, what the playoffs showed is that offense is only part of the formula for winning postseason games.

The Canadiens simply played a smarter, defensive game that tired Washington out, and Montreal capitalized on their opportunities. While Washington probably still deserved to win the series, the fact that they allowed a 3-1 series lead slip away showed how fragile this team can be at times.

For this reason, the No. 1 priority is to bring in an experienced, tough defenseman—one who has been around, has seen the peaks and valleys of the playoffs, and can provide a calming presence during emotional times.

I thought Mike Knuble was a great addition last offseason because he has a Stanley Cup ring and has been a consistent force in the postseason for years. A player growing into that same mold is Brooks Laich—someone who will score goals by using sheer will to put the puck over the goal line and provides inspiration for his teammates.

The emotional and sometimes uneven play of stars Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, and Alexander Semin creates worry for Capitals fans, because essentially this season, if the Capitals didn't outscore the opposition, they wouldn't win.

The Capitals aren't blessed with superstar goaltending or an overly intimidating defense, but they have the gift of an offense that can score goals in bunches. Now they need to complement their sublimely talented forwards with a calming veteran presence to pick the team up during dire times.

In many ways, a player like Willie Mitchell would be a great fit for the Capitals. He blocks shots, has a long playoff résumé, and is used to being put in a leadership role (as he was with the Canucks).

Ideally, Anton Volchenkov would have been a great fit, but general manager George McPhee essentially put that notion to bed by saying the team would not be making an offer. Volchenkov would have been a nice addition because of his relationships with fellow Russian Olympians Ovechkin, Semin, and Semyon Varlamov, but he is probably out of the price range of the Capitals.

With the emergences of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, the Capitals need a veteran presence to help them mature and develop, though Carlson is on a steep learning curve.  

The calls for the likes of Green and Semin to be traded are premature. Recognize the talents that Washington has in these two and instead look at potential changes to the supporting cast. Tomas Fleischmann could be moved, as could Eric Fehr, but what's most important is to leave the core of this team together. If they can run over the competition in the regular season, that speaks to the success that the squad is capable of.  

The theme of this offseason should be to build around and complement the talented core, not tear it apart. With Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Green locked up for the long term, this team will compete for a while. Now it's time to make moves that ensure they contend come postseason time.  

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