As the big-ticket free agency signings on July 1st and 2nd came and went, the Washington Capitals stood pat (minus presumed minor league netminder Dany Sabourin), which comes as a surprise to many—seeing as the President's Trophy-winning Caps bowed out in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this Spring.
While pundits will say this is a mistake on General Manager George Mcphee's part, I think it is the smartest thing the management team could do for the organization.
This is a group of players that seem to live and die with their confidence. If this group of players essentially swept the floor with the rest of the league for 82 games in 2009-10, why break apart such a special team?
Those calling for the dismissal of coach Bruce Boudreau, enigmatic sniper Alexander Semin, and roaming defenseman Mike Green may not understand the dynamic of this group that makes them so unique.
This team plays for each other, starting at the core with Alexander Ovechkin. When Ovechkin is injured, suspended, or slumping, Semin plays like a man possessed, or Tomas Fleischmann turns into a world class offensive threat for a few games.
This team thrives due to the chemistry they have and upon the beautifully creative brand of hockey they play. Blowing up the carefully crafted collection of skilled and fleet-footed skaters they have would have been a mistake.
Many forget this team has been together for basically three seasons, and most of their high-end players are just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential as athletes.
Nicklas Backstrom, the slick Swedish pivot who finished in the top five in points in the NHL last season? He is not yet 23, and has grown leaps and bounds each season he's been in the league. Ditto for Mike Green, who was a Norris Trophy candidate and First Team NHL All-Star for the second straight year.
Rather than panic and hastily overpay a player who could potentially destroy the chemistry of this young team, I believe the best course of action is to allow them to grow.
The joy this team has playing together can be seen each time a goal is scored, as each player has the type of excitement that is contagious.
This is, in large part, why the city of Washington fell in love with this team to begin with (and, for the record, as a Washingtonian, I know all about the Strasburg, John Wall, and Donovan McNabb hype, but the team this city believes in is the Capitals).
Let them take their setbacks and disappointments as a group, and one day they will reap the rewards, in the form of a Stanley Cup, once the maturation process is over. Free agents will always be there, but finding a core of talented, young players like this doesn't happen often.