What are the Capitals off-season plans?
The Washington Capitals went into the Stanley Cup playoffs as a seventh seeded team in the Eastern Conference, and advanced as the victors of the first round in a seven game hard hitting affair with number one ranked Boston Bruins, with the GW goal coming in overtime by first year Capital Joel Ward. Round two came along and our beloved Capitals fell to the New York Rangers in another tough seven game series, leading to the stepping down of Capitals great Dale Hunter as head coach.
The Caps have a busy off-season in front of them…the number one priority is finding the team a new head coach. GM George McPhee has said that the coaching search will get under way after the Stanley Cup finals, and could take all the way up to the NHL draft which is on the 22nd and 23rd of June. Washington may not have started looking for that next guy, but one coach has already put his name into the hat for the job. Craig Berube, the assistant coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, is that guy. He also played with the Capitals in his NHL career from 1993 to 1999, and again in 2001.
In a interview with Berube, when the question of the Caps head coaching job came up… a simple “yes” was given. Berube has head coaching experience, as he was the lead guy for the Flyers AHL affiliate — The Philadelphia Phantoms. Washington can go in many different directions with the coaching search. There are some established names coming out of the wood work. Guys like Ken Hitchcock and Bob Hartley, both Stanley Cup winning coaches, are available and should be in serious consideration for the Capitals job.
The empty coaching job is the most immediate concern for the Caps, but moves also need to be made to upgrade the roster.
Washington may also be looking for another winger in free agency, with the uncertainty of Alex Semin returning to the team. Some very intriguing free agents are hitting the market and the Caps could very well be in play for one or two of them. Tough left wingers like Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ruslan Fedotenko could be on the team’s radar, or they could try to mend the situation with “Sasha” and find a medium between him and the team (which I think needs to be resolved as quick as possible).
Centre is another key need for the Caps, and the team recently made a trade in which they acquired centre Zach Hamill from the Boston Bruins for Chris Bourque. Hamill, a first round draft pick back in the 2007 draft has not lived up to his potential so far in his NHL career, only netting four career points in twenty career games as a pro. The Caps could give a strong look at Jochen Hecht of the Buffalo Sabers and Olli Jokinen of the Calgary flames, two guys that can give Washington speed, toughness, and potential face off wins when the team really needs them.
A team with defense goes along way…and this team…has one guy with it all. You have John Carlson who is the total package as a defender, as he always looks for turnovers and he’s one of the best stick handlers for a D man that I’ve seen in a long while for this team. Then there’s Dennis Wideman who’s game never really fit in with Washington, as he is not fleet of foot and often looks confused on the ice. Wideman is probably on his way out of the door. Then you have the fan favorite Mike Green, but the problem with Green is he can’t stay healthy at all. Due to the weak market at defenseman (outside of Pavel Kubina and Ryan Suter) this year, look for the Caps to make a trade or draft a defenseman or two.
The Capitals have wiggle room this offseason, but it’s all about putting every single piece together at the end of the day. This Washington team has the talent to win the Stanley Cup two or three times in the “Ovechkin era”, but it takes building a team with a lot of core guys that you can go to battle with night in and night out.
First things first is finding the next head coach, then Washington can move forward with everything else.