Hello Caps fans, you may know me as a more recent member of Japers' Rink. I am MapleMan (formerly my user name was "Joey Kirby"). I'm sure I am different from most members on this site because of two things; I am still a teenager and I am from Canada (so when you read this, if you think it's terrible, just remember, I'm young). This is probably my first post in about a year. So, go on ahead and read up this long post I typed up whilst staying at home on a Friday evening pondering the future events which this season holds for the Caps.
After a rough initial start to the season for the Washington Capitals, they sit tied for third in the somewhat weak Southeast Division, they currently sit tied with the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers. The Caps, Jets, and Cats all sit two points behind second place Tampa Bay and six points behind first place Carolina. The Capitals have played the most games in their division so far with 14, this puts them just under 1/3 of the way through the year, and at some point or time Ted Leonsis, George McPhee and Management must make a decision on the possible fate of the 2013 season for the Caps. Their options are quite straight forward, they either buy, sell, or stay the course and make no change.
The first decision for the Caps is to govern the rest of the year from a buyers perspective. The Capitals currently sit at 11th in the league for GF/G (Goals for per game) and 28th in the league for GA/G (Goals against per game). The offense has been surprisingly well to me, I honestly did not think they would be that high. The defense does look terrible on paper, but I would think that would be attributed heavily to shoddy goaltending from both highly touted goaltenders Braden Holtby (0.877 SV%, 3.89 GAA) and Michal Neuvirth (.889 SV%, 3.05 GAA). Though the goaltending has been bad, there has been somewhat of as weak spot on the back end of the defense also with John Erskine often seeing some top four defenseman minutes. Even after all this, I still think that if the Caps are to be buyers at the deadline they should look into gaining more offence, they need more of a goal scorer threat on the top two forward lines if they want to be a quality playoff team. I just don't see Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera as being enough. I'm confident the defenseman and both goaltenders will see much improvement throughout the remainder of the year. I also don't even slightly like the idea of trading off offensive talents such as Kuznetsov or Forsberg.
If the Capitals are to go with the sellers route, I see several pieces that playoff teams might want to acquire to attempt to push their squad over the top. Tom Poti, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine are veteran presences on the back end, all three with totally different styles on the back end. Poti could provide a team with a bottom four defenseman with a history of being a solid offensive defenseman, he could see powerplay time. Roman Hamrlik could assist a playoff team with a good two way defensive game, he could be an addition to the powerplay and penalty kill unit, probably best suited to a bottom four spot, he has shown the ability to be a serviceable top four in the past few years though. Big John Erskine is a stay at home defenseman who plays a physical game, he hasn't exactly seen constant playing time with the Capitals as he is going into his sixth year with the organization as he averages about 50 games per season. There is no denying that Erskine provides a presence though, he hits hard, willing shot blocker, and he sticks up for his teammates (evident by his 700+ PIMS in 400+ GP in the league). On offense they do not have a whole lot to give up in terms of game changers, Wojtek Wolski could be a trade piece, but I'd prefer to keep him as he could be a solid 2nd-3rd scorer for a cheap price, just have to hope he stays healthy. Marcus Johansson is a definite trade piece, but I see his trade value as very low right now, it'd be best off just to keep him rather than sell low. The primary pieces I see for the Caps to sell is perhaps a few of the the plethora of grinders this team has to offer such as Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Matt Hendricks, Joey Crabb, or Jay Beagle. These players could assist a playoff team heavily in their forward depth on the bottom two lines. Forward depth is one of the better strengths for the Caps that I see, lots of solid grinders on this team, but there is also a good price tag to go along with a few in particular, Troy Brouwer will earn 3.66 million for the next three years, whilst Joel Ward will earn 3 million for the next two.
Finally, the last option is just to stay the course and attempt to make the playoffs with the team they've got right now. This is the wisest move in my eyes, the Caps currently have Brooks Laich and Dmitry Orlov injured, when they come back this team gets much, much better. Look on the good and bad side of this move; if they are to make the playoffs it is great, they have the opportunity to compete for the Cup once again. If they do not make the playoffs, it is definitely not the end of the world, they can get a decent draft pick in next years draft (which is going to be a strong draft class) and they could come back as an even better team (especially on offense) if players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov or Filip Forsberg decide to come over from Europe, that would look like a very good top six offense on paper, lots of current talent, lots of future talent and potential, a great mix between youth and prime aged players.
So, tell me Caps fans, which direction do you think management should chose to go with for the remainder of the 2013 NHL Season?