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Thursday Roundup

The Caps packed up and got out of town yesterday, and both the WaPo and the WTimes note a sense of optimism heading into next year., however, doesn't necessarily share such optimism in its season-ending evaluation of the non-playoff teams:
Washington Capitals

Half full: When your lineup boasts Alexander Ovechkin, the most explosive and entertaining scorer the league has seen since Mario Lemieux, it's pretty easy to be giddy about the future. Alexander Semin, the highly skilled running mate Ovechkin lacked this season, recently signed a two-year deal. Shaone Morrisonn, stolen from the Bruins in the 2004 Sergei Gonchar deal, made huge strides late in the season and looks like a guy who'll be part of the Caps' top pairing for the next decade. A high pick this summer should land an impact player. And, hey, the chance to play with Ovechkin could make Washington an intriguing option for a free agent

Half empty: What you saw this season in Washington is pretty much what you get: Outside of Mike Green and Jakub Klepis, there's not much to get excited about down on the farm. And right now, Ovechkin is the team. The Caps are one prolonged rehab period away from competing for the Calder Cup.

The level-headed observer says: Caps fans may want to take solace in the fact that the team won four of its last five games while holding opponents to just one goal in three of those wins, but they shouldn't. Things won't improve much next season. Beyond Morrisonn, the team is in a shambles behind the blue line. Washington gave up the most shots and the second-most goals. Unless Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Nick Lidstrom sign up over the summer, there's likely to be a repeat in 2006-07. It's a slow process to rebuild after hitting rock bottom, and the Caps only now are taking the first tentative strides back to respectability. But as long as Ovechkin's on the ice, there will always be a reason to show up at the MCI Center.

One could quibble with that last assertion, given that the MCI Center no longer exists, but the underlying point - that teams do not rebuild in one year - is, of course, accurate. What is less accurate, perhaps, is the assessment that the Caps have nothing down on the farm (Eric Fehr's name comes to mind). But by and large I think that's evaluation is pretty solid.

Update: As Eric points out, the Caps do have the seventh-rated farm system in hockey, so things are certainly less dire than would have you believe.

In other news, hands out some of its post-season awards. Want to know who they picked for the Calder? It might surprise you.