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Japers' Rink Mailbag: Success, Third-Pair Showdown, Ulfie and More

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How to define "success" for 2015-16, Orlov vs. Schmidt, risers and fallers, Throwback Thursday and much more in this week's edition of "you ask, we answer."

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Camp starts in like a week. But before it does, let's 'Bag:

They'd probably tell you it's "Cup or Bust," but I'd think that any real progress would have to be considered a success. So where were they last year? Within 101 seconds of dispatching the Presidents' Trophy winner and advancing to the Conference Finals. Certainly, any "successful" 2015-16 for the Caps has to start with an appearance in the Eastern Finals, but just showing up won't be enough - they have to be competitive (or beat a lesser team).

So mark me down for "successful 2015-16" if the Caps lose a hard-fought Eastern Conference Finals to the Lightning. Anything more will be gravy.

If he hadn't missed all of last season with an injury (after being limited in the prior two seasons by a concussion and coaching decisions), I'd have said Dmitry Orlov pretty confidently. Now it's a question of whether he can pick up where he left off (which won't be easy), get back on track developmentally (which won't be easy) and put it all together. If he can, he's a more physical and better defender than Nate Schmidt, has a bigger shot, and is on par with Schmidt as a passer. Schmidt is the better skater of the two (which isn't to imply that Orlov isn't a good skater), but overall, I'd say the edge in upside goes to Orlov - the gaps where he holds an advantage over Schmidt are more and larger than vice versa.

The probability of each player reaching his respective upside, however, might be an entirely different question.

It doesn't seem likely right now, but that could change if and when they get some more certainty as to Nicklas Backstrom's return date.

Marcus Johansson seems the most likely target for fans, while one would imagine that Orlov and Schmidt are going to be in opposing forecheckers' crosshairs with some frequency.

I'd look for Columbus and Florida to be on the rise and make a serious push for the playoffs (and probably one of them gets in). Philly could be a dark horse if everything breaks their way, and Buffalo might arrive ahead of schedule, though probably not in 2015-16.

As for "fallers", Calgary will have a tough time repeating, and I'm not a huge fan of Ottawa or Montreal in the East and could see either of them missing the playoffs. Ditto Vancouver. (And I swear I have nothing against Canada, generally.)

What a terrific role player Ulf Dahlen was (and I can still see his open-pivot around the net in my mind's eye). Dahlen played three seasons (1999-2002) in his mid-30's for the Caps, racked up 15, 15 and 23 goals and averaged 46 points while doing a tremendous job usually (but not always) in a checking role on the third line with Steve Konowalchuk and Jeff Halpern - a role which Mike Grier filled fairly well once Dahlen departed. Unfortunately for Dahlen (and those Caps teams at the turn of the century... and beyond), strong regular seasons didn't translate to playoff success and that was that.

But I digress. Dahlen's advanced stats were probably pretty good, even given his third-line role - he was good in all three zones, good on the boards, and Swedish, which is a nice combination for such successes. That era Dahlen would be a solid third-liner and a tremendous fourth-liner on just about any team, including this year's Caps.

Not going to happen, part one.

Not going to happen, part two.

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Agree? Disagree?

If you've got something on your mind, go ahead and ask it here on the site, on Twitter (use #JapersMailbag), via email or on Facebook, and we'll try to get to them. As always, there are always a lot of question marks around this team... so let's talk about as many of them as we can.