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Cheerless is Thinking About the Capitals’ Upcoming Season

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Some thoughts about the 2017-18 Caps

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Peerless couldn’t be here, but here are ten things I think about…

  • Karl Alzner averaged 3:03 per game in shorthanded ice time in 2016-17 (tops on the club among defensemen) for a top-ten team in penalty-killing. Who gets those minutes this season?
  • The Caps had 11 players with ten or more goals last season. Three of them (Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, and Daniel Winnik) – the third, fourth, and 11th-ranked goal scorers – are gone. Altogether, six players (those three, plus Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner, and Kevin Shattenkirk) accounting for 68 of 261 goals scored (26.1 percent of the total) are gone. Where do the goals come from to make up for the loss, or do the Caps even need all of them?
  • If either or both of Madison Bowey or Christian Djoos are not ready for prime time, what is “Plan B” for the defense?
  • Alex Ovechkin will be 32 years old on opening night. Since the 2005-06 season, 11 different players have recorded 35-goal seasons at least once at age 32 or older, but only two players (Daniel Alfredsson and Teemu Selanne) have done it more than once. Is “30 goals” the new normal for Ovechkin, and will that be a floor or a ceiling?
  • Related... if Ovechkin is a 30-35 goal scorer, does that make it imperative that T. J. Oshie reproduce his 33-goal season of 2016-17? Given that Oshie has never played a full-season’s worth of games and has played in more than 70 games only five times in nine full NHL seasons (not counting the abbreviated 2012-2013 season), although he has done so in three of the last four, is this or should this be a concern?
  • Brooks Orpik will be 37 years old on Opening Night. A total of 20 defensemen since 2005-06 have appeared in at least 70 games at the age of 37 or older, but only eight have done so more than once. Orpik appeared in 79 games last season. Can he reproduce that total and give support to the young defensemen coming up, or after 901 hard games of NHL regular season play, will he hit that 70-game mark?
  • John Carlson is in the “walk year” of his current deal with the Caps. He has also missed 36 of 164 games over the last two seasons after five straight seasons playing every regular season game. Does he rise to the occasion and put himself in position for a big payday (and hopefully help push the Caps deeper in the postseason), or has he become a reasonably productive, but injury-prone player?
  • Jay Beagle had a career-high 13 goals last season. Will the fourth line combine for 13 goals this season?
  • The Caps dressed nine defensemen last season, a low number by contemporary standards for a full season (especially when one considers that one – Kevin Shattenkirk -- was brought in via trade, not promoted from within). Three of those defensemen are no longer in the organization (Shattenkirk, Alzner, and Nate Schmidt). The Caps are already looking at giving youngsters a long look. But after Taylor Chorney, assuming he is the seventh defenseman, who are the depth guys in Hershey that the Caps might have to count on?
  • The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is scheduled for February 10-25, 2018. The Caps will play eight games – almost ten percent of their regular season schedule – in that window, including games against Detroit; a four game road trip with stops in Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, and Buffalo; and a home game against Tampa Bay. Are they a good enough team to withstand an absence from, let’s say, Alex Ovechkin (should he make good on his intention, or at least fulfill his hope, to play for Team Russia) to make the postseason?