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Top Ten Things We Want to See in 2018-19: Part I

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Only the Stanley Cup might be better than anticipating the new year, so we get on with the latter with things we want to see this season.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Many eons ago, at least in “media time,” a late night talk show host had a segment called “The Late Show Top Ten List.” Well, borrowing from that, and stealing from our SBNation pals at Raw Charge, we would like to offer you our Japers’ Rink Top Ten List. And our topic…”Top Ten Things We Want to See in 2018-19.” Here’s part one:

Number 10…

More (and less) Willy! Tom Wilson set a career high with 14 goals last season, doubling his total from each of the previous two seasons. He also set a career high of 187 penalty minutes, and his 806 PIMs over his five seasons in the league is 85 more than second-place Antoine Roussel. We would like to see fewer of the latter and more of the former, because Tom Wilson lighting the lamp is like the ringing of a bell in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Just as every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, every time Tom Wilson hits the back of the net, the other side’s fans get as angry as you can get. We think “20” would be a nice round number. Yeah, we’d like to see that.

Number 9…

Adopt a rescue dog. With Jay Beagle having departed for Vancouver, the Caps will need someone to anchor the fourth line, take important draws, contribute penalty killing minutes, and do so while having better possession numbers than Beagle had (which, frankly, weren’t very good). Will that player be Chandler Stephenson, who played a lot of wing last year but has a lot of experience at center? Will Travis Boyd step up and get more minutes? Is there a dark horse like Shane Gersich or Brian Pinho have the sort of big training camp that can allow them to elbow their way onto the roster? We’d like to see someone emerge who can take charge of doing the little things and doing the unsung work that a successful team needs to have done.

Number 8…

Better possession numbers. It’s safe to say that the Caps outperformed their performance numbers last season. They finished 24th in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5, and no team since 2009-2010 (as far back as NHL.com statistics go) won a Stanley Cup with an SAT% number as low as the Caps’ 47.98 percent.

Number 7…

New blood for D. Neither Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos were in the starting lineup on opening night last season, but the two rookie defensemen did work their way into the lineup eventually. Djoos stuck around to dress for 63 games, while Bowey struggled some, appearing in 51 games, none after February 20th. When the Stanley Cup banner is raised on Opening Night this coming season, the Caps will have two defensemen past 30 years of age – Brooks Orpik (38) and Matt Niskanen (31). John Carlson will be 29 in January. Dmitry Orlov represents the established “youth” on the roster (he will be 27 on Opening Night), and Djoos has to demonstrate that his solid rookie season (tied for eighth among rookie defensemen in goals (3), tied for ninth in points (14), tied for fourth in plus-minus (plus-13) can be repeated or improved upon. We would like to see Bowey (or Lucas Johansen or Jonas Siegenthaler, or any other prospect defenseman) generate some push from underneath on the depth chart to give the Caps depth this season on the blue line and an expectation that the future has some promise.

Number 6…

Back to the Vezina. From 2014-15 through 2016-17, Braden Holtby went 131-42-23, 2.17, .923, with 21 shutouts. Over those three seasons he was the only goalie to post more than 100 wins, a GAA under 2.20, a save percentage over .920, and record more than ten shutouts. He was also a Vezina Trophy finalist all three seasons, winning in 2015-16. Last season was different. He posted career worsts in goals against average (2.99), save percentage (.907), and did not record a shutout for the first time in his eight-year career over 54 games, his fewest appearances since he dressed for 48 games in 2013-14. At the root of it all was a vexing 15-appearance stretch from January 18th through March 6th, over which he went 5-6-4, 3.93, .882, and was pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer four times. He recovered to a degree, winning five of his last six regular season decisions (2.68/.911) and had a very good postseason overall (16-7, 2.16, .922, with two shutouts in Games 6 and 7 to clinch the Eastern Conference title). We’d like to see Holtby avoid that “donut hole” in his game log and return to Vezina finalist consideration.

Check back tomorrow for our final 5!