When training camp begins on Friday, the Washington Capitals will return almost their entire roster from last season’s Stanley Cup run. That does not leave many openings in the lineup for new players, but there is at least one glaring need that Nic Dowd hopes to fill.
One of the few players the team lost in the offseason was fourth-line center Jay Beagle. With his absence, Dowd saw a clear opportunity.
“I think obviously with Beagle leaving, right-handed shot, penalty killer, I've done a lot of that in my career,” Dowd told reporters after an informal skate Tuesday.
“I think it's pretty obvious the role that I'm expected to step into and I think there's a good opportunity there. I think that last year with certain players that can fit that mold, they put a lot of emphasis on those guys and I think that allows for a lot of opportunity for players to continue to play well and move up throughout the year.”
Dowd was signed as a free agent in the offseason, one of the few additions the team made. By signing him to a one-way contract, the message was clear. This is someone general manager Brian MacLellan saw contributing at the NHL level this season.
If there is one team that appreciates the role depth players can have, it’s the Capitals. After years of losing in the playoffs with a top-heavy offensive lineup, Washington finally got the formula right last season with a deep lineup and key contributions from all four lines.
Finding a key contributor on the fourth line requires more than just a “next man up” mentality. A player’s skillset really has to match that role, someone who can play tough, limited minutes but still produce on the offensive end and play responsibly on the defensive side.
With his skillset, Dowd saw an opportunity to thrive in Washington by filling an obvious need.
“Any team you pick, you want to pick something where not only is it going to be a good organization, but where you see yourself as a player,” Dowd said. “Obviously everyone wants to play first, second line. That's power play. Everyone grew up doing that, but you have to set expectations and I think you've got to find teams that rely on players that can do things that are in my skillset and stuff that I can do. I think Washington was one of those teams.”
In addition to his skills on the ice, Dowd can also provide bit of new blood to the locker room.
The danger of returning so many new players is a sense of complacency within the team, something that is especially dangerous considering the Caps are coming off a Cup win and are hoping to avoid the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover.
Sometimes a team needs that new blood to spark them. That may be putting a lot on a fourth line player to energize the team, but Beagle was a player that certainly provided energy to the locker room.
Fourth line center is one of the few holes the Caps have on their roster heading into camp. Dowd believes he can fill that hole both on and off the ice.
“I think with any team when new guys come to an organization, people are kind of are excited to see what they can bring and what they're capable of,” Dowd said. “I think that leaves room for opportunity to play well and kind of show the organization and fit into a nice spot.”
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