Let's be honest with ourselves, the Capitals have been stale since winning the Cup.
Back-to-back first-round exits and unfulfilled expectations had the narrative of either a closing window or possibly one already slammed shut getting louder and louder around this organization. Even with five straight division titles, the way the postseason has ended recently has some even wondering whether the Capitals' hold on just the Metropolitan Division is loosening now too.
But a new coaching staff and strong additions defensively this offseason have infused some new life and renewed hope in D.C., and you can count NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen as one of the optimistic ones:
"I think they are still the team to beat," Rosen said about where Washington stands in the division on the latest edition of the Capitals Talk podcast. "I think they did a good job by shoring up their goaltending, losing Holtby but still getting a veteran experienced guy to come in and play with Samsonov. I like what they've done with their D, they've improved in that area I think. They could still score."
The coaching change really was a must, and credit the Capitals for making that decision quickly, and hiring the right coach to take over too. The state of the division is in flux, too.
"Laviolette's going to be an interesting coach for them," Rosen said. "But I think it's going to work. He always brings it along well at the start. His teams always do well when he takes over and I think they are very much the team to beat. I think Pittsburgh's taken a little bit of a hit. Carolina's good but do they have enough and is their goaltending good enough? Philadelphia's very good, but their D took a hit I think with the [Matt] Niskanen retirement so who are they all going to mesh together? Still a young D in Philadelphia. So I think Washington is still very much the team to beat in the Metro."
There's always been that old cliche about a team being "on top until someone dethrones them", and it certainly fits here. There's just too many unknowns surrounding the rest of the teams in the standings, plus, the attitude feels different since that flat, uninspired playoff loss to the Islanders, and major changes and real honest self-evaluation by the organization in those weeks after is a big reason why this renewed hope should exist.
Even our partners at PointsBet Sportsbook have Washington still in the mix beyond winning just the Metro too, with the Capitals currently tied for the sixth-best odds (+1600) to win the Cup, and tied for third (+700) to win the East.
This offseason was about resetting for another run at a Stanley Cup and putting the last two postseason failures behind them.
Even though there's been a bad taste in everyone's mouth since the summer of 2018, it's clear GM Brian MacLellan's aggressive work has gotten noticed and 2021 could bring a better result.