Believe it or not, summer is winding down and it is time to think about the 2021-22 hockey season. Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan will discuss the biggest questions surrounding the Caps heading into the new season.
Today's topic: How much will a 'normal' training camp and season benefit the Caps?
Andrew: I think every team will see a benefit of increased practice time and a more spaced-out schedule, but I think the Capitals fall into the second part of that grouping.
The Capitals are a veteran team that, while they didn’t have much practice time under a new coach, seemed to slowly get coach Peter Laviolette’s system as the season wore on. With a full training camp and a few more practices between games this season, I’m sure things will go smoothly in that department.
The *other* issue for the Capitals is aging, and it's a big one. Whether or not it played a factor in the injuries at the end of the season in May, those injuries happened. It can be chalked up to bad luck, the schedule or whatever else, but the fact of the matter is that it happened. And the Capitals aren’t getting any younger.
Because of that, I think the “normal” season (even one with an Olympic break) will be a big key for the Capitals in managing their roster. While cap space is certainly a question right now, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Capitals try and rest some of their veteran players throughout the year to keep them as fresh as possible entering the playoffs. It’s one thing to be fighting injuries in the playoffs (something everyone does), it’s another to be fighting them before even getting there.
So I don’t think the full training camp will offer much of anything, but the extra days between games will be invaluable for this team this season.
JJ: A full training camp and preseason would have meant a lot more last season than this one considering it was Peter Laviolette's first season as head coach. Now, I am not so sure how much that will matter, especially to a veteran-laden team.
Having a normal offseason and a normal calendar? That I think does matter. That allows players to train the way they normally train in the summer which is something I think really affected the Caps last season. That many veterans are used to training a certain way and knowing when to turn it up in the summer. Not knowing when the season would start did not allow those older players to get into the flow they are used to while training.
A season that is not quite as condensed as last year will also help the veterans. The biggest issue Washington faced in 2021 was its inability to stay healthy. That should, keyword should, be better this year with a normal-looking regular season schedule.
There is a caveat, however. While the schedule says 82 games and stretches from October to April like usual, we have to remember there is a two-week Olympic break, assuming of course the NHL chooses to go, which is not official yet.
Rosters obviously are not finalized, but you have to think Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov, Ilya Samsonov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson are likely to make their respective national teams. Lars Eller, Vitek Vanecek and Michal Kempny could also get consideration.
So in the middle of an 82-game season, several of the Caps' best and oldest players could travel to China, play a two-week tournament, then return to continue the regular season. That's going to be tough.