What should the level of concern be over the slump?


With a week off between games for the Capitals, it seems like a good time to take stock of the team and its season. Here are some key mid-season questions for Capitals writers Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan to discuss.

What should the level of concern be over this slump?

Andrew: Perhaps I'm being too optimistic here, but I think the level of concern here right now should be a 6/10. If this continues for another 15-to-20 games or so, my answer will change to "Every fire alarm possible should be going off." But I think two main factors are playing into their bumpy play since Jan. 1. 

Firstly, you can take one glance at the standings and figure out a reason why their play has taken a dip. After a great start to the year, they've cooled off significantly — and are still firmly in a playoff spot. Washington is not in a position to coast just yet, but it would take Detroit or Columbus turning on the afterburners to a historic level to overtake a playoff spot. It's easy to see how a veteran team like the Caps knows when it's OK to take the foot off the gas a bit. 

Secondly, they're without T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha. They were able to withstand the loss of both of them when the team was getting contributions from all over the lineup early this season, but that has since slowed and the results are what they are. I think the return of Oshie helps revitalize things, and Mantha's return (whenever that may be) will help out too. I wouldn't be shocked if they add another forward, either, so the lineup they're putting out right now might have 3 new forwards by season's end.


If they get healthy and they continue to lose games like they have since the new year come the trade deadline, then yes, it's time to seriously worry. But for now, I think it's something that is concerning, but nothing to go into a sheer panic over just yet.

JJ: I am not usually one for hot takes or dramatic reactions, but my concern level is very high. To go off of Andrew's 10-point scale, I'm at a 9 out of 10 and that's just because they are so far ahead in the playoff race, they are going to make it regardless.

Look, they go through a midseason slump every year. It's almost like clockwork. They didn't look great down the stretch in 2017-18 and we all remember how that turned out. Their hot start despite missing...everybody was unsustainable so it's no surprise to see them take a step back. But this has been going on since the start of January. It's now mid-February. Plus, this season can't just be a write-off. The reason why my concern level is so high is because of the championship window. You can't just make the playoffs and be satisfied with a run to the second round.

Let's face it: it is Stanley Cup or bust time. Period. This is one of the oldest teams in the league, Nicklas Backstrom had a lingering injury from last season that kept him out of the lineup until December, T.J. Oshie can't seem to stay healthy, there are major questions with the goaltending and the special teams are atrocious.

I know we have been talking about the championship window for years and it never seems to slam shut for this team, but I can't help but wonder given everything the team is going through this season if this could be that last year and, if that's the case, then you've got to be able to make a deep run.

Do I expect the Caps to rebound from this slump? Absolutely. Are they going to make the playoffs? No doubt. But the standard in which I am judging this team is not if they are a playoff team, but can they win the Cup and I just see too many issues right now to think you can really say they can. Do things change if Oshie and Anthony Mantha get healthy and the team brings in a strong veteran goalie? Perhaps. Right now though, I see the Caps as a playoff team, but not a Cup contender and, given the context, that's not good enough.