By Steve Roney
One year after bolstering a conference-leading team with multiple contributors, Capitals GM George McPhee mostly laid low this past offseason. Gone are coach Dale Hunter, the constantly inconsistent yet eminently talented Alexander Semin, and a host of veteran difference-makers.
What remains, however, is the bitter taste of another postseason that ended far short of preseason expectations.
An NHL.com 30 for 30 season preview takes stock of the situation and wonders if the Caps belong among the leagues elite, offering guarded optimism for the coming year. If Alexander Ovechkin can return to something resembling his pre-2010 formif Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green can stay healthyif new coach Adam Oates can effectively blend the frenetic offensive pace from Bruce Boudreau with the defensive intensity introduced by Dale Hunter
The recipe continues to change the problem, potentially, is that the ingredients have largely stayed the same. New center Mike Ribeiro does bring a dash of proven talent to the ice, but Oates has little coaching track record -- of any kind -- to speak of, leaving fans with more questions than usual as they look forward to building on their 14-game playoff run of a season ago.
Every team has their own set of preseason questions, but do the Caps have too many? After five years atop the Southeast Division, was last seasons second place finish an aberration, or a sign of the new order of things? With so much uncertainty, have the Caps ceded the division to the reloading Hurricanes?