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Six-Pack of questions: Are the Caps looking to add a gritty player?


Six-Pack of questions: Are the Caps looking to add a gritty player?

Apologies for our six-pack of Caps questions hitting the shelf later than normal, but here we go:

With both (Tom) Wilson and (Andre) Burakovsky struggling to find place offensively, Have Caps done disservice to their development by not putting both in Hershey for at least a year? - @paprmanjim

This is always a subject of debate among NHL coaching staffs and I’m sure it was the case with Tom Wilson three years ago and Andre Burakovsky last season. In the case of Wilson, who was 19 at the time, the Caps had the choice of allowing him to play one more season with the OHL Plymouth Whalers or playing for them. An agreement between the AHL and the Canadian junior leagues prevents 19-year-olds from playing in the AHL because it strips junior teams of their star players. At the time, Caps coach Adam Oates felt he needed Wilson’s physicality on the fourth line and Wilson certainly provided that with 151 penalty minutes. Could he have benefitted from a fourth season in Plymouth, where he had 23 goals and 35 assists as an 18-year-old? Possibly. Would a full season – or even 50 games – been more beneficial to Wilson’s development? Absolutely. But that was not an option for the Caps at the time. To me, the real road block for Wilson, who has just seven goals and 25 assists in 171 NHL games, has been Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams. It’s been hard for the Caps to justify moving Wilson up in the lineup with those right wings ahead of him. I still think Wilson is a very effective player and has the potential to put up 25 goals in the NHL. We just haven’t seen it yet. As for Burakovsky, he recorded 41 goals and 46 assists in his final season with the Erie Otters and few thought another year in the OHL would help his development. He spent 13 games with Hershey last season, with three goals and four assists. The Caps thought he could make a good center last season, but he had never played that position in his life and that became evident in his positional play. Now that Evgeny Kuznetsov has convincingly won the role of second-line center Burakovsky is having trouble finding top-six ice time with Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson eating up that time on the left side and Oshie and Williams playing well enough to occupy the right side.

Do you think the Caps need to add another gritty player to the bottom 6? Or is this roster ready for the playoffs? - @GianluT67

If you ask Brian MacLellan or any other NHL general manager, he will tell you he is never satisfied with his roster going into the playoffs. In the case of the Caps, I think they like the way their roster is constructed but I would not be surprised if they are canvassing the NHL for a gritty player, possibly a center, who can also provide some offense to one of the bottom two lines, where centers Jay Beagle and Michael Latta have combined for four goals.  

You think Orlov could ever play point on PP1? -  @jcooke33

Yes and no. I love Orlov’s cannon from the point and I think he’s a better puck mover than many give him credit for. But I think the Caps are committed to having John Carlson working the first unit from the center point. Is Carlson as good as Mike Green in his timing and placement for Alex Ovechkin one-timers? No. That certainly played a role in Ovechkin having just one power-play goal in his first 19 games and having difficulty going top shelf from his office in the left circle. But just like it took years for Green and Ovechkin to develop chemistry, it will take Carlson and Ovechkin time to develop that same rhythm. And remember, this will require some adjusting from Ovechkin as well. That said, I’d like to see Orlov taking some reps from that center point spot on the second unit, with Ovechkin lined up in that left circle. I also like the idea of having Orlov blasting away from Ovechkin’s left circle spot, with Matt Niskanen directing things from the center point on the second unit.   

What changes did the Caps coaches make to the PK that have elevated their kill despite losing 16, 20 & 42? - @CapsYapp

You’re right. The Caps finished 14th on the penalty kill last season at 81.2 percent and are sixth in the NHL this season at 84.5 percent. I’m impressed with the way T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Tom Wilson have filled the void left by penalty killers Eric Fehr, Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward, but I’m also impressed with the coaching of Lane Lambert, who has a better knowledge of Eastern Conference teams and their power play tendencies after a full year behind the Capitals’ bench. The Caps are definitely pressuring teams up the ice more this season than they did last season, making it difficult for opponents to set up their power plays. I also think Oshie and Williams are quicker on loose pucks than Ward and Brouwer were last season and that is helping with clears. The Caps are also rolling three sets of forward pairs at about 20 seconds per shift, which has resulted in fresher legs. And I think the rebound control of Braden Holtby has been excellent this season and that means fewer second chances by the opposition.

Holts goes tonight, does he also go Friday to close out the homestand with Grubi playing at Toronto Saturday? - @israel_pug

This question came on Wednesday, but yes, you’re scenario makes sense. Grubauer said earlier in the week that he had not been told either way whether he would play Friday or Saturday, saying it depended on the results of Wednesday night’s game (a win over Winnipeg) and the amount of work Holtby received. Holtby saw just 26 shots in the win over Winnipeg but was tested 34 times against the Lightning, who tried unsuccessfully to climb out of a 4-0 hole in Friday’s 4-2 Caps victory. You can bet that with four days off following tonight’s game in Toronto that Holtby would like to face the Maple Leafs, especially since a win could move the Caps past the Rangers and into first place in the Metro Division. Grubauer has started the back end of every back-to-back the Caps have played this season and is 2-1-1 with a 2.70 GAA and .900 save percentage, including a 3-2 loss in his last start on Nov. 19 against the Stars. “Obviously, we have a little break again right after the back-to-back,” Trotz said. “We’ll make that decision probably after (Friday’s) game on the plane when we head to Toronto of what we’re going to do.”

What do you see in MoJo's future? Couldn't get a long term deal last year. Try to extend, or possibly move? - @Sheangus

That’s one of the underlying questions of this season and I think it will be entirely based on Johansson’s performance. I’m not a big believer in signing players to contract extensions unless those players are absolute essential pieces of a team’s future. In my opinion, Johansson is one of those players that has to produce to be effective. He doesn’t kill penalties and he’s never taken enough shots to be considered a quality goal scorer. That’s why, after netting a career-high 20 goals and 47 points last season, the Caps gave Johansson a “Show Me” one-year, $3.75 million contract last summer. With four goals and eight assists in 22 games this season, Johansson hasn’t shown me enough to warrant another contract in that same price range. He’s on pace for 15 goals and 45 points this season and is in danger of having Andre Burakovsky take his place on the second line. If Johansson picks up his point production he could force the Caps to re-sign him this summer as a restricted free agent. If he doesn’t, I could see the Caps seeing what his value would be prior to the 2016 NHL draft.  


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Capitals Faceoff podcast: Barry Trotz has his work cut out for him


Capitals Faceoff podcast: Barry Trotz has his work cut out for him

Barry Trotz is now the head coach of the New York Islanders, a team that missed the playoffs and just lost their franchise player. So how does next season look on Long Island?

In the long summer months, the Capitals Faceoff Podcast will take a look at some of the Caps' competition next season. In this episode, it's the New York Islanders. Brian Compton of joins Rob Carlin and Tarik El-Bashir to talk about what Trotz brings to Long Island and what's left to work with.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.


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Monumental announces major improvements for in-game experience at Capitals and Wizards games


Monumental announces major improvements for in-game experience at Capitals and Wizards games

Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced an overhauled in-game entertainment experience for the 2018-19 Wizards and Capitals seasons on Wednesday. 

These changes include a new DJ stage, new permanent 3D on ice/on court projection system, along with new Wizards and Capitals entertainment squads, as Capital One Arena undergoes $40 million in renovations.

“We are committed to putting on the best show possible for every fan who comes to a game at Capital One Arena,” said MSE President of Business Operations Jim Van Stone.  “So, as we upgrade the facilities at the Arena this summer, we are also upgrading all of our in-game entertainment to keep the experience fresh and on the cutting edge.”

“We’re excited about these new changes to our game entertainment experience,” said Hunter Lochmann, MSE Senior Vice President of Marketing.  “We work hard to create the best, most engaging entertainment experience in professional sports and we hope fans love this new, revamped energy.”


Some of the other improvement announced were:

  • Digital signage experience throughout the fully-renovated concourses that will pull fans into an exclusively all-Wizards or all-Capitals team experience each night highlighting player and team imagery on each concourse
  • Sponsored quadrants in the Arena where fans will experience concourse takeovers and can expect special offers and giveaways from sponsors
  • Olympia ice resurfacer bus: groups of fans will be able to take pre-game and intermission rides
  • Award-winning, chef-inspired dining experience featuring options from premiere chefs David Chang, Cat Cora and Alex McCoy
  • A transformed and modernized PwC Club offering some of the best sightlines in the Arena and new 100-level lounge, both featuring top-of-the-line comfort seating and exclusive food and beverage options so fans can gather in style during the games 
  • A new in-bowl broadcasting platform for NBC Sports Washington