There comes a time for every major sports franchise to accept the reality that they have lost their competitive edge and sadly for the Washington Capitals, that time seems to have arrived with the 2022-23 season. Father Time has caught up with this organization and GM Brian MacLellan’s shoulders must be getting a massive workout lately with the burdens placed on this team daily.
Can you blame the Caps’ poor play just on injuries?
It’s relatively easy to say that the 2022-23 NHL season started on an “unlucky” basis for the Capitals – if you solely believe in luck that is. The Caps’ injury woes plagued this team before they even hit the ice in training camp with injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. Adding to the Caps’ woes have been in-season injuries to star winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
Oshie is back but missed 11 critical games and it’s easy for pundits and fans alike to point to the myriad of team injuries as the source of all of the Caps’ problems. John Carlson was out for seven games and his presence was sorely missed -when playing, he has six goals and 12 total points.
However, a paltry 2.70 goals scored per game (26th in the NHL) tells a different tale for this organization. With Alex Ovechkin leading the team with 11 goals so far, no other Cap has more than seven goals. Nine of eleven losses this season have been by at least two goals with seven of those losses were by a margin of three goals are more, including the recent loss to the New Jersey Devils by a score of 5-1.
Some may look at the goalie swap-out of Vitak Vanecek for Darcy Kuemper as being one of the roots causes for the Caps’ woes. In defense of Kuemper, he has a solid 2,70 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 17 games this season. The inherent problem may lie in the fact that Kuemper has had little offensive production to match his goaltending efforts to help the Caps find a way to win so far this year.
The Capitals can’t find wins on the road.
While it’s nice to win games in front of home crowds, all NHL teams need to find a way to pull out road victories in order to stay relevant in the standings. The Capitals are fading at 9-11-3 but the telltale sign of further woes ahead lies in the Cap’s road record which stands at 2-7-2 which is 31st in the NHL right now. Dropping multiple games on the road only increases the pressure to win at home and unless this trend is changed, the Capitals face playoff contention elimination by Christmas.
The Capitals are simply one of the oldest teams in the NHL.
Father Time has caught up with this franchise and not in a good way. Six out of the top seven defensemen including Orlov are 30 years old or older while offensively eight out of 12 forwards are 30 or older. To put it simply, the Washington Capitals are the second oldest team in the National Hockey League and no team aged 28.3 or older has won the Stanley Cup in the last 14 seasons.
With an aging roster and the fact that no less than ten Caps’ will become unrestricted free agents next summer, GM Brian MacLellan has little to work with in terms of trade value to provide a spark for this franchise. The prospect pipeline is mediocre at best which means that this organization is set to melt down at any time and face the inevitable rebuilding mode.
Watchng the Capitals play, it’s obvious that their age and playing style cannot keep up with faster teams with top skaters. Watching them play is like watching a 1996 Olympic sprint gold medalist trying to compete with a current Olympic sprinter. Age is not a friend in sports and unless the Capitals can start working on a youth movement, this franchise will lose its relevancy in the Metro Division for years to come.