Yes, it’s true. The Washington Capitals are in effect writing off this season in an effort to gain momentum in their rebuilding mode for the ’23-’24 season. While there’s some hockey left to play and yes the Caps can still make a wild card run, the reality is starting to sink in that this franchise is looking to the future and not this season to be competitive for another Stanley Cup.
Forget about the obvious signs that this season’s over.
Go ahead and forget about the fact that a month ago around the All-Star break, The Capitals were solidly looking at a wild card spot and even threatening fellow Metro Division rivals such as the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Well, those good times are gone. Of course the Caps are still on the plus-side in terms of their overall record and currently sit at 31-28-7 with 69 points and a .523 overall win percentage.
The Cap’s record is only five points out behind the Penguins for the second wild card spot. However, the Caps have fallen on hard times recently with a 3-6-1 record in the last ten games and now are fifth in line for an Eastern Card wild card spot. The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators have all pulled ahead in the wild card race with the Buffalo Sabres nipping at the Caps’ heels if the season ended today. While it’s not time to throw in the towel, fans may want to start looking for a towel to possibly throw in-soon.
The NHL trade deadline brought out sellers and buyers.
The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs respectively bet the proverbial farm on the recent NHL trade deadline by being aggregate buyers and in the process scooped up key players to make a deep playoff run. The Rangers and Maple Leafs need to make a deep Stanley Cup playoff run this year to justify the deep-pocket spending they did to stock up their rosters with top quality trades including Patrick Kane to the Rangers and Ryan O’Reilly to the Maple Leafs.
What happened with the Capitals? Well, the oldest NHL team decided to sell off the farm at deadline time and every unrestricted free agent (UFA) at seasons’ end was traded away for future prospects. Maybe GM Brian MacLellan has a rebuilding plan in mind but remember this: Alex Ovechkin signed a new contract in 2021 to be a part of a competitive franchise and go for another Stanley Cup, not be in “rebuilding” mode.
While Ovechkin’s presence on the team is still a key ticket seller, the Great Eight specifically didn’t want that to be the reason to stay in Washington. Maybe there’s a bit of fight left in the Caps after all and they can pull out a bit of a last-minute season rejuvenation. A quick hot streak, along with help from other Eastern Conference rivals, could propel the Caps into the playoffs once again. If I were a betting man (I’m not despite my last name), I wouldn’t put any money on the Washington Capitals making the playoffs this spring but I would be willing to say that next year may look much better for this franchise – if they can stay healthy.
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