Ever since the 2007-08 season, when the Capitals returned to prominence in NHL, expectations from fans and players have been the same: win a Stanley Cup. That season’s club saw the emergence of rookie Nicklas Backstrom, young, puck-moving defenseman Mike Green, young Russian sniper Alex Semin, and star player Alex Ovechkin score 65 goals. But that season seems like a distant memory. Both Green and Semin are gone, and Ovechkin and Backstrom will be entering their eleventh and ninth season, respectively.
Goaltender Braden Holtby said the Caps’ time is now to win a Stanley Cup. But how much longer do the Caps truly have to win a Stanley Cup with Ovechkin and Backstrom still in the primes of their careers?
When the Capitals lost Game 7 of their second-round playoff series against the New York Rangers, fans were left with more optimism than in past years past. Despite another early exit, the Caps showed they had a legitimate chance to win a Cup. In the past, the Caps were a regular season juggernaut, only to disappear in the early rounds of the playoffs. Head coach Barry Trotz had the team playing playoff-style hockey the entire season, and emphasized good, two-way play. This was an area that had been the team’s Achilles’ heel since their resurgence in 2008. This season, the Caps employed defenseman such as former Stanley Cup-winner Brooks Orpik, fantastic two-way defensemen in Matt Niskanen and John Carlson, defensive defenseman Karl Alzner, and Green returned to his former self. It was the deepest blueline the Caps had since Ovechkin’s rookie campaign in 2005-06.
Some opposing fans might point out that the Caps had two games to put the Rangers away, and couldn’t. But the current team has some time to win a championship before Father Time catches Ovi and Backstrom. Ovechkin will turn 30 on September 17, and the window will be closing just a bit. Looking at NHL greats Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mike Bossy, and Brett Hull, their drop off in production- if you average their ages in their first down year- began at 31. ***Because Gretzky was so great, it was somewhat difficult to pinpoint his exact drop off-year*** Backstrom turns 28 November 23. But this is a different era of hockey and players are protected more. So it’s not entirely possible Ovechkin’s goal-scoring drops off immensely. Taking this information into consideration, I would give the Caps a four to five-year window to win a Stanley Cup. Because as Ovechkin goes, so too does Backstrom. They’ll likely be playing together until the day one or both retire. But until then, the Caps’ window is wide open.
By Michael Fleetwood