The Injury Bug Strikes – How to Cure the Capitals Lineup

Photo: NHL/Washington Capitals

editorialOver the past couple of games, the Capitals have lost some important players in their lineup. Defenseman John Carlson was lost on December 26 to an undisclosed injury. Centreman and top faceoff man Jay Beagle was lost on December 30, as he suffered a hand injury. Beagle will miss the next 4-6 weeks of action. Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been out of action for about 2 months now.

Dec 16, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Ottawa Senators in the second period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In a nutshell, the Capitals have lost their top defensive pairing, and they have lost their 3rd line centreman. These injuries are huge losses and the Capitals organizational depth at each position has been tested.

With Carlson and Orpik out of the mix, Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov, and Nate Schmidt have all stepped up and eaten some more minutes.

The Capitals have also dug into the system and have called up players like Aaron Ness, Connor Carrick, and Ryan Stanton.

With Beagle’s absence, the Capitals have shifted around their forward lines a little bit. Marcus Johansson has been bumped down to fill the 3rd line center void. Zach Sill has also come up from Hershey and has played in this role. Andre Burakovsky will probably also see some time in this position in the near future.

The Capitals are fortunate that none of the injuries to their lineup this year are season-ending. It seems like John Carlson and Brooks Orpik may be back fairly soon. Jay Beagle will be out for a month and a half, but he should be available down the stretch.

While the Capitals will be missing some key players, they will all be out of the mix for the short-term.

With the Capitals estimated to have $4.6 million available cap space due to long-term injured reserve (LTIR), the Capitals have some room to maybe add a quick-fix player. Could the Capitals add someone like Mike Richards or Scott Gomez to the mix?

While both of these veterans have plenty of experience, they are both questionable NHL players. Richards has had some off-ice issues, so there are some red flags there. Gomez is 36, and was recently placed on unconditional waivers by the St. Louis Blues.

If the Capitals are going to add anything, would they rather bring in someone from the outside, or should they try to keep everything in-house? Right now, the Capitals seem very content with what they already have in-house.

The NHL Trade Deadline is 9 weeks away on February 29, 2016. While the injury bug is hitting the Capitals a little right now, this Capitals club could look very different at the time of the NHL Trade Deadline. What happens if they suffer another major injury between now and then? What happens if the Capitals have a full healthy lineup at the Deadline?

Sometimes the best move is the move that is not made at all. While the Capitals are stuck with some short-term injuries right now, there is no need for them to make a knee-jerk reaction move. John Carlson and Brooks Orpik will both (hopefully) be back soon. Jay Beagle will be back within the next month and a half. The Capitals are in good shape with their depth right now and they still have a good lead in the Metropolitan Division.

From a business perspective, the Capitals are probably best riding out the storm right now and standing pat. It is encouraging to see that depth players like Taylor Chorney, Dmitry Orlov, Zach Sill, Aaron Ness have contributed admirably filling in for some of the Capitals top players.

Once the Capitals get back to full health, then they can re-evaluate their options. As the NHL Trade Deadline gets closer, the Capitals will probably add to their lineup anyway. The Capitals have been searching the market for another forward for most of the season. The Trade Deadline market will not expand much until teams begin to fall out of the playoff picture. Right now, the NHL is very tight competitively and there are a lot of teams within the playoff mix.

There is no doubt that the Capitals will probably load up right before the Deadline. This is one of the deepest lineups in franchise history. This Capitals club is poised to do something great. But the Capitals are still in good shape even with a few short-term injuries. There is no need to over-react and make a bad short-term move. The Capitals can afford to wait all the way down to the wire and they can afford to be patient.

By George Foussekis

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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