AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
After 7 long years, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the Stanley Cup Final. In one calendar year, the Penguins have gone from a somewhat dysfunctional organization to an organization that could win another Stanley Cup.
The roster has been overhauled under GM Jim Rutherford. There has been a recent coaching change. There has also been a changing of the guard in between the pipes. The Penguins core group has remained the same, but the supporting cast is slightly different.
Over the past year, the Penguins have made oodles of moves to get back to the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins have made some blockbuster and minor moves, but they have all seemed to work out into their favor. The acquisitions of forwards Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel have probably been the most notable moves for their club in the last calendar year.
In addition to the Penguins oodles of transactions, the Penguins have also received some help from their home-grown talent. Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Tom Kuhnhackl are some of the players that have been developed in their system over the past couple of seasons, and they have all stepped into the lineup and contributed some goals and points.
HOW IS THE CAPITALS ORGANIZATIONAL APPROACH DIFFERENT?
The Capitals have been very methodical in their organizational approach. The Capitals have attempted to get younger, and they are relying more on the in-house approach to fixing team holes.
In the 2015-16 season, Capitals fans saw their young players take positive strides with their development. Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov, are some of the players that accepted more on-ice responsibilities. For some of these players, it was their first full season in the NHL.
Last summer, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan filled some holes in the lineup, as he traded for T.J. Oshie, and signed Justin Williams in free agency. These holes were not filled in-house, but these moves paid off tremendously for the Capitals. MacLellan was able to rebuild the Capitals right side, as he found two guys that brought speed and finesse to the lineup.
While the Capitals gained a lot for their lineup last summer, they also lost a lot as they lost Joel Ward to the San Jose Sharks in free agency. This loss was a huge blow to the Capitals lineup, as they lost a guy that is a clutch playoff performer and a good net-front presence.
IS THE PENGUINS ORGANIZATIONAL APPROACH BETTER?
On-ice chemistry is very important in the NHL. If a front office team tinkers with the chemistry too much, it can backfire and make things worse.
The Penguins have surrounded their star players with a good supporting cast. This supporting cast contains some young guys, and some solid NHL veterans. The Penguins have found the right chemistry in their locker room, and they have a good mix of players.
The Capitals front office has improved with their organizational moves. When Brian MacLellan has hinted at lineup changes, he has delivered. Unfortunately for MacLellan, he has been handicapped by moves (and non-moves) that were made by his predecessor.
The Penguins are only a couple of fluke bounces and goals better than the Capitals are. Both organizations are very similar in their respective blueprints, and they are almost a mirror image of each other. The Capitals are still in a position where they do not have to make the big splash to shake things up. But if the Capitals continue to make the right moves, they will only continue to get better and they will only improve as an organization.
The Penguins are not light years ahead of the Capitals. It may seem like it, only because they are in the Stanley Cup Final. But the Capitals are still right on the cusp of breaking through and getting over the hump. The Capitals can continue with their methodical approach, and it will surely pay off. Stanley Cup contending teams are not built over night, and the Capitals need to continue to find that chemistry with all of their forward lines and defensive pairs.
By: George Foussekis