With the Capitals first preseason game about six weeks out, speculation is high among Capitals fans regarding the team’s ability to carry over last seasons success to the 2017 season.
In 2014, Brian MacLellan was promoted to General Manager after the Capitals failed to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years, one of his initial moves was hiring former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz as the Capitals’ head coach. MacLellan, very cognizant of the team’s status emphatically stated, “I view it as a two-year window. We’re going for it this year, we’re going for it next year, and then after that we’re evaluating where we’re at.”
An Aging Ovechkin
That statement, clearly signals that time is of the essence before Alexander Ovechkin’s on ice performance begins the slow, but steady decline that aging hockey forwards face after 30. Ovechkin, the Capitals number one draft pick in 2004, winner of three league MVP awards, consistent leader in scoring who scored more than 50 goals seven times in his career – the last three in consecutive seasons — has not made it out of the second round, a situation that Trotz was brought aboard to fix.
Does Trotz Have the Right Stuff?
As we stand on the brink of the 2016-2017 season – the second of the two-year window – does Trotz have the right stuff to lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals? Believers of “Past Performance Predicts Future Behavior” argue that Trotz is not the coach best equipped to lead the Capitals to the Promised Land. Despite his record as one of the winningest coaches in NHL history, he has never made a deep run in the playoffs. In his 17 years of coaching, Trotz’s teams have made the playoffs nine times only advancing to the second round in four of those runs.
Conversely, with the Capitals great success last season – optimistic fans point to Trotz’s experience with the Capitals where they won the Presidents’ Trophy with 120 points, set a franchise record for wins and road wins, and went the entire regular season without suffering back-to-back losses in regulation play. Furthermore, the Capitals finished with a +59 goal differential – the best in the league.
Hero or Zero?
With the 2016 season’s successes behind them and only slight changes in the player roster fans remain hopeful that the Jack Adams award-winning Trotz, Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Braden Holtby, and league leading scorer Ovechkin can unlock the magic formula necessary to advance to the finals and beyond.
With the closing window of opportunity, Trotz’s record, an aging Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals playoff history, can the Capitals experience “the thrill of victory” or are we stuck in a Groundhog’s Day loop with a lifetime sentence for “the agony of defeat”?
By Stephanie Judge