The Vrana Dilemma: Lack of Minutes Comes at Bad Time


One of the biggest advantages for the Washington Capitals in this playoff run compared to the previous two was the youth on the team that can help bring speed to the game. Yet it looks like coach Barry Trotz’s approach is still preferring playing veterans over young players with promise. 

This has been an ongoing problem all season and after dropping Game 1 in overtime, it looks like it carried over into the playoffs. Granted, it’s just one game and adjustments are usually made when you come up on the wrong side of a game. One notable issue that didn’t sit well among Caps fans was lack of ice time Jakub Vrana had despite the impact he made during the course of the game.

Vrana had a great NHL playoff debut. In the first period, he drew a penalty on Ian Cole that sent him to the box for hooking. In the third, he used his speed to take the puck down ice, quickly turned to his right and flung the puck cross-ice to Devante Smith-Pelly to give the Capitals the lead at the time.

The Capitals would go on to fall to the Blue Jackets in overtime and when the final stats came out, Vrana’s total ice time was only 6:58, the least time on ice among the forwards.

Throughout the season Trotz has inserted Vrana in and out of the lineup. Partially his reasoning for that method comes when a young player is in a scoring drought, sit them for a few games hoping it sends a message to them or gives them the opportunity to observe things by watching the game from the press box. The vantage point is much different upstairs than it is when you’re on the bench allowing you to catch the little things to tweak your game.

When you put regular season games into account, Vrana’s 6:58 in Game 1 was the second lowest ice time he had this season. Only the overtime loss to the Flyers back on Jan. 21 was the least amount of ice time Vrana had as he clocked in for 6:25.

The Capitals had their struggles against youth. For the last two years, they were beat by the likes of Nick Bonino, Patric Hornqvist, and Connor Sheary. Last year in the first round, they were nearly beat by Auston Matthews and William Nylander. The Capitals have the youth this year, they have the speed. Jakub Vrana is an essential part of that youth movement. His ice time may have been brief, but he did make a positive impact in a game that turned out to be negative for the Capitals. Imagine if he was out there for at least 15 minutes. Maybe we’ll see that in Game 2.

By Michael Marzzacco

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12 Responses to The Vrana Dilemma: Lack of Minutes Comes at Bad Time

  1. “…it looks like coach Barry Trotz’s approach is still preferring playing veterans over young players with promise…This has been an ongoing problem all season…”

    Michael, I think you’re understating things considerably…This isn’t new. For three years now Barry Trotz has steadfastly avoided making–(for him)–difficult decisions which involve finding ways to get his youngsters meaningful ice time in order to play through inevitable mistakes and actually DEVELOP.

    In earlier posts I’ve referenced the youngsters on Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh, et al, wondering aloud how come those teams get so much more production out of their young players than we seem to get out of ours. I seriously doubt that their younger players are inherently THAT much better than ours. And the main thing that comes to mind is (the comparative lack of) PT.

    I absolutely love Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly who, if I’m no mistaken, not only has one of the quickest releases in the NHL but also ranks among the league leaders annually in shooting percentage. But, typically, after BT praises them for a good performance in one game or another, you look up and weeks later you’ll see that they’re still not getting an extended chance to contribute and mature…

    I realize that you can’t play everybody. At some point one or more of them may have to be traded. But for this team to really bloom in the years ahead, Barry Trotz–or whoever this team’s bench coach winds up being–will have to use the regular season to groom youngsters so they can develop chemistry with each other–not to mention confidence in their own abilities…


    Sta. Monica

  2. Anonymous says:

    Come on Larry used the lad that kid has the speed

  3. Brenna Neal says:

    The Caps will never do well in the playoffs with Trotz running the bench. Just once I wish the Caps would hire a coach with some common sense. If most of the fans can see what is wrong with the Caps, why can’t Trotz. Trotz did the same thing in Nashville. He would sit the young players and in so doing, he would deplete their confidence. Trotz should stop doing the same old, same old, and start coaching with a bit of creativity and freaking common sense. Let the kids play. They are mostly the only ones who appear to be enjoying themselves, God knows most of the vets play like they are getting teeth pulled. There isn’t much fun on this team, I would love to see them, at the very least, get that back into their game. Give the kids some decent playing time.

    • Reggie says:

      I will take the Hickey knowledge and coaching ability of Coach Trotz over the combined knowledge of the readers on their blog.


      But Barry appears to be a leopard…he’ll sink or swim with his vets… and I guess those are his spots…

      With his Tommy Lasorda\Scotty Bowman “don’t trust newbies” approach we’ll still win our share President’s Trophies during the regular season, though…and that may be all it takes to persuade Ted Leonsis and GMBM to keep Trotz as our bench coach until I die….without a Cup….ugh!


    • My most recent comment was in response to YOUR post…not Reggie’s…


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