Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review Journal
It may seem hard to believe, but nearly three months have passed since the night the Capitals captured their very first Stanley Cup championship in Las Vegas. In a few weeks, training camp will be commencing at the newly-renamed Medstar Capitals Iceplex, and aside from a number of burning questions for the 2018-19 season, the Capitals will find themselves in a position they’ve never been before: entering the season as the defending Stanley Cup champions. The next question that needs to be asked is: can they successfully defend their title?
With a new, but familiar face behind the bench in Todd Reirden, as well as two new additional coaches in Reid Cashman and Scott Arniel (in addition to longtime assistant Blaine Forsythe), the Capitals will certainly have a mix of new and old voices to guide them through an 82-game season. And aside from losing Jay Beagle and Alex Chiasson to free agency, and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, the Caps are returning their entire Cup-winning roster this season, after Picasso-esque offseason management by General Manager Brian MacLellan. This, combined with the knowledge of what it takes to go all the way, makes defending their title slightly easier, albeit not much.
For the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era, the team will not have to worry about dealing with the burden of a postseason collapse earlier in the year, but the pressures of being the defending Stanley Cup champions. By the time every member of the Cup-winning team has his day with the prized chalice (see a complete list here), the preseason will be on the verge of beginning.
So can the Capitals successfully defend their title and make a repeat run as champions? While the Pittsburgh Penguins’ two consecutive Cup wins may make the prospect of repeating seem easy, it is harder than one initially might think . Prior to the Penguins’ run in 2016 and 2017, the last team to win consecutive Stanley Cups were the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings. In addition to that, other teams around the league (both in the East and West Conferences) have added to their rosters, and in some teams’ instances their coaching staffs, over the offseason, making the Capitals’ path to another victory parade more difficult. If the team can remain consistently healthy throughout the season, play with the same resiliency and determination they showed this past season, and don’t regress under Reirden’s guidance (and given that he was an Associate Coach with the last season, that shouldn’t be an issue), they have just as much a chance to win as the next team. Like with anything in the NHL, anything is possible.
By Michael Fleetwood