From the parade stage, TJ Oshie chanted “Back to Back”. Over the summer, key contracts were signed, keeping most of the championship team in place. Now the season is about to begin and odds makers, the media and fans are wondering if a consecutive Stanley Cup is attainable.
One of the keys to repeating as champions, is to keep the majority of the team together. Statistically, NHL championship teams have a 30% roster turnover while non-championship teams have a 38% turnover. Once a team wins a championship, key players can garner huge pay increases. The salary cap doesn’t allow most teams to retain those players, thus the percentage of turnover is high. Prior to the salary cap, teams could keep pay huge salaries and retain entire teams for a decade, leading to championship dynasties. This is no longer feasible.
Another factor, not related to the salary cap, is the offseason. Stanley Cup champions play until the second week of June, giving most teams at least an extra month of rest and/or preparation time for the next season. If one includes the celebration surrounding the winning of the Cup, that’s another month. The “hangover” may also contribute to, at the very least, a slow start to the season.
The odds makers are giving Washington 13-1 odds at winning the Cup this year. The teams with better odds include Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, Toronto, Nashville, San Jose and Pittsburgh. The odds for Washington last year were 12-1.
As far as the turnover factor, the key personnel that will not be returning are Jay Beagle, Philipp Grubauer, and coach Barry Trotz. In terms of percentage, this is very positive for the Capitals. However, these were key components that were lost; Beagle’s proficiency in face offs and grit, Grubauer’s ability to keep the team in the hunt while Holtby was not in top form, and Trotz’s leadership. All things being the same with the players that remained (and it’s never the same), how the Capitals fill in these lost elements are big questions.
The celebrations throughout the summer, might have been the most joyful and fun to watch of any previous championship team. Will they be hungover? Will they still have the drive? They are back to being the team to beat, the champions! The Capitals are better when they play the role of underdog rather than the favorite. Nevertheless, they are NOT favored to win the Cup this year, they’ve had minimal turnover, some key questions remain but it seems they are poised to repeat as champions. When Alex Ovechkin was asked at camp what the goal was this year, he replied, “Not suck back-to-back.” Sounds about right.
By Andrea Schlegel