They Say History Tends to Repeat Itself: How Difficult will it be for the Capitals?

Photo: Associated Press

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. 

There have been many teams who repeated as champions in NHL history.  However, there has been only one team to accomplish this since the salary cap was implemented in the 2005-2006 season.

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

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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9 Responses to They Say History Tends to Repeat Itself: How Difficult will it be for the Capitals?

  1. Clifford Keefe says:

    I’m going to miss J-Beag…He was a superb draw man with terrific speed and a great attitude to boot…


  2. Diane Doyle says:

    I hope the boys get off to a good start but I keep thinking of the St Louis Cardinals. In 1964, they made an amazing comeback to win the pennant and the World Series. As late as early August, their manager at the time, Johnny Keane, was on the verge of being fired. Their long time GM had already been fired. But Cards won. But Keane ended up resigning and signed with, ironically enough, the team who his team had beaten in the World Series. Cards promoted one of their coaches, Red Schoendienst. They kept nearly all the personnel from the previous year, or at least the important players. (When Trotz resigned, all I could think about was Johnny Keane)

    So what happens? The Cards get off to a bad start and perform poorly and end up just below .500. After the season, they trade their first baseman and shortstop (both ageing veterans) to the Phillies in return for a “hot” prospect. They trade their MVP from the previous year to the Mets for two players. That particular guy had turned 33 during their championship year. So in 1966, they have a youth movement but some of the new guys did not work out at all. They traded for another slugger who became the next team leader, as it turns out. 1966 was a better year and they broke .500. They ended up repeating as champions in 1967 and made it to the Series in 1968 but lost.

    So could there be a miss this year but a revival not long afterwards. (And as for poor Johnny Keane, the Yankees tanked, got off to a poor start in 1966, fired Keane who died less than a year later.)

    • Clifford Keefe says:

      I once recall Red Schoendienst walking Willie McCovey in the first inning of a game between the Giants and St. Louis–IN ST. LOUIS!!–which meant that Red was so scared of Stretch that it didn’t matter to him that as the home team his Cards had the last at bat…and the score at the time was 0-0 with a man on first!! Not that Red was alone in his regard of Mr. McCovey–he was intentionally walked more often than anyone in his era–and also had a higher percentage of intentional passes than anyone in history to that point–260 of his 1345 walks overall.

      But there was another thing about McCovey which was almost as astonishing to me. Sport magazine had a superb columnist named Arnold Hano back then who took an annual poll of coaches asking them who the most feared left handed power hitter was in either league. McCovey won it five times as I recall. But the thing about THAT was that there was also another Willie terrorizing opposing pitchers during that time too–Wilver Stargell–who helped make the Pirates a lot harder to handle back in their cavernous Forbes field days when their lineup was filled with line drive, singles and doubles hitters–other than Stargell…

      I hope we get off to a flying start too so everyone in the league knows that our Stanley Cup was no fluke, but thanks to your observation I won’t push the panic button if we don’t!

      Thanks for jogging my memory about the Cards!


      Sta. Monica

  3. Anonymous says:

    for the first half, I am watching Burky, MK, Bowey and Copley… I am not concerned about the 4th line… Shummer! Top 9 and 4 stay the same… Canes are better, Jackets, Pens, Devils are all good… Flyers as well…. NYR-I arent so good

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