You hear it all the time. “The key to the season will be to get a good start”, or “they need to come out of the gates fast.” The fact of the matter is, that’s simply not the case.
Consider the Capitals were essentially .500 (11-10-1) at the quarter-pole last season, and the outcome that followed. You can see that “fast starts” aren’t as essential as many might have you think.
After a mediocre start (a losing record after 10 games and a .500 record at the quarter pole), Trotz and the team “went to the whip” Thanksgiving week last November, and eventually went on to win the Metropolitan Division.
Here is an incremental breakdown of the Capitals record through the first half of last season.
Evaluate, Then Attack
Last season, former Caps bench boss Barry Trotz publicly stated on a number of occasions that his intention was to use the first quarter of the season to examine players, evaluate line combinations and implement system features. And yet, many found the need to criticize the daily lines combos. Myopic analysis with a disregard for the “big picture”.
Utilizing the first quarter of the season as a laboratory just makes good hockey sense. The vital key is to have a good understanding of your team and it’s capabilities when you have to “go to the whip”, sometime in the second quarter of the season.
Yes, it’s true, a season can be essentially lost in the first quarter, but that means going on a long winless streak, going 1-9 or something of that nature.
The differentiation this season, in comparison to last, is the absence of Tom Wilson from the “laboratory” for the first quarter of the season. Any systems tweaks that include Wilson will need to wait until the second quarter of the season. The counter, this is essentially the same team as last year, meaning tweaks to “the system” should require less time to successfully implement.
By Jon Sorensen