It’s really a matter of personal perspective as to what each of those terms means to you with regards to NHL roster management. In the big picture sense, it’s semantics. But closer to the District, each term has real meaning pertaining to the Washington Capitals ethos.
So, have the Capitals already entered a true “rebuilding” stage, intentionally, unintentionally, or as a result of uncontrollable circumstances?
The term “rebuild” more often than not implies a momentary restructuring (however brief or long it may be) of a team with the future in mind, in lieu of the primary goal of chasing a championship. A “rebuild” could take three months, three years or three decades. Hello Toronto.
Nevertheless, some within Caps nation have already begun to label the Capitals’ current situation a “rebuild”. Others in Caps Nation will argue a true rebuild will only occur when captain Alex Ovechkin retires, or when the entire current “core” is jettisoned. In other words, it’s more directly tied to specific players for them.
Star center Nicklas Backstrom required hip surgery less than a month ago and will likely be out for at least the 2022-23 regular season, if not longer. Whether the Capitals replace Backstrom from within, as MacLellan stated in his pre-draft presser last week, or they go forward and sign or trade for a high-caliber center, the second line will undergo significant change before opening night.
The injury to Carl Hagelin will also require another new face. Hagelin’s condition was improving, but as he stated in his last interview, he’s focused on health, first, but hopes to play again someday.
The Capitals have also now jettisoned both of their goaltenders from last season. Cleaning house and starting from scratch at the goaltender position has to be a rare occasion (I passed on doing the research on this one). Regardless, the Capitals netminder tandem will be completely new on opening night.
In addition, the Capitals will likely move on from at least five roster players from last season (Justin Schultz, Michal Kempny, Matt Irwin, Marcus Johansson), all requiring new faces to step in. Finally, the injury to Tom Wilson will also require yet another new player for a majority of the first half of the season. It would be a temporary need, but a current need nonetheless.
As a result, the Capitals could see as many as 8-10 new faces on their opening night roster when they host the Bruins on October 12. That’s as much as a 45% overhaul. We could see a trade or two that could possibly increase that number to over 50%. Does changing out half of a team’s roster constitute a rebuild?
MacLellan’s statement regarding replacing from within indicates the plan is to elevate prospects (youth). There is nothing wrong with training kids on the job, but that is also another key indicator a rebuild is underway.
Most will agree an overhaul is desperately needed. The question is, does it already garner the “rebuild” moniker? Some will say a true “rebuild” will require the replacement of specific players in the “core” before it’s truly underway. That’s for you to call.
In the end it’s just a label. But it’s a label that’s tied to the philosophical mindset within the organization and among fans. It’s a label that is in high-use right now within the Capitals universe, and one we will be hearing about for some time to come.
By Jon Sorensen