There is no mystery regarding Washington Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan’s strategy for the next few seasons. Do anything and everything possible to win another cup in the Ovechkin era. I don’t think many would have an issue with that philosophy, at least not on the surface.
Digging a little deeper, the philosophy has meant choosing to “reload” with experienced veterans instead of replenishing the roster with younger, developing players. Again, it’s likely that many might agree with the thought process, at least initially. But in reality, it does begin to raise an eyebrow.
We’ve already seen the negative results of “The Future Is Now” philosophy (to borrow a term from former Washington Redskins/Commanders head coach George Allen). The Capitals chose to go with Zdeno Chara over Jonas Siegenthaler (Subsequently traded to New Jersey) to make that “all-in” push for the 2020-21 season.
The decision also sent Martin Fehervary back to the AHL for another season, after he had just finished playing in the playoffs for the Capitals in the Toronto bubble. He was NHL-ready, and discouraged by the setback.
I don’t think many would disagree that the Capitals would be better off at this point in time if they had not made the decision to sign the well-aged Chara, as Siegenthaler has become one of the better defensemen in the league. It could also be argued the Capitals might be better positioned to win a cup right now (2022-23 season) if they bided their time with Siegenthaler and let Fehervary play.
Rather than reloading with veterans every off-season since 2018, it might have been a more fruitful strategy to stick with a few of their younger players. They may have missed the playoffs, or been first-round exits for a season or two, but they might be better positioned for another cup run today.
It’s all “hindsight is 20-20” right now…or is it?
The Capitals have rendered four consecutive first-round exits under the “Future Is Now Philosophy”. However, there’s still time in the Ovechkin era to go with the younger options and possibly be better positioned one or two years from now. In defense of MacLellan, he did bring in a younger cut of veteran experience for this year’s veteran reload.
All signs point to the Capitals continuing with the philosophy entering this year’s training camp. The Capitals are once again looking like they intend to go with experience (Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller, etc.). Unfortunately, this may mean additional endings for one or more prospects time in Washington, most of whom are not fully developed.
Interested in your $0.02. The following players are not waivers exempt. Would any of them clear at end of camp?
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) August 12, 2022
Will we be talking about the decision to keep Marcus Johansson and waiving Brett Leason in the coming months? Will we be debating the decision to keep Lars Eller and waiving Joe Snively in the same time frame? It’s certainly possible. And how will the team be positioned next August as a result of these decisions?
Don’t get me wrong, there is risk in deciding to go with youth over experience. It’s very possible the youth never reach their forecasted potential, and thus, the Capitals might not be better off in two years (Still in the Ovechkin era) to win a cup. But again, four consecutive first-round exits is a hard stop sign for me with regards to current philosophies. What do they say about the definition of insanity?
I guess we should also circle back on the whole mantra of winning another cup in the Ovechkin era. The idea is commonly disguised as trying to win another cup with “the current core group of players,” but make no mistake, “current core group of players” is code for “Alex Ovechkin”. And it’s certainly ok to define it that way, but it alters the overall parameters.
Some might argue that the injury, surgery and somewhat dire forecast for Nicklas Backstrom has already signaled that times are changing. The “core group of players” is no longer really in existence. Or is it evolving?
By Jon Sorensen