“The Future Is Now”?: Is The “Veterans Over Youth” Philosophy Really Giving The Capitals The Best Chance to Win Another Cup In The Alex Ovechkin Era?

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.

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

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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22 Responses to “The Future Is Now”?: Is The “Veterans Over Youth” Philosophy Really Giving The Capitals The Best Chance to Win Another Cup In The Alex Ovechkin Era?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ll spontaneously combust if we lose prospects over Johansson and Eller

    • steven says:

      Well not combust but will shout from the roof tops that there needs to be a new GM adn HC and if Ted doesnt like it then a new owner! Tired of postponing the inevitable rebuild just to satisfy the ego of a, who is turning out to be a lousy owner and very bad GM, owner and Gm just to lose in the first round of the playoffs again and again and they have to realize that this team, even with Ovie, is not a Cup team. They should never of resigned Holtby but instead let him go or traded him and kept Gruby after the Cup. You cant always look at just next year but instead look at not only next year but 2-4 years down the road. If they had we would not be in this position now. Look what is going to happen after the 22/23 season, there are 10 UFA and 3 RFA and there will not be enough mney to resign them all. So why waste money on players like MoJo and Eller and to a degree Mantha and Oshie this year when you should be looking to trade them and let some of the rookies take their place. And tell Lav if he does not want to do the job as a head coach and coach all types of players he can resign NOW!

      And to answer your question above on which players would not clear at the end of camp, I would have to say AJF, Shepard, Snively, Johansen, Gustafsson and possible Leason and Borgström. Just to many players to lose for a team that is going to have many holes to fill next year.

      • Jon Sorensen says:

        Gonna be VERY interesting, Steven.

        • steven says:

          It is and next year is going to be even more interesting especailly if they lose most of the young players who cant pass through waivers freely. The combination of( and using Anonymous words) not having a forward thinking Gm and the owner wanting to keep all the players we have a terrible situation where we may lose many young players that will be playig in the NHL for other teams. Going to be interesting to see what happens at the cut down day, trade deadline and over next summer. Maybe the GM goes all in to obtain a top 5 or 10 pick.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why would anyone claim Eller at his full cap hit if he didn’t even make the Caps opening day roster?

    • Anonymous says:

      They would trade Eller before opening night (roster at 22 deadline), not waive him. Hopefully for at least a 3rd, but we might actually have to give a 4th or 5th to unload his contract. Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

      • Anonymous says:

        Again, at that point, if Eller was getting traded, that means he did not make the roster. You can only trade a player if there is a market for him. If he failed to make the Caps’ opening night roster, there probably would not be much of a market for him as he is 33 and coming off a bad season. Without multiple teams lining up to bid for him (unlikely), he’d have to get waived.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          Not always true. You can trade a player if there is no market for them. (Richard Panik, etc.) where the Caps had to add a pick for other teams to take player and eat salary.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Forward thinking. Something I wish Mac did a little more of. Otherwise we are going to grind the team into a pulp.

    • steven says:

      YOu are so right and they should have been forward thinking back in 2017. Honestly this GM and owner needs to sit down with an NFL team to talk to them and learn how to work with the salary cap in terms of keeping players and when to trade them. I learned this a long time ago….sports is BIG business and if Ted ran his other businesses the way the Caps are run he would not have any businesses at all as they are always behind the 8 ball and loosing players to cap issues. I truly believe that this organization probably has the worst understanding of how to work proactively with a cap rather than always having to trade young players and picks to avoid being over the cap. They dont have to keep everyone no matter how good or popular they are. Sometimes you just have to trade a high salaried vet or even a vet about to get a hugh contract because it is better for the team not only in cap issue but also in getting young players in the limeup. After they won the Cup they should ahve traded Holtby, Carlson and porobably Oshie and they would not have the age and cap issues that they now have.

      • DWGie26 says:

        You can’t rebuild an NHL team like you can an NFL team. For starters, your first three rounds of picks in the NFL SHOULD have an impact on the NFL team in their rookie year. In the NHL it is the first three picks (maybe). It’s a different business all together.

        In terms of ownership/front office, the Caps are by far the best in DC area. I would say top 10 in the NHL probably closer to 5.

        Are they perfect, no. Have they made mistakes, yes. But the success of this team, the game day experience, and willingness to spend to win, is world class.

        • steven says:

          Totally agree and IMHO that is why you start to trade players now rather than think that this team can win a Cup and have most of the young players on the team this year already getting experience here in Wash rather than in other organizatins. Most of the players on that list are either ready or veryclose and it would be a shame to lose them which means that next summer there would not be much in the cubbard and it would be backto spending vast amounts again.

          • Jon Sorensen says:

            Also agree. Better to trade a year early (more trade value) than a year late. In this case, Eller is a UFA and if not dealt by the deadline, the Capitals will get nothing for him.

            • DWGie26 says:

              The patriots (NFL) have always been the best at this and led to many championships. Don’t see many teams in the NHL do this.

              The ability to trade Eller will be fully dependent on the play of Strome and McMichael. And to some extent how Protas and Lapierre develop in Hershey and can come in for injury duty.

              here is hoping that is the case, and that there is an overvalued market for Eller. And that GMBM and Lavi are comfortable pulling the trigger. But if they are really in the conversation for a cup, I wouldn’t expect Eller to be moved and we’ll have to deal with that.

  4. DWGie26 says:

    I think AJF, Leason, and Snively will not make it through waivers. I don’t think AJF is a big deal in the big picture as he is easily replaceable. I would prefer to try and trade him for a tweener 3/4 RD.

    I do not want to lose Leason or Snively as both project to be key pieces in 2023-4. I also don’t want to lose LuJo but i don’t think he would get claimed.

    Zero chance Fucale or Shepherd get claimed. And if they do, so what.

    What i would like to see unfold, but it depends on players earning it, is CMM as 3C and Eller down to 4LW pushing Mojo to 13/14 forward. He has value and I no longer have issues with his resigning. He can also be buried, but he will have to get demonstrably beat out. For the first time in a while, we have legit competition for 1RW, Center position, 3LD. Will be interesting to see who best makes their case.

  5. novafyre says:

    I think the Caps are living too much on past glories, past successes. No, I don’t want a wholesale rebuild. But I feel that they would be better served by a steady trickle of rookies each year and I really feel that last year was a wasted opportunity. We had to start the year with rookies and I believe that most of us were very surprised by our success. Then we went back to vets and our play suffered. The moves this summer have not given me much hope that the wind has changed.

    I know that contracts and waiver rules limit our options. But, since I also watch the Bears (and Rays), it really irked me to see our rookies not playing in DC and yet also not getting ice time elsewhere.

    I doubt that I will see our rookies on the ice for the Caps again this season, but hope that I will see them playing in Hershey or North Charleston before they move on to an NHL team which will use them.

    • DWGie26 says:

      I agree with both of your points:

      * overindexed on old glory. But once they made that decision they were kinda stuck with it.

      * I’d like to see one or two rookies break out this year (I consider CMM and Fever to have done so last year). Can we get one or two of Snively, Leason, LuJo, AJF, or Beck to stick as full timers this year. Protas and Lapierre are my two favorite prospects but the waiver and cap dynamics will surely keep them in Hershey which I view as a good thing.

    • steven says:

      You either do it this year or are forced to do it next year as ythe Caps have 10 UFA and 3 UFA next summer. You are right about keeping players to long. Sadto say butplayers are like vegetables as they all have expiration dates and it is best to move many of them before that date. The Caps ahve a problem of wanting to hold unto all of their players to long. Yes players likeOvie and Backy are exceptions but everyone else is not and many need to go this summer rather than lose a ton of young players that are ready or almost ready to play in the NHL. Another problem is the HC who doesnt like young players so maybe its time to sit him down and say this is the team we are going to field and if you dont like it you can resign. Honestly I would not be shocked to see him and most of the staff gony by mid season asmost are not conducive to what is going to happen here next year…..forced rebuild and isnt it better to start now rather than love many players just because they are young. At this point with the inept GN we have I would be happy to see him go also. As for trading players now I know they would be selling low and that is ok just to get rid of the players and their salaries and start the rebuild. Players like Mojo, Oshie, Mantha, Eller, Haave to make a choice fo you want Carlso or Orlov as salary cap will not allow for both, Backy, Hagelinand yes Kuzy. Start almost new and fresh without any headcases. Big question is how long do you want to lose for; start now and maybe 1-2 years or start next year and expant tha to 5-6 years. sad but you cannot retool forever and you neednew blood and thoughts in the GM and HC positions.

  6. Jerry levine says:

    Unfortunately the Caps will not win another cup in the Ovi era. The team is far behind the top 4 or 5 teams in the NHL. Developing younger prospects is the time and true way to improve a team over the long run. Going with an older established player that McPhee did cost them Forsberg. How did that work out. Admitedly McPhee was trying to save his job but did we learn the lesson!!! Agree Fehervary should have been up a year earlier. The Siegenthaler trade was misguided. I was high on Schmidt when so many were down on him. How did that turn out in the end. Caps management and coaches have been veteran centered and that has not served the franchise well. Carolina developed their defensive corp by playing young defensemen and Colorado did the same. This worked out very well for both of those franchises. The Caps need to get younger and faster the sooner the better.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with what you’re saying, but Schmidt has bounced around with several teams. He may have been a bit overhyped.

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