Jason Bondurant/NoVa Caps
The Washington Capitals kicked off the 2022-23 season with the official start of training camp today. The team conducted their first press conferences of the season with the media as part of the day’s itinerary.
Carlson, who is entering his 14th season with the Capitals and fifth season of an eight-year, $64 deal signed in the summer of 2018, is one of the Capitals’ longest-tenured players and has been a stalwart on the blueline since his first full season in 2010-11. The Capitals’ blueline will remain relatively stable entering the season, with Erik Gustafsson being the notable addition on the backend.
“I think we got a lot of different options”, Carlson said of the team’s defensive corps, “Lot of different ways you can go, a lot of good players. I think Gus is going to be great, he’s a real skilled guy, really sees the ice well and I know a guy we’ve kind of heard good things about leading up to him being here.”
The Caps also added a number of other players, key among them goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who becomes the team’s de facto number one in net after the tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek failed to yield a clear number one.
“I think those guys are going to fit in great, I think they’re great players, are here for a reason, obviously. I like them off the ice but certainly, haven’t played against Dylan [Strome] that much but I’ve seen his skill level and what’s capable of, and looking forward to putting it altogether”, Carlson said of the new additions. Carlson expressed his excitement at playing in front of a new netminder while also praising Samsonov and Vanecek for their contributions. “I mean that’s not my job, I don’t ever make those decisions [on changing the situation in goal] but, his track record speaks for [itself] what he’s capable of, and it can be difficult. I think those two guys we had last year did a great job with the situation, I don’t think that’s probably the most ideal situation, but they both did great with it, but I think it’s a lot more normal to be like this and lean on one guy…”
The Capitals will be without key lineup cogs in Tom Wilson (recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL) and Nicklas Backstrom (recovering from offseason hip surgery) to start the 2022-23 regular season. While some may doubt the Caps’ ability to adapt, adversity is something the team has shown its ability to overcome. “I think we’ve shown in the past when we’ve had injuries that guys need to step, there’s no other way to look at”, said Carlson, “We all need to step up in certain ways, but certainly those are huge roles to fill. Guys that mean a lot to the team on the ice, but off the ice. Tom does everything and Nick is the best power play half-wall guy in the league probably. So those are things that you can’t just say ‘we’re going to the put the next guy in and it’ll go as smoothly’ but we can all find different ways to chip in and change things, and be better to make up for the differences in styles and whatnot.”
“Overall, it was underwhelming”, Carlson assessed in regards to the Caps’ power play unit which finished 23rd in the league last season. The absences of Backstrom and Wilson will mean a different look and possible approach in the interim of a return from either player. “I think we got it going in certain areas and at certain times it felt better than the results we had. But I’ve been around long enough to know that feeling better than the results really isn’t an adequate response, so no, it wasn’t as good as it could or should be.”
The Capitals’ captain, Alex Ovechkin, sits third in NHL history in Goals Scored, and on the cusp of passing Gordie Howe for second all-time. “As crazy as it sounds it kind of is for like me, it’s just like one thing after the next it seems like. It’s wild, it’s one thing to lead the league in scoring year after whatever it is, but now it’s like Jesus, we’re talking real stuff here now, so yeah, on one hand I think we’re kind of blind and numb to how high on that list he’s gotten, and how tangible it is…however cool it is, I think as a player it’ll be even cooler looking back in the rearview, 10-15 years down the road and realizing you played a big part in his stretch and how insane his accomplishments are.”
By Michael Fleetwood