Offseason moves make Capitals contenders for the Stanley Cup

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New head coach, Barry Trotz, looks to move the Capitals deep into the playoffs this year.

By Nathan Gertler, Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals suffered an utterly disappointing season last year, finishing fifth in the Metropolitan division last year, and missing out on the playoffs.  However, the offseason moves the Capitals have made over the summer will once again make them contenders.

First off, the Capitals fired head coach Adam Oates after a disappointing two years at the helm.  They also decided to not bring back general manager and vice president George McPhee, after 16 seasons, including seven division titles.

One of the many positive moves the Capitals made during the offseason was the hiring of former Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz and promoting assistant general manager Brian MacLellan to general manager.

Trotz was very successful with a lackluster Predators roster, so he should do wonders with the unprecedented talent that the Capitals have to offer.

Even without star winger Alexander Ovechkin, who led the NHL in goals last year with 51, the Capitals have talent in almost every other position.

One position that needed improvement last year was in defense, and the Capitals put pen to paper on two expensive, but highly-rated free agent defenders, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen.  Orpik signed a five-year, $27.5 million dollar deal in the summer, while Niskanen joined for seven years, $40.25 million.

According to sports writer Neil Greenberg in an Oct. 8 Washington Post article, Niskanen and Orpik are “clear upgrades” over the “revolving door of blue liners that Washington brought in last year” and could also help the team’s “biggest weakness last year: the penalty kill.”

The Capitals ranked 16th in penalty kill percentage last season, and 21st overall in penalty minutes per game.  Both areas gained much improvement with the additions of Orpik and Niskanen in the offseason.

Improving the defense was one of the main priorities of the offseason, but that was not the only problem last season.  The Capitals relied on Ovechkin way too much last season, and it ultimately cost them as they did not make the playoffs.

Center Nicklas Backstrom hopes to build on his 61 assists last season, which ranked him third in the league.  The Capitals will also look to the highly-touted youngster Evgeny Kuznetsov to make a big impact this season.

Missing out on the playoffs last year, the Capitals had a very mediocre and disappointing season, but the changes they made and the players they have brought in this season will once again make them contenders.  The Capitals will start their road to redemption Oct. 9 in their season and home opener against the Montreal Canadiens.