Former Caps defenseman John Erskine didn't get the best goodbye in team...
The Five Caps Who Need to Have a Big Year
With last season’s disappointing playoff run, the new additions to this year’s roster, and with some disgruntled ex-teammates spewing off at the mouth about a certain second line right winger, the microscope that the Caps have been under just got a little bit more focused. There are five in particular who will be on the radar screen more than others and will need to have huge years in order for the team to finally bring home the Cup.
#5- John Carlson
Along with defensive partner Karl Alzner, Carlson had a breakout year for the Capitals. He amassed 7 goals and 30 assists while maintaining a +21 +/- rating. Alzner and Carlson will be the defensive future of this franchise, and while Alzner was rewarded after this past season with a two-year contract extension, Carlson will be a restricted free agent after this year. One figures that the resigning of Carlson will be the #1 priority of George McPhee in this offseason, however this resigning will have more implications on the roster next year than most people think. Depending on how well Carlson matures and develops this year, the more money that he will be offered in the offseason. And the more money he is offered, the less money another defenseman will be offered whose contract also expires after this year (I’ll go more into detail with this later).
#4- Tomas Vokoun
In arguably the biggest signing in this free agency period, McPhee signed the coveted Florida goaltender Vokoun for a one year/$1.5 million contract. When asked why he took less money to sign with Washington, he stated that he felt that the Capitals gave him the best chance to win the Stanley Cup. Now it is time to put his money where his mouth is. He will be expected to be that true #1 goaltender the Capitals have been lacking since Olaf Kolzig, and will may be expected to be a mentor to Michal Neuvirth. If goaltending was ever the question the last few seasons, Vokoun is most certainly the answer, and will have to be huge between the pipes to not only carry the Capitals to postseason glory, but to also be offered another contract to come back next season.
#3- Mike Green
Last season, Green was one of the Capitals who saw their lowest-producing seasons in their careers. I will give Green the benefit of the doubt because he missed 33 games due to injury, but in the 49 games he played, he only scored 8 goals. Like Carlson, Green is going into a contract year. If Carlson continues to play like he did last season, and Green’s production continues to diminish, do not be surprised if the Caps don’t resign Green because Carlson will need the raise and Green will be the the casualty of a salary cap hit. However, McPhee is smart and will more than likely trade Green if that is the situation, and perhaps get something in return.
#2- Alex Semin
There have been a lot of criticism about Semin disappearing at any point during the season and the playoffs, to the point that ex-teammates Matt Bradley and Dave Steckel publicly bashed him for just not caring. Last season was Semin’s third lowest in goals, assists, and point totals in a season for his career. On top of that, he only had 4 goals and 2 assists in the playoffs. This offseason, there were rumors swirling around that the Capitals may make a move to trade Semin for either another consistent secondary scorer or for some top prospects. Right now, there is no better time for Semin to silence his critics and to show the world that he not only cares, but can consistently produce. If history repeats itself, hard decisions may come in the offseason that deal directly with Ovechkin’s best friend on the team.
#1- Alex Ovechkin
This one is obvious. The Capitals’ universe revolves around Eight the Great. Ovi had career lows in goals and points last season, but his biggest criticism was that he wasn’t very vocal as a the team’s leader. During the offseason, Coach Boudreau met Ovechkin at Kettler and had a heart-to-heart with him about his captaincy and what is expected of him. Ovechkin was very receptive to the talks and stated that he will be the leader the team needs him to be. If his offensive production returns to his 100-plus points, and he becomes that true leader the team has been lacking the last few years, the sky is the limit for the Caps this in year in their quest to be champions.
While the whole team has been under scrutiny the last few seasons due to their lackluster performances in the playoffs, these five players will be the keys in getting further in the playoffs and to deciding the fate of this team in the future.