Lars Eller always looks like he's smelling something fowl.
Looking Beyond This Season Already
Will Mike Green be worth his $6 million+? (Photo by Alena Schwarz)
I must confess, something about the 2012-13 season hasn’t gotten me as excited about Capitals hockey as the previous five seasons, and it has nothing to do with the lockout. This time last year, fans were giddily anticipating a third consecutive top seed in the Eastern Conference, and the first few weeks made it seem like it was Stanley Cup or bust. And though the results we’ve desired have always fallen short, positive anticipation is not a bad thing.
So what’s different this year? Uncertainty. Will Adam Oates be the right bench boss? Will a re-signed Mike Green stay healthy and play at the level we’ve come to expect? Is Mike Ribeiro going to be that second center the Caps have craved for years? Naysayers finally got their wish and Alex Semin is gone – will someone else really replace his Good Sasha scoring binges? Dennis Wideman is gone and not really replaced – right move? Is anyone really expecting much from Joey Crabb and Wojtek Wolski? Will the face of the franchise, Alex Ovechkin, once again become a point-a-game player?
We’re not just pondering these questions about the current roster, but also keeping our eyes on prospects Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson. No Caps fan would say they can’t wait for these fellas to suit up, but that won’t happen this year. Not since Nicklas Backstrom and Semin have Caps fans been patiently waiting for draft picks to arrive (or in Semin’s case, to rejoin the team).
Unlike the past four seasons, when a good number of us believed the Caps had a solid shot at winning the championship, this year’s uncertainty has downgraded the Cup-or-Bust attitudes to Rockin’ the Red while Crossin’ the Fingers. Whether George McPhee’s plan works out remains to be seen. And though the Capitals still have a bright future ahead of them, the anticipation for this season compared to previous years – for better or worse – simply isn’t the same.