Summer Skate: Capitals

Kuznetsov is player to watch; Washington still isn't Stanley Cup contender

Originally Published: August 27, 2014
By Matthew Coller | Hockey Prospectus

Evgeny KuznetsovPatrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty ImagesThe continued development of Evgeny Kuznetsov is crucial for the Capitals in 2014-15.

Summer Skate series index

Although the weather outside doesn't necessarily make us think of winter pursuits, it's a good time to take the temperature of every NHL team. Hockey Prospectus will guide us through the league-wide tour, spotlighting one player trending up and one player trending down for each club, as well as a key statistic as we look ahead to the 2014-15 season. References will be made to goals versus threshold (GVT), a Hockey Prospectus proprietary statistic; for more on GVT, click here. All other advanced stats are courtesy of Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

A disappointing finish outside the playoffs in 2013-14 led to changes at coach and general manager for the Washington Capitals. Under Adam Oates, the power play flourished, but that was about the only thing.

The Capitals were one of the NHL's worst even-strength teams, scoring a lowly 134 goals and allowing 152. While much of their defensive woes were blamed on Alex Ovechkin, looking deeper we see that the aging set of forwards, inconsistent goaltending and well below-average defense were just as costly as any of Ovi's failures to back check.

The offseason spending on defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik is simply a Band-Aid and unlikely to make them a serious contender for the Eastern Conference crown. New general manager Brian MacLellan -- new to the role, not to the team -- has his work cut out, as does new coach Barry Trotz; the Capitals have only a few seasons remaining in the primes of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.


Trending up: Evgeny Kuznetsov, F