There’s cause for concern with the Washington Capitals
The 2017 off-season was anything but kind to the Washington Capitals. With their cap constraints and the expansion draft, a ton of talent was purged from their roster.
One of the league’s best defense cores was also made markedly worse. Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner moved on to greener pastures (literally) and everyone’s favorite breakout pick, Nate Schmidt, was plucked by Vegas in the expansion draft.
With so many notable players removed from the lineup, we knew Washington would be a worse team this season. What we didn’t realize was just how much worse. Early indications suggest the answer is a lot.
The Capitals are off to a 5-6-1 start which, on the surface, isn’t that bad, especially when you consider they’ve already played eight road games.
When you dig a little deeper, the picture looks more bleak, though.
Let’s play a little game to help illustrate that point. Below you will see the Corsi and Expected Goals numbers for four teams. One is the 2017-18 Capitals, and the other three are from a year ago.
Team A is the best of the bunch in Expected Goals For%, and are the 2016-17 Detroit Red Wings. They won 33 games, picked up 79 points, and finished with a minus-37 goal differential.
Team B is the 2016-17 New Jersey Devils who finished second last in wins with 28. They posted a dreadful minus-61 goal differential and ended up picking 1st overall after some help from the lottery.
Team C is the 2016-17 Buffalo Sabres. They won 33 games, collected 77 points, and posted a minus-36 goal differential.
That leaves Team D which, of course, is the Washington Capitals. While they are the best of the bunch in terms of Corsi For%, they’re last in Expected Goals For%, meaning they’re not doing too hot in the chance department.
The Capitals have more high-end talent than any of those teams — nobody will argue otherwise — but they also have Brooks Orpik logging better than 22 minutes per night and the likes of Alex Chiasson, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Tom Wilson, none of whom reached even 25 points a year ago, rotating through their top-6.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why the Capitals are under .500 and posting such underwhelming numbers at 5v5.
While it’s still very early, the Capitals’ lack of depth figures to cause serious problems at 5v5 all season long. That could prove too much to overcome, especially considering no team has a worse penalty differential and the Capitals play in arguably the league’s toughest division.
For years, the question has been: “Can this Capitals team win the Stanley Cup?”
This year, we may have to adjust it to: “Can this Capitals team make the playoffs?”
Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)