Photo: Amanda Bowen
Editor’s note: With the preseason beginning this week, RMNB will spend some time framing the questions about the upcoming season that are on our mind.
In 2014, it took Brian MacLellan just one day to dramatically upgrade the Washington defense, which was his first priority upon taking the job of general manager. In the space of a single afternoon, Mac signed Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, immediately improving a troubled blue line.
In 2015, he did the same for the offense, except this time it took him two full days. In consecutive days at the beginning of July, the Capitals signed Justin Williams and TJ Oshie, two marquee threats from across the league.
I don’t like calling it the “new-look” Capitals offense, but if you want to, I’d totally understand.
The importance of the addition of Oshie and Williams should not be understated. If you ranked 2014-15’s forwards with at least 500 minutes by their shot output, the Caps held the number-one spot (you know who) out of 359 players, and then no one for the next 146 slots (Fehr was 127, but he’s gone now, single tear). Outgoing forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer ranked in the mid-200s. Williams and Oshie are in the low and high 100s respectively. That’s an improvement.
However you want to arrange it, Washington now has the ingredients for two dangerous scoring lines. Whoever inherits the right-wing slot next to Backstrom and Ovechkin, presumably Oshie, could score 20 goals. Oshie, if he’s motivated to shoot and Backstrom’s healthy– could go above 30.
The second line is less certain: Marcus Johansson’s discipline and understated talents, Justin Williams’ experience, Kuznetsov’s dazzle, and Burakovsky’s pluripotency could be combined in any of a dozen ways. If I made the call, Burakovsky would center Johansson and Williams while Kuznetsov continues to calibrate his game in the bottom six (or fills in at 1C while Backstrom rehabs).
Experimentation and injuries will cause shake-ups, but I think it’s safe to say that the Capitals are better equipped to score than at any time since we were still calling them the Young Guns, which was a silly nickname from a bad movie anyway.
It’s not all good news though. Either Burakovsky or Kuznetsov is likely to get slighted at least once during the season, and poor Tom Wilson seems to be the odd-man out altogether– putting him at risk of becoming a career goon if he doesn’t get regular scoring opportunities.
When the lines get announced in the afternoons before games this season, I bet the top six will be where most of our anguish will be targeted, but I’m more excited for Caps offense than at any time since Bruce Boudreau was drafting up the lines.
Basically: scoar moar goals, again.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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