Photo: Amanda Bowen
The start of the Caps 2015-16 season is upon us. Having loaded up over the offseason, the Caps are considered by many to be a serious Cup contender. While I think this is the most complete roster the team has had in the Ovechkin era, I won’t be offering up any predictions here for how the season goes.
Instead, here’s a look at reasons for optimism and worry throughout the roster.
Reason for Optimism: For the first time in a long time, the Caps have a complete top six. In fact, after years of always seeming a forward short, the Caps seem to have seven legitimate top-six forwards.
Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (once he’s healthy) hopefully finally have a stable right wing in TJ Oshie. Oshie’s blend of skill and tenacity is likely to quickly endear himself to Caps fans. He already seems to have made quite the impression on a certain couple of fans.
Even with Evgeny Kuznetosv filling in for Backstrom on the first line, the second still has the potential to be lethal. Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky showed great chemistry together last season and they are being joined by possession wizard Justin Williams.
Reason for Worry: The depth in the bottom six is not great. Jay Beagle is a bit of a stretch as a third-line center. Jason Chimera was positively awful during the regular season last season and is being given third line minutes to start the season. Once Backstrom is back, Burakovsky or Johansson will provide a boost to the third line, but it’s a little concerning when a 26-year-old career AHL player is expected to crack your opening night lineup as a fourth line forward.
Reason for Optimism: One through six, this is a very solid blue line group. The top four was stable last season, and Mike Green, often deployed with a lackluster partner, ensured the third pair could hold its own. With Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt set to open the season as the team’s third pair, there’s reason to be excited at what they can provide. They have both shown strong puck possession numbers throughout their careers so far and could be an under the radar reason for the team’s success this season
Reason for Concern: There is a dramatic drop-off after the top six. Considering the Caps used ten defensemen last season, and 14 the season before, there’s reason to be concerned that the team’s depth on the blue is composed of the likes of Taylor Chorney, Ryan Stanton, and Connor Carrick. But, the concerns on the defense coming so low on the depth chart certainly show how much talent this team has added over the past few seasons.
Reason for Optimism: Braden. Holtby. He’s paid, he’s bearded, and he’s elite. But don’t sleep on Philipp Grubauer either. Having proved everything he can at the AHL level, he could establish himself as one of the better backups in the league this season
Reason for Concern: If Holtby and Grubauer both get hurt. That’s it.
This should be a fun season. The Caps have a talented and skilled roster that is deserving of the high expectations placed upon them. What has you particularly optimistic or concerned about the team this season?
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