Here now are the four axioms of the Washington Capitals’ 2017 offseason:
We all agree on all these points, obviously. Meanwhile, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Hockey News ran his second annual front-office ranking survey last week, and it tells us that Caps fans and the general public don’t think as highly of the Caps management team as they used to.
In last year’s survey, the Caps finished 5th. Now they are 23rd.
The survey was open to anyone, with answers scored 1 to 5 along the following criteria, as laid out by Luszczyszyn:
Roster Building: Is this team putting together a roster that either is a contender or has a lot of potential to be a contender? Are they building using the right pieces? Do they surround their core with enough talent?
Cap Management: Does this team manage the salary cap well? How well do they maneuver any issues with the cap?
Drafting and Developing: Does this team usually make the right decisions at the draft? Do they develop homegrown talent well? How do they handle their prospects?
Trading: Does this team usually win or lose the trades they make? Do their trades make sense for the team’s plan?
Free Agency: Does this team get good value during free agency? Are they going for the right players? Do they make good or bad decisions during the free agency period?
Vision: Do you trust this team’s process? Does it seem like they have a strong and consistent plan? Is it the right plan? Does it seem like they have the right idea behind their decision-making process?
This year’s survey asked respondents to identify if they are fans of the team to compare hometown attitudes vs the general public. Here’s how it turned out for Washington:
It’s a big drop. The Caps take their biggest hits in free agency and cap management, but they remain strong in roster building.
Some of this was unavoidable. To mount their last two playoff pushes, the team had loaded up with free agents on expiring contracts. Those contracts, paired with the team’s stunning success* in those seasons, meant a lot of players would be due big raises that the team could not afford. It also meant that the Caps would not have a busy draft, as they had dealt several picks to load up on roster players. Growing pessimism among fans and the general public mostly come from that exodus of talent and the expected looming regression in goal-differential next season.
The Caps were additionally disadvantaged by Vegas’ determination to take Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft and the KHL’s offer to RFA Evgeny Kuznetsov, which effectively removed the team’s negotiating leverage.
The decisions to extend TJ Oshie long-term after his 33-goal season and not to buy out Brooks Orpik, whose signing was among Brian MacLellan’s first actions as GM, were less inevitable.
We should note that Caps fans in the survey have a gloomier outlook than the general public does towards their team. That’s rare. Only fans of the Wild, Sharks, and Red Wings share this hometown grumpiness, whereas many other teams (Flyers, Devils, Coyotes, and Kings) seem almost irrationally cheerful compared to everyone else.
* Note: regular-season success, obviously 😤
Headline photo: @CapitalsPR
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