After the Washington Capitals’ official elimination from postseason contention, they’ve had time to reflect back on the season and where it’s gone wrong. Nic Dowd discussed the reasons behind the Capitals’ decline in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Monday.
Dowd argued that no single problem sunk the Caps’ season. Instead, a host of problems have led to wider failure in the team’s systems.
“It’s hard to say,” Dowd said. “On a systematic level, we just are having big, big breakdowns that are either causing our goalies to have to come up with really big saves, breakaways, two-on-ones, like Grade-A opportunities right in the slot, just mental breakdowns…”
Whatever the issues are, they’ve proved longstanding. The Capitals have lost nearly two-thirds of their games in 2023, with a record of 14-23-4. Only the San Jose Sharks have earned fewer points since January 1st.
“It’s honestly been a huge mix of different issues,” Dowd said. “It’s kind of hard for me to point a finger at any one thing, but it’s just reoccurred for the last like 30-something games. We have not played with a lead in so long and kept a lead, and it’s just been constantly digging ourselves out of holes. Regardless of playing a team high in the standings or low in the standings, it’s just impossible to do in the NHL.”
The team’s systems could see major upheaval this offseason. Peter Laviolette’s contract expires at the end of the season, and talks of an extension have reportedly “gone cold.” Meanwhile, the organization could be setting up major moves in an attempt to further re-tool for the 2023-24 campaign.
Amidst Washington’s lack of success, Dowd himself has had an excellent season, setting new career highs in both goals and points. He was one of many Capitals who did not play against the New York Islanders Monday night due to injury; it is unclear if or when he will return before the end of the season.
He also spoke with Grant and Danny on Tom Wilson’s fight with Habs forward Michael Pezzetta, which followed Pezzetta laying a hit on Dowd. Wilson earned 17 penalty minutes for the fight, a call he later criticized. Dowd praised Wilson’s willingness to stick up for a teammate.
“I mean, I went up to Tommy right after in the locker room and let him know, like, ‘thanks, man. I appreciate it. Thanks for doing that,” Dowd said. “It was awesome to see, especially at at this point of the season. We’re eliminated from the playoffs, guys are still sticking up for each other. I would expect that with Tommy on the ice along with others.”
Dowd went on to emphasize the importance of a team that sticks up for one another, citing a fight by Rasmus Sandin after a Penguins hit on Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“When you see a guy like [Wilson] drop the gloves it’s like ‘okay, yeah. Tommy’s doing a favor to me but also to our team and team toughness,’ the list goes on…All of a sudden you look back and Ras is challenging that guy to a fight and it’s maybe not a guy that’s known traditionally for fighting, I think that’s just as impressive for the team.
“I think if you go into a building and you know that every single person on that team is willing to do that for their teammate? I think that’s a tough team to play.”
This season marks the first of a three-year, $3.9 million contract extension Dowd signed in December 2021. Though this season has vastly underperformed expectations, Dowd will likely remain a key part of the Capitals roster as it adapts going forward.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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