Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Well, that's that...

(Yes...again I've been absent without leave...not like anybody reads this thing)

With their 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay last night, the Capitals end their season at 29-41-12, 70pts. Good for last place in the Southeast Division, next to last place in the conference and the fourth worst record in the league.

And yet...it wasn't all bad for the Caps this season. A number of things went right or at least much better than expected:

  • Despite the doom and gloom to start the season (some people were talking about them not being able to win 20 games), the Caps managed to win 29 games and lost 12 in OT. Boston and the Isles weren't that much better than us, we played more or less .500 at home and ended strongly, going 7-3-4 down the stretch.
  • I can't seem to find the stat online today, but...the Capitals played a remarkable number of one-goal games this season. My my count...we were 16-26 in games decided by one goal (including OT and SO losses). Which bodes well for the future, since those are all games that could with a flick here and there, be turned around.
  • Alex Ovechkin. Nuff said. Thank god he's on our team. 52 goals. 106 points. Third best rookie season in history. Third best Caps all time goals in a season, second best points in a season.
  • Zubrus, Willsie, Clark, Halpern...all had decent years or career bests. Halpern really came on strong in the second half of the year and while he has never shown the goal-scoring touch he had in his first couple of seasons, he's becoming a solid second-line center and is dishing things out pretty well. He did well in his first season as team captain, though from the looks of things...that might be a one-year deal - all reports seem to indicate Halpern is going to test the free-agent waters and that we'll probably let him go since he isn't really in our long-range plans anymore. Too bad.
  • Shaone Morrisonn showed why Boston is cursing GMGM for fleecing them in the Gonchar trade. Emminger played better as the year went on, as did Hewerd and Muir.
  • Kolzig is showing some age, but he keeps us in games we have no business winning.

That said...there are things that clearly need some improvement as well:

  • The defense....despite improving as the year went on, it was terrible at times. Particularly our penalty-killing unit, which was near dead last in the NHL. And speaking of penalties...
  • Our power-play. YUCK! Awful. I never could understand why we were so terrible on the PP, particularly with gifted scorers like Ovi and Zubrus out there. And yet we floundered at times. I don't know how many 5-on-3 advantages we squandered without any goals, but it seems like the answer is "all of them."
  • Still no proven successor to Kolzig in net. This was supposed to be Oulette's year to take some playing time and instead, we used Brent Johnson. Don't get me wrong...Johnson's a quality second-string goalie. But he's not the future of the franchise. Now we're onto the Daigenault watch. It was bad enough that we had to resign Kolzig to a contract extension rather than trade him this season, since the alternative is a big question-mark.
  • Attendance was "meh." We were near the bottom of the league, but that shouldn't be a shocker considering we not only don't have a great team, but this is a fair-weather town as far as hockey goes. The Caps are decidedly behind the Nats, Redskins, Wizards and college basketball in this town (as far as popularity), despite the cheapness of tickets, etc. That'll get better over time as the team improves...we just have to weather the lean years.
  • Do we have a consistent scoring option other than Ovi? Wouldn't it be nice if he had a true center on his line (not to knock Zubby)? Wouldn't it be nice if we could develop some other scary-good forwards? What happened to Boyd Gordon? Matt Sutherby? Both are very talented but haven't really done much here. Eric Fehr?
  • Friessen and Sykora. Yuck. The Semin drama - yuck as well (though the good news is that that whole thing is over and Alexander "Headcase" Semin will be on the roster next season).
So...some good, some bad. 70 points for the season is an excellent accomplishment. The goal for next season out to be 80-85 points, IMO. That would be enough to challenge for (but just miss) the playoffs this year. Just by picking up a couple of additional wins in some one-goal games ought to make a huge difference. And there is certainly talent down in Hershey. Some of those guys will be playing up here next season. And we'll draft high again. I'd say 80 points next season isn't out of the question - anything to avoid a backslide.

And that's that for the Caps this year. For me...it's over to baseball full-time.

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