There’s no mystery about Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan’s strategy for the next few seasons. Do anything and everything to win another cup in the Ovechkin era. I don’t think many would have a problem with that philosophy, at least not on the surface.
Digging a little deeper, the philosophy has been to choose to “reload” with experienced veterans instead of replenishing the roster with younger, developing players. Again, many are likely to agree with the thought process, at least initially. But in reality, this is starting to raise an eyebrow.
We have already seen the negative results of “The future is nowphilosophy (to borrow a term from former Washington Redskins/Commanders head coach George Allen). The Capitals opted to go with Zdeno Chara over Jonas Siegenthaler (later transferred to New Jersey) to make that all-in push for the 2020-21 season.
The decision also returned Martin Fehervary to the AHL for another season, having just completed the playoffs for the Capitals in the Toronto bubble. He was ready for the NHL and discouraged by the setback.
I don’t think many would disagree that the Capitals would be better off at this point if they hadn’t made the decision to sign the well-aged Chara because Siegenthaler has become one of the best defenders of the league. One could also argue that the Capitals might be in a better position to win a cup right now (2022-23 season) if they bide their time with Siegenthaler and let Fehervary play.
Rather than reloading with veterans every offseason since 2018, it might have been a more successful strategy to stick with a few of their younger players. They may have missed the playoffs or been knocked out in the first round for a season or two, but they might be better placed for another cup run today.
It’s all “hindsight is 20-20” right now…or is it?
The Capitals have returned four straight first-round outings under the “Future Is Now Philosophy.” However, there is still time in the Ovechkin era to go for the younger options and perhaps be better positioned in a year or two. In MacLellan’s defense, he brought a younger slice of veteran experience to this year’s veteran reload.
All signs point to the Capitals continuing with the ethos of entering training camp this year. The Capitals once again seem intent on going with experience (Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller, etc.). Unfortunately, this may mean additional endings for one or more prospects in Washington, most of which are not fully developed.
Interested in your $0.02. The following players are not exempt from waivers. Would any of them be clear at the end of camp?
— Capitals Perspectives (@jon_m_sorensen) August 12, 2022
Will we talk about the decision to keep Marcus Johansson and waive Brett Leason in the coming months? Will we debate the decision to keep Lars Eller and waive Joe Snively in the same time frame? It is certainly possible. And how will the team be positioned next August following these decisions?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a risk in deciding to go with the young rather than the experience. It’s very possible that the youngsters will never reach their intended potential, and therefore, the Capitals might not be better off in two years (Still in the Ovechkin era) to win a cup. But again, four consecutive first-round outings is a tough stop sign for me as far as current philosophies go. What do they say about the definition of insanity?
I guess we should also go back to the mantra of winning another cup in the Ovechkin era. The idea is usually disguised as trying to win another cup with “the current group of players”, but make no mistake, “the current group of players” is code for “Alex Ovechkin”. And it’s certainly ok to set it that way, but it changes the general settings.
Some might say that injury, surgery and the somewhat dire forecast for Nicklas Backstrom has already signaled that times are changing. The “core players” no longer really exist. Or is it evolving?
By Jon Sorensen