It’s time to sell on the Washington Capitals.
The franchise used to have the worst luck in the world, failing to win a Stanley Cup despite some Presidents’ Trophies in their cabinet and a season (1974-75) that remains the worst in NHL history. That all changed in 2018, when the Caps finally won a Cup. The celebration by Capitals players throughout the following days, frolicking through downtown fountains, was one of the most joyous ever.
But it seems like the decline of the Caps is at hand.
Entering late February, the Caps were +2700 to win the Stanley Cup at most Virginia sports betting sites, and even that was starting to look overpriced. There are several teams with steeper odds (Dallas, Winnipeg, maybe the Predators) that I would bet on ahead of the Caps.
To me, the Capitals’ decline started with exit of the coach who got them their first Stanley Cup – Barry Trotz. It remains amazing to me that Caps ownership didn’t do whatever it took to keep Trotz as coach. The fact that Trotz took the New York Islanders to the Eastern Conference finals in 2020 – while the Capitals were bounced in the first round – speaks for itself.
Washington still has one of the five best forwards ever to play the game in Alexander Ovechkin. They still have Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner.
But the Caps are like the car with the shiny exterior and a fading interior. The depth is lacking, especially on defense. There have been problems at the goaltending position too. Ilya Samsonov missed a lot of time because of COVID-19 protocol. Washington was forced to play 39-year-old Craig Anderson in critical late February games, and Samsonov, while a good young prospect, is unproven.
One Last Run?
Washington’s farm system has gotten low marks from pundits who track that stuff. Maybe the Capitals still have one good kick at the can this year. Their power play remains intimidating, with Ovechkin still firing howitzers and Carlson a point machine from the blue line. Kuznetsov is a top talent, and T.J. Oshie is as good of a gamer as there is in the NHL.
But the word that most seems to fit with Washington now: Stale. At least they did get that first Cup, to the relief of long-suffering fans.
But another Cup is starting to seem a long way off. Hockey bettors should look elsewhere for potential longshots this year.