Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines the word, “continuity,” as “uninterupted connection or succession; close union of parts; cohesion.”
With the calling up of Keith Aucoin and Oskar Osala, we’re reminded of how important “continuity” is in the evolution of the Capitals as a perennial contender. Fourteen skaters and two goaltenders appearing with the Capitals this year have spent significant time with the Hershey Bears (this number does not include Brian Pothier, who played for the Bears on a rehabilitation assignment, or Steve Pinizzotto, who was called up but did not play). You could include in that number quite a few players who can legitimately be considered players who will draw a steady NHL paycheck in the future (you may add or subtract from this list, but it does not obscure the point we're making):
And to that you find the kind of depth players necessary to keep a team running when injury or circumstance dictate the need – Keith Aucoin, Quintin Laing, Staffan Kronwall, Graham Mink, Alexandre Giroux, and others.
What interests us here is that first group, the prospects. Those seven players have appeared in a total of 48 games this year, not an insignificant amount, since four of them – Alzner, Osala, Varlamov, and Neuvirth – are in their first year of professional hockey.
While their appearances have provided contributions in the here and now – Varlamov and Neuvirth have chipped in with important wins in goal, and Alzner had 30 games of solid play when the Caps were faced with health problems on the blue line – the experience gained this year might be viewed with next year in mind.
We can envision a roster next year that has Alzner and Varlamov as permanent residents, perhaps even Bourque and Osala, with Neuvirth getting more than a cup o’ coffee’s worth of games in the event of misfortune, and others filling the breach when the need arises.
Then, it will be the turn of guys like Francois Bouchard, or Matthieu Perreault, or even perhaps a Josh Godfrey to get a few games to get a feel for what it is they are working toward.
It is a position – a luxury, in fact – that the Caps have not experienced lately. But, if your long-term version of an operating plan is “draft-centric,” and you’re successful at it, then year-by-year, you’re going to get something like “preview” experience on the part of prospects working their way through the system. It is a way of providing for contributions in the here and now (it speaks to how talented the Caps' prospect pool is), but with one eye on the future as the kids grow into the roster spots they will occupy down the road.
It is one continuous process.