A short time back, we were asked by DC Pro Sports Report to respond to seven questions concerning the Caps for the upcoming season. You can go here to see how our fellow wizards responded, but here is what we wrote...
1. Will the Caps three-peat as SE Division Champs?
The Caps won the Southeast Division by 11 points last year. So, I have to ask myself first, has Carolina improved so much to make up the entirety of that gap? You'd have to think that getting a full year of Jussi Jokinen and Erik Cole would narrow the gap. On the other hand, Rod Brind'Amour is 39, and Ray Whitney is 37. The Southeast as a whole will be stronger than last year, and this could eat into the Caps standings points total from last year. I do not see the Caps finishing with 108 points again, but they should be the class of this division.
2. Do you foresee a Washington Capitals Stanley Cup appearance this season?
As a fan, anything less than that has to be regarded as at best a disappointment, at worst a failure. The Caps have a window that is open now and that will, in my opinion, last for another four or five years. But stepping back and looking at the Caps, it will be extremely difficult to reach that far in the playoffs, because the playoffs are so goaltender-centric. And there is no position with more uncertainty for the Caps than that one. An inconsistent veteran and a prospect of limited experience. That's not a recipe for success.
3. If and when will Semyon Varlamov wrestle the starting goalie job from Jose Theodore?
I read one column in the last few days opining that Theodore would start the season, and Varlamov would finish it. It reminds me a little bit of an NFL team with an aging quarterback and a phenom. I suspect that is going to happen this year, and it will happen around New Years Day.
4. Each year there seems to be a surprise offensive player. Who will it be this year?
I don't foresee any player leaping off the page to change from a five-goal scorer to a 20-goal scorer. I expect there will be some players who improve as goal scorers - Nicklas Backstrom, David Steckel.
5. What player or type of player does the Washington Capitals need to make that final push to win the Cup?
First, what they don't need - the flashy trading deadline pickup. Pittsburgh got more effective results from adding Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin than they did from adding Marian Hossa (which is not to say that either Kunitz or Guerin is a better player than Hossa). Some sandpaper. Guys who will get dirty.
6. What impact will 2008 1st rounder John Carlson will make on the Caps this season?
I think he will appear in a call-up/injury fill in role. I don't see him making the squad out of training camp.
7. Rank the SE Division standings