The Washington Capitals have finally done something this offseason. It seemed that after losing Mike Ribeiro, the Caps would be content to go with the status quo. However, with the recent signing of Mikhail Grabovski, and what should be the imminent signing of Marcus Johansson, this is no longer the case.
Barring injury, front office ineptness or personal player greed, the top line should be all but set with Johansson, Backstrom and Ovechkin. The fate of the other three forward lines however, is now dramatically different.
Head Coach Adam Oates, will now have more options, and more importantly…more offensive options for lines 2, 3 and 4. The only decision that is really been made for him is that Mikhail will be the 2nd line center, or he better at least make Mikhail feel like he is.
The Capitals tied for third in goals scored in the lock-out shortened season. With Oates able to fully implement his system, the improvement of Grabovski over Ribiero, and hopefully better production from players due to more defined roles they will be looking to knock off the those top two teams.
1. Mathieu Perreault: With the loss of Ribiero, it seemed that the worst case scenario was for Perreault to be the 3rd line center if Brooks Laich had locked down the pivot on line 2. But Laich will most likely now center a grinding defensive 3rd line, which is a better fit for him and the team, but drops Perreault to a mix matched 4th line. With the upside having been 2nd line center, this is about as bad as a fantasy fall can get, but at least HE is still playing in the NHL….
2. Tom Wilson: …. however, he will not be. Wilson has size, he has some grit, and not a bad scoring touch. This will all be seen next year, just not for the big club. At only 19, he still has a bright future; it’s just not right now.
1. Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson A solid and consistent 2nd line will take mountains of pressure off Ovechkin and his line-mates. Being the only line that the opposition has to focus on can make it a daunting task to score night in and night out. The top line of the Caps will enjoy the benefits of the momentum they create being maintained after they leave the ice.
2. Troy Brouwer and Martin Erat: Being Grabovski’s most likely line-mates this coming season, these two players benefit greatly from his arrival. Brouwer had a good consistent year, even without the consistency of line-mates. Erat did not make a great transition after his trade from Nashville, but Grabovski’s puck possession game and slick passing should get him back on track.
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