Starting with the training camp, both the 2018-19 season and the Caps quest to defend the Stanley Cup have officially begun.
Although almost all of its roster returned from last season's championship, there are still many stories to look like training homes. Here are the six biggest:
Todd Reirden takes over as head coach
While roster is basically the same, coaching staff will be dramatically different. Gone is head coach Barry Trotz. In his place, Todd Reirden becomes his first NHL coaching job.
Defending a Stanley Cup is a position that comes with their own challenges. Now add a coach who tries to adapt to take over as a coach. While the players may know Reirden who served under Trotz's staff, each coach has his own system and his own way of doing things.
What changes will Reirden do? What kind of head coach will he be? How will the players react?
The disadvantage of returning most players from last season is that it does not leave many open places for prospects or free agents to enter.
An NHL list will consist of 1
If any of these players will crack the NHL series, they will really earn it in the camp.
Who will be the fourth line center?
Talk about the forward competition, one of the few places that is open is on the fourth row after Jay Beagle's departure to Vancouver in the free agency. Center Depth is crucial to one team's success and some teams can match Caps' last season with Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Eller and Beagle. While still returning the three best, the pressure will be on to find a reliable and productive replacement for Beagle.
Boyd and Dowd appear to be the advocates and after signing one-way contracts in the offseason, it is clear that Hats anticipate both players who have NHL roles this season. But what will eventually get the edge of the center?
How does Reirden deal with the third defense pair?
You can pretty much write in Cap's seven defenders in pen. By preventing something completely unexpected, we know both who the seven defenders will be and the two best defensive mates.
Michal Kempny and John Carlson will play together at the top pair with Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the other side. The question is just how the rotation will look at the third pairing with Brooks Orpik, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey.
Both Djoos and Bowey are ready to take more roles with the team, but it seems too early to put them out as their own pair. Then you do not want Djoos or Bowey turned into the seventh defender who is in the press box for a long time will not really help the player's development. Both need to play as much as possible, but both must develop into a point where they can trust the third pair.
Ideally this means that Orpik will play a lot of time early and then sit more and more games as the season continues and Djoos and Bowey continue to grow more comfortably.
Having a reliable third pair while having enough playing time for the two young defenders will be a sensitive balance.
Can Pheonix Copley handle backup goalkeeper?
Philipp Grubauer had a big hand in Capsens success last season. His strong game in network made Braden Holtby need a much needed rest, which in turn gave him the opportunity to dominate in the playoffs. If Caps hope to make a second championship run, Holtby gives enough time, it's a must, especially with the shortened offseason.
Prospect Ilya Samsonov is now under contract and will play in North America, but he will need a lot of playing time as possible making Hershey the better option for him. This means that Copley is the only real choice in the organization that serves as Holtby's backup.
But make no mistake, this is a gig for Washington.
Copley has only two NHL games. As a backup, Caps needs him to play somewhere around 20 games. Is he up to the task? The team will watch him very carefully in the camp and in advance.
Fighting the Feared Stanley Cup Backstroke
Now we have seen all the joke in every preview of how Caps will suffer from both a metaphorical and literary backstroke. We understand. It's really no smart anymore, considering that every single person has said that.
In the case of Stanley Cup hangover, this camp will be different for each player on the roster, in addition to Orpik who has already won the Cup once before. There is a confidence that is going to go all the way, but it may also be self-esteem to feel like a championship and long-term fatigue and short offseason. The Washington offseason began in mid June, while all others ended in April or May.
It will be interesting to see what the energy level and the level of competition are in the camp. It's hard to go up for the preseason when you played three months ago in the Stanley Cup final.
Will the caps show some early fatigue? How will Reirden approach camps and forseason to help the team avoid any early hangover?
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