|Darryl Sutter and the Kings remain at the zenith of the NHL.|
It’s been a weird summer in a lot of ways for me personally, unlike any other in my short life. After graduating from college in May and leaving behind a niche that I had spent four years carving out in a community that was my home away from home, I went back home to try and begin a career in my home city. The journey has been a long one so far, filled with fun weekends working on the golf course and musings on sports with my friends. I watched the West Wing and House of Cards through on Netflix over the summer. I went to visit my two very best friends in Boston in July. I didn’t write very much as the Capitals finally did what people had been predicting they would do for a very long time indeed.
But opening night is finally upon us once again, and I’m writing again. If for no other reason than I’m tired of not doing it.
1: First, on the Capitals. The signing of Matt Niskanen this offseason was a necessary one. Niskanen has almost certainly had his career year running a power play with the best and third-best players in the world on it, but he is a good player and he will improve Washington’s defense in more ways than just points. His cap hit could have been a lot higher, and despite the long term of the deal, his age and the fact that the cap will go up significantly during his time here mean that it’s justifiable in many ways. He was the guy, and sometimes you have to pay for your guy.
2: When all of the Capitals’ defensemen are healthy, Brooks Orpik is the sixth most valuable player in that group. He’s making more money against the cap than all but Nick Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, and Niskanen this season. He’s 34. He’ll have his moments, but those expecting some huge turnaround from Washington’s defense because of Orpik will be sorely disappointed – both this season and in the future.
3: The fact that Orpik is on the roster should spell the end of John Erskine’s time in Washington. They are the exact same type of player, and two players of that caliber taking up $7+ million on the salary cap for a team that wants to contend is untenable.
4: The Capitals still lack anything that remotely resembles a second above-average center to complement Nick Backstrom on the teams’ second line. They had one in Mikhail Grabovski, but allowed him to walk for reasons unbeknownst to the public. As a result, they will be forced to play young, unproven, or overvalued players in that role for a majority of the season. Be prepared for a constant game of musical pivots.