The Washington Capitals have surged to the top of the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference standings, and even the NHL standings. Not surprisingly, the Caps are a confident group in Washington and that confidence was reflected in NHL.com’s quote of the day this morning.
Following a 7-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Justin Williams made the following statement:
“We’re obviously not going to score seven every night, but we have the ability to come back on anybody, we’re not scared of anybody. We feel we’re one of the better teams in the League, and we’re going to try to prove it throughout the year.”
Washington, in the midst of a five-game winning streak, have emerged as co-favorites for the 2016 Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars. Both teams have 50 points in the standings heading into this week, and both teams are priced at about 6 to 1 with bet365 to win the NHL’s championship trophy. However, Washington still have a number of knocks against them in my view.
Firstly, in Washington, you have a franchise that has never really done much in the NHL. The Washington Capitals were founded in 1974 and since that time, they have just one Stanley Cup Finals appearance to their credit. As a contrast, consider the following franchises that debuted in the NHL well after 1974: Edmonton, Anaheim, and Tampa Bay.
The Oilers entered the league in 1979, and they have five Stanley Cups in seven appearances since that time. The Anaheim Ducks only entered the NHL in 1993 (then the Mighty Ducks), but they have two championship appearances and one Cup to their credit. Tampa Bay were founded at about the same time, and they have the same credentials as Anaheim.
Washington, who got swept in the 1998 finals, are truly one of the worst underachieving franchises in the National Hockey League. While it’s true that the 2015/16 Caps shouldn’t be judged by ghosts, it’s also true that the franchise has a long history of failures that’s still hard to ignore.
In recent years, the Caps have been touted highly on several occasions, in no small part due to the fact that they have had Alexander Ovechkin since 2005. The career Capital remains one of the pre-eminent players in the NHL – yet he’s yet to take a team all the way to a championship or even to a runner-up finish.
When you look at Barry Trotz, the head coach of Washington, it becomes pretty clear that he and Ovi do not make a brains-and-brawn tandem that are likely to win the Stanley Cup. Trotz has 602 career wins to his credit, but the long-time NHL-level coach probably only survived as long as he did in Nashville because of the low-pressure environment. Though he’s been coaching in the league since 1998, never has Trotz won a division and never has he won more than one playoff series in any one season.
Trotz has missed the playoffs eight times as head coach, Trotz has seen his team eliminated five times in the first round, and Trotz has just three second round appearances to his credit. He has never made the conference finals despite a lengthy coaching career and that makes his team a tough sell as NHL favorites. If you break Trotz’s career down into straight wins and losses (i.e.,. overtime losses just counting as losses) he is 602-616 with 60 sister kisses from the old days.
The Washington Capitals are hot right now, but good form dips and dives over the course of the season. I’m expecting Washington to easily make the playoffs, but I have little confidence in Trotz and Ovi getting the job done after that.