After a remarkable 14-year stretch, the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.
Obviously, success at a high level is difficult to sustain and with an aging roster, they were going to miss the playoffs eventually.
With an increasingly difficult Metropolitan division and Eastern Conference, the Capitals have their work cut out for them to return to the playoffs this year.
Whether or not the Capitals make the playoffs this year, fans will have something to watch for every game as Alex Ovechkin is in hot pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record.
Of course, the Capitals' organisation and their fans wish that a prestigious record chase would be part of a winning season, but that is looking a little bleak.
The Capitals ended the 2022-23 season 6th in the Metropolitan division with a record of 35-37-10 and 80 points.
Within the Metro, the Hurricanes, Devils, Rangers, and Islanders were the playoff teams, while the Penguins missed out by a point. Washington finished 11 points below Pittsburgh.
With stalwarts like the Penguins and Capitals - with their stars Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin, respectively - missing the playoffs first the first time in well over a decade, it was a bit of a passing of the torch to the next generation.
The Metro teams that made the playoffs were younger, faster, and healthier. Ultimately, some injury trouble, a lack of consistency and a successful youth movement within the division sealed the Capitals’ fate.
It is difficult to see Washington cracking the Eastern Conference’s top 8 for a return to the playoffs this season.
With how good the Hurricanes, Devils, and Rangers were and appear to be once again this season, those three teams look poised to remain the top three in the Metro come the end of the season.
That would mean the Capitals would have to crack the playoffs by way of the wild card.
If the Capitals are going to make a push for the wild card, they would have to pass up the Penguins, as well as any combination of 7 teams in a loaded Atlantic division which includes the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Florida Panthers.
A realistic expectation for the Capitals this year is a bottom-5 finish in the Eastern Conference. With that, Washington would miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The Capitals are +6000 to win the Stanley Cup, which is the eighth-longest odds in the NHL.
Conversely, they are +2500 to finish last in the NHL standings at the end of the year, the eighth-shortest odds out of 32 teams.
Washington is +3000 to win the Eastern Conference and +1500 to win the division. To reach the playoffs, the Capitals are +220 and to miss the playoffs they are -280.
As it pertains to individual player award futures, the main players listed are John Carlson, Darcy, Kuemper, and of course, Alex Ovechkin.
Carlson is +2000 to win the Norris Trophy for the best defender and Kuemper is +5000 to win the Vezina Trophy for the best goaltender.
Ovechkin is +10000 to win the Hart Trophy honoring the most valuable player and he is +3300 to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the league's top goalscorer.
On Friday, October 13, the Capitals open their season at home against the rival Penguins. Not only is this Washington’s season opener, but any Pittsburgh-Washington game is appointment television, as has been the case for decades.
On Thursday, March 7, Washington plays Pittsburgh once again, but the significance is that it is last day before the trade deadline. Depending on where the Capitals are in the standings, it could be the last day with the roster as it is when the time comes.
Just a couple days later on Saturday March 9, the Capitals face the Chicago Blackhawks and rookie sensation Connor Bedard the day after the trade deadline. Regardless of whether the Capitals bought or sold at the deadline, there is a good chance the lineup and future looks different than it did just a game prior.
The Capitals end the season on Tuesday April 16 against the Philadelphia Flyers. If the playoff race comes down to the final week like it did last season, that game could be massive in terms of playoff implications for Washington if they are playing meaningful games in April.
Peter Laviolette had been the head coach of the Capitals since the 2020-21 season, but left following their failure to reach the playoffs last season and he has since been hired by the New York Rangers.
The Caps announced in late May that Spencer Carbery would be their new man in charge, with the 41-year-old handed his first-ever head coaching role in the NHL.
Carbery had served as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs since June 2021, having previously made his name as head coach of the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League, winning the coach of the year award in 2021.
Erik Gustafsson (New York Rangers)
Conor Sheary (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Marcus Johansson (Minnesota Wild)