What to know about the newest arrivals to the Capitals roster
— For many of the team’s most familiar faces, the NHL has been their home for years.
For those who have grown up in Washington, the Capitals have been their favorite team.
Now, the Caps are coming off a season where they won their first division title since 2011 and reached the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history.
In a year when the team struggled mightily in their third consecutive first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, there are still plenty of questions about what will be next for the Caps.
Here are five things you need to know heading into the 2016-17 season.
Where are the Caps heading?
It’s been a long time coming.
The Caps have been a franchise in transition.
They’ve been a team on the cusp of greatness for many years, but their trajectory hasn’t always been quite as consistent.
When the Capitals won their third Stanley Cup in 2011, the franchise was on the brink of being an elite club, but they missed out on the playoffs by a full game after falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Then came the blockbuster trade that sent center Nicklas Backstrom to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After a slow start, the team finished the 2011-12 season tied for the best record in the NHL, and the team was one of the top offensive teams in the league.
But after the Leafs traded Backstrom for center Auston Matthews, the fortunes of the Capitals took a dramatic turn.
The Capitals finished the 2013-14 season tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the second-best record in their division.
By the time the 2014-15 season rolled around, the season seemed to be over for the Capitals, and it was a team that was not going to make the playoffs.
After missing the playoffs the year before, the organization finally took a step forward.
In 2014-2015, the 2015-16 Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best team, but in the playoffs, the club struggled to make noise in the early rounds.
The team finished with just two wins in seven games, which was the worst record in hockey.
That’s when things really began to go south.
The organization traded away five key players before the trade deadline, including forward Alex Ovechkin, defenseman Brooks Laich and center Mikhail Grabovski.
The trade deadline was also a time for the team to take stock of how well the franchise had grown over the past decade.
After the trade, the outlook for the franchise wasn’t as good.
The group had to work together to figure out how to get things right, but there were signs that things weren’t working out as planned.
After winning the Presidents Cup in 2014, the 2014 Stanley Cup champions saw their playoff hopes fade and went on to lose in the conference finals to the Los Angeles Kings.
Then, in 2016, the group was sent down for the trade that brought back goalie Braden Holtby and winger Olli Maatta.
The move was expected to be a positive one, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
The loss of Holtby has taken a huge toll on the Caps, who finished the season in a playoff position for the third consecutive year.
With the team looking to rebound in the near future, it’s easy to envision that the team will be in playoff contention for the next few years.
It’s no secret that the Caps haven’t been great in the first half of the season.
They have struggled to score goals and generate offense, and while they have the best goalie in the world in Alex Ovi, the puck has been moving down the ice too often for the players to get involved.
It doesn’t help that the Capitals lost their top defenseman, Roman Josi, in free agency.
It was a major blow to the team, and in a year where many hoped the team would be one of those teams that won the Stanley Cup, it was difficult to see the Capitals finishing the season on a high note.
With a new coach in Scott Wilson and a lot of new pieces coming in the offseason, the players expect the season to be much better.
They’ll also be ready for the new year.
Where do the Caps want to go?
The first step in this process is figuring out how the Caps can be the best they can be at any given time.
The key is to get the team focused on the big picture and the big game.
In the first two months of the year, the teams top three goal scorers — Zaitsev, Grabovksi and Ovi — all scored more than 20 goals.
The addition of Grabovskis first goal in the series against Columbus was the start of the Caps’ offensive surge, but the Capitals need to get back to their old ways before they can get to that level again.
It wasn’t enough to win a series last season, and now the Caps have to get on a roll again.
The players and coaching