It’s high time that I and other Capitals fans face facts: it’s not 2018 anymore. The team that bought into the system Barry Trotz built is gone. What’s been left behind is a group capable of greatness, but settles for lackluster performances and relies on individual talents alone. Game 2 was telling for the Caps, not only about the players but the coaching staff as well. With the exception of about 5 minutes total, they played exactly how the Islanders wanted them to. How did they get here? Can they turn this around? What should they do going forward?
For me, their problems are two-fold.
The trouble started in the summer of 2018. Despite DC finally winning a Cup, the Capitals front office decided they were not going to offer Stanley Cup-winning Head Coach Barry Trotz a new contract. To save money, they claimed. Instead, they decided to promote assistant coach Todd Reirden, who had previously never been an NHL head coach.
I can understand not wanting to overpay for a coach and I can understand wanting to promote from within. Maybe this is jumping the gun since it is only his second season as head coach, but what I can’t understand is why the front office is not willing to pay more for a coach who has proven success. The Capitals were not and are not a team that needs a shake-up every other season to try to rebrand and rebuild. The Capitals are a team that needs experience from the top and a shake-up in the middle. As far as Reirden’s promotion goes, it is what it is.
For 10 years the Caps have had Blaine Forsythe as an assistant coach. He is responsible for the powerplay, among other things. He is responsible for the same, tired, and predictable setup. Cycle, always pass to Ovi at the top of the circle, cycle some more. As we all saw last night, everyone knows how to defend it because it hasn’t changed in so long. Trotz definitely has it memorized backward and forwards. So why didn’t Forsythe change things up? Especially when facing the former head coach? It logically makes no sense.
While I don’t have full confidence in Reirden, I honestly think that Forsythe should be held more accountable for the below-average performances these last few weeks. Reirden lacks head coaching experience; after 1p years, what’s Forsythe’s excuse?
I love Ovi, I really do. But everyone knows one player cannot carry a team—ask McDavid and Eichel. When the Capitals won the Cup, it was not solely the top line that produced quality, nor was it just the top two lines. Andre Burakovsky, who oscillated between bottom lines throughout his time on the team, came up with 2 huge goals against the Lightning in Game 7 when it mattered most. Devante Smith-Pelly made himself a legend in Washington because of his point production. All lines pulled their own weight.
That has not been the case as of late. Ovi is back to being a point machine while everyone else drags behind. Don’t get me wrong, players like Jakub Vrana make every effort to score, but we aren’t seeing the same level of success as back in 2018. Players like Kovalchuk and Kuznetzov should be able to get that secondary scoring. Despite the majority of the current roster having their names on the Stanley Cup, for some reason, things aren’t clicking as they should be.
If the Capitals don’t change something soon, it will be another first-round disappointment. The way the Islanders play, the Caps have to be smart, quick, and adaptable. Even 2 out of 3 won’t be good enough. I think it’s high time someone else takes a crack at managing the power play and lighting a fire under the team’s collective ass.
This may not be an overnight fix, unfortunately. If they do in fact make a first-round exit, I would hope to see immediate coaching changes. There’s no excuse for this. This is not a financial decision, rather a managerial one.
In the meantime, go Caps.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)