The Washington Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup victory is one fans will remember for a long time. The 2017-2018 season was the first time the Capitals advanced beyond the second round in the playoffs since 1998.
Now that the victory parade is over, Capitals fans are looking forward to next season. However, they already know there will be changes to the roster and coaching staff during the offseason.
Plus, hockey fans are aware of how difficult it is to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Before the Pittsburgh Penguins reigning as champions in 2016 and 2017, the previous team to repeat was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. A repeat tends to happen once per decade, though Capitals fans are hoping they will stray beyond the norm and repeat this past season’s success.
A New Coach
It’s not common for a head coach in any sport to resign after winning a championship, especially when they are not retiring. This scenario is exactly what happened with former Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz, who guided the team to the 2018 Stanley Cup.
On June 18, Caps GM Brian MacLellan announced Trotz was resigning his position, after serving in the head coaching role for the past four seasons. His Stanley Cup victory activated an automatic two-year extension, though the dollar amount was below market value. When Trotz and the Capitals were unable to reach an agreement on his contract extension, Trotz decided to leave the organization. Trotz signed with the New York Islanders as their head coach on June 21.
The identity of the Capitals’ next coach will play a big role in determining their chances to repeat their success. The current frontrunner is Todd Reirden, who spent the previous four seasons on Trotz’s coaching staff, honing the team’s defense. Throughout Reirden’s time with the team, the Capitals allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than all teams in the NHL but one.
Although Reirden has never been a head coach, his successful track record on defense and familiarity with current Capitals players would make for a seamless transition. The Capitals promoted Reirden to associate coach in August 2016, and have been grooming him for head coach duties since that time. Although Trotz is an excellent coach, Reirden is unlikely to shake up the team’s defense-minded approach, making them a Cup contender in 2019 as long as their roster remains capable.
Next Season’s Roster
Capitals fans are happy with the recent news that elite defenseman John Carlson signed an eight-year extension with the Capitals, worth $64 million. Carlson led all defensemen in scoring with 68 points in 82 games during the 2017-2018 season. Carlson’s presence alongside a likely defense-first head coach ensures the Capitals’ D-corps will remain strong.
The Capitals are also still working on re-signing Devante Smith-Pelly, a 2018 playoffs standout with seven goals and one assist. Michal Kempny, a smart pickup for the Capitals at the trade deadline, has also received an offer from the Capitals, though is attracting interest from other teams. The Capitals are at work to improve their roster, with Carlson’s signing being a great start.
Chances of a Repeat
The Capitals are likely to secure another playoff berth in the 2018-2019 season. Their ability to repeat as Stanley Cup champs hinges on their roster strength, particularly who they re-sign in the coming months, as well as the effectiveness of their new coach.
Betting lines have the Capitals as the sixth likeliest team to win the Stanley Cup next season, behind the Golden Knights, Jets, Maple Leafs, Lightning, Predators and Bruins. Still, none of these teams are substantially ahead in terms of odds, meaning the Capitals are as similarly likely to repeat as the top teams are to win.
Either way, next season should be an exciting one for Capitals fans.