Thursday, September 06, 2007

Top 5: Caps to Watch This Season

Today's list:
5 Caps to Watch This Season

Alexander Semin: Semin's first season with the Caps was less than stellar. His second one could only be termed a breakout year. So now the question becomes what can we expect this year? The Alexander Semin we saw during the 2006-07 season was undoubtedly more disciplined, more consistent and more productive than the pre-lockout Alexander Semin. Still, there are some bugs to work out and he still has a tendency to be a little selfish on the ice. If he can knock off the puck-throwing and decrease the stupid penalties, look for him to hover near the 40 goal mark again this year.

Nicklas Backstrom: There is a lot of pressure on the young Swede to come over to DC and immediately make his mark on the team. He certainly has the potential to be one of the elite players in the league someday, but it may be asking too much of him to expect the kind of breakout year guys like Crosby and Ovechkin had in their rookie seasons. He'll have to adjust to a new country, a new league, and new teammates all while being asked to center one of the top two lines, and it'll be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure.

Olie Kolzig: Olie continues to perform consistently night in and night out, and his teammates and those in the organization marvel at his fitness level and dedication. Still, by the end of this season he will be 38 years old and his body will naturally start to show signs of wear and tear as the months go on. We saw what happened last year when he encountered what was probably his first serious, long-term injury. Johnny admittedly struggled at times as the temporary starter, but more often than not the team just didn't play as well in front of him. If Olie can make it through the season injury-free there are a lot of teams in the East who should be worried...if not, the Caps are in trouble.

Jeff Schultz: This will be an important year for Jeff Schultz, as it will be for a lot of our young defensemen. The Caps have a backlog on D with a number of hungry youngsters fighting for those last two blue line roster spots. Schultzie put together a solid season last year, especially towards the end of the year, and he developed a reputation as being the quiet, steady defender who did his job without drawing attention to himself. What he has in size, though, he often lacks in grit, knocking opposing players down more by accident than with an intentional body check. He'll need that little snarl to his game if he wants to make the jump and hang on to a permanent spot on the team.

Tom Poti: I'm singling out Poti from the other free agent signings because it is on defense that the Caps have been the most suspect in the past few years. Poti is a big, puck-moving defenseman and the power play quarterback this team so desperately needs. He'll almost definitely be in the top four defensemen on the team, meaning he'll pick up 20+ minutes a night, more on the power play. The knock on Poti over the years has been that he maybe doesn't use his size (6'3", 210 lbs) as much as he could and has struggled a bit with consistency, but last season was a career year for Tom and the Caps will be looking for more of the same from the veteran d-man.

Honorable Mention - Nylander/Kozlov/Ovechkin: There are a lot of expectations for these three as we head into the season, and many have predicted that this will be our new top line. For Nylander, he's looking to finish out his career in Washington and the Caps will look to him to create plays and open ice for Alex. As for Alex, he's coming off a "disappointing" sophomore season with a mere 92 points last year, but he's apparently changed his training regime and looks to be in great shape coming into camp. Kozlov is kind of the unknown variable in the equation - will he be consistent? Will he play center or wing? Will he start using his size? All questions that hopefully will be answered before opening night, but there's plenty of potential there for him to make his mark on this team.


Shelby said...

Hey. No. Bad.

Donde estan Laich and Gordo?

Otherwise, I agree. =]

CapsChick said...

I know, I know - Laicher and Gordo are also on my list, but I had to make cuts somewhere!

Personally I think I could have stuck Laich, Clymer, Bradley, Steckel, Sutherby et al into one big "potential 3rd/4th liners" category, but since I already kind of talked about them before I figured I'd skip it and no one would notice...enter Shelby to call me out! ;)

As for Gordo...what can I say? I heart him more than life itself and I expect nothing less than what we saw last season. I know we'll all be watching him with love and respect. *sigh*

Chris & Sarah said...

I read an interview that Tarik did with Olie a couple of weeks ago and the age issue was raised. He feels good, and can see playing a year or two into his forties. He pointed out that typically it's not so much wear and tear that decides when a goaltender is finished, but the grind of summer training.