While it is not where the Capitals thought they would end up, many would say they are headed in the right direction. I would be one of those.
The Washington Capitals considered the record breaking 2009-2010 season a disappointment considering they didn't get out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But you can't keep a good team down, and the Capitals are a very good team.
My hockey philosophy concerning any loss is to learn from it, let it make you a stronger player and a better team. Perhaps this is a wake up call for the Caps, a tough lesson to learn when you try to learn how to win. You can pack it up and never play again, or you can do better next time. For the Caps, the look forward is bright. As long as they bring along what they have learned in the past three seasons.
The bright spots for the Caps this season was the new acquisition of Mike Knuble to the top line. Knuble brought a net presence to the Caps top line that wasn't there before. His ability to make room for Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin has paid dividends for the Caps this season. He will be back for a second season.
Another bright spot was the play of soon to be Free Agent Jose Theodore. His play was the best in the league in the second half of the season. But whether or not the Caps give him an extension or hand the reins to the kids will be a question for them in the off season.
Resigning Backstrom will be top priority for the Caps and I suspect that dictate how they go about getting other key players to return. Backstrom will be a heavy burden to the Caps' cap next year. The domino effect of his contract will determine space for other players that are teetering on the RFA and FA list this summer. Players like Theodore, Shaone Morrisonn, and Eric Belanger will wait to see what kind of space is left over for them. Restricted free agents Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Micheal Nuevirth and Tomas Fleischmann will also be waiting for Backstrom's contract to see if they will make a return in a Caps uniform.
The job for George McPhee this summer is to keep key players and find compliments to them. He needs proven secondary scoring, so a second and third line center is important to look for. He will also need to shore up the defense (which really wasn't that bad) and look for an imposing d-man that can take care of business in front of their net. If the Caps don't resign Theodore, they may want to get some experience to back up one of the kids.
This is still an exciting team to watch. I feel they have to potential and the character to bring a Stanley Cup to DC in the near future. There is not a whole lot I would do to mess with that.