It's five questions that many might have about this organization going into the '10-'11 season.
1. Will the Capitals resign/trade Alexander Semin?
My thoughts are that the Capitals will make an attempt to move the talented forward closer to the trade deadline. It would make sense since Semin has proven regular season success, but seems to disappear come the playoffs. But I have been wrong before on what General Manager George McPhee has in store for his club.
Semin is a really talented player, Alex Ovechkin loves to talk about the forward's golden hands. But the Caps are right up there against the salary cap and keeping the forward might prove an expensive exercise for them. If McPhee does try to resign him, look for a short contract around the $6 million dollar a season price tag. If Semin wants more, it might be advantageous to stock up the club with solid depth and proven prospects at the trade deadline.
I would love to keep Semin, but I am not sure if the Caps can afford him after this year.
2. Does the Caps' defense need to improve?
Yes and no. I don't think any team in the NHL would say they are completely happy with their defense (or offense either). I do think the Caps defense needs to be more abrasive. Right now the Caps bolster a back line of puck moving D-men and a couple sandpaper types (John Erskine and Tyler Sloan). With the subtraction of Milan Jurcina and Shaone Morrisonn, the Caps do lose some veteran size on the back end.
They will have to rely on some up and comers in John Carlson and Karl Alzner. The pair showed some promise late in the Caps series against the Canadiens. But neither are bruising defensemen, nor are they stay-at-home type players. I have a feeling though that the Caps are out looking for some sandpaper on the back end, mostly likely by trade before camp.
3. Can the Caps win with two virtual rookie goaltenders?
Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have both some big game experience coming into this season. Varlamov has been the go-to goaltender for the Caps in the past three playoff series they have played in. Neuvirth has been Hershey's main backstop through two championship runs. The battle for number one should be pretty engaging.
But both goalies will have to prove their worth this season by surviving a grueling NHL regular season. That means staying healthy and focused for 82 games then deal with the playoffs. The Caps do have some back up in veteran back up Dany Sabourin, just in case.
4. Do the Capitals have to win the Cup for their season to be a success?
The Caps have already had a successful season by breaking a slew of franchise records. Just because they fell short and were unexpectedly ousted in the first round of the playoffs. You could not have asked for a better season for the Capitals last year. But it is difficult to call it a disappointing season after the team won a franchise first President's Trophy as well as breaking club records for wins and points.
If the Caps do repeat the kind of season they had last year and go further into the playoffs, I think you can call it a success.
5. Can the Capitals win the Stanley Cup?
Certainly. So can 15 other teams that make the post season. The parity in the league right now makes it very tough, even if you are the number one seed, to get to the finals. There is no certain winner any given year.
I do think they are a favorite to get into the finals, but it is a long season.