The Washington Capitals are a shadow of its former self. Once a offensive power house that put fear in goaltenders league wide, now just a team struggling to get their star players to find the back of the net. Sure, you can point to injuries or slumps and maybe even some bad chemistry. But the Caps have come out of the off season with what seemed to be sure bets in free agency, only to see this team struggle to maintain mediocrity.
They changed their coach, Bruce Boudreau out for Cap legend Dale Hunter. But the results seem to be the same. The offense is sputtering out marginal results even with some great work by support lines who are holding their own and then some. The so called "Young Guns" are starting to look more like "Old Excuses" and it's not fun to watch the team struggle the way it has.
One day they are flirting with first in the Southeast Divsision, only to see it slip away to a 2 game lead by a team they beat to take over the first place spot, Florida Panthers. Teams they should be beating consistently, they are struggling to hold a two goal lead late in the game against a non-playoff team.
With the trade deadline looming, George McPhee will have to either find something to re-spark the team's competitiveness or cut bait and take the season for a loss. Are the Capitals a buyer or seller?
After the last few year's disappointments, the Caps can't deny the success they have had. But maybe that success in the regular season has handcuffed the team come playoff time and given them a false sense of security. This season, there is no false sense of anything but a real fear that the Caps could be outside the playoff bubble and looking in at the conclusion of 82 games. How they are playing of late does not hold out hope that the team could A) make the playoffs, and/or B) go any further than the first or second round once there.
GMGM is not just looking for a spark for his team, but might as well be fighting for his job. If the Caps do finish the season in 9th or lower in the Eastern Conference, McPhee will have to look back on a resume that includes a lot of bridesmaids awards, but no hardware that holds a title. His failures will far out weigh his success as architect of the Washington Capitals.
Trade Alex Semin is the new mantra coming out of the Cap Faithful. A talented forward with the "golden hands" already looks mentally checked out of the game, noticed by fans and media alike. Mike Green's inability to stay healthy has some seeing him as more of a liability rather than any help to the Capitals at this point. He is also amongst trade rumors as his contract ends at season's end. If the duo are dealt, McPhee will depart with his "Young Guns" strategy developing a team around a core group of guys. He would instead look to bolster Alex Ovechkin's numbers in hopes of making it to the playoffs.
If the Caps are winning, Semin's disinterest would be tolerated. Green's injuries don't seem that bad. But with Nick Backstrom out for what could be the rest of the 2011-2012 campaign, GMGM should be looking for a overhaul rather than a tweak here or bolster depth there. That is if he does not cut bait.