By Leslie Silvey –
Much to the lingering disappointment of the Caps’ faithful, this much heralded season is truly over. As much as not advancing to the second Round stings, the Capitals had an extraordinary season, breaking a number of franchise records and earning the team’s first President’s Trophy. But of course, capturing the Stanley Cup is the focus of the franchise and will be at the forefront of the players’ minds as they move through the off-season.
Several Capitals players step into the off-season by representing their respective countries in the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Germany this week. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Semyon Varlamov are reunited with former Caps Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov to play for Russia while good Samaritan Brooks Laich will be rocking the maple leaf for Canada.
Not far behind the World Championships are the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 23. The Capitals organization will be well represented as Alex Ovechkin is up for two awards (the Ted Lindsay award and the Hart Trophy), Mike Green is also nominated for two for the Norris Trophy and the NHL Foundation Award. Jose Theodore could be the recipient of the Masterton Trophy and General Manager George McPhee was honored as a nominee for the league’s new General Manager of the Year Award.
Capitals’ faithful will be eagerly monitoring the Web and Twitter starting July 1, which marks the free agency period. George McPhee will be working to sign several current players, including Nicklas Backstrom, to new contracts while also perusing available free agents to shore up the current talented roster for next year. Among the items on many fans’ UFA wish list is an additional stay-at-home defenseman (preferably one who doubles as a shot blocker extraordinaire). Free agency is always an exciting time for hockey fans and there are a few players on the roster who were acquired through free agency last year who are hoping to don a Capitals jersey in 2010-2011. Then before you know it, mid-July brings rookie camp to Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
So while it seems like a long time until we get to cheer on our favorite hockey team again, the pre-season will be here before you know it and the boys will be ready to avenge what was an unexpected and shocking early exit – perhaps with the addition of a few new faces to the roster.