Keeler: Will changes help Capitals?

The Washington Capitals made many changes in the offseason, now the question is: will they pay off?

The season starts next Wednesday and I think it’s a very important one for the Capitals. In the offseason, the Capitals hired Barry Trotz as head coach.

Trotz coached for 15 years with the Nashville Predators. He has experience coaching in the NHL. I think he’s a good coach, but perhaps the million dollar question is how will he get along with Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin? This may be the most important question to be answered this season for the Capitals.

Trotz coached teams that didn’t have superstar players. He’s a coach who got the most out of his talent, which wasn’t always of the highest level. He’s known as more of a defensive coach. Ovechkin is not a good defensive player. Can Trotz help Ovechkin be a better defensive player? Or will the two clash, which is sure to lead to problems. Trotz will actualy be the first coach that Ovechkin has had that has prior NHL coaching experience.

I would say there’s no more excuses for the Ovechkin era. This should be the year that the team excels and makes a serious run at a Stanley Cup, or maybe it will simply never happen with Ovechkin on the team.

Trotz has moved Ovechkin from right wing back to left wing, where he’s more comfortable, which should be a good move.

The Capitals also have a new general manager in Brian MacLellan.

Washington also picked up defenseman Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, both of whom played last year for Pittsburgh, to help the Capitals become a better defensive team.

The Capitals should be a much better defensive team. They’ve spent a lot of money this season to get better in that area, and might have the most depth of any team in the NHL. They still have guys such as Mike Green, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and John Erskine.

The Capitals are going with Braden Holtby as their goalie. He was solid for the Capitals last season, but he has never started more than 45 games in a season. So inexperience at goalie could prove to be a problem. Justin Peters will be his backup.

Washington is still undecided about a second-line center behind Nicklas Backstrom. Youngsters Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich are all in contention for that spot.

Right wings Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer and left wing Jason Chimera add some offensive punch to the team.

The Capitals entered Thursday night with a 3-3 record in the preseason, but another mediocre season won’t cut it for Caps fans.

The Capitals start their regular season next Thursday hosting Montreal. After missing the playoffs last year, Washington should be hungry to get back in the postseason and at least make a run for the title. Anything less than that and there will once again be many questions about management and the team’s superstar.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com