Quick Links

All-Star snubs: Who from the Caps did the NHL look over for an All-Star bid?

All-Star snubs: Who from the Caps did the NHL look over for an All-Star bid?

Two Capitals were on the Metropolitan Division roster for the All-Star game as released Tuesday by the NHL. Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby will be the team’s two representatives on the ice for the All-Star Game that will take place on Jan. 29.

Did the NHL get it right?

It’s hard to argue with Ovechkin getting the nod. With 19 goals, he is currently on pace for about 39 goals this season, which would be his lowest total since he scored 32 in the 2012-13 season...a lockout-shortened season. Clearly, he is not scoring at his usual phenomenal pace, but Ovechkin still has the second-most goals in the Metropolitan Division behind only Sidney Crosby.

Holtby, meanwhile, has again established himself as one of the top netminders in the league. Among Metropolitan goalies with at least 10 games played, Holtby is second in wins, tied for first in save percentage, first in goals against average and first in shutouts.

Good luck leaving him off your All-Star ballot.

RELATED: Pair of Caps named to All-Star game

With two players from Washington on the roster, that means there are another 20 who are not.

There are really only two players who stand out as possible “snubs.” Debating whether Nicklas Backstrom should be an All-Star is almost an annual exercise at this point considering he has only been selected once (while still being selected to Sweden’s Olympic team twice and to the 2016 World Cup team, but I digress). Backstrom actually leads the Capitals in points this season with 34, one more point than Ovechkin.

There is also T.J. Oshie who has arguably been the team’s best player this season. His impact was pretty noticeable when he missed seven straight games with a shoulder injury he suffered against the Detroit Red Wings.

After missing eight of the team’s first 40 games, it’s hard to argue for Oshie despite how good he has been this year. With only half a season to judge the players, Oshie’s All-Star resume is 20-percent incomplete. He would need more than 20 points to really earn a spot in this year’s tournament.

As for Backstrom, per usual, he has certainly done enough to warrant inclusion in this year’s All-Star festivities. The problem isn’t if he deserves to get in, however. The problem is who would he replace?

As much as it may pain Caps fans, you can’t argue with either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Both are in the midst of incredible seasons and there’s no way to justify putting Backstrom in before either of them. 

The other Metropolitan forwards, besides Ovechkin, are Taylor Hall, Wayne Simmonds and John Tavares. You can make a legitimate case for Backstrom over all three of those players.

Hall has missed 10 of New Jersey’s 42 games this season with a knee injury. Simmonds is the third-leading scorer on his own team behind Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Tavares, meanwhile, is on pace for his worst season since 2009-10, his rookie year, showing even he is not immune to how horrible the New York Islanders are.

Backstrom’s 34 points are also higher than all three — Simmonds has 32, Tavares has 27 and Hall has 25. And, although this is a three-on-three tournament in which defense is largely optional, Backstrom’s defensive acumen is widely underrated. He is one of the top shutdown players on the team and is a major reason why the Caps boast the lowest goals per game average in the NHL.

But Hall, Simmonds and Tavares all have something in common that Backstrom does not. All three players are the lone representatives of their respective NHL clubs.

Despite the injury, Hall is the only bright spot in what is quickly becoming a dismal year for the New Jersey Devils while Tavares is the best player in the dumpster fire that is the Islanders. Simmonds has been one of the top players on the power play in the entire NHL this season which is what I believed earned him the nod.

What’s more, if the Metro needed to find a replacement forward, I’m not so sure Backstrom would be the next man up.

Phil Kessel’s career resurrection continues in Pittsburgh and he is clearly the best forward on that team not named Crosby or Malkin. Cam Atkinson is the leading scorer on a Columbus team that currently holds the league’s best record. Both players are producing at a point-per-game pace through the first half of the season, well above Backstrom’s 0.85 per game.

It stinks that Backstrom never seems to get the recognition he deserves for being one of the NHL’s top centers, but with the Metropolitan Division having an incredible season, it’s hard to put him or any other Caps in over the players who did make the cut.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Holtby stays hot in win over Montreal

Quick Links

What's next for the Caps? There's no real consensus among players or coaches

What's next for the Caps? There's no real consensus among players or coaches

After another early playoff exit, the Capitals find themselves at a bit of a crossroads. With multiple expiring contracts and an aging core that has yet to carry this team past the second round, what direction is this team headed? Do the Caps need to make drastic changes to fix what ails them or makes just a few tweaks to finally get them over the hump?

It’s not an easy question to answer and there was no real consensus from the players at team’s breakdown day.

“I don't know if minor cosmetic changes are going to change anything really,” Matt Niskanen said.” It's pretty clear that this group didn't get it done so what changes and how many or what level of changes, I don't know what the answer is. Talent wise and our potential was clearly there. That's all fluff now. We need results.”

“I think any time you underachieve at what you're trying to do, you know there's going to be changes,” Brooks Orpik said. “That's just part of the business that we're in.”

“Obviously it's not working,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I'm sure the organization will figure that out and try again.”

ELATED: Caps release key offseason dates

Given this team’s history, especially in the Ovechkin era, it seems hard to argue that something significant needs to change because the formula there does not seem to be working. But not everyone agrees.

“I still think there's a window next year,” Lars Eller said. “I think there will be enough of the core intact that you could still make a play. First thing is you have to get into the playoffs, once you're in the playoffs you have a chance to win.”

“We’re going to be good again,” Tom Wilson said. “There's a lot of great pieces that are here that are core guys that have long contracts still that instill the right things in the group.”

“I think we're in the right position for sure and I think we will be stronger next year for sure,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said.

Then there are the guys who just don’t know, the guys who think the team will try to win but that the team’s chance of winning the Cup may now be in the rearview mirror.

“The nice thing is that we all know the organization does what it takes to put a good product on the ice and try to win," Karl Alzner said. "Whether there's a lot of changes and new faces next year, it's still going to be a team that is trying to win and that's a nice thing. … But yeah, this is a pretty good window that we had here and unfortunately, it's not there anymore.”

For his part, you can put head coach Barry Trotz down as someone who wants to see the team make only minor changes and try again next season.

“I know people talk about the window closing, the window doesn't close, it just changes a little bit because the window of all those pieces that have been here for six, seven years or whatever, they're going to change doesn't mean that you can't add pieces that may even be better. You see that all the time.”

Sure, you could file this down as a “What is he supposed to say?” comment. Major changes can often mean a coaching change so it’s not surprising to see him advocate against rebuilding. But Trotz was also adamant that the team was close to reaching its championship goal and cautioned that now was not the time to turn over the roster.

“This league is so unpredictable and sometimes so random that it's hard to grasp sometimes even as an organization or fans or media, to grasp how close you are from winning and how close you are from losing. You talk about inches, it might be millimeters. That's how close it is. Changes in momentum, a big save here, a fortunate goal here or a timely goal changes a series or momentum swing.”

“We're disappointed that we didn't reach our goal,” Trotz added, “It doesn't mean that we're not going to keep striving for our goal.”

But even if general manager Brian MacLellan agrees, there are going to be several players who will not be returning to Washington next season. Even after advocating minor tweaks, Trotz also acknowledged, “Group's going to change. That's just the financial part of it.”

With 11 free agents on the active roster heading into the offseason, as well as 14 more among their prospects and minor league players, and not enough cap space to pay them all, MacLellan is going to have to make some tough decisions regarding who to bring back and who to let go. Whether he agrees with those advocating for major changes or those who believe only minor tweaks are necessary will determine how he approaches the team’s free agents.

As much disagreement as there is within the team, there seems to be one thing everyone can agree on: The Caps are going to look like a very different team next season.

MORE CAPITALS: How do the Caps overcome their mental block?

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Who is coming back for the Caps?

capitals_faceoff_ep18.png

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Who is coming back for the Caps?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir look at each of the Caps' free agents and talk about who could be back and who will be moving on. They also look at how the Caps' fared in the World Championship and which prospects could make the jump to the NHL next season.

Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play and give us a good review! Maybe we'll even read it on the air. For the latest Caps coverage be sure to follow @CSNCapitals@TarikCSN and @JJReganCSN on Twitter.

RELATED: Caps release key offseason dates