THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Washington Capitals

The Hockey News
Braden Holtby (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

2014-15 Record: 45-26-11 (101 pts.)

THN’s Prediction: 1st, Metropolitan Division

What To Expect: The past decade of Washington Capitals hockey has annually featured Alex Ovechkin in the Rocket Richard race but hasn’t seen the game’s most prolific scorer compete beyond the second round of the playoffs. This year, that changes.

The league’s sixth-best offense (tied with Calgary) is bolstered by a couple right wing additions: T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, a duo with more firepower than the departing Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer. If either finds chemistry with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, 60 goals are well within reach for No. 8. With ascending youngsters Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov also in the top-six mix, Washington will again be defined by rocking the red light. Read more

Curtis Glencross wishes he didn’t take a hometown discount with Flames

Jared Clinton
Curtis Glencross (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

After scoring 13 goals and 35 points, Curtis Glencross remains without a deal for the 2015-16 season. And with the speedy winger still looking for a contract, he’s having some regrets about his prior four-year deal with the Calgary Flames.

In May 2011, Glencross inked a four-year, $10.2 million deal with the Flames. It was considered to be less than Glencross may have been able to fetch on the open market, especially as he was coming off of a 24-goal, 43-point campaign.

“I love my time in Calgary and the organization, but you learn that eventually it’s a business and you’re just a number,” Glencross told the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis. “If I could do it again … as much as I love (Calgary) and call it home and met great people, at the same time, when it’s time for you to cash in, you have to take advantage and cash in. You can’t take a pay-cut or hometown discount because things change.” Read more

Can Joel Ward finally find Stanley Cup glory with the Sharks?

The Hockey News
Joel Ward. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Carter Brooks

Joel Ward is looking for a fresh start. Between sets in the gym, mini scrimmages and off ice strength and speed conditioning, he has a lot on his mind. With a new team, city, house and coach to get used to, he knows this season will be an important test of character and hopefully an appropriate fulfillment of his recently negotiated three-year contract.

As a veteran of more than 500 NHL games, Ward has yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs. He believes San Jose is the place to make that happen.

“I want to come in to this team and complement what is already going on here,” Ward said. “I hope to get some chemistry with a few guys and win a lot of hockey games. That is the overall goal.” Read more

Capitals’ Backstrom says hip surgery could keep him sidelined to start season

Jared Clinton
Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Patrick Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

There isn’t any reason for Washington Capitals fans to panic quite yet, but star center Nicklas Backstrom told Swedish media Tuesday that he may be forced to miss the beginning of the 2015-16 season following off-season hip surgery.

Backstrom, 27, is currently in the midst of training for the upcoming season, but in an interview with Arbetarbladet’s Daniel Sandstrom, the Capitals pivot said he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play when Washington opens their campaign Oct. 10.

“No, I do not (know),” Backstrom said when asked if he would be ready for the season. “It is very difficult to answer. We will see here now (after evaluating) with the coach and fitness coach.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Voynov could be brought back by Kings

Slava Voynov (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The status of defenseman Slava Voynov remains an issue for the Los Angeles Kings in the coming season. The 25-year-old is currently serving a 90-day jail sentence on a misdemeanour domestic violence charge. NBC Sports’ Jason Brough reports there’s local media pressure upon the Kings to part ways with Voynov.

Assuming the Kings decide to sever ties with the Russian-born Voynov, and if he isn’t deported or suspended by the NHL, Brough suggests they could terminate the defenseman’s contract or try to trade him.

Brough considers a trade unlikely, noting the PR consequences for any team acquiring Voynov right now. As for a contract termination, the Kings went that route in June with center Mike Richards following an incident at the Canada-US border. However, Richards hasn’t been charged with anything and the NHLPA recently filed a grievance over his contract dissolution. There’s no word yet as to when that hearing will be held. Read more

Capitals continue to embrace technology, set to use virtual reality for development, game-day experience

Jared Clinton

Washington Capitals players are going to be able to study more than the same old game film this upcoming season.

The Capitals announced they have officially partnered with STRIVR Labs Inc., a company that specializes in virtual reality technology, to change the way they approach player development. The technology will also be used in-arena to improve the game-day experience, according to the Capitals. The multi-year deal with STRIVR falls under the Monumental Sports & Entertainment banner, meaning the other clubs controlled by Caps owner Ted Leonsis will also get the technology.

“STRIVR’s virtual reality technology will provide our teams and players with increased visualization techniques and training skills as well as an unmatched in-arena and VIP game-day experience,” Leonsis said in a release. Read more

How the Capitals’ Tom Wilson became the NHL’s top villain

Matt Larkin
Tom Wilson. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We can pinpoint the moment Tom Wilson went from background grinder to bona fide shift disturber. You can probably guess it: Game 4 of the first round in the 2015 playoffs, with his Washington Capitals visiting the New York Islanders.

The full-speed angle makes it look like Isles defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky got in Wilson’s way and paid the price. The slo-mo angle looks like Wilson carried out a search-and-destroy mission on Visnovsky. Wilson received a charging penalty but no suspension. The debate is played out, and there’s no point reopening it.

Regardless of how clean or dirty that collision was, it symbolized something. The Capitals trailed the series 2-1 at that point and pulled out a 2-1 overtime win to draw even. Afterward, the Isles were furious at Wilson. Kyle Okposo called him an “idiot.” New York arrived in D.C. hot under the collar for Game 5. Anders Lee challenged Wilson to a fight that left both parties bloodied. Casey Cizikas speared Wilson in the groin. The Isles took 31 minutes in penalties to the Capitals’ nine. Washington won 5-1 and took three of the final four games to capture the series.

Read more

Rumor Roundup: Senators still shopping Greening

Colin Greening (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Following the recent completion of the NHL’s 2015 salary-arbitration period, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston observed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild had a second buyout window open for a 48-hour period commencing on Aug. 5. None of the clubs, however, used the opportunity to shed a contract.

The Senators spent months last season trying to find a trade partner for winger Colin Greening, prompting some speculation the 29-year-old winger might receive a buyout. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion explained that wasn’t possible, as Greening’s $2.65-million annual cap hit was about $10K short of the minimum allowable to be bought out.

Greening’s future with the Senators remains uncertain. Garrioch believes Murray will keep trying to peddle the winger, who was a frequent healthy scratch last season. Perhaps Murray will have better luck next month, as rival GMs evaluate their roster needs during training camp and preseason play. Read more