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NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

30 in 30: Grabovski extends depth of Capitals lineup

Friday, 08.30.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The first season in charge for Adam Oates began with the Washington Capitals in unfamiliar situation and ended with an all-too-familiar one. The Capitals needed a second-half rally to win the Southeast Division for the fifth time in six seasons, but that was followed by another disappointing Stanley Cup Playoff defeat.

It was a quiet offseason for the Capitals after they were eliminated in a seven-game, first-round series against the New York Rangers. Free agents Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks and Joey Crabb signed elsewhere, and defenseman Jeff Schultz was bought out. General manager George McPhee signed defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner each to a long-term contract, then had his patience rewarded when he was able to sign center Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million contract in August.

Adding Grabovski fills an obvious need and gives Oates more depth and flexibility up front. The offense should produce, the defense remains shaky after a solid first three, and the goaltending should be strong. A full training camp after a season with Oates in charge could lead to improvement, and Washington will be in position to compete for a playoff spot in the new-look Metropolitan Division.

Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Capitals:

30 in 30: Capitals like rebuilt prospect depth

Friday, 08.30.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

At one point a few years ago, the Washington Capitals not only were in the midst of a string of division titles, they also boasted one of the best collections of prospects in the NHL.

The parent club was winning, and Karl Alzner, John Carlson and a trio of young goaltenders -- Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby -- were on the precipice of becoming impact performers in the League. A combination of those players graduating off prospect lists and trades made to try to help the Capitals reach the elusive second half of the Stanley Cup Playoffs left the development assembly line a little thin for Washington.

A couple of shrewd draft picks and breakout season have this list of Capitals prospects back on the upswing. There are more potential impact players on the horizon than there were a year or two ago.

"That's how we feel," Washington general manager George McPhee said. "When you're on a run like we are when you're consistently making the playoffs, when you get to the trade deadline it costs you assets to get pieces for your NHL club. You want to try to and help your club, so if there's something there, you go get it. We gave away a lot -- a lot of second-round picks and prospects -- but we've replenished it the last couple of years."

30 in 30: Second-half surge raises Capitals questions

Friday, 08.30.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

For an organization that has built a roster it expects to contend for the Stanley Cup every year, the past couple seasons have been a little rocky compared to the previous four for the Washington Capitals.

There was a pair of coaching changes, but Adam Oates drew rave reviews from his players and his bosses in his first season and appears to have provided stability moving forward. The top stars on the team had dips in production but rebounded in a big way the second half of 2012-13.

The Capitals won a fifth division title in six seasons but lost another Game 7 on home ice. It was a quiet offseason, but given the way Washington played in the second half and the free-agent addition of Mikhail Grabovski, the Capitals expect to be back in the hunt for a high seed in the Eastern Conference and another chance to finally break through in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are six questions for the Capitals to answer if they are going to have that chance:

30 in 30: Late addition Grabovski X-factor for Capitals

Friday, 08.30.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

When the Toronto Maple Leafs bought out the contract of center Mikhail Grabovski on July 4, the Washington Capitals were immediately identified by media outlets as a possible suitor.

The Capitals weren't going to re-sign Mike Ribeiro, so they were going to be short a second-line center. They weren't going to be able to commit to a big contract, so while other top free agents found new homes, the Capitals waited.

Fifty days after Grabovski became a free agent, he signed a one-year, $3 million pact with the Capitals. After not making any moves early, Washington might have landed the best value on the market.

30 in 30: New division, same goal for Capitals

Friday, 08.30.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The ability for Adam Oates to succeed as a first-time coach with the Washington Capitals always likely was to hinge on his relationship with Alex Ovechkin and the other star players on the roster.

Oates arrived with a detailed plan because he is a coach who is all about the details, just as he was as a Hall of Fame player. His ability to execute that plan was hindered at first because of the shortened training camp after the lockout. It wasn't without some adversity, but Oates found harmony with Ovechkin and the Capitals in his first season.

"He's real direct with the players and he tells them what he thinks he can accomplish with them," general manager George McPhee said of Oates. "It is not only having a good overall team play perspective; he thinks he can help players individually and help them improve. He spends a lot of time on details with players individually. That's something he told me he could do when we interviewed him, but he's really pulled it off."

30 in 30: Potent top of Penguins lineup looks familiar

Thursday, 08.29.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

It has been four seasons since the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, and each of the past two have ended in shocking fashion. They've fallen behind 3-0 in series they were expected to win after being anointed one of the favorites to win the Cup in each of those regular seasons.

In 2012 it was a wild, defense-optional series against the rival Philadelphia Flyers. In 2013 the offense disappeared against the Boston Bruins.

In 2013-14 the Penguins will again be considered one of the top teams in the NHL. The goals will flow, but a major question in net remains after back-to-back poor postseasons for Marc-Andre Fleury.

30 in 30: Bennett as sophomore Penguins' X-factor

Thursday, 08.29.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Evgeni Malkin and James Neal are world-class players, and someone from the Pittsburgh Penguins is going to have the enviable opportunity to skate on a line with them this season.

The favorite as training camp approaches is Beau Bennett, a player who had zero experience as a professional hockey player before 2012-13 and 47 games at the collegiate level before that.

Bennett had three goals and 14 points in 26 games as a rookie, and most importantly did not look out of place when on the ice with some of Pittsburgh's stars.

30 in 30: Penguins prospects look strong on back end

Thursday, 08.29.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a prolific offense for years, and the central characters in their group of forwards could stay together and productive for years to come.

Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero is going to have the ability to supplement those forwards with a crop of exciting young defensemen in the coming seasons. Not all of them will play for Pittsburgh -- touted prospect Joseph Morrow was traded to the Dallas Stars for Brenden Morrow before the NHL Trade Deadline -- but they all are valuable assets and lead the list of top prospects in the Pittsburgh organization.

"I think some of it was best player available," Shero said of drafting so many defensemen recently. "When it was our turn to pick, we had guys who were just very strong on a certain defenseman. All of these guys are really good hockey players who are going to play in the National Hockey League. I can't say when and where the opportunity is going to be, but there is certainly a premium on defensemen in the League.

"When it is time to turn some of your club over, it is really helpful to have guys like that ready to step in. We're looking forward to some of those guys getting into our lineup in the way that Simon Despres has had the opportunity or the way Robert Bortuzzo has had the opportunity. When you talk to people around the League, center icemen and defensemen are definitely the commodities teams are looking for. ... In the end, you are drafting assets, whether it is to play for your team or to be utilized in other ways."

30 in 30: Fleury focal point of Penguins' questions

Thursday, 08.29.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

After assembling the most talented roster in the NHL, one of the few questions left for the Pittsburgh Penguins before the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs was their goaltending.

For a second straight season, Marc-Andre Fleury struggled. This time, the Penguins had a viable Plan B, and Tomas Vokoun helped the team into the Eastern Conference Final. At that point, goaltending was far from the biggest question; the prolific Pittsburgh offense disappeared in a four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins.

The Penguins remain loaded with offensive firepower. During the offseason they strengthened their ability to defend. Fleury and Vokoun are back, so much of the critical focus will be on the person who needs to play better in the postseason to remain a franchise goaltender.

30 in 30: Penguins know they have something to prove

Thursday, 08.29.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

In the four seasons since Marc-Andre Fleury flung himself across his crease to deflect one final shot from the Detroit Red Wings and make the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup champions, his team has won 167 games in the regular season.

The Vancouver Canucks also have won 167 games in the past four seasons, but no NHL team has been victorious more. All of those wins look even more remarkable considering Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined to miss 201 games in that span.

Yet the franchise that is tied for the most wins in the League since 2009-10, after winning the Stanley Cup the season before, will enter 2013-14 in a unique place among the 30 NHL teams for an entirely different reason. After four straight seasons of playoff defeats ranging from mild disappointments to massive failures, the Penguins remain loaded with talent but have more to prove than they have in years.

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