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Capitals could split lines to create more offense

by Corey Masisak

Say this about the 2011-12 season for the Washington Capitals: It did not lack intrigue.

After four straight division titles and back-to-back years as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals were all over the place last season. They won the first seven games before losing 10 of the next 15 to cost coach Bruce Boudreau his job.

The transition to Dale Hunter’s preferred playing style wasn’t exactly smooth, and in the end the Capitals might have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs if not for the 7-0-0 start. Still, they had a chance to win the Southeast for a fifth straight year on the last day of the season, but the Florida Panthers ended their reign.

Washington nearly salvaged the disappointing season by upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round and pushing the top-seeded New York Rangers to seven games in round two. In the end, it was another season when the Capitals did not make to the second half of the playoff bracket, something that has yet to happen during their era of regular-season success.

One of the team’s top four players from the past five years, Alexander Semin, is gone. So, too, are veterans Mike Knuble, Tomas Vokoun, Dennis Wideman and Jeff Halpern. Washington made one big move this offseason, trading for center Mike Ribeiro, but the other additions are long shots to be impact players.

Offensive numbers were down across the board in D.C. last season. Hunter decided the NHL wasn’t for him as a coach and he went back to the Ontario Hockey League. He’s been replaced by another former Washington star, Adam Oates.

2012-13 Capitals Fantasy Team Preview

Under-valued: Mike Ribeiro - Acquired from Dallas, Ribeiro is a near point-per-game player over the past five seasons (0.92 points per game). Elite playmaker could be a draft-day steal in the middle rounds.

Over-valued: Marcus Johansson - With Ribeiro in town, Johansson will likely be limited to third-line duties in 2012-13, meaning his already minimal fantasy value (14 G, 46 points, minus-5, eight PIMs) will be even less.

Sleeper: Mike Green - His back-to-back 70-plus point seasons occurred just three seasons ago. He'll be 27 in October -- is it that big a stretch to think if he's healthy he can't put up at least 50 points this year? Take a chance on him come draft day.

-- Matt Cubeta

The team is expected to regain some of its offensive prowess with Oates that went missing while Boudreau then Hunter tried to make the club more defense-oriented. Whether or not the Capitals have the ability to score like they once did remains to be seen.


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson

Mathieu Perreault - Mike Ribeiro - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb

Wojtek Wolski


Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green

Dmitry Orlov - Jeff Schultz

John Erskine - Jack Hillen


Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

NOTES: The permutations for Washington’s forwards seem almost endless. Adding Ribeiro fills a huge hole, but losing Semin has created another. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Brouwer are the top player at each position, but Brouwer didn’t quite fit on right wing the way Knuble did in previous seasons. Oates could split Backstrom and Ovechkin to find more balance.

Johansson has played well on Backstrom’s wing, so that could work. Perrault, like Johansson, is a natural center, and Laich is the team’s second- or third-best option at wing but he’s also become a prototypical No. 3 center. Chimera had his best season and could be a fringe top-six guy, but he is more suited for the third line as well. Other options to fill in on the wing in the top six include Wolski and Stanislav Galiev, but not Evgeny Kuznetsov, who would have been an easy choice to replace Semin had he not re-upped with his KHL club. Got all that?

If the Capitals can figure out the top six without needing Laich or Chimera, then the bottom six could be among the League’s best. Chimera-Laich-Ward was a dominant third line early in the season, and Hendricks and Beagle were among the team’s best players in the postseason.

Orlov will be expected to replace Wideman in the top six, and this group needs bounce-back seasons from Green and Schultz. Where Washington’s defense ranks could fluctuate wildly, pending the play of Green in particular.

Holtby likely will begin training camp as the No. 1 goaltender, but that job has changed hands quite a bit in recent seasons and Neuvirth will be eager to try to reclaim it.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter at: @cmasisak22

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