With the regular season starting in about a month, the Washington Capitals are hoping to see better results in comparison to last season, where they missed the postseason for only the second time in the past 16 seasons. The changes made to the team make for some interesting storylines, and the results could be much more different this season. In this article, I came up with three bold predictions for the Capitals in the 2023-24 season, each bolder than the other.
The New Kid in Town
For the first bold prediction, I believe that Rasmus Sandin will have a breakout season for the Capitals. I think he’ll lead the team’s defensemen in scoring by recording 50-plus points, all while playing top-pairing minutes in heavy situations.
Sandin, 23, was acquired at last season’s trade deadline in return for a first-round draft pick in the 2023 Draft and Erik Gustafsson. The 2018 late first-round pick may not have had the chance to shine on a star-studded Toronto Maple Leafs team, but he certainly showed what he was capable of at the end of last season when he put up three goals and 15 points in only 19 games. Imagine what the young defenseman can do now that he’ll start his first full season on a new team.
Given the price the team paid to get him, they’ll definitely want to give him all the chances in the world to succeed. I think Sandin will slowly start to grow and take over veteran John Carlson’s role as the team’s minute-munching defenseman. While Carlson will almost certainly continue to be an effective two-way defenseman, barring any injuries, Sandin will be flashier and make more headlines.
The Bounce Back Season
One player that needs to be better for the Capitals is Anthony Mantha, and I think this season will be when he’ll do that. I predict that he will be a bounce-back candidate and put up over 25 goals and 55 points.
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The 28-year-old started his career with the Detroit Red Wings before being traded to the Capitals in a package deal involving draft picks and players Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik. At the time, the 6-foot-5 winger was emerging as a prominent goal scorer in the league. This enticed the Capitals to make this move in an attempt to add another potent goal scorer to go alongside Alex Ovechkin. However, that hasn’t been the Mantha we’ve seen so far with the Capitals.
This summer, Mantha has opened up about his recent struggles, but he’s seemingly doing everything he can to put the odds in his favor. Not only did he hire a mental coach, but he’s also getting in better shape, now 10 pounds lighter than he was last season. These factors, mixed with new coaching for the team, could help Mantha regain his confidence and become a lethal scoring threat once more.
The Capitals’ Season
The last – and possibly boldest – prediction on this list looks at the entire team’s standpoint. I believe that the Capitals will put up a fight and be in the playoff race until the very last moments of the season and possibly slide into a wildcard spot, despite being seen as a team on the decline.
The Capitals have the opportunity to start fresh and get some much-needed reinforcements. Off the ice, they have a fresh new face behind the bench in Spencer Carberry. The 41-year-old had been a Maple Leafs’ assistant coach for the past two seasons before earning this spot. He’ll look to take up the challenge of bringing the Capitals back to the postseason.
On the ice, some new 一 and familiar 一 faces are set to start the season. Three of the most important players on the team in Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom and recently extended winger Tom Wilson are set to start the season healthy and fresh. In addition, a dark-horse bounce-back candidate in Max Pacioretty will likely make his debut at some point in the season. He’ll round out the team’s top-six group well enough. Combine the solid offense and defense and an experienced starting goalie in Darcy Kuemper and the team could cause some surprises.
For this bold prediction to come true, many factors will need to be in Caps’ favor. The entire Eastern Conference is competitive, and they aren’t regarded as a team that will make the playoffs by many. But with new coaching and injury bugs hitting some teams more than others, you never know what could happen this season. Again, these factors could all go against the Capitals, but only time will tell.