Sunday, August 26, 2007

Are they Contenders?

It is only about three weeks until training camps start across the NHL. Like most sane sports fans I can hardly wait. August is definitely the horse latitudes of professional sports. All that is happening in Canada and the US is baseball, and we all know how boring baseball games are to watch. Football fans have the NFL's preseason to savour, but personally I find the NFL to be even worse than baseball. I am probably the only person in North America who did not know about the Michael Vick Affair until a few days ago. I just have no interest in the North American version of football.

So, I spend my Augusts looking forward to the day that players across the continent don their skates and start the rituals of NHL training camp. And, like most sports fans, I dream about the local hockey team and fantasize about their chances at winning the Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals are in the middle of a serious bout of rebuilding. They came out of the Great Lock-Out as the worst team in the league, and have been struggling to improve since then. Fortunately, the Caps has paid attention to the basics, such as building a strong farm system, drafting well, and developing young players, and now their patience over the past two years is about to pay off.

"We've got the makings of being a very good team for a long time," said goalie Olie Kolzag in an interview with the Washington Post a few days ago, and I tend to agree with him. The Caps have signed several free agents over the Summer who have the potential to fill some significant gaps in the Caps' line-up. Michael Nylander, Tom Poti, and Viktor Kozlov were signed over the past couple of months and should fit in well. All three bring strong records and strong work ethics to the team. In addition regulars like Olie Kolzig and Alexander Ovechkin will be around for 2007-2008. The Caps did well in the first half of last season before falling apart after Christmas. I do not think that this will happen this season. The younger players will have learned from experience to pace themselves, and the new veterans will have the experience to guide the team through any mid-season slump. I am not expecting the Caps to win the Cup this season, but I would not be at all surprised to see them make a strong play-off run this year.

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