Capitals plan to replace Backstrom and Wilson ‘agreed by committee’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Capital Cities ready to start the 2022-23 season with a pair of main hitters from the top six, even if they haven’t yet decided how those minutes will be split.
Niklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson will start the upcoming NHL campaign as part of the long-term injury reserve following off-season surgeries. Wilson tore his ACL in his left knee during the Capitals’ first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers; according to his schedule, he will return around December. Backstrom underwent hip reconstruction surgery in June and it’s still unclear. can he get back on the ice this season.
“It’s a couple of big details, but I feel like some of the parts we got this summer can help cover it up,” head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters on Thursday as training camp opened.
“I feel like the growth and development of some of our young players can help with that, and I feel the depth that we have shown and used in the last year with some of the players who are trying to compete for jobs on our team. We can also cover those spots with this. So, you don’t like seeing guys off the lineup, but we knew that. This did not take us by surprise today. This is what it was, for several months we knew where we would be.”
Washington’s two biggest offseason additions were right winger Connor Brown, whom they acquired from the Ottawa Senators for a second-round pick, and free agent center Dylan Stroome, who signed a one-year contract. . Although Brown and Strome play in the same positions as Wilson and Backstrom, respectively, they are not expected to copy the Capitals’ stars.
“It’s hard to replace Nick Backstrom,” Laviolette said. “There isn’t much around, but by the committee and the group, playing a team sport and a team game, you’re hoping to get through it all, and so I think we’re going to be counting and relying on a lot. of people.”
The 28-year-old Brown has averaged just under 16 goals and 24 assists in three seasons with the Senators, ranking among the team leaders in playing time and excelling in the penalty shootout group. Strome, 25, scored a career-high 22 goals for the Chicago Blackhawks last season, in which he improved his throwing percentage and re-established himself as a prolific powerplay player. In training camp, he will look like both a center forward and a winger.
Both are welcome additions to an aging Capitals team that is aiming to make it past the first round for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. However, Backstrom and Wilson are on a different level. Wilson closes out an All-Star season in which he turned into a true unicorn who can score straight away and physically equal anyone. Backstrom has plenty of franchise records good enough to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“We’re losing a lot of our team so I think it’s still going to be a problem,” general manager Brian McLellan said. “I think we have added good players. I think it will be fun at the training camp to see how the guys adapt, how they fit in, see what combinations the coaches offer. People will get the opportunity to play higher in the roster. Training camps and exhibition games will go a long way.”
In addition to Brown and Strome, the Capitals are counting on younger players like center Connor McMichael to take steps forward in their development. McMichael, 21, was the team’s top prospect before last season. He averaged just 10 minutes on the ice in 68 games, but Washington is hoping he can earn more with a strong camp. Other young forwards vying for a place on the roster include Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Alexei Protas, Brett Leeson and Joe Snively.
As for veterans, the Capitals will rely on players like Alexey Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshi continue to play like the stars they have been throughout their careers. They also hope that Anthony Manta, who scored in preseason on Sunday against the Buffalo Sabers, will be able to realize his full potential.
The big winger missed more than half of the season with an injury last year and went goalless in the playoffs. The player that the Washingtons acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for a hefty package that included Jakub Vrana and a first-round pick, Manta will see plenty of opportunities to play a significant role in the Capitals’ top six.
With an aging roster, this situation is nothing new for the Capitals. Backstrom’s hip injury limited him to 47 games last season, and Oshie endured two lengthy trips to IR as he battled numerous ailments. Oshi had major surgery shortly after the end of the season, but he won’t miss a beat. The 35-year-old is optimistic that the team has what it takes to keep Washington competitive as his injured stars bounce back.
“You can’t replace 19 or 43,” Oshie said. “I just can’t. So we will definitely miss them. However, they both look like they are in as good shape as possible in the recovery phase. So it’s very nice to see and a new band, it’s exciting…you always miss the guys that aren’t here but sometimes when you get four or five new faces it seems a little fresh after we didn’t have success which we I wanted to have a couple of years in a row.”