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5 Takeaways From Capitals' Post-Season Media Availability – The Hockey Writers

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For the Washington Capitals, 2021-22 is over and the post-mortem has already begun. The club from D.C. crashed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last week, falling in Game 6 to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

However, the season, which hinged on the team’s shaky goaltending, perhaps shouldn’t have ended in the first round. Washington blew leads in each of the final three contests of the series, leaving a dark cloud of “what if?” hanging over the squad this offseason.

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While there’s no shame in losing to Andrew Brunette’s electric Panthers, defeat in Round 1 reopens a nasty can of worms: has the window to win shut on the Capitals – and, if so, what should happen next?

On Sunday (May 15), general manager (GM) Brian MacLellan, head coach Peter Laviolette, and a string of key players sat down with reporters to discuss exactly that. Here are five takeaways from the Capitals’ post-season media availability:

MacLellan: Capitals Will ‘Explore Changes’ to Roster

Following the Capitals’ latest playoff exit, plenty of unresolved questions about MacLellan’s roster hang in the air at Capital One Arena. His stars aren’t getting any younger, there are issues to address in the crease, and the club’s progression has stalled since hoisting Lord Stanley back in 2018.

“We’ve lost in the first round [for] the last four years: we’re going to explore changes,” MacLellan told reporters. “I don’t think anything is off the table. We’re going to talk to different teams and monitor the trade market. We have to identify free agents.”

Handily, MacLellan has cap space to weaponize this offseason. The 63-year-old will have at least $6.5 million to play with once Justin Shultz and Michal Kempny shuffle towards unrestricted free agency.

Also of note: Washington’s GM was relatively wishy-washy when it came to discussing the future of Laviolette, whose three-year contract expires next summer.

“I think we’re going to keep that between management and the coaching staff,” MacLellan said coyly. “I thought [Laviolette] did a good job, he managed a difficult situation with the number of injuries we had to our forwards.”

In the immediate future, though, MacLellan’s biggest headscratcher occupies the blue paint, not the bench.

Washington’s Goaltending Options: Stick or Twist?

By now, you probably don’t need me to recount the story of Washington’s flimsy netminding double-act: it was a major source of contention throughout the regular season and bubbled over in the playoffs.

“We’ve got to make a decision on what to do and [how to] fit it under the cap,” MacLellan said of his situation in goal.

Quizzed on whether he’d like to acquire an experienced netminder to replace Vitek Vanecek and/or Ilya Samsonov, both restricted free agents this summer, he added: “We’re going to explore it. I don’t know if it’s a deep market, we’ll talk to other teams and evaluate.”

Ultimately, MacLellan has three debates to settle ahead of the draft:

  • Should he extend Vanecek, who is slightly more consistent, or Samsonov, who is younger and has a higher ceiling?
  • Assuming he’ll trade the surplus netminder, what assets will he seek in return?
  • Will he complete his tandem (probably with an out-and-out starter) via trade or free agency?

Settling the Capitals’ goalie controversy is priority No. 1 for MacLellan this offseason. He can’t afford another “pretty good but not great” campaign from his puck-stoppers. Change is coming.

Tom Wilson’s ‘Significant’ Knee Injury

If not for Tom Wilson’s injury in Game 1, would the Capitals have seen off the Panthers in the first round? We’ll never know, but it’s one of the “what ifs?” that will sting supporters of the D.C. franchise until the puck drops for 2022-23.

Despite suffering a concussion earlier in the campaign, the Canadian enjoyed a career year in 2021-22. He registered 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists) in 78 regular-season appearances, and later added a playoff goal to his tally as well.

“I was trying to get back and trying everything I could,” Wilson said of his injury. “Every person you walk by was like, ‘When are you back? We need you back.’ That was tough: I wanted to be out there. So, you feel like you let people down and that sucks.”

Tom Wilson Washington Capitals
Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 28-year-old, who opted not to disclose specific details about his “significant” knee injury, added: “It’s going to be a grind for me [because] I’ve got to start my recovery. It’s always nice to have goals and a clear mindset of what you need to do as an athlete. We’re getting with the doctors and we’ll go from there.”

There is, however, some positive news for Capitals fans: Wilson’s injury shouldn’t keep him out next season, per MacLellan.

Nicklas Backstrom’s Long-Term Fitness

As reported by THW’s Ted Starkey, Nicklas Backstrom’s health is a major source of concern for the Capitals this offseason. The 34-year-old told reporters that his hip will “never be 100 percent again,” adding that he has decisions to make regarding his future.

Related: Capitals’ Offseason May Be Altered by Backstrom’s Decision on Future

“Obviously we’ll see what’s going to happen,” Backstrom said. “We have some decisions to make. Those decisions aren’t finalized yet, so we’ll take it day by day.

“The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and that’s my life Obviously, I want to be back. I want to be back to normal, not worrying about this. We’ll see what’s going to happen. Nothing is finalized yet.”

When asked if the Swede could be facing a career-ending injury, MacLellan kept his cards close to his chest.

Nicklas Backstrom Washington Capitals
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“I think he’s going to explore all options here,” he explained. “He wants it to be better. He wants to be more physically comfortable when he plays, so he’s going to explore it.”

Backstrom registered 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 47 regular-season outings in 2021-22, taking maintenance days throughout the year to rest the hip he underwent surgery on in 2015.

Alex Ovechkin offered the most optimism about Backstrom’s future of those speaking at Washington’s post-season media availability: “He’s a tough man, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be better next year. He’s a leader and I hope he’s going to be better.”

Ovechkin’s comments aside, the situation is relatively bleak. Backstrom has three years left on his $9.2 million contract: it isn’t unreasonable to be concerned about how his health will impact Washington moving forward.

Carl Hagelin’s Eyesight Update

Since taking a stick blade to the eye in practice on March 1, Carl Hagelin has stayed away from reporters. He broke his silence on Sunday, acknowledging that his future was unclear.

“It’s not going to be 100 percent,” the 33-year-old said of his eyesight. “We’ll see where it ends up, but the rupture of the choroid is the main issue.”

Hagelin has returned to the ice since undergoing two operations on his eye and has relied on former teammate Marc Staal, who suffered a similar injury in 2013, for inspiration.

Washington Capitals Carl Hagelin
Carl Hagelin, Washington Capitals (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

“Every time, after I talk to him, it’s been great for the mental aspect of it,” he explained. “It’s always put me in a good mood; it’s always been positive. He said it, ‘it’s all about patience.’ It takes time, and at the end of the day you’ve got that one good eye that’s going to carry you.”

While there isn’t a firm timeline for Hagelin’s return, he plans on playing next season. For now, though, it’s a waiting game to scrutinize as his recovery unfolds.

Capitals Approach Offseason of Major Significance

In the aftermath of a bumpy season, Washington’s head office will now turn its attention to the future. This year’s NHL Entry Draft is important for the Capitals: they must find value in the later rounds while hitting on their early picks to bolster their prospect pool.

MacLellan also has a narrow needle to thread in free agency. Sourcing adequate support for his ageing core will shape the Capitals’ fortunes in 2021-22: he can’t afford to overpay for fringe talent.

Ultimately, though, Washington is another year closer to the end of the Ovechkin Era – which creates new pressure and anxiety for the organization to shoulder. Is the Cup window shutting or is it already closed? We’ll find out next season.

Image: Luke James

Luke is an award-winning sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals beat for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.

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Media Release – July 5, 2022 – Guelph Police – Guelph Police Service

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Charges laid for driving on closed road

A Guelph male faces impaired and dangerous driving charges after ignoring officers and driving on a closed road late Monday.

Approximately 11:45 p.m., Guelph Police Service officers were investigating a single-vehicle collision during which a light post was knocked down on Willow Road at Silvercreek Parkway North. Willow Road was blocked off during the investigation and clean-up.

A driver signalling to enter the closed portion of Willow Road was directed by officers on foot not to do so, but ignored this direction and accelerated past them. The vehicle was located at an address in the area and officers detected an odour of alcoholic beverage on the driver’s breath. He refused several demands to provide a sample of his breath.

A 34-year-old Guelph male is charged with refusing to provide a breath sample and dangerous driving. His driver’s licence was suspended for 90 days and his vehicle was impounded for seven days. He will appear in a Guelph court August 16, 2022.e

A 60-year-old Toronto male was charged with careless driving in relation to the original collision. Willow Road was closed approximately two hours while the post was replaced.

Downtown business entered

The Guelph Police Service continues to investigate a break and enter last week at a downtown business.

Sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, a business on Wyndham Street North near Woolwich Street was entered by prying open a front door. A 48-inch Samsung TV, computer tower and external hard drives were among the items stolen.

Anyone with information is asked to call Constable Matt Simpson at 519-824-1212, ext. 7318, email msimpson@guelphpolice.ca, leave an anonymous message for Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or leave an anonymous tip online at www.csgw.tips.

Blood trail leads to suspect

A male who injured himself breaking a window Monday evening was caught after leaving a blood trail.

Police were called approximately 7:15 p.m. to an apartment building on Silvercreek Parkway North. A male had been involved in a verbal altercation, following which he punched and broke a window in a stairwell door. The injury bled profusely, leaving a trail of blood down five floors and out of the building.

The male was located in the area and treated by Guelph Wellington Paramedic Service personnel before being transported to hospital for further care. He was later released from hospital and returned to the apartment building, where he was arrested while trying to gain entry.

A 38-year-old Guelph male is charged with two counts of mischief under $5,000. He will appear in a Guelph court August 19, 2022.

Total calls for service in the last 24 hours – 200

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4 Takeaways From Canadiens' Pre-Draft Media Availability – The Hockey Writers

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The 2022 NHL Draft is finally upon us as members from all 32 NHL teams begin arriving in Montreal for one of the biggest weeks on the hockey calendar. To kick off the festivities, Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes and Vincent Lecavalier, special advisor to hockey operations, met with the media on Monday to discuss the team’s plan heading into a very important few days for the future of the franchise.

Here are the highlights from the 45-minute press conference which covered a variety of topics regarding the draft and the Habs’ offseason approach.

A Three Horse Race

To no one’s surprise, Hughes continues to play a good game of poker when it comes to who the Canadiens will be selecting with the no. 1 overall pick at the Bell Centre on Thursday night. It’s not in his best interest to unveil his plans to keep his leverage in trade discussions with his colleagues. The uncertainty surrounding the first pick is suiting the Habs just fine right now.

Kent Hughes, Montreal Canadiens GM
Kent Hughes, Montreal Canadiens general manager
(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Hughes did confirm that the decision will come down to three players: Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley. With their scouts now all together in Montreal, the plan was to meet with everyone on Monday night to ensure that each person around the table can contribute to this crucial choice as well as the overall strategy. In other words, with 72 hours to go before round one, the Canadiens still don’t know who they are taking, and the suspense lives on.

They aren’t looking to draft the best player right now, but rather who they project will be the best players four or five years down the road and help the team win when they hopefully enter their contending window. Hughes also mentioned that character would be an important factor in the decision. Beyond their talent and intangibles, they need to determine which player is most suited to handle the pressure that comes with being Montreal’s first overall pick.

#Habs Lecavalier spoke to Shane Wright and will likely do the same with Slafkovsky & Cooley. Part of the conversations are trying to determine how the prospects will deal with the pressure of being picked first overall in the Montreal market. @TSN_Edge

Lecavalier has spoken with Wright about how he is handling everything that comes with being the projected top pick and shared some words of wisdom with the 18-year-old about his own experience as a former no. 1 overall pick himself. The intention is to have the same type of conversation with Slafkovsky and Cooley before Thursday.

Hughes Keeping All His Options Open

It’s safe to say that Hughes is ready to explore any and every scenario from now until Friday, including leaving the door open to trading the first pick if an offer he can’t refuse comes his way. There’s even a chance the Canadiens could end up with both picks one and two.

Related: Who Canadiens Would Target with a Second Top-10 Draft Pick

There’s a stronger possibility that the Habs will use their plethora of selections in this year’s draft, which includes picks no. 26 and no. 33, to move up in the first round. It has been reported they are actively looking to acquire a second Top 10 pick and they have the assets to make that hope a reality.

Shane Wright Kingston Frontenacs
Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs (Photo by Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images)

The fact that these options are even on the table could make for an interesting week for the home team.

The Assistant Coach Search Has Begun

In other offseason business, Hughes indicated that head coach Martin St. Louis has begun speaking to potential candidates for the now-vacant assistant coach position behind the Canadiens’ bench following the departure of Luke Richardson who was recently named head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Related: Canadiens’ Candidates to Replace Richardson as Assistant Coach

Hughes and executive vice president of hockey operations, Jeff Gorton will also meet with the candidates once the dust settles on the draft and free agency to determine who will ultimately be appointed.

Looking for Financial Flexibility

In addition to a successful draft, the Canadiens’ top priority this offseason is to create some financial flexibility and ease their salary cap woes. This means they’ll be looking to subtract players from their current roster before adding to it.  

It’s been well-documented that the player most likely to be moved is Jeff Petry, but Hughes said Monday that the veteran defenseman may very well be in the Habs’ lineup come October if he doesn’t get back the pieces he’s looking for. This is not the same situation as the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in with Ryan McDonagh, who was traded to the Nashville Predators over the weekend for a minimal return. The Habs can hang on to Petry. It might be more beneficial if they do because he’s a rare commodity and will be difficult to replace. 

Jeff Petry Montreal Canadiens
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Petry stays put, Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak, and Mike Hoffman are all potential trade bait, but Hughes isn’t going to just give them away to save money.

Given all the intrigue surrounding the Canadiens right now, Hughes and company are well-positioned to set off a few fireworks in front of their fans later this week. After months of speculation and preparation, all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy the show.  

Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.

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Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes meets media ahead of NHL Draft – CTV News Montreal

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A few days ahead of the Montreal Canadiens first overall draft pick, general manager Kent Hughes says there are still three candidates in the running for the top spot.

Speaking to the press on Monday, he said it’s between forwards Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley — but the general consensus appears to be that Wright will snag the first pick.

The Burlington, Ontario-native is a 6’1″, 200-pound, right-handed centreman who spent his playing days in the OHL for the Kingston Frontenacs. He’s 18.

After a rough season, Thursday will be the first time in over 40 years the Habs have the first pick.

Hughes said he’s looking for a player with long-term potential — someone who can grow the team year after year.

“We’re not just evaluating hockey players, we’re evaluating character,” he said. “It’s hard to be 17 years old and be under the microscope.”

Canadien’s special advisor Vincent Lecavalier also addressed the media on Monday.

As a former first-pick himself, he had some advice for whoever is chosen Thursday: don’t let it go to your head.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re first or 200th. Forget about the draft and move on. You’re part of the team now.”

Since 2001, the Habs have picked in the top 10 spots.

Mike Komisarek (7, 2001), Carey Price (5, 2005), Alex Galchenyuk (3, 2012), Mikhail Sergachev (9, 2016), and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (3, 2018). 

Coming off a last-place, forget-as-soon-as-possible season of misery, it’s safe to say the Habs could use help in just about every position, and two young stars would give fans something to salivate (or obsess) over.

Draft aside, the ongoing “will he ever play again” saga surrounding star goalie Carey Price continues, and it would come as little surprise if the Habs moved a veteran or two like Jeff Petry or Christian Dvorak (maybe Josh Anderson?).

The draft starts Thursday in Montreal. 

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