The Capitals transformation has continued and the 1991 squad is ready to push for the Patrick Division again and hopefully the Wales Conference. During the off season, many moves were made to make the team stronger defensively, faster and bring in some scoring. 

The first step was hitting the free agent market. The teams targeted two main pieces; Dave Hannan and David Shaw. Both players who will help in their end and play both ways. They also continued the defensive part by adding legend Larry Robinson, who at 40, and is still one of the fastest players in the league. Add Rick Green as the #7 man, and then later in a trade for Gusarov and Fetisov the Capitals feel very good about the defensive side of things. 

The speed was something they felt the team lacked on as well, and they seemed to address that as well. Bringing in Gates Orlando, Bondra, Allison, Messier up front along with as mentioned before Robinson and Gusarov. The Capitals speed will be something for teams to contend with all season. 

The last part was the scoring, and it was an early target for management. First, they brought in Cam Neely who just came off a 40 goal season. Bondra and Lukowich were also brought in, but the big catch was the new team leader in Mark Messier. Finally away from the Great One's shadow, the Capitals will lean on Messier hard to not only lead this young team in the dressing room, but also on the ice. Only a few players can be named captain the day of a trade. With Messier's all around skills, this will also allow Russ Courtnall the ability to drop to the second line, were he can continue to thrive in the league. 

Washington's goals are simple. While the odds makers won't put them there, the goal two seasons ago was playoffs in 1990, and Finals in 1991. Nobody in the dressing room is thinking anything less. It is also rumored that GM Matheson has stated he plans to let this group try and work through things without constantly blowing things up. Once game 1 occurs, he said he will let them play 15 games at least before looking at any roster shuffles. The first game will be tomorrow night at home to Pittsburgh which should be in front of a sellout crowd. Last year's All Rookie Team goalie Mike Richter will start in nets. 


Bubba Smith Sr.
Capital Press