In a lot of ways, Fehr represents where the Capitals are right now — trying to match expectations with results. He was in the system prior to the last lockout, the one that cost the 2004-05 season, for which the Caps prepared by trading away their best veteran players, each time wanting in return “a prospect and a pick,” as owner Ted Leonsis has said time and again in the years since. It was, the Capitals said, the right way to build a consistent winner.
Fehr, a first-round pick in 2003, was part of the building. He grew up in the Capitals system with Mike Green, with Brooks Laich, with the guys who were supposed to make up the core of the franchise then and now. The team won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009-10, when Fehr was one of seven Capitals to score at least 20 goals.
“I felt like it was gonna be a team that was gonna stay together for a long period of time,” Fehr said.
It is the story line the Caps, understandably, sold: The times, they’re good now, and they’re going to be good for as far as the eye can see. Look who we have, and look who we have coming up through the system.
But funny things happen along the way to deep runs in the Stanley Cup playoffs, of which these Capitals have made exactly none. What, exactly, has that system produced? Expectations, for sure. But by way of results? Not much. The Capitals have won exactly three playoff series in that time, and they currently sit tied with the Florida Panthers for last place in the Eastern Conference.
Since the Capitals took Alex Ovechkin with the first pick of the 2004 draft, and added defensemen Jeff Schultz and Green later in that same first round, they have selected 61 players in the NHL draft. Not one has appeared in an NHL all-star game. All of five were on the ice for Tuesday’s victory over the Bruins — goalie Braden Holtby, defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner and centers Nicklas Backstrom and Mathieu Perreault.
Marcus Johansson, Washington’s first-round pick in 2009, was finally cleared to skate Wednesday after dealing with what turned out to be a concussion. What he’ll be when he gets back on the ice, Coach Adam Oates — who has both benched Johansson and put him on the fourth line already this year — doesn’t know.
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, expected to contribute in what would be his second season, hasn’t played a shift because of his own concussion.
Backstrom, who seemed a surefire all-star two years ago, has all of two goals (though he did an exceptional job feeding Fehr for the game-winner Tuesday, quietly his 17th assist). Green, once a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, is all but broken, on injured reserve with the latest in a series of maladies. He has played in 97 and missed 88 games over the past three seasons. Laich, once the franchise’s versatile iron man, hasn’t appeared this year because of a groin injury.