by Ron Spence
How could the Washington Capitals have two farm teams – at the top of their leagues – and the franchise be ranked only 11th overall by Hockey’s Future?
The Hershey Bears beat the Moose to win the Calder Cup, while Washington’s ECHL squad, the South Carolina Stingrays beat Anchorage to take the Kelly Cup. Hershey won their 10th Calder Cup – the AHL’s record – earlier this month. South Carolina became the first three-time winner of the Kelly Cup (The Stingrays have qualified for the postseason a record 15 times in 16 seasons.).
To answer this question, I posed a second question. Were these two championship teams made up of players from other NHL franchises?
The chart below shows the Caps’ prospects in red, and Hershey’s character veterans in turquoise.
The Hershey Bears were thus predominantly under contract to the Washington Capitals:
THE HERSHEY BEARS
If these players weren’t that talented, I reasoned, perhaps they were well coached and had lots of character.
“The sports graveyard is filled with promising teams that wilted amid title pressure,” wrote Tim Leone of email@example.com. “Hershey avoided that fate by combining character and chemistry with talent.”
“At the start of training camp, before anybody even got here, we thought we had an opportunity to do it,” said Bears head coach Bob Woods. “Sometimes you worry when you have so much talent. Can you keep them all together and on the same page and keep all the egos in check? The guys were such a great character group and they got along so well and pushed each other. And the sky was the limit for them. They just had to believe that they were as good as everybody thought they were.”
THE SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS
As above, the Washington prospects are shown in red, and the South Carolina personnel in turquoise. This mix is somewhat typical of ECHL teams – there are fewer NHL prospects.
Like the Bears, the Stingrays had a lot of character.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is that we did it by committee,” Stingray coach Bednar said. “We had a dozen guys that could legitimately have been the MVPs during the playoffs. You could have picked between seven, eight or nine guys for the MVP and no one would have argued with you. They bought into the team concept and what we were trying to do with our program from the outset and this is their reward.”
“There are a lot of guys with a lot of character in our locker room,” added defenseman Nate Kiser. “I think that’s the thing that gets us through the adversity and tough times.”
My initial question was answered some three weeks ago when Hockey’s Future’s re-ranked the Capitals to 5th overall in the NHL.
So the Caps have lots of talent, plus character.
Washington is a very good franchise.
The Caps have four very good goaltending prospects and numerous offensive Dmen. They also have size – none of their six top prospects are shorter than 6’2″.
To move to the top prospect rating, the Caps need to bring along more defensive rearguards and add depth at the forward position.
George McPhee has this well under control. The Caps have been drafting for speed rather than bulk (Only one of the Caps’ picks – this year – is above 6′.) . This is the third time in four years that the Cap’s 1st round pick has been a Swedish centre.
The big problem the Caps are facing is not their Hockey’s Future ranking.
It’s where can they warehouse all of their talent?