Morning Commute: Is This Year Make Or Break For The Capitals?

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The "Quest for Lord Stanley's Cup" renews tonight for the Washington Capitals, and like last year, many pundits and fans have them down as prohibitive favorites to emerge as this season's winners. However, unlike last year, there is a certain amount of angst that pervades the fanbase, because if the team doesn't advance to deep into the playoffs there is a sense that the team would need to restructure to some degree in order to compete during the playoffs.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The Capitals approached this NHL season in a unique way for proscribed favorites, they eschewed the need to grab a marquee free agent and instead decided to continue building from within and promote promising players from their AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears. Instead of attempting to sign a big name goaltender, the Capitals are hoping that the combination of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will show enough development this year to be steady between the pipes. The Capitals much maligned defense was not augmented from without as projected, but from within as Karl Alzner and John Carlson will be expected to take a step towards the star status projected for the pair.

As such, I would tend to disagree with the Capitals that this year is the tipping point for the promised Capitals dynasty. The team is constructed in such a way that a a wholesale tearing down of the operation makes little sense. The two key players in the franchise, Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, are locked up for the future. The Capitals can afford to keep building through youth and adding minor veterans here or there to adjust for injuries or perceived need.

This year's regular season is a laboratory to see which young Capital is likely to step up in the postseason this spring. The success of the Capitals franchise has earned them this luxury.

Today's must-reads from around the SB Nation network:

Japer's RInk: Is Michal Neuvirth kinda a jerk?

Hog's Haven: The Lunchbox takes a look at the Eagles and Packers

BulletsForever: Breaking down last night's win over the hated Cavaliers

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