Winnipeg, Washington, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, and Toronto. These are 5 teams in contention for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. All these teams are within 5 points of each other. None of these teams are really taking control of their own fate.
The Jets fans, ecstatic to have hockey, seem to be inspiring the team. Toronto fired their coach to spark the team. Tampa Bay made three trade deadline acquisitions to shake things up. The Sabres made a few deadline deals too in order to get something started. The Caps decided to do nothing and ride it out.
The Capitals didn't make any moves because no good deals came up (according to the GM). The way he explains it, I understand. You don't just make a deal to make a deal. However, if a deal isn't possible, then something else needs to be done to get the team going. Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo's moves may not have been the right ones. Only time will tell. But they knew they had to do something to make a final playoff push.
Now all that trade deadline nonsense is over. It doesn't matter what deals were made and what deals were not made. Now all that matters is these teams win hockey games (or lose in overtime...grrr hockey).
So what can the Caps do to get back on track? That has been the question all year, all the way back to Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau tried every trick in the book and nothing worked to fire up the team. Firing the coach didn't get the team on track either. It seems that the players are the problem.
Ovi has been "benched" by both coaches, and it has done nothing. Both goalies get pulled and put in the doghouse for extended periods of time. Players have moved up and down from the minor leagues (Orlov, Eakin, Aucoin, Holtby). Players like Semin, Knuble, Schultz, Hamrlick, etc have been healthy scratches. But in the end, it is still the same old team, and the same old players.
The issue of the players on the team was not addressed before the trade deadline so I really don't know what else can be done. What can Dale Hunter do to take these sub-.500 players (and former winners) and make them into a winning team again. We only have 17 games to find out and 0 tricks left in the bag.