One of the most interesting questions our readership has asked over the past week relates to what kind of Capitals team we ought to see on the ice starting next fall. The vast majority of Bruce Boudreau’s tenure — the vast majority of his coaching career — has delivered a highly entertaining, highly winning brand of up-tempo attack: maintain puck possession, put inordinate pressure on the forecheck to get the puck back, attack vertically with speed, in waves, and once in the attack zone exploit weakside openings with creativity and flair. It’s the very system that filled Verizon Center night after night for the first time in Washington hockey history but subsequently was deemed unfit for springtime prosperity in the NHL. When the coach jettisoned his calling card of a system in the middle of the 2010-11 season, the revolution was sold to Caps’ fans as acknowledgment that the coach’s way wasn’t working.
But the replacement system didn’t fare so well this spring. And a few of our readers have even suggested that in light of the NHL’s pledge, immediately after the 2004 lockout, to return a more appealing brand of hockey to fans, one that placed a premium on skating and free flow and skill, that skill-based rosters like the Capitals have what is tantamount to a moral obligation not to fall back to the rest of the pack, and sag back and clog and stifle and suffocate the life out of the game. And so we ask an important and interesting philosophical question: should the coach’s old ways of attack — the ones that won he and his teams championships in professional hockey — be re-adopted? Should the system that made Verizon Center a once intimidating place for visiting clubs to play be revisited? Could there perhaps not be some middle ground between the extremes of systems we saw last season — perhaps a hybrid system implemented that blends the beautiful scoreboard-alighting attack of a Red Army with the quasi-trap/defensive-minded alternative?