LAST SEASON: 38-30-14, 90 points. Missed the playoffs by finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference.
COACH: Barry Trotz, 1st season with Capitals; 16th overall in NHL, 557-479-60-100.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Alex Ovechkin, as always. The three-time league MVP led the NHL with 51 goals last season, but his plus-minus of minus-35 was third-worst in the league. Trotz plans to move Ovechkin back to left wing and also hopes to cajole more of a team game from the Russian forward.
OUTLOOK: It was deflating enough for the talented Capitals to lose in the early rounds of the playoffs every year, but last season they didn't make the postseason at all, a failure that cost Oates and McPhee their jobs. Orpik and Niskanen should stabilize the blue line, but nothing is more crucial in Washington than the relationship between Ovechkin and the coach du jour. Trotz is Ovechkin's first NHL head coach with prior head coaching experience elsewhere in the league, giving him the cachet to make demands of his players - and to expect them to be met.