The Washington Capitals have a lot of questions on their roster after missing the playoffs in 2014. There’s no question about who the No. 1 goalie in town is, though. General manager Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post with no hesitation that 24 year old Braden Holtby will assume that role.
From the the Washington Post:
“I think we can get more out of Holtby,” MacLellan said on a teleconference. “My plan would be as of now to go with Holtby as our No. 1 and find him a backup goaltender. I think there was coaching philosophy change that he wasn’t totally comfortable with. I think it changed a little bit throughout the season. Circumstances might have affected his play throughout last year.”
A casual look at the numbers suggest MacLellan is on to something here.
Holtby’s save percentage is an above-average .919 in 105 NHL regular season starts. In 21 playoff starts, that number shoots up to a .931. The limited sample size on those numbers is a concern, but good numbers and small sample size beats bad numbers with small sample size any day.
At the very least, Holtby is worth giving a shot for a Capitals team that will require a retooling if not an all out rebuild. The team won’t be a Stanley Cup contender next season unless they have a crazy summer, so why not give the young guy every chance to succeed?
MacLellan also notes that the team will look to find a veteran backup for Holtby to give prospect Philip Grubauer plenty of playing time in the minors.
Another cause for optimism surrounding Holtby will be the new staff surrounding him.
While Olaf Kolzig is a hockey legend in D.C., it’s hard to beat the incoming goaltender coach Mitch Korn, who will replace Kolzig.
Korn was the Nashville Predators’ goaltender coach before he joined new Caps coach Barry Trotz. Korn has maximized the talents of Tomas Vokoun and Pekka Rinne among others, and is one of the top names in goaltender coaching.
Look for Holtby to have a bounce back season that correlates with how much the rest of this Caps roster improves in front of him. It appears for now at least that the team’s weaknesses won’t be in the crease.