September is here, Labor Day is in the rear view mirror, and the Caps’ first preseason game is now less than two weeks away. Most of the Capitals are back in town and skating at Kettler, about 10 days ahead of the actual start of on-ice training camp.
Ahead of training camp, the Caps had been slated to head to Florida later this week for a rookie tournament with the Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. This September’s rookie tourney in Estero, Fla. was to be the third annual event, and the Caps were to host the event for the first time.
Alas, Hurricane Irma has scotched those plans.
The storm tore through the Leeward Islands early on Wednesday and is now barreling toward Florida, which has urged evacuation of the lower portion of the state. It makes no sense for the tourney teams to be going into southern Florida when many others are so urgently trying to get out of the same area. The Caps announced early on Wednesday they’d be pulling out of the tournament; the Panthers are doing so as well.
Caps prospects would have played three games in Florida this weekend; instead the players’ flights will be diverted to DC and they’ll spend time skating here at Kettler over the five days in which they were slated to be in Florida.
Some consideration was given to a last minute relocation of the tournament to Nashville, and the Lightning are actually going to go to Music City and play a couple of games against the Predators this weekend. Ultimately though, the ordeal of diverting the flights and lodgings of a couple dozen players plus support staff from Florida to Tennessee on extremely short notice proved to be too daunting from the Capitals’ standpoint. Heading to Nashville makes more sense for the Lightning, which needs to get its players out of Florida for the short term in any event.
“That was the outside option for us,” says Caps’ general manager Brian MacLellan of the possibility of a late shift to Nashville. “But logistically we were set up to go to Fort Myers. Cost wise, it didn’t make sense because it looked like we were only going to get two games in (after Florida announced it would not participate in the tourney).
“So we’re going to bring everybody into camp, and the coaches are going to have more scrimmages this year in training camp, so we’ll get a chance to evaluate the handful of guys that we’d like to see in training camp.”
Having more camp scrimmages than usual is actually something Barry Trotz and his coaching staff was planning on doing this fall in any event, and the vast majority of the players on the tourney roster were unlikely to see any preseason action, anyway.
“Not that we’ve adjusted, but even before this the coaches were planning on having more scrimmages during camp,” MacLellan reiterates. “The first couple of days are going to be about skills and getting sharp to play, so I think that will work out good with what has happened with the storm.
“We’ll adjust to it, and we’ll have all of our guys come in for at least a week. And the guys we need to see in games, we’ll put them in the exhibition games.”
The first of those seven exhibition games is in Newark against the New Jersey Devils on Sept. 18. As has been the case for the last several seasons, the Capitals’ first preseason game comes after just three days after the start of the on-ice portion of training camp. Washington’s entire camp roster of several dozen players will take to the ice for its first on-ice training camp session on the morning of Fri., Sept. 15.