The new-look Washington Capitals underwent dramatic personnel changes this offseason, which will force a period of self-discovery out of the gate as they search for their new identity.
Notable free-agent and expansion-draft departures included Marcus Johansson (Devils), Justin Williams (Hurricanes), Karl Alzner (Canadiens) and Nate Schmidt (Golden Knights).
Caps forward Jay Beagle, who turns 32 in a little over a week, is now the third-eldest player on the roster, behind 37-year-old Brooks Orpik and 32-year-old Alex Ovechkin. Time flies.
On the debut of his new weekly segment with The Sports Junkies — ‘The Morning Skate with Jay Beagle,’ sponsored by Sport Automotive — Beagle was asked which of those former teammates was hardest to say goodbye to.
“We had a tight group,” Beagle said. “We still do have a tight group, but we had a really tight team and it was a fun team to be apart of last year, just because everyone was here for such a long period of time.”
“You know, Karl Alzner — I sat with him on the plane,” he said. “We were roommates before we had the CBA, where we got our own rooms now, but we were roommates before that. We won two [Calder] Cups in Hershey together, played in Hershey for those five years together, and we were roommates in Hershey as well.”
“Really good friend of mine. That hurt. That hurt losing him, just for me personally,” he said. “He’s one of my best friends.”
Coincidentally enough, Beal and Alzner will be reunited on the ice in a matter of days. After opening their season on the road in Ottawa on Thursday, the Caps host the Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena Saturday evening.
“It’s gonna be weird for the home opener when you take on Montreal and Karl’s back in the building, and he’s trying to check you into the boards,” Junkies host John Auville said. “That’s gonna be a really weird thing, right?”
“It’s gonna be really weird,” Beagle said with a warm laugh. “We’ve talked about it a little bit. I’m dumping the puck, and only in his corner and running him, because he left. That’s how it’s going down.”
Asked how different the 2017-18 Capitals will be from previous iterations of the club, Beagle had to stop and think it over.
“That’s a good question. It’s yet to be seen,” he said. “We don’t know. Every team has an identity, and you find it. The thing with last year was we could just jump into that right away because it was basically the same team as previous years. This year, we’ve got to find our identity.
“The same coaches are back; we didn’t lose any assistant coaches or anybody to other teams that had taken them and stuff, so that was good. We got same systems, with a little bit of tweaks here and there, so that is exciting, because you can jump in right away and it feels just like last year, system-wise. You don’t have to overthink it.”
“But we do have some new pieces falling in on [defense] and on forward,” he said. “We’ve got some youth coming in, some guys that fought real hard to be here and played in our system. It’s an exciting time. You never want to lose guys. It’s always hard to lose guys, but that’s part of the game. It happens. So when you get that youth coming in, it’s exciting. They bring that energy. They bring the energy in the room.”
“It kind of stirs things up,” he explained. “It gets guys like me, who have been here a little bit longer now, it gets us excited just because seeing their faces and how excited they are to be here, it kind of brings you back. I think it’s gonna be good. It’s gonna be different, like you said, but we’ll find our identity, and it’s a long season, so we’ve got to make sure we just look at this start, and make sure we have a good start and go from there.”