Coming off a short summer following their first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history, the Washington Capitals have had a notable absence through the team’s first handful of preseason games.
Devante Smith-Pelly has been a scratch for each one of Washington’s first five exhibition contests leading into the 2018-19 campaign.
DSP isn’t injured, nor is he missing in action because of any personal or family issues. It appears, though, that the reason for the decision is to do with his physical conditioning coming into camp, as head coach Todd Reirden hinted at to reporters last week.
“He’s still trying to get to the level where he was at last year, and until he does, it doesn’t do us any good as a team or for him to be playing in games.
“It’s something that I think we’ll just keep in house in terms of with the specific player. Like I said, he’s not at the level that he was at last year and that to me is really all there is to say about it. Once he gets there, he’ll be in and he’ll be helping us,” Reirden said Friday, according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.
On Tuesday, a person close to the situation confirmed to Khurshudyan that “Smith-Pelly indeed failed to meet certain team conditioning standards at training camp.”
Smith-Pelly has been skating on team off days, according to Reirden, and wasn’t putting the blame on anyone but himself when asked about the situation last week.
“It was a short summer. I’m not going to make any excuse or anything, but a short summer, a little different. … I don’t think it’s really a story. I don’t think it’s really a thing. I think Todd would probably tell you the same thing. It’s not really a big deal. I’m doing what I have to do to be ready for when it really matters,” he said.
Fellow Eastern Conference contender, the Tampa Bay Lightning, went as far as waiving and subsequently terminating the contract of defenceman Jake Dotchin earlier in September after he reportedly showed up to camp more than 20 pounds over his regular playing weight and boasting a body fat percentage exceeding 25 percent.
The team won’t be taking that kind of action with Smith-Pelly, though, according to Khurshudyan citing a source.
Washington has two remaining preseason games before the real thing starts on Oct. 3 with the Capitals banner-raising ceremony.