The End of the Trend

trotz and co

I’m really excited about the upcoming Caps season. After replacing Adam Oates with Barry Trotz, I predict the Caps will– finally– reverse their five-year decline and start to get better in 2014-15.

end-of-the-trend

But people who expect a coaching change to immediately transform the team into a Cup contender won’t find solace in the literature.

Teams changing coaches saw their Fenwick Close % increase about 0.35%; after a coaching switch, teams averaged one more Corsi attempt for and 0.4 more Corsi attempts against per 60 minutes, and saw very slight decreases in shooting and save percentages.

Nick Emptage, NHLNumbers.com

Long-term, there seems to be a 1-point boost (from 48.4% to 49.4%) once a team replaces its coach.

Gabriel Desjardins (I think), Arctic Ice Hockey

By that math (and before accounting for roster changes) we might expect the Caps to have around 48-percent puck possession next season. That would kind of suck. I’m a bit more optimistic.

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michael-latta

Photo: Doug Pensinger

After spending most of 2013-14 with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Capitals’ center prospect Michael Latta is now poised to gain a full-time roster spot in Washington next season. Acquired at the 2013 trade deadline in the infamous Forsberg-Erat trade, Latta had one goal and four points in 17 NHL games last season but left a good impression, winning 52.2% of his face-offs and playing an effective, physical game on the fourth line. Latta was one of the team’s best players at drawing penalties, leading the team in penalty differential.

After signing a two-year contract on July 1st, Latta is practically guaranteed a roster spot in the NHL next season.

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On Monday, Maria Kirilenko announced through R-Sport that she and Alex Ovechkin were dunzo. “There are a lot of reasons, but I wouldn’t want to go in detail,” Kirilenko said, as translated by Fedor Fedin. “I’ll say just that our relationship is over, but I respect Sasha as a person and an athlete and sincerely wish him athletic success in the future.”

Without sharing those details, the gossip hounds turned to speculation.

Case in point: Ovechkin, who is currently vacationing on a French beach, posed in photos that got published on the internet. One person in those photos was gymnast Karolina Sevastyanova. Sevastyanova was scrutinized in particular for a) being a woman, and b) being near Alex in those photos.

R-Sport, who first broke the break-up news (say that three times fast), later published a nonsensical story, which later got translated by Sport Illustrated’s Allan Muir. That article, entitled Alex Ovechkin dumped by Maria Kirilenko over Instagram photo, was shared widely across social media. Despite the fact that Kirilenko and Ovechkin hadn’t been seen together in weeks, the article made it seem as if the pictures were the scandal that split the couple up.

On Tuesday, Kirilenko shot back in an interview with Sovetsky Sport’s Nikolay Mysin, calling those reports “laughable.” “I made my decision to break up the engagement long before these pictures appeared on the social networks,” Kirilenko said, as translated by RMNB’s Igor Kleyner.

Kirilenko added, “it is not a secret for anybody that Sasha has certain habits and particulars of behavior that I did not consider worth tolerating anymore.”

Her full comments are below.

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laich-hough

Photo: @BrooksLaich

You’re bummed right now. I get it. Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko have broken up, Weezer is making new music (their new single is terrible), and the second Hercules movie of the year is about to drop and it’s got The Rock in a wig. It’s a bad time to be a human. Heavy Ovi thoughts tonight.

But there is some happy news on the romance beat. Brooks Laich used the L word in a happy birthday tweet to girlfriend Julianne Hough.

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Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko are engaged

Ovechkin and Kirilenko after they got engaged. (Photo: @Ovi8)

This morning, R-Sport announced that Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko have parted ways and ended their engagement. Kirilenko gave an official statement and retweeted R-Sport’s article on Twitter around 10:30 AM.

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ovechkin-vacation

This weekend, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin flew to France to enjoy the lovely beaches of St. Tropez. On what he described as his vacation, Ovechkin hung out with former KHL player (CSKA) Ruben Begunts and Brooklyn Nets small forward Andrei Kirilenko (Maria’s cousin).

And for the first time ever, I saw Ovechkin dive.

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jan-urbas-washington-capitals

Photo: RRBG Photography

In May, Fedor broke the news that Slovenian center Jan Urbas had agreed to a try-out agreement with the Washington Capitals. In July, the six-foot, three-inch, 218-pound forward made his debut in a Caps jersey at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in the team’s Development Camp.

Skating on the first line between Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana (the Capitals last two first-round selections), the 25-year-old got a good look at the team’s future, mentoring two of the Caps’ biggest offensive prospects in the system. The line dominated throughout the wee as Urbas showed off his offensive flair and puck-pressuring skill. For a better idea of how he plays, think Jeff Halpern in his prime, but with less goal scoring ability.

First recruited by Steve Richmond (the Capitals’ director of player development) in Germany, Urbas got on scouts’ radars with his play in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Despite playing in the 7th highest league in the world (DEL), Urbas was solid in the Olympics, scoring a shorthanded goal and helping Slovenia make it to the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

I had the chance to talk to Urbas after Development Camp concluded. The center talked in great detail about his experience in the Olympics and the hero’s welcome he received when the Olympic team got home. He also shared his thoughts on Burakovsky and Vrana’s future–as well as an update on if the Caps had reached out to him with a deal.

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Offensive Defensemen and the Orlov Myth

Photo: Chris Gordon

First, a quick literature review.

“Orlov is a talented, smooth skating offensive defenseman who prefers to press the attack and create scoring opportunities at all times.”

 - Hockey’s Future. No date provided.

Q: The public at large in the U.S. knows only that Orlov is a D-man. Is he a “stay-at-home” defenseman or an offensive defenseman?

A: I would say it’s offensive… But we don’t know what the coach says in the locker room. He’s not a “stay-at-home” defenseman, that’s for sure. His attacking skills have actually led him to play some games as a forward. He scored twice that game.

- Evgeni Starikov, a Metallurg Novokuznetsk fan, to RMNB. January 2010.

“He loves to attack on the rush and this will lead to him earning points on a team like the Capitals (though they have become more defense-minded).”

Dobber Hockey. April 2012.

He’s a great offensive player. He’s very effective on the power play and everything. It definitely hurts when he’s not there.”

Cam Schilling to the Washington Times. December 2012.

Since even before Dmitry Orlov made his Caps debut back in 2011-12, we’ve heard that he’s an offensive defenseman, the eventual successor to Mike Green’s throne as the Caps blue liner most likely to attack.

I’m not so sure.

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alex_morgan

There were probably folks who had their hearts set on Alex Ovechkin winning a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Award. I don’t know any of those people, but they probably exist. Probably in Fairfax County. Anyway, those people are all heartbroken right now. Ovechkin has lost the award for Sickest Moves (no, seriously) to soccer star Alex Morgan.

This is okay. Everybody breathe.

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Vrana (3 of 5)

Photo: Chris Gordon

After his Team Red lost to Team White 7-4 on Saturday, 2014 first-round pick Jakub Vrana was visibly disappointed. Sure, Vrana was just a few weeks removed from realizing the dream of getting drafted by an NHL team, but the 18-year-old couldn’t get past what happened on the ice.

When I spoke to Vrana afterwards, the Czech winger wasn’t his usual joking, smiling self.

Vrana still shared some interesting nuggets before departing. Vrana said he’s signed to a three-year deal with Linköping of the SHL and is unsure if he’ll be at Caps training camp in the fall. He also revealed some details about that fancy shootout goal he scored and his newfound love of American sandwiches.

My full interview with Vrana, who signed his entry-level contract with the Capitals on Tuesday, is below.

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