Washington Times Corey Masisak. On the Caps beat no more.

Washington Times Corey Masisak. On the Caps beat no more.

[Editor's note: Brandon Oland is currently the Features Writer at the Carroll County Times. He has worked for the Frederick News Post's Sports Section, Interned at the USA Today & has written for The UMD's Diamondback]

During my freshman year at the University of Maryland, I shared a dorm room with Corey Masisak.

Turns out we had a lot in common. We wanted to be sports journalists. We wanted to work at the college newspaper. While many of our freshman cohorts were partying it up, Corey and I made it a priority to get the attention of editors at The Diamondback, the daily newspaper on campus.

Corey was a success from day one. He served as The Diamondback’s sports editor and football and basketball beat writer. He earned the respect of many and landed a job at The Washington Times after he graduated. He worked his way up to Capitals beat writer and did a tremendous job covering the team.

He tirelessly wrote stories for the print product. He kept up a useful blog I checked several times a week. He did everything asked of him, yet it wasn’t enough.

The Washington Times announced mass layoffs Thursday. I’m assuming Corey was one of them. SportsJournalists.com is reporting the entire sports staff got axed as The Washington Times tries to reinvent itself without a sports section.

The demise of The Washington Times sports section is not a surprise. After Monday night’s game, Bruce Boudreau addressed Corey’s fate at the end of his press conference:

“Corey, if this is your last game, I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done in the covering of our team for the last couple of years,” Boudreau said, according to The Washington Post.

I’m absolutely devastated for Corey. He loves sports journalism. He is passionate about hockey. I’ve seen far too many former coworkers and classmates lose their jobs in the last 18 months as the contracting print journalism industry sheds incredibly talented people.

Best of luck to Corey and all those affected.

[Also see: Japers' Rink & the DC Sports Bog for their heartfelt opinions on the firings as well.]

The late start (10pm) of tonight’s west-coast game may preclude any recap before today becomes tomorrow, so the boys and I decided to lower your expectations in advance.

The Caps got smacked pretty good by the Hurricanes on Monday night. The boys looked lazy and disjointed. It’s been a tumultuous week on and off the ice, so we’re going to rattle off a bunch of excuses in case the team somehow manages to lose to the best team in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks.

Goalie drama. Tarik El-Bashir, Washington’s only remaining hockey-beat reporter, assures us that Little Mikey Neuvirth will start in goal this evening. His backup, Jose Theodore, is 10 years his senior. Theodore racked up a career-best 41 saves just two months ago, but has since been uneven in goal. Bruce Boudreau may now lack confidence in the netminder. I’d be dubious, too, as the guy was once hooking up with Paris Hilton. It doesn’t help that Semyon Varlamov has recovered from some early season miscues and revealed himself as an Olympic-level keeper. Once Varly returns from Hershey and his bout with crotch rot, we may have one of those classic sitcom scenarios on our hands.

Today we learned that Mike Green was not selected for Canada’s Olympic hockey team. This is only the latest in a long line of poor decisions for Canada (giving Alanis Morissette a microphone, slicing bacon too thick, letting Michael J. Fox leave the country), and one they will likely regret. The guy is the number-one scoring defenseman in the league right now. I mean– what else could Team Canada possibly want in a defender other than goal-scoring? Russian Machine worries for Greenie’s bruised ego, and has begun a Twitter campaign to make him feel better and also invade Canada.

Boyd Gordon isn’t playing tonight. Stop the f$#&ing presses.

Jason Chimera will be joining the Caps lineup this evening. The left winger from Columbus is expected to join the second line, perhaps taking (Olympian) Tomas Fleischman’s spot as he moves to center. Will the lineup and personnel shake-ups bring chaos to the team tonight? Will Chimera be welcomed into the team with open arms? Will Al Koken pronounce his name wrong? We can guarantee only that one of the questions will be answered, “yes.”

Alexander Semin left the ice mid-shift on Monday complaining of an injury. He later returned to the ice, but not before raising some questions about his wellbeing. Russian Machine has a vested interest in the Siberian kicking ass. We were willing to let it slide that he refuses to learn the language, but only so long as he plays games and handles the puck he’s freaking Legolas out there. If Alexander has re-injured his wrist, Russian Machine will demand he refund a portion his 6-million dollar contract extension — paid to us. We will accept payment in Green Turtle pub fries.

Lastly, the Caps are playing a team with a five-game winning streak. For contrast, the boys are on a zero-game winning streak. We lost — badly I might add — to the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s not quite as bad as the Harlem Globetrotters losing to the Atlantic City Seagulls, but it’s still pretty bad. If the Sharks manage to outscore the Caps tonight, blame it on momentum.

We’re now three hours out from tonight’s first puck drop.  You have the option of bucking up, quixotically rooting for a win; or you can be like me and dispense with that pollyanna nonse:  drink yourself into the last, glorious stupor of 2009 whilst the Caps get the Caps beat out of ‘em.

Cheers!

Capitals Make Bold Trade For Jason Chimera: Our Analysis

Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina in a Blue Jackets Uniform

Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina in a Blue Jackets Uniform. Weird.

The Washington Capitals made a trade this week, picking up Jason Chimera from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina. Given that I spent all weekend putting together a spreadsheet trying to approximate the Goals Versus Threshold that Puck Prospectus uses to give an idea of a player’s contributions, I thought it would be a good time to put it to use. I wasn’t able to match their GVT exactly, but I got close enough to make the thing potentially viable.

First, on what GVT is:

“To explain in terms already familiar to sports statisticians, GVT is very similar to VORP in baseball: it is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. The fact that GVT is measured in goals is crucial: statistics that divide up “Win Shares”, so that the ratings of a team’s players sum to that team’s number of wins, are very erratic and non-linear, since wins don’t increase or decrease linearly with team caliber. While hockey is ultimately about winning or losing, players’ contributions always come down to scoring goals and preventing them. A player cannot “win” a game, even though he may be put in a situation where scoring a goal or making a key save would create or conserve a win. Each player’s role, no matter his position, is to try and increase the goal differential in favor of his team. An offensive player who scores a hat trick only to see his teammates allow 4 goals against has nevertheless done his job; a goaltender who stops 39 of 40 shots only to lose 1-0 has likewise performed well. Using this standard, all players can be compared by the same yardstick: how much did they help (or harm) their team’s goal differential?…

  • GVT is measured in goals. This makes it a convenient unit that hockey fans are already comfortable with.
  • GVT compares hockey players of all positions and over any period of time.
  • GVT only uses statistics that lead directly to goals. You cannot incorporate goaltender wins into GVT, because they are not a measurement of goals prevented. However, if you can rationally explain what are the odds of a faceoff win (or loss) leading to a goal or goal against, it would be possible to incorporate faceoff wins and losses into GVT, though I have not done so.
  • GVT has built-in accounting. The sum of player GVTs on a team equals that team’s GVT plus the replacement level. This is essential, as player statistics often come with caveats. “Kovalchuk scored 43 goals, but he doesn’t play defense and his team isn’t good”. This makes it much easier to measure “how good would this team be replacing player A with player B?” It is also essential in that player success is correlated with team success, which after all is the entire point of the sport.
  • GVT automatically normalizes for the strength of the league…

GVT does not measure a player’s talent. The statistic measures a player’s contribution to his team’s goal differential. A goaltender that faces zero shots will have a value of zero, regardless of whether he is Patrick Roy or Andrew Raycroft. Likewise, a player that is injured or gets little ice time will see his GVT reduced accordingly. It also does not take into account environment: a player will score more with better linemates, and I make no attempt to adjust for that…

GVT does not measure intangibles. Things like leadership do exist in hockey, and they do help to make your teammates better. However, there is no way to measure this through statistics, and any attempt to quantify it is futile. In effect, we are not trying to see what information is “hidden” in the statistics; we are simply trying to better characterize the information that is at hand”

Alright, on to the trade!

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Wednesday Webhits: The Frost King’s Best Links Of The Week

Week two of The Frost King’s Webhits – out of 156* – has links looking at how well the Capitals’ goalies perform on the penalty kill, the diversified scoring of Washington’s forwards, which players excelled at scoring in the past decade, whether defense still wins championships, and a discussion about reforming the shootout system. Enjoy!

* My contract apparently goes through the end of time, which latest info says will be December 21st, 2012. Plan to start (and finish) your Christmas shopping a little early that year!

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Canes Whip Caps 6-3

Bruce Boudreau and Friends Look In Horror as Caps Lose 6-3

Ovechkin nets two points, yet Caps fall 6-3 (Photos via Heather Mabb)

Ovechkin nets two points (1g 1a), yet Caps fall meekly to bottom-dwelling Hurricanes 6-3 (Photos via Heather Mabb)

Gah! On pixel this looked like an easy match up. The Caps, second in the NHL and well atop the Southeast, should be able to lay down the smack on the last-place Canes for the third time this season. That sure as hell did not happen– as the Canes bested the Caps 6-3 and handed the home team their first loss inside the division all season. You could blame it on the distractions from today’s trade, a consistently incompetent defensive squad, or Jose Theodore’s top-heavy prettiness:goalstopping ratio; but the Caps got beat all around the phone booth tonight.

In a somber mood and somewhat nauseated from hot wings, let’s break it down:

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Since this weekend brought us so many freakishly weird things, like my mother getting a “Slanket” (a rip off version of the Snuggie) for Christmas, we decided to just put up a few of the awesome things we observed. Prepare yourself.

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Caps Stomp Devils 4-1 In A Total Team Effort

The east coast seems to have all the NHL talent these days, so when two titans like the Caps and the Devils meet, we’re in for a good game. The two division champions have met three times already this season, and the Devils bested the Caps each time– dammit. When the puck dropped last night, the sold-out Verizon Center and dozens of fans across the Comcast SportsNet viewing area held their breath, wondering if we were to lose another to NJD …or if the real Capitals team would show up. Glancing up at the scoreboard in the waning minutes of the third period and seeing a 4-1, we can report with some certainty that it was the Stanley Cup contender Caps on the ice tonight.

Everybody gets a present tonight:

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An Update on Boyd Gordon From Chocolate Town, USA

Boyd Gordon in his first rehab game with the Bears

Boyd Gordon in his first rehab game with the Bears

Last week the Capitals made an attempt to send Boyd Gordon to Hershey for a rehab stint, but with the blizzard-like conditions on the East Coast, he ended up everywhere else but Hershey.

Here’s the full horror story via Capitals Insider:

Maybe you have a worse travel experience from Snowmaggedon 2009, but I certainly would not have wanted to be in Boyd Gordon’s shoes this past weekend. The Capitals originally wanted him to go to Hershey for a rehab assignment this weekend, but the bad weather forced Gordon, who has played in just one game since Oct. 12 because of a bad back, to go on an adventure straight out of “Plane, Trains and Automobiles.”

He took a car service from Vancouver to Seattle, but nasty weather on the East Coast sent him on flights from Seattle to Atlanta to Orlando to Cincinnati before he finally gave up on the assignment all together and ended up in the D.C. area. Gordon couldn’t skate this morning because his equipment got lost in the shuffle during all the flight changes. The team is hoping his equipment arrives at Kettler by tomorrow and Gordon will return to the ice, but Boudreau said he wasn’t sure if Gordon would go on another rehab assignment this weekend.

So the Capitals tried to send him to Hershey again this weekend, with the Bears playing back to back home games against the Syracuse Crunch and Norfolk Admirals. This time, beyond the terrible rain and fog, Gordon made the trip up to Hershey safely, and because of Reader Kyle, we have photographic evidence that he’s still alive!

Well in his first game in a BEARS sweater since the 2006 Calder Cup playoffs, Gordon finished the game +1 with an assist. And from all accounts, he had a pretty solid game. Here were Kyle’s observations from the game – you know, since he was actually there and everything:

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Capitals Re-sign Alex Semin To One Year Extension

General Manager George McPhee just announced that the Washington Capitals agreed to a one year extension with superstar Left Winger Alex Semin. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Per Tarik El Bashir’s Blog:

Winger Alexander Semin has agreed to a one-year contract extension, GM George McPhee confirmed to me moments ago. Semin, who is in the final year of a two-year contract, would have become a restricted free agent July 1.

He will become an unrestricted free agent after the extension expires in 2011.

Does this setup an opportunity for the Capitals to actually resign Semin to a long-term deal next year? The Russian Machine thinks so. Remember, the Capitals still need to have the flexibility to handle Michael Nylander and his cap hit on the roster next year if something unforeseen happens, and this 1 year contract essentially buys them time.

Plus, it further allows the team to make sure this is an investment it wants to make. And with someone as enigmatic as Semin, this is smart. We applaud GMGM. Now let’s get Nicklas Backstrom signed to a 15 year deal!!

Update: It is a one year 6 million dollar deal and George McPhee said that Semin preferred the one year pact. McPhee also said that he’s trying to keep the team together and is interested in locking him up long term. Also, interesting perspectives: Puck Daddy Editor Greg Wyshynski and Capitals Beat Writer/Translator Dmitry Chesnokov say the Capitals have a two year window to win the Stanley Cup. Reading into their answers it makes me feel like a KHL Russian Team may make a serious run at Semin to get him to return to his native country once he’s a free agent next year.

Here is an interview between Dmitri Chesnokov and Alex Ovechkin that was published today on Sovetsky Sport’s Website and translated by Fedor Fedin. In this article, Alex Ovechkin addresses the Olympics, the Kovalchuk-to-DC rumors and his plans for the New Year. Take a look below. It’s a great read!

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