Photo above taken by Phil of Capitals Outsider
It must be hard owning a professional sports team. Every crackpot with an internet connection is either emailing you, posting articles about you, or just simply trashing you in 140 characters or less.
It’s probably harder still to be a General Manager. Talk about loneliness. You get little credit for drafting the superstar everyone knew would pan out, yet take tons of abuse for those trades/signings that just don’t make sense. You even get crap for the moves that you don’t make, even if you told everyone beforehand that you weren’t going to make them. Then some of your precious assets file arbitration and you don’t know what to expect. On the surface it seems that you were shrewd in holding off on the UFA frenzy, but until we see what the arbitration rulings are and which, if any, of the deals you walk away from it’s too soon to tell.
It’s also hard being a fan – especially a true fan – in the internet age. Sure, the internet provides us comfort (misery loves company, eh?) after our beloved team flames out in the first round after an exciting regular season performance. It also allows us – perhaps too easily – to give our opinion on what happened. Whether that was the lack of scoring from the second line or the vacancy of a shut-down defenseman on the blueline. Either way, the accessibility to information, and even the players and executives themselves, sometime makes us feel like we are qualified to run the team we have loved for decades. And obviously, we are not.
That’s where hope comes in. And trust. Yes, some owners/GMs do deserve the benefit of the doubt. But it is hard to have hope that Tomas Fleischmann, who started 50% of the time in the offensive zone, had the second-best teammate ranking (CorsiQoT = 5.53) of the Caps centermen (the best, not suprisingly was Backstrom, 8.83) while playing against the second worst competition (CorsiQoc = -1.45) the Caps opponents had to offer a pivot could be an answer at 2nd line center. Even playing pretty cushy minutes, he still managed a NEGATIVE shot ratio (Corsi = -.72), meaning there were more shots directed at his OWN net when he was on the ice. In addition, ALL of the Caps pivots had a better goal differential when they were on the ice – except Flash, who was -1.10.
Karl Alzner, -2.81
Tyler Sloan, -3.73
Chris Borque, -7.55
Jason Chimera, -2.03
Maybe Chimera gets a pass because Behind the Net doesn’t split Chimera’s Corsi numbers from his time in CBJ, but the rest of that list is either a rookie or players just not up to the skill level of the NHL.
I understand this isn’t a democracy, and the prevailing thought in the organization is that we “don’t really have a lot of holes to fill and we’re pretty confident our young guys can do it anyway.” However, the odds are not on Mathieu Perreault’s side either. Out of the 688 skaters drafted in the 6th round from 1963-2002, each has averaged 93 games played with 16G/25A scored on average – for their entire careers. Even with a healthy 57.50% of starts in the offensive zone and playing against the worst competition of all Caps’ pivots (CorsiQoc = -2.39), he still managed to be a -2 with only 3 points in his last 13 games with the big club. Not exactly the second-line center needed for a legitimate Cup run. I will still hope it works out, even though hope is not a strategy.
I mean, Mike Green was hurt last postseason and we all hoped he would make up for his lackluster performance in the first round against Montreal, only to be held without a goal.
We hoped Alex Semin’s 40-goal scoring ability would provide a much needed spark on the second line, only to also be held goalless.
We hoped the regular season success of Bruce Boudreau’s system – which wins 70% of its games – would carry over into the post season. Yet, it is now a woeful 13-15 in the playoffs.
We hoped that when George McPhee and Ted Leonsis said “[d]on’t expect us to go crazy in free agency“, it meant the Caps would get at least one impact player like a second line center or shut down defenseman, but instead it was Dany Sabourin.
We hope that arbitration doesn’t jack up the price so much on Fleischmann that a signing like Matthew Lombardi’s seems reasonable for a true center for the second line.
I know, I know: July has just started and there is still plenty of time. There are still plenty of “bargains” available. Maybe we could even improve via a trade! However, one of the benefits of the UFA market is that you get to keep your young talent in place. I have a hard time seeing the Caps making a trade using a part of their “great pipeline of home grown talent,” unless it is Alexander Semin. Not sure what the going rate is for 40 goal scoring wingers with a $6 mil cap hit who go AWOL during the playoffs, but I guess we’re going to find out.
So we will continue to wait and we most certainly will continue to hope that there is still time to find that missing piece to the puzzle, despite most of the top tier, impact free agents have already signed with other clubs.
Until then, hope is our strategy.