Photo credit: Greg Fiume
You knew it was coming. It happened when the Washington Capitals lost to Pittsburgh. It happened when they were ousted in the first round to Montreal. And here we are again after being on the losing end of a playoff sweep as the number one seed, discussing the inevitable: trade Mike Green.
To be fair, it’s not just Mike Green’s head fans are calling for. Head Coach Bruce Boudreau has gotten his share of blame pixels, as has Bad Sasha, GMGM, and Uncle Ted. Don’t forget: they once said to trade Ovi, too:
Let’s face it, with Ovechkin in their lineup, the Capitals have shown no signs of being a playoff team. There are no guarantees re-signing Ovechkin will make the Capitals a successful franchise. In fact, if history has taught us anything, moving a young star just might be the best medicine for a struggling team.
People in the “Trade Green” camp will likely point to the plethora of puck-moving defensemen the Caps have in their system– whether that’s newly acquired Dennis Wideman; American hero, John Carlson; or the latest Russian import, Dmitry Orlov. All this is true: Washington is in good shape with offensive defensemen. This depth is something to hold on to– because sometimes you’ll need every last one.
Green’s detractors will also point to the lack of playoff production. I get it. Mike Green, two-time Norris finalist and Vespa rider needs to perform as well in the playoffs as he does in the regular season for the Caps to enjoy playoff success. Frustrated fans have seen him go from all-offense to part-offense/part-defense to more-defense-than-offense blueliner who just doesn’t seem to have the ability to bring it in the playoffs. But he’s only 25 years old. And that may very well be the reason to trade him.
We can set some reasonable expectations for Mike Green by seeing how similar players at similar ages performed over the next few years of their career. To determine performance, I will once again use GVT, Tom Awad’s Goals Versus Threshold statistic. GVT measures how many goals above a replacement player were contributed on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck. I found 22 defensemen who had a similar season to Mike Green’s 2009-10 campaign, the year he was a Norris finalist. When I say “similar season”, I look at games played, time on ice (where available), goals (even strength and on the power play), assists and shots on goal. It is possible a player has similar boxcar stats to Green but posts a lower GVT. I then took a look at how those 22 similar players did over the next six years. One year to see if there was a decline at age 25 (Green’s current age), and then five more years after that. This way, I am not penalizing Green for having an off year.
Players similar to Mike Green on average see their performance dip from ages 24 thru 27, before stabilizing and then rising back up. This makes sense as blueliners typically mature later than forwards. If not for injury, Green would have posted a GVT of around 11, which is average for his peer group at age 25. Again, the Caps played lights-out hockey the last time he was a Norris finalist so a regression to the mean is not out of line.
Of course there is upside with a puck mover like Green, but it is not as high as you think.
Very few make it back to the gaudy 20+ GVT level Green was at for his Norris nominations, most settling in the 5-15 range with very few seeing over a GVT of 15 over the next few years. A GVT of 10 would be fair value for a contract that had a $3.8-$4 million cap hit, nowhere close to the $5.2 million Green gets now or might get on a long term deal — even taking into account his RFA status.
Add his concussion(s) to the mix, and the risk increases quite a bit. Hitting Green is a strategy, and the more abuse he takes, the greater the chances he misses a significant amount of time during the season.
I’m all for buy low/sell high, but when it looks like the price can go lower you have to cut your losses. The Washington Capitals should trade Mike Green.