The Washington Capitals at the Halfway Mark

hug

I have no idea who the Washington Capitals are. We are exactly halfway into the 2013 season, and the team seems to change identities on pace with the weather. After one of the slowest starts in memory, the Caps put forth some pretty stirring wins in late February. But now in March, the team seems poised to miss the postseason for the first time since 2007– unless they can turn things around.

This article takes stock of the Capitals’ first half and asks what the back half could look like. Plus like 7 megs of Game of Thrones GIFs.

Summary

winter is comingThere’s a lot here, and while I tried to bold all the salient stuff, here’s a quick summary in case you don’t wanna scour the whole article. I won’t be offended if you bail after these bullet points, but the GIFs are pretty crucial too.

  • The Caps don’t appear to be playoff-bound this year. How will the front office respond? 
  • The Caps are a bottom-10 possession team, but their performance when winning is encouraging.
  • Goaltending has leveled out, but the Caps have to learn how to win even when Holtby isn’t stupendous.
  • The power play is either magic or lucky. Let’s root for magic.
  • The Caps penalty kill is both bad and overworked. The Caps have to commit fewer penalties or the PK will cost more games.
  • The Caps can expect better puck luck, but that won’t be enough to turn their fate around.
  • Mike Ribeiro’s faceoff performance is not up-to-snuff for a first-line center, and it’s probably cost Alex Ovechkin goals already.
  • Recent play from Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, and Nick Backstrom should inspire some line shuffling.

Standings

standings

decapAs of Sunday afternoon, the Capitals have 21 points. That puts them 6 points out of 8th place (with one fewer game played than NJD). Carolina leads the Southleast Division with 29 points– a spread of 4 regulation wins. By the time you read this, those gaps may have grown.

Sports Club Stats puts the Caps’ chances of making the postseason under 15%.

If the season ended today, well, first everyone would be like “what happened to the second half of the season?” But also, the Caps would be in contention for the number-one draft pick.

This puts the Caps front office in an awkward position. They can mount an honest effort to make the playoffs (something Ted Leonsis said the team should be able to do for the next decade), or they can rebuild for next year. Rebuilding would mean becoming “sellers” at the deadline– i.e. trading away players to contending teams in exchange for high future returns. The worst possible scenario is that the Capitals try to make the playoffs– signing additional players at a premium– and then fail. Last year the Caps saw little or no return for free agents Alex Semin and Dennis Wideman. They can’t afford to let that happen with Mike Ribeiro.

Possession

please no moreThere is no better predictor of success than how a team possesses the puck. It’s more accurate than both goal differential and standings. According to behindthenet.ca, when the game is close, we know the Capitals send 47% of shots towards the opposition’s net. That ranks them 22nd in the league. For reference, the top-5 possession teams are LA, St Louis, Boston, Chicago, and the Rangers. (One of those teams is gonna win the Cup if you ask me.)

In a weird happenstance, the Capitals are actually the league’s second-best team when they’ve got a big lead. Teams usually sit back with a two-goal lead, but the Capitals have a hunger for scoar moar goals. That is a great sign. If the Caps can tap into that confidence all the time, they will become a much, much stronger team.

Goaltending

armorOkay, so this one is weird. The Capitals have the eighth-worst goals-against average in the league, stopping all but 72 of the 753 shots their goaltenders have seen. But that’s not the whole story.

Braden Holtby has started 16 of 24 games so far and posted a .909 Sv% in all of his appearances. That’s average. Dialing in a little closer, we see that Holtby was a pretty awful goaltender in the season’s first 10 games, and among the league’s best since then. So where is Holtby’s actual talent level? What can we expect from him in the future?

Dunno yet. It’s somewhere between the two extremes. We cannot expect him to stop 19 out of every 20 shots like he did during his 11-game streak, and the Capitals can’t depend on that level of play to win games. Caps goaltenders have provided 10 quality starts so far, and those games represent all but three of the Caps’ wins.

Regardless: the Caps still have two cheap goalies who play around league average. While goaltending burned them early in the season, the Caps’ fortune in the back  half will have less to do with the guy in net and more to do with the five guys in front of him.

Special Teams

kill themLet’s start with penalties, because I think that’s the more telling stat. While penalties are up overall, the Capitals have truly distinguished themselves with 101 minor penalties, the 10th highest in the league. Jason Chimera seems to be leading that charge, taking about two penalties per every 60 minutes played.

On the flip side, the Caps see the 7th fewest power plays in the league, a side effect of low puck possession and also a multi-national, far-reaching conspiracy by the NHL and referees to screw the Caps over at every turn. Alex Ovechkin continues to be a huge generator of power plays, drawing 2.4 per every 60 minutes he is on the ice.

The Caps have insane-o power play numbers. They convert more than one-quarter of their power plays, good for 3rd best in the league, but they’re not really generating more shots than their peers. The Caps fire about 0.8 shots per minute on PP, just 17th best in the league. That suggests that Caps PP conversion rate won’t stay among the league’s best unless Adam Oates’s 5-on-4 tactics continue to be magic.

The Washington penalty kill is digging its way out of a very deep hole. They have the second worst PK in the league, killing just 75.5% of man-down situations. No team has more power play goals against than the Capitals, which is why the Caps desperately need to commit fewer penalties. One way to do that, not at all incidentally, is to possess the puck more. If the Caps can limit their shorthanded time (via fewer dumb penalties by Mike Ribeiro for example) and can cohere their penalty kill strategy, they’ll see these numbers improve, and they will win more games.

Luck

you know nothingSome people take umbrage at the term luck. To those people luck dismisses individual effort and makes the game a cold calculation. I don’t think most stat geeks actually think this way at a micro level, but if you have that hang-up, try using the term “non-repeatable skill”  instead. It’s still a fantastic achievement to score on 3 out of 4 shots or to earn a shutout, but we can’t expect a player to do that every game. Hence: luck.

Once more, we measure luck through a proxy called PDO, which we now pretend stands for “percentage-driven output” even though it doesn’t. PDO is just your shooting percentage (averaging around 9%) plus your save percentage (averaging around 91%). It basically explains away plus-minus (individually) or goal differential (for a whole team) as being the result of a lot of short term craziness that doesn’t really shake out in long stretches. On a long timeline, teams end up with a PDO right around 1000, which is why the number of shots (i.e. possession) is more valuable than conversion rates when predicting how the last 24 games of this season will go.

As of last week, the Capitals had a PDO of 992, making them the ninth unluckiest team in the league. Much of that deficit is attributable to a below-average shooting percentage (we’re looking at you, Jason Chimera), though the team’s suckiness in net earlier also hurt them. The good news is we can expect the Capitals to get better bounces as time goes on, but that alone isn’t going to get the Capitals into the playoffs– and it’s definitely not a foundation to build a team off in the long run.

Faceoffs

joffslapI haven’t been paying enough attention to faceoffs this season, and I’m sorry for that. After seasons of watching Boyd Gordon and Dave Steckel win 6 outta 10, I guess I got spoiled. Nick Backstrom is winning 53% of his faceoffs, but he’s taking most of them in the defensive zone. Meanwhile, first-line center Mike Ribeiro is winning just 43% of his faceoffs, and he’s taking 54% of them right near the opponent’s net.

Let’s consider that more closely. Mike Ribeiro, Alex Ovechkin’s assigned pivot, wins just 40% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone. Shooting percentage actually spikes up right after a faceoff win, so Ovechkin is getting deprived of opportunities to score. It might behoove Oates to give Ovechkin and Backstrom some more offensive-zone shifts together; it might do wonders for both of them.

Deployment

Robert Vollman at Hockey Abstract packages these terrific charts that visualize how Caps players are playing relative to their assignments. Here’s how that data looked as of the morning of March 9th:

WashingtonMar9

Players in the top-left are facing tough assignments. Players in the bottom right are sheltered. Big and blue circles are good. Big and red circles are bad. You can see more player usage charts on Some Kind of Ninja.

We’ve already talked about Marcus Johansson, so let’s just skip over that poor-possession elephant in the locker room. It appears that Ovi and Ribeiro are being effectively shut down despite getting favorable deployments, whereas the team’s bottom 6 seem to be kicking ass with somewhat tougher jobs (although let’s not pretend that defenders are playing Ward and Fehr in any way comparable to Alex Ovechkin).

Among forwards, Ward and Fehr are the big achievers, and frankly both deserve promotions to the top six (where Fehr has been for the last week). Joey Crabb’s continued absence from the press box is a continued mystery to me, although we should acknowledge that he is taking lots of defensive shifts. Nick Backstrom is as dependable as a rock, but his scoring is also eerily rock-like. He could use some kind of change. (If you haven’t detected that my agenda is to put Ovechkin and Backstrom together yet, you haven’t been reading closely.)

On D, it’s time we released John Carlson from the doghouse. Together or apart from Karl Alzner, Carlson has been driving play against some of the league’s best players. That he has been on ice for so many goals against is probably just a funny artifact of bad luck and small sample size. Carlson is a stud, plus he no longer looks like that kid in 8th grade who discovered Pantera and then stopped cutting his hair.

Conclusions

dracarysI don’t think the Caps will make the playoffs. The team’s fundamentals just aren’t strong enough for us to expect them to catch up to Carolina. Instead of frittering away team assets for a doomed playoff push, they should be sellers at the deadline and begin assembling a kick-ass team for 2013-2014– with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Filip Forsberg not far behind.

Special teams will be a big X-factor from here on out. The PP will probably cool down, and the Caps will have to be a lot more disciplined to keep their PK unit from being overworked. A lot of that performance stems from Adam Oates and his coaching staff– who will have to be both vigilant and reactive to keep the power play plugging and reinvigorate the penalty kill.

No context. Just including this one because Sophie Turner is so pretty.

No context. Just including this one because Sophie Turner is so pretty.

Performance data suggest that the Caps aren’t optimizing their lines effectively. Strong players are being scratched in favor of weak players, and the team’s best scorer is playing with a bad faceoff guy instead of the team’s best possession forwards. What the Caps have tried so far isn’t working, so it’s time to shake things up.

One thing I didn’t address is injury. It’s hard to quantify. The Caps are now without the services of Mike Green, and they haven’t seen Brooks Laich all year. Both are strong players, and both can contribute to the weaknesses I identified above– though it’d be naive to think the distance between the Caps and the Cup is just the 6’2″ frame of Brooks Laich. It’s bigger.

So that’s a whole lot of numbers, a whole lot of opinion, and a whole lot of Tyrion Lannister. Below, please tell me where I’m wrong, if you think the Caps can make the postseason, and what you think they can do to make the back half better than the front.

  • reschly

    Did you intend to use the same GIF twice (“…Let’s go kill them”), near both special teams and conclusioins?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I did not. Will remedy now. Thank you.

  • heffyac

    Destination and return for ribs?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    I’d love to start a discussion about the Caps’ defensive corps looking forward to the second half of the season. In a week or two, both Dmitry Orlov and Mike Green should be able to re-join the line-up. If you’re the Capitals, what do you do when this happens? Do you send down Oleksy and Kundratek? Do you trade one of the regulars? Do you keep Orlov down in the minors? Oleksy is the least talented defenseman on the team, but he makes the most of his talent and he looks like a solid player. Kundratek has made maybe one mistake since he’s been called up. The depth the Caps have on defense is a great problem to have and there are a lot of different ways to skin the cat here.

  • JGP

    I think Poti and Schultz are guys you could look to move to a team looking for depth on the 3rd d-pair. Let the young guys play a bit more. 3 and 55 aren’t going to win or save you any games, for the most part. Give Oleksy and Kundratek some more run and see what you’ve got in them longer-term. Green is a big question mark though – is he EVER giving the Caps more than 50% availability?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    I’d be interested to know how much other teams value Green. He has a high cap hit and he’s been injury prone lately. When he does actually play, he eats minutes like Pac Man and he has the ability to be a game-changer on offense. He was really consistent in the beginning of the year. I was really bummed when he went down a week ago.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Oh man, I am awful at that stuff. It’d be a playoff team in need of a center. St Louis?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    My take is the Caps kinda have to hold on to Green. He’s missed so much hockey that the return wouldn’t be high. If he’s hurt, he goes on LTIR and the cap space is freed up. Not ideal, but I can’t think of anything better.

  • Ned

    I’d consider making a trade for a potential top 6 forward. We have a lot of good, young defenseman to fill the ranks. Poti is not doing much for us I’d ship him off first

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    I think the Caps need to get a prospect – preferably a young, talented center – and a 1st for Ribeiro. He’s one of the league leaders in points and assists, you have to maximize that asset if you get arid of him.

  • JGP

    If I’m another team, I’m calling on Green 10 times a day. Just start low and see where you end up. If I’m a Cup contender and can get him for a couple prospects who may or may not make the playoff roster, why not give that a shot?

  • http://www.facebook.com/shehryar.shaukat Shehryar Shaukat

    A sobering read. But I wonder what might have been said had the Caps done better this weekend?

  • JGP

    To actually answer your question: I think 27-74, 81-36, 52-4 would be your top pairs while you rotate between 81, 36 and 61 depending on matchups. That said, I know Oates loves keeping left/right shots consistent so that’s likely to play into it as well.

    Also, because it needs to be mentioned, Chris Bourque is a free agent…so……

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    I think Ovechkin could be a big mover for somebody. If I were in Ted shoes, I’d buy him and GMGM out and hire an experienced NHL GM. I’d also find a way to trade everybody that’s currently on the team and give Oates complete control over who he wants on the team. Give him a fresh salary cap (with maybe only Forsberg, Orlov, Kuznetsov, and the other young prospects) and start signing players to meet that system; and consider character a major implication in signing a player (whether that player is from Russia, the USA, Canada, Sweden, Japan, China, Argentina, Slovakia, Czech Republic, etc.). We’d see what Oates would do if he had complete control of the roster–and give him GM duties (essentially we’d banish the title of GM and merge head coach/GM into one position of “manager”); and give Oates the opportunity to hire his own scouting team, place permanent scouts where he wants them, develop a hockey school that will feed players to the Caps at 17 or 18 years of age (if he wants to do so), etc.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    How about Montreal for Galchenyuk.

  • jowitt09

    If Im not mistaken Kuz cannot come over next season unless his team buys out his contract (and why would they do that?)

  • JGP

    Two issues with that in my opinion:
    1) Everyone always talks about getting an “experienced GM” or coach or whatever. The problem is that you have to consider who’s available. If someone’s available it doesn’t make them good and may mean the opposite. Hell, Milbury is an experienced GM and I’d rather pledge allegiance to the Penguins than see the Caps hire him.

    2) Right now Ovie is pretty much the prototypical sell-low superstar. I’m not sure there’s any way to trade him and get back more than dimes on the dollar, particularly when factoring in his contract length and size.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    Why not simply buy Ovechkin out? If Ted wants a winning team, it would serve for him to do with the Caps what he did with the Wizards and get rid of the high-priced knuckleheads.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    If the Caps had won 2 this weekend, almost everything would be the same EXCEPT their current chances to get into the playoffs.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    That’s correct. No Kuzya until Spring 2014 at the earliest.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Ovi still represents HUGE value off-ice to the franchise. Even if the team stinks, he sells merch and puts butts in seats.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    [Shrugs] I can’t imagine him coming over before 2014-15. But if he does, he could negotiate out of his contract like Orlov did with Metallurg. I doubt that would happen though, but hey, who knows? Fedor told me that a few Russian newspapers have reported some rumors that Kuznetsov and the coach have been having “a conflict” but the team recently denied it in the press. He may be starting to get unhappy being there. His statistics were about the same as they were last year and he’s been frustrated with his own play.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    It will pale in comparison to the value of the guys that will win the Stanley Cup for the Caps…and in particular, multiple Stanley Cups. I am tired of the mentality of holding onto egotistical, lazy star players just because they sell jerseys. Caps ownership needs to get out of that inferiority complex that they have to keep “stars” just for the sake of keeping “stars” to keep the sports media in DC from discussing the Redskins with the offseason barely starting (and doing so everyday on the radio). The fact that Hunter, Oates, Johannson (Callie), etc. were brought back should tell you that the value of a Stanley Cup run (even if it’s unexpected and to the finals) speaks louder than the value of an overhyped “star” who scored a lot of goals early in his career.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    blacked out for a second after reading “a few Russian newspapers have reported some rumors”

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    But it could be that he can negotiate his way out of the contract and head to DC. There is no such thing as a guaranteed contract in the KHL. And I don’t think there should be one in the NHL either. People play much harder if they realize that every contract is actually a one-year contract.

  • mostholy2

    Given GMGM’s response to the trade deadline last year, in that he brought no one in to help with a playoff push when we were one the bubble, I would be quite surprised if he felt a need to do more than last year, given our situation is less hopeful at this point.

    Being “sellers” is something I’m not sure he’d do either unless things are completely hopeless and they don’t plan on resigning Ribs to more years and $.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Haha, Peter. We didn’t report it so that should say how much stock I put in it. :D

  • patmanbnl

    At best Ribs is a bridge until Forsberg and Kuzya are ready. Give him the option of signing a one or two year extension and if he won’t then trade him at the deadline.

  • http://twitter.com/PdelP Patti del Pielago

    I found this article depressing….facing the truth is hard. On the other hand, I did appreciate the GoT gifs……once the season’s over it’s gonna feel like Edard Stark getting his head chopped off again.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    Neither of them are Cs. The bridge would be to whomever would be the next great young C. It’s either MacKinnon or someone that isn’t in our system yet.

  • Turk

    I got nothing but more speculation, fantasy hockey comes to life! I do think you nailed it well, piece by piece. The only aspect left off is a short management summary, GMGM stays or goes? Coaches are in. We still miss our great goalie coach from the BB days, he was so intelligent. Baseball is near so like some of the players we are just spending this time being entertained while waiting.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    If you’re asking for a prediction, I think GMGM stays because of the Wizards precedent. Whether he should or not… I dunno. There are people who think McPhee should’ve been canned after 2011 and 2012, and I see some merit in their points. But I like the guy a lot, I think he’s smart, and I think he’s made more decisions than bad in a business that is very narrow in the margin.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Kuzya is kind of a C, but you’re right — they’re not solutions to the center position.

  • mostholy2

    Thinking back on the past few years under GMGM, its been somewhat depressing how little the Caps have been able to either develop their internal players or trade for top6 forward talent that stays with the team.

    Outside of the goalies (which are still a work in progress) and Carlson – Alzner, can someone provide me individuals in the past 3 years who have developed into cornerstones for the organization, who weren’t with us in 2009-2010? Seeing how contending teams are continuously adding top talent to their teams through player development or acquisition, I have just been quite disappointed in how bare the cupboard is for the Caps, right now. It’s looking like a rough few years until Forsberg/Wilson/Kuzn come up.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I see your point, but his contract might be a deterrent to teams that might want him.

  • Yv

    Good review, but it looks like there is, at-least, one positive trend that has been not touched, which is 5on5 coefficient. I consider this parameter the most important among all, including possession, PDO, etc. Simple example, if you rank all teams according to their 5on5 coeff. (or at even strength if include 4on4), which is goal scores/goals allowed, it would be practically total reflection of points standings. And this trend has been reflected both in regular and SC playoffs standings for many years. Stanley Cup and Presidents Trophy winners almost always have the highest 5on5 coeff and very few teams have reached playoffs with coeff. less then 1.00.

    About several weeks ago Caps had very poor, hopeless 0.75 and was 26-28th in the league. And look on it now, it is dramatically improving and now 0.98, which is in playoffs 15 position. For comparison top 5 teams Chi, ANA, MON, LAK and BOS range from 1.45 to 1.25. if Caps keep solidifying in this parameter, there is hope that Caps doing something right and have something that make them competitive. The same had happened with Devils last year. They were initially awful, then improved and in playoffs became second to LAK and played in the SC finals. But a lot will depend whether Caps managed to cleanly beat twice CAR, who also very good in 5on5, currently 1.20 and on 8th position.

  • djlotus

    I agree you have to call into question the guy responsible for all of it. GMGM needs to go. It’s his decision to bring in the “fan friendly” coaches who don’t coach to the players’ abilities. It is also him who has saddled this team with unmovable contracts such as Green, Poti, and Ovi. He also did nothing to address the glaring issue up the middle after he gave the best face off man in the NHL away [Steckle (sp?)]. He is the GM; the architect; of a consistently underachieving group and continually fans the “we are set up to be competitive for the next ten years” flames. Ovi is in what, his 8th season? The plan isn’t working. It’s proven that it will never work. But, as long as asses are in the seats (never mind that we lose more and more seats to opposition fans, all is right with Mr. “The business of happiness” and his GMs are not held responsible for the mediocrity they force down our throats.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    Unfortunately the Caps have made the fatal mistakes of rarely drafting Cs. You always make a fatal mistake, in my opinion, by drafting wings in the first round, particularly early. First rounds are for drafting centers, and defensemen (unless the wing has the competitiveness, skill, work ethic, etc. of an all-time great). You can draft your wings either very late in the first round (once you’ve made your pick for your center or defensemen), or the later rounds.

    And the biggest thing I don’t like about Ovechkin is his unwillingness to play by the rules of the street. If you hit hard, you have to back it up by winning your fights, or else nobody’s gonna take you seriously, after a while. And I have a theory that when the goal production dropped, it confirmed to people that Ovechkin has no grit, or character behind him. But you don’t get that grit being a privileged kid playing for the team (as a youth) your parents played for. This rule applies whether you play in Russia, Canada, or the United States.

    Don Cherry would argue that the reason why Gretzky was so great, was because if anyone hit Gretzky, they had to deal with David Semenko. There are examples for other scorers. Hit the Russian Five, you got rights from Darren McCarty. Hit Bondra, you dealt with Chris Simon, or Ken Klee, or Dale Hunter. There are other examples for the Islanders when they had Bossy and Turgeon. The point being, Alex Ovechkin earned his reputation as a fake long before the goal numbers went down. So nobody is giving him respect now because of that. (At least from how I see it.)

  • Ash

    Because Ted wants to make money. And Ovechkin makes money for him. Would a Stanley Cup make more money? Sure. Is winning it a sure thing if you get rid of Ovechkin? No way in hell.

    I’m serious. Everyone likes to talk big about buying him out or trading him, but as was said upthread about potentially replacing GMGM, if you don’t have better pieces to replace what you’re dumping, you’re not going to improve. It’s just barking noise if you don’t have an actual plan. What precisely do you think we would get back for buying out Ovechkin? What assets do you think another team would be willing to trade for taking him on, and how fast do you think that would happen? If the Capitals decided to blow up the team and go for draft picks, how long do you think it would take before that could actually be shaped into a contending team?

    For better or for worse, the Capitals and Ovechkin are married for a good, long time. The best case scenario is that Ovechkin works with Oates to become a better rounded player who can be productive and useful as long into his contract as possible, and for the management to roll with the rest of the season– which is probably selling off non-core assets, trying to retool as much as possible with draft picks, and waiting for Kuznetsov, Forsberg, Wilson, etc. to join up and fill out the ranks. (For the record, Backstrom and Ovechkin and probably Carlson and Alzner are the untouchables, with the second tier of core players being Laich, Green, and Brouwer.)

    This could mean some rough years, especially with realignment. Very few teams are always continuously successful– even the Red Wings are finding themselves in choppy waters for once. But yammering mindlessly about how dumping an overpaid star equals instant success is simply unrealistic and shortsighted.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    But srsly how pretty is Sophie Turner?

  • Mike D.

    Steve,

    100 percent agree with your post. Well said

  • http://twitter.com/FedFedRMNB Feds

    Two words: Sasha Barkov.

  • http://twitter.com/FedFedRMNB Feds

    You can’t have players with the purpose of protecting your star player nowadays. Because now player can just refuse to fight.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yeah, I agree. That era of hockey is completely over, and line-matching has made the idea of playing enforcers with talent guys a net-negative.

  • Jose

    I do think you hit it right in the head of the nail with the Ovi-Backstrom combo, I think too that it’d make wonders for both Ovi and Nicky. And maybe you can put Ward there as Knuble 2.0. A second line of Fehr, Ribeiro and Wolski isn’t too bad, and if Johansson plays 3rd line minutes maybe that circle changes.
    The D’s not that bad (even when he comes back down to earth, Oleksy looks quite decent), and will get better when Orlov is back which should be soon. But a cul is unrealistic at this point I think, so definitely sellers.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    I see that I enjoyed my weekend more than the Caps. Don’t get Center Ice where I am, but got the DVR of Sunday’s game. I assume the Rangers game was identical to the Isles game. Good riddance.

    Here is my analysis of the forwards.
    Ovie @over 9.5 mil is only on pace for 27 goals. Has shown progress in transitioning to the right side, but is still a tremendous liability defensively. I don’t want to shift all the blame on one guy, and I like Ovie, but the team rallies around his effectiveness. He’s only worth half of what he’s getting, but that’s not his fault as it is Ted’s for giving him that ridiculous deal. McPhee’s was 6yrs@54mil.
    Backstrom @6.7mil. Not a very productive season so far, but I wonder if he is still injured. Hard to determine.
    Ribeiro@5mil has been worth it so far, except for his loud mouth. I never liked Ribeiro as a Hab, but he’s a great hockey player and as good as a 2nd line center that you can get. Just ask yourself, would you rather have him or Semin?
    Brooks Laich @4.5mil. Tough to grade because he’s injured, but we know he’s just another solid 3rd line player. He can play the 2nd line, but he’s another Brouwer, Ward type player.
    Speaking of which, Brouwer and Ward have both earned their pay this season. Hard-working along the boards….again, wish we had two solid #1 and #2 lines because those two make a tremendous 3rd line.
    Chimmy not worth it this season, probably because he peaked last season.
    MoJo does not deserve a pay raise with the way he has played here. Had a solid start last season, but hasn’t really developed. Weak upper body strength.
    Fehr was actually a smart signing, and will get a pay-raise. Wonder if the shoulder injury was what hampered him all these years.
    Beags and Hendricks are the hardest working forwards night in and out.
    Not really sold on Volpatti, Crabb, and Wolski, but I like what Volpatti brings.

    Don’t have much thoughts on the defense. Overpaid for Green, when he should’ve been given a qualifying offer @5mil. Don’t have a problem with the others except for Schultz and Poti, two contracts I cannot wait for this team to hopefully dump.

    I believe we have the cheapest goaltending tandem in the league, but no reason to keep both. Holtby has been a bit inconsistent, but hardly his fault as he’s had little support in front this season. Same with Neuvy.

    Mid-season report card, how Caps are doing vs each player’s cap hit: Ovie

  • Hockeynightincanada

    I’d try and move Green asap if a deal is on the table. Agree with Peter Hassett, as his contract might deflate our chances, but I’m sure Calgary wouldn’t hesitate.

    As valuable as Green can be offensively, he can’t stay healthy year after year, and John Carlson has a bullet of a slapshot from the point. He and Orlov would work just fine on the back-end to replace Green.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    GMGM always overestimates the talent on his roster and justifies minimal trades that usually have little impact.
    The few trades I do commend were acquiring Mike Grier in 2002, the 08 deadline for Huet, Fedorov, and Matt Cooke, and Eric Belanger in 2010.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Being a seller means Ted and GMGM admitting failure, as he and Ted talked about this team being a Cup contender just a year prior. Not sure what we could get in value except for Ribs. Would like to move Green, but I don’t think we will end up doing that. A few pieces in the farm system or through draft picks we could trade, but I’m not willing to part with Forsberg or Wilson. I don’t care about Kuzzy.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    Even if that player refuses to fight, just knocking them down and punishing them would be enough to send that message, even if it’s cheap. But cheap shots, diving, and other examples of gamesmanship are a part of any game, and make a game compelling, and get the casual audience tuned into games for the same of the compelling drama. It’s human nature to be tuned into that kind of stuff. It’s why so many people tune into El Clasico, though fewer people seriously follow La LIga outside of Barcelona or Real Madrid (to them, it’s Barcelona, Real Madrid, and 18 other teams).

    To Feds and Peter, it doesn’t need to be over. The NHL and NHLPA just need to decide that the instigator rule they put in many years ago needs to be remove; same with the trapezoid rule. It’s probably just the boy in me wanting my 1990s hockey back, Oates and Bondra on the same line, David Poile as Caps GM, Kelly Miller being the Caps’ Iron Man, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    There is an interesting situation to keep track of. Obafemi Martins, a center-forward for Levante (in Spain) (who’s also playing in Europa League), bought himself out of his contract to move to Seattle. If Kuznetsov has enough endorsement money, he could easily do something similar. But he’s got too much heart, and too much determination, to simply leave the school that made him go (at least not yet).

  • Capt (20) Obvious Conspiracy

    Hmm, thought provoking, provoker-er…

    ” The worst possible scenario is that the Capitals try to make the
    playoffs– signing additional players at a premium– and then fail.”

    That certainly could be bad yes.

    #1 I think the team should do a Jordan Staal: attempt to sign Ribeiro now, at a premium yes, but not an insane one -regardless of how things are going for the team. If they fail, start setting the table now for a deadline deal.

    #2 If the Caps don’t sign Ribeiro, I’m all for an overpriced 2C deadline deal that will give us a replacement for the next couple of years. Irrespective of the Caps’ record. While I’m not interested in that Ovemir Jagvechkin contract, there’s a limit to how much I can blame Tom Poylander for getting injured.

    #3. The team doesn’t have talent to spare – in DC or Hershey. Trading away anything worth trading away, for a draft pick, is a rebuild. And maybe that indicates a rebuild is needed? Either way, given their current standings place, the amount of time left in the season, and the maturity/ratings of the top draft picks, I’d keep playing Volpatti’s, Oleksy’…and Wellmans.

    #4 I’m not on board for a rebuild – trading away talent for draft picks – this year. If we can get a top 5 pick I’m okay with waiting a year. That’s totally opinion though.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    A lot here to digest, but I agree with your consternation over Backstrom. I’ve been thinking of the right vocabulary and metrics to talk about his play, but I don’t know how to do it yet. Either way: he’s a strong player, but he’s not finishing. To me that screams linemates. I’ll keep investigating.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Haha. I grew up with that era of hockey too, but I think the game has been optimized to such an extent that we won’t see its return unless there’s a seismic shift in rules.

  • http://twitter.com/PuckBuddys Puck Buddys

    Does Ovi lead, on ice or off? It may accomplish very little but does the “C” belong elsewhere? No one will strip it from him, he has to be a mensch and give it up.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    To me. That’s a no, and always has been a no.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    That’s the sort of thing we can never really know, so I try not to spend much time on it. If someone else could better wield the captaincy is a fine thought experiment, but the cost of actually doing would be first-degree bridge arson.

  • http://twitter.com/PuckBuddys Puck Buddys

    Makes sense. Just wondering what it will take to get Ovi’s head and ass wired together…

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    Being the healthy scratch on a regular basis, and being bought out. Caps have never healthy-scratched him, and I’m surprised that they’ve never done so. This healthy-scratching and sending the guy down to the AHL business has done wonders for Kadri and others.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    We’d also have known by now if Ovechkin was a leader. He would have found a way to galvanize the team, when it was down.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I think Boudreau and McPhee should’ve whipped his ass after the “fat fuck” brouhaha from last year. Even from a star, that insubordinate behavior cannot be tolerated.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    And GMGM should’ve just traded him for a Ben’s Chili Bowl at that point. It would have sent a massive statement to the team, and a massive statement to the fans that the inmates do not run the asylum.

  • http://twitter.com/smgraff Steve Graff

    And simply let clubs like SKA or CSKA have Ovechkin, until he burns bridges there–and given both clubs’ histories, he could end up playing in Qatar (if there is even a hockey league there). I also think trading Ovechkin could have been the Cup-winning move bc it got the Bad Apple out of DC, Everyone knows, but isn’t willing to say it, that The Great Eight is the Great Bad Apple, like the bunch of Arenas, Blatche, AJ Price, etc. was for the Wizards.

  • sean

    Of course Sophie Turner is hot, and everyone wants her, but you know at closing time you are going home with the Wildling girl.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    We’re actually not allowed to call Sophie Turner hot until next February. And while the Wildling girl isn’t my cuppatea, I’m not gonna kick her out of the cave either if you know what I’m sayinnnnnnnnnnn

  • JH

    The Caps started slow, a byproduct, at least in part, of no D-men playing in the off season and a new coach/system with no preseason/offseason time to adjust. The level of panic among Caps fans always amazes me. They have a 50/50 chance at postseason play, assuming they can get hot and catch the Canes. At least, that’s my humble assessment. And if they don’t make the playoffs, well, I’d say write it off to a shortened season and try again next year, but don’t blow up the team. If there are trade opportunities, great. But don’t blow up the team for the sake of “doing something.” Ovie is clearly not what he once was, but he’s still a big threat, and if we had anyone else on the team who was scary at all, we’d be in a much better place. But Backstrom, who is a *great* player, has some mysterious affliction, and Green is perennially injured (when healthy, they are a different team). Holtby has greatness potential. In the off season, we need a scary left winger to complement Ovie’s line and we need Backstrom to get healthy or whatever so he’s back to 1st-line form. Then we’re a scary team again.