Photo credit: Rob Carr

After their loss to division-leading Carolina on Tuesday, Washington finds themselves 10 points out of first place in the Southeast and seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 23 games to go. Despite a stretch of good play before their three-game losing streak, the club is further out of the playoff race than they were before.

With that said, is this the point where the franchise considers becoming “sellers” and completely rebuilds? CBC analyst Craig Simpson says yes.

Simpson, who played ten years in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres, spoke about the Capitals on Wednesday in a chat on CBC’s website.

Craig Simpson: I pick Washington as one of my biggest disappointments. they are a complete disaster. Ovie has been inconsistent, their goaltending continues to disappoint, and they seem very dysfunctional. I am sure Dale Hunter is sitting in London watching from a far and saying thank god i left. Can’t win with Ovie as your face of franchise and so called leader. toxic – Jordan: What do you think the Caps will/should do?

Craig Simpson: I’m not sure if Oates and McPhee will make it through this year. I think they need to clean house. If I had the money, I would think about trading Ovie, or buying him out. Can’t win with him, if you can’t coach him.

Craig Simpson: I know a buyout sounds crazy, but I think you need to change the culture there. Can’t do that if Ovie is your captain and 9M cap hit. Yikes.

We’ve already addressed the meme about the Capitals being too dumb for Adam Oates, so I’ll just link to that story right now. But Ovechkin is toxic? I thought that was Alex Semin’s deal. Would it be faster at this point to just list the Caps players who are not supposedly awful people?

With Filip Forsberg set to become a full-time player next season and Evgeny Kuznetsov on the way a year after that, the Capitals have some high-end offensive talent coming. While the Caps may not see a full return on investment from Ovechkin on the ice for the rest of the life of his deal, he is still a perennial 20-30 goal scorer. That’s nothing to scoff at.

If in the end, McPhee does consider cutting Ovi loose, no team in its right mind would take on Ovechkin and his $10-million annual cap hit for the next eight years. And besides, Ovechkin’s value to the franchise off the ice makes the idea of buying him out silly.

Instead of completely gutting the team, the Capitals should sell at the deadline and look to deal away veterans who are not part of the team’s core: Mike Ribeiro, Jason Chimera, and Tom Poti. They should acquire prospects and picks that will transform this team into a Stanley Cup contender within the next few years. Augmentation, not reinvention.

The Capitals lack both depth and high-end talent. A month ago, former prospect Eric Fehr called Washington “a pretty old team” to On Frozen Blog’s Elizabeth Meinecke. And if you look at the roster, it’s true. The Caps have rising stars on defense (Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Dmitry Orlov), a stud in goal (Braden Holtby), and three top-six forwards (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Troy Brouwer) that they can depend on in the future. The rest of their roster consists of overpaid veterans whose value would be best utilized on a team that is built to win now. The Capitals are not that team.

The Capitals don’t need to rebuild. They just need to retool. And Craig Simpson should really come down to Kettler or come to some games before accusing Ovechkin of being some horrible, uncoachable guy that nobody likes.


Yeah, his teammates hate him.

  • Michael Reschly

    Laich isn’t a top-6 forward?

  • He’s a third line center, do it all special teams guy. He has a lot value, but I do not consider him a top-six player, no.

  • Jeeper

    Have to agree, I’ve never considered Laich a top six player

  • Laich is exactly the kind of guy that needs to stay on this team. I agree. Others not named above to me are expendable though. Including Mike Groin…err…Green.

  • Considering this season is toast, and it was just a shortened season, wouldn’t it just be better to shoot for the first overall pick in the upcoming draft instead of rebuild? McPhee would be better to gamble with that pick and even entertain trade offers for a better return than what he would recoup from an Ovechkin trade.

  • Then Ovi needs to get his ass in gear. He’s the captain of the team and earning $9.5M a year. He’s going to have higher expectations than his teammates to produce.

  • davidgrant

    If we lose to Carolina tomorrow it’s time to deal Ribeiro and other assets for draft picks and prospects. Hopefully we can get a top 5 pick that will be ready to join Forsberg, Wilson and Kuznetsov. I’m optimistic that Ovi will get it together and be a 40+ goal scorer again.

  • Troy Bouwer in this pic looks dazzling.

  • It will be painful seeing OV succeed again in a new environment, but it has to be done. Is OV a good NHL player? Yes, but not at a nearly $9.54 cap hit. At a lower cap hit and AAV, half the league will be chasing Ovechkin. I see this as more likely if George McPhee gets fired after the season.

  • I really hope Wilson develops. With big guys, you just never know.

  • Sean

    Why is everyone so quick to want to trade Ribeiro? Our big issue for the past two years has been searching for a 2nd line center, and he is more than we could have asked for. He has proven in a struggling year to be able to play well and to do so with literally anyone on the ice. How can you not want that to build a team moving forward? At least give the man a one year deal and see how he does with a full season, especially with Laich out

  • because he isn’t worth what he’ll be asking for as the top ufa center. he’ll end up being another overpaid, under producing disappointment. he should be traded before the deadline so the team at least walks away with something for him.

  • Sean, he has been unbelievable this year. I love him as a player. But he is 33. This will most likely be his last big contract. He will want to max out on dollars and years. By the time the Caps are going to be Stanley Cup contenders again, his career will be close to over. So it makes more sense to deal him now for assets that will help this team win in a few years and beyond. The Capitals as currently constructed are old right now. They need to be aggressive about re-infusing the line-up with youth or the roster will have to be completely blown up again. And I really don’t want that.

  • Ryan Massey

    To list Ribeiro as someone who is “not part of the teams core” is insane. He has done nothing but aid the Caps and make the Caps play abnormally better than they do with him off the ice… Something Backstrom has done every season he’s had with the Caps! Ovi does benefit from having Ribeiro on the ice but I believe that switching out Backstrom and Ribeiro would benefit the team GREATLY! Give Ovi his leading assister back, Give him the man who he is used to feeding him the puck and Ovi will shine again. I don’t think Oates gave the Backstrom and Ovi team enough time to evolve in his new system. Why fix whats not broken? Backstrom to Ovi has been an amazing thing here in D.C. and it needs to be brought back. Ribeiro can teach the second line all the things they need to know to be almost as great a line as the first!!

  • George

    My only question is why do you not like ribeiro? Please explain to me. I am no hockey expert but last I checked he is the best capital on the ice right now

  • I will respectfully disagree and counter with Brouwer isn’t a top 6 guy.

  • I can’t say I 100% disagree, but this guy ought to come down to dc and watch this team before spouting off like that. To say the goaltending disappoints is almost slanderous, Holtby is a big reason we have as many wins as we do.

    Simpson is just some schmuck trying to gain some notoriety by hitching his wagon to Milbury’s horse.

  • Wing

    I’m new to hockey, so these are very amateur observations: Ribeeiro has done well so far! And he plays well with others. Ovie was really doing well in Russia during the lockout. Why is there a problem here? Remember the hat trick a few weeks ago? Also, I’m sick of hearing that whenever the other team scores first they get demoralized. Guys, you are professionals! That sounds like middle school crap. It should you get more fired up! I still like my Caps and wish I could afford to games more often. They have many good players and will get better, I think. Maybe not this year, but next. Maybe earlier return to practice and more “class work”.

  • I agree with Ian. BL21 would be a terrific 3C and special teams guy. That is a smart alignment between the player’s strength and our expectations for him. Of course, right now he’s 5C, so it’s a non-issue.

  • All top 4 picks are looking pretty great.

  • Wing, thanks for writing.

    I think the difference between talent in the KHL and NHL is a big factor. Ovi had a lot more ice and a different class of defense over there. Just one thought.

  • Ribs is great! We love Ribs mostly, but he does have three big weak spots: faceoffs, hot-head penalties, and sub-par possession numbers.

    Still, because he’s great is a good reason to trade him. Any Cup contender would love to add him to their team. And the Caps could use that leverage to get better future value.

  • Sure. That’s debatable. No doubt about it. But he was re-signed to a multi-year deal over the summer and has been putting up good numbers this year. He’s a guy that gets his goals by going hard to the net, so I don’t see his production suddenly dropping off. He seems like a perennial 15-20 goal scorer. I like what he brings to the table, especially the power play.

  • Ribs isn’t a good possession player. He’s got great skill, but he doesn’t drive play like Semin did. Ovechkin would play better with Backstrom.

    And the Caps play better when Ribs is OFF the ice. Only Mojo stifles play more.

  • Why do you think his Rel Corsi is so low? That’s surprising considering how many points he’s put up.

  • Diagnosing out what does and does not drive possession is the difference between a stat blogger and a professional scout.

    I’m a stat blogger.

  • I’m going to assume it’s because his line scores too quickly into his shifts! Haha.


  • We all know the caps are horrible right now. 8th place is 7 points back. If they are shooting for anything i think that might be easier then trying to win the division….

  • Would it be possible to restructure his contract?

  • Next you’re gonna tell me this video’s fake

  • No restructuring of contracts are allowed. HOWEVER, in a trade, a team can have up to 3 contracts in which the cap hit is spread 50-50, and that can account for up to 15 percent of a team’s upper cap space. (This is a correction from a previous post.) As an example, if the Caps were to trade OV under this provision, they could split the contract with the new team and both teams would end up with a $4.77M cap hit per annum

    You can thank Brian Burke for that. Source:

  • Chris

    You just described Brooks Laich while describing Troy Brouwer. I wish the Caps had kept Semin. You put Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin together and Ribiero with a healthy Laich and Brouwer and that’s a solid top six forwards.

  • Yv

    I watched last Caps-Jets game through CBC feed and I was surprised with low, toilet quality commenting by second-rated former players and their clear anti-Caps and anti-Ovi mutterings. They were even lower than Mike Milbury and PMg on NBC if it is possible.
    Before dismantling, Caps should learn the lesson from Flyers. Their GM Holmgren is considered as a top manager. But look what he did last couple years. Under the pressure to deliver SC, last Flyers win was almost 40 years ago, he kicked out their two top and ‘toxic’, players and captain, Richards and Carter. Those two then hoisted the Cup, while Flyers are now in disarray and practically out of playoffs picture.
    There is probably 1-3% chance that Caps will reach playoffs, so selling high now and getting good picks would be good for next generation of Caps. Ribeiro seems would be the one who should bring a lot. And it would be very interesting to find out how many scouts will be tomorrow on Caps-Canes games, and, especially, on lowly Buffalo-Caps game in VC on Sunday. That would be vultures gatherings.

  • Completely agree. Great points, Yv.

  • das

    Also, KHL has different sized rinks that would work better with Ovi’s style of play.

  • Yeah that’s what I meant by “a lot more ice”– not ice time. Sorry I wasn’t clearer.

  • brian!

    Random thought I just had: IF the team does deal Ribeiro sometime before the deadline, how does that make the Eakin trade look in retrospect? Doesn’t seem like a wise usage of a center prospect.

  • Yv

    Since it has been not mentioned. Ribeiro is good when he has space, especially in power plays where he is blossoming and top guy. However, beside bad FOs in offensive zone specifically, Ribeiro usually disappears at even strength. Just one example, if you have such possibility just look on Bruins -Caps game replay and count how many good passes he gave in O-zone to Ovi or Hendy. It was below me in VC and I can tell practically zero for the whole game. Same with NYR, etc. Then, look on stat sheets and find how many times Ribs primary assisted for Ovi’s goal at ES after famous NJD game. As I recalling -zero for 7 games. Then, look how many goals at ES Ribs scored with Ovi as a primary assistant. Three! For comparison, Backstrom has primary assisted at even strength during this period, somewhere like 4-5! This is quite telling stats.

  • Teddy

    Do you re-sign Fehr?

  • hmmm, green and brooksie are out, backs having a dropdown in production, system change. right. blame ovi.
    No need to overact – lets wait till the end of the season and see how the team plays there. no progress – changes gonna happen

  • Speaking of Brian Burke…

  • Ask the Penguins about Tangradi, Eric.

  • mdpte

    Every time I watch Ovie I would go nuts. As a coach he drives me nuts nuts nuts nuts. His stick is in the air in his zone, he has one move from the off wing cutting to the middle and firing the puck. Unlike Sidney Crosby (who i really don’t like), he hasn’t improved. Sidney works his ass off to get better in every part of his game. Never understood what all the hype was about with Ovie. The worst thing it seems they did with this group was to try to change their style. Its like it sucked the life out of them. Maybe they wouldn’t have won the Cup run and gun style, but at least they were WINNING and putting up points. Best pond hockey team in the NHL. When Forsberg and Kuznetsov come things will be better but Mike Green = Dion Phaneuf, not so super in his own zone and when the pts dry up you notice it a lot more. Carlson is very good but a no2b/3a at this pt. They need a young stud D with leadership skills. Doesn’t everyone? I love Backstrom he’s your guy, moving Ovie would be a good call I think bring in a top 2 RW and a top 2 D prospect. Or just trade him to Anaheim and get Perry and sign Corey Perry to a big ass contract.

  • I’ve been in California for this season and so I end up watching a lot of those opposing teams’ feeds – they’re consistently terrible about ovi and it’s starting to give me a complex. I’ll be moving back local in time to watch a few of their last regular season games, but the psychological damage has been done and i’ll probably be an angry emo-punk Ovi apologist with a chip on my shoulder for the rest of my days.

  • I think Alzner IS that guy.

  • Yo8

    “difference between talent in the KHL and NHL”

    The KHL doesn’t compare to the NHL? Well, at least I can say Dynamo is better than the Caps… I want Ovi and Nicky back at Dynamo!

    I’m not sorry 🙁

  • robert

    my question is since you drafted and traded for offensive players why have the last 2 head coaches been defensive minded coaches??

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    All credibility concerning his comments went out the window at this line:

    “Simpson, who played ten years in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres…”

    I believe Ovechkin is beginning to accept that when this team fails he will be the face to blame. Yes this team is a bust so far but the retooling needs to come at the management level. The team has the skill level sitting on their roster now. It looks to me this is a lack of discipline, motivation and morale. Unhappy players don’t win championships. I hate to say it but I think GMGM’s time is up. Adam Oates needs at least a decent training camp before we can judge if he is going to work. This is not the best season to determine if the coach isn’t good enough.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    Honest question to my favorite hockey bloggers RMNB: What is it about Ribeiro that isn’t clicking for you guys? I know the numbers don’t make complete sense but I feel he has brought a confidence to the ice that can’t be replicated often. Is it the money? I did read your article that addressed some of his stats but as a fan I’m seeing it pay off in other ways. Right now he looks to be filling a lot of voids. Do you think they can get #83 to get his face off wins up? He’s not a lovable guy by any means and not one of my personal favorites yet but I do believe he has brought a lot more to the table than half the guys sitting on the bench lately.

  • Kevin

    Your both right. Laich and Brouwer are both 3rd line guys. Nothing wrong with good hard working & situational key players. The problem is when they are expected to perform as Top 6 guys. If the Caps has enough depth they wouldn’t be in the conversation.

  • serpent

    If we’re paying attention to sports writers here, read what WaPo’s Mike Wise had to say about Ovi yesterday. Up yours Ovi haters!

  • The main problem with Ribeiro is that he does not drive play. By that I mean that when he is on the ice, most of the pucks are going towards the Caps’ goaltender.

    When Ribeiro *does* have the puck, he’s got great handling and passing skills, but for whatever reason his team doesn’t have the puck enough while he’s on the ice.

    He’s been successful so far due to a ridiculously high shooting percentage on power play (which isn’t sustainable) and hooking up with Ovi when Ovi is hot.

    Add to that his very bad faceoff performance and some dumb misconduct penalties, and I think the shine comes off him.

    That said, he’d very attractive to a playoff team looking to bolster scoring.

  • Jose

    I’d think so, but I’d give him a 2nd line wing spot for a year, see if he can prove himself there for a full season (he’s more skill than grind, I think) and if not let him go for the 2014-15 season when Kuznetsov will be coming over. After all, top 6 wingers would be then Ovi, Brouwer, Forsberg and Kuznetsov. The youngsters have both played pro so should be able to jump right away.
    I’d keep Fehr on a 3rd line role if he’s ready to do so for cheap like this year.

  • I want the Caps to put their energy into trying to find guys who’ll be winners for the team in 2 or 3 years. Ribeiro will be 36 then. It makes more sense to spin him off for a good prospect and draft pick who’ll help us and be under our control for years to come. We’re looking for value. A team that thinks they’re close will part with a good young player for Ribs at the deadline. We gotta start thinking about our future. I personally don’t think this is about Ribeiro being a bad player. He’s been pretty great (somewhat smoke and mirrors — see Peter’s comment), but this team is old right now and there is no depth in the system. That really needs to be rectified.

  • Yes. Without hesitation.

  • John Barduhn

    While I can’t say I agree wholeheartedly with the majority of Ovi’s criticizers, and a statistical decline was inevitable with age & system changes – I do feel that his personality is bending a bit to the “toxic” side. Thats a bit extreme of a viewpoint – but I really feel like the biggest problem is that he is the Captain. I don’t feel like Ovi has the leadership qualities needed to be a truly effective Captain. Maybe I hold the “C” a bit too high in regards, but I also feel like maybe having to fill that role is a detriment to Ovi, because it forces him to act/be a player that he isn’t. Maybe if he wasn’t responsible for being the captain (with the added pressures), he could get back to doing what he does best — excelling at hockey on an INDIVIDUAL level, even if that seems a bit selfish. I hope that makes some sort of sense. Granted, I’m not a professional athlete, I don’t chill out in the Caps dressing room during practices and games, and I’m not a statistical hockey wizard. I’ve always felt that the granting of Ovi’s “C” was a bit premature, and a bit ‘PR’ish, to compete/coincide with the rivalry with Crosby and the Pens.

    Also, I never assumed Ribeiro would be anything more than a short term lease, but thank god, cause he has been killing it for my fantasy team this year 🙂

    Thanks for all the great articles/discussion guys, I just moved to Toronto, and this site keeps me sane among all the crazy Leafs nation BS I gotta deal with. Go Caps! 🙂

  • Their problem really is the lack of a steady presence in net—one of the other players they traded away after Bryzgalov was signed, Sergei Bobrovsky, could have been that answer in goal.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    The penalties were also something I’d noticed. Very Semin like. (God help me….all the Seminites are going to start verbally attacking me now).

    I can see how it would be beneficial at this point. It seems like a smart business decision to go with. It’s not like Ribs is going to be the difference between us going to the playoffs or not this season. He’s got to go then. It’s settled. Should I call GMGM and let him know our decision or will you guys take care of it? 🙂

    Thanks Ian & Peter!!!

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    Just saw this tweet:

    Interesting tidbit via E.J. Hradek: Mike Ribeiro has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to nix trades to 10 teams. #Caps

    That throws a wrench in the plans. Damn his agent is GOOD! Daddy didn’t raise no fool.

  • johnnymorte

    The real question is, if you get rid of Ribs, how are you going to fill that void on the PP? It’s the only bright spot on the team. To me, whether Kuznetsov is actually coming or not is still highly speculative. We need to keep this guy until then. I think we should deal Brouwer and Chimera for better assets. Brouwer is hot right now and overvalued, we need to add a skilled and dangerous winger like we lost in Semin.

  • Wichawon

    I was a Rangers fan in early 70’s and they had a team every fan dreamed about and they still couldn’t win the Cup so I hope the Caps find a way to win one while I’m still alive! I still love Ovie!

  • Lithy D

    Good stuff Ian.

  • Joe

    That’s a $36 million top six. Kind of difficult to suit up the rest of the roster with both Ribs and Semin in the same lineup.

  • KareeLyn

    Just caught wind of the lines tonight… Can someone explain a few things? You all seem pretty smart to me. Why is Ribeiro on the 3rd line? Why is Johansson on the 2nd? And why are Wolski and Perreault (who kinda sorta scored last game) out, and Crabb in? Chew on that…. Also, fun fact. If you google search “Second Line Center” in images, Ribeiro’s picture is the 3rd hit. It’s also the 5th – from a sweet RMNB article.

  • I guess because Ribs has been pointless in 3 games and hasn’t had a positive posssession rating in 6 games.

    Scratching Wolksi is a mistake, and I don’t understand. Perreault had one pretty bad shift in the first period last game, and that might’ve damned him– also a mistake.

    Crabb should not be in… the NHL. Shrug.

    So “why?” I got no idea. Sorry!

  • Remember when Crabb was on the first line? Good times.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Shocker…it’s CBC. What did anyone expect?…they are full of bigots from Don Cherry down to Craig Simpson. Hypocrites as well. TSN is better anyway.

    I’ve criticized Ovie a lot, but the issues of the Caps don’t completely lie with him. A lot of it can be directed to Ted and GMGM. Tired of giving my reasons why, because I could write an entire essay on all the things Ted and McPhee have done to hinder the success of this organization, but a change in the front office is long overdue.

  • Rhino40

    I just moved to Toronto, and this site keeps me sane among all the crazy Leafs nation BS I gotta deal with.

    Could be worse, my friend: You could ended up in Philadelphia…or Pittsburgh (bleccch)!

    I remember watching the telecast of the final NHL game played at Maple Leaf Gardens: although I was up to that point more or less a casual fan, it was witnessing the power & emotion of that event that really made hockey “stick” (no pun intended) in my stream of consciousness. I recall the announcer commenting on the ceremonies, and you could basically hear the uppercase letters when he said:

    This Is Their Game, And They Love It.

    So, although the Leafs haven’t won a Cup in over 40 years, keeping things like that in mind helps one to understand why the GTA is–like it or not–sort of the epicenter of the hockey universe.

  • Rhino40

    ”’…and sign Corey Perry to a big ass contract.

    Sorry, but I am not sure I feel comfortable with the idea of an “ass contract”, of any size.

  • Dave

    So this is all pretty much crap now, right?