2012 2013 Division Standings Standings   NHL.com   Standings

Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.

The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Capitals currently have about a 30% chance of making the playoffs. That’s an improvement of about 24% since before winning those back-to-back games in the dirty Peg.

Before the Caps curbstomped the Jets on Friday night, Neil Greenberg put it like this:

So let’s see if we can find 9 or 10 more wins in the remaining schedule. I’ve put the Caps’ remaining opponents below in chronological order. Next to each team is the difference between the Caps and those teams in attempting shots at even strength while the score is close– i.e. how they tilt the ice. That’s the single best predictor we’ve got for a team’s future success. Positive numbers are good, negative numbers are bad.

Opponent Δ Ice Tilt%
Rangers -7.34
Islanders -3.64
Sabres +1.95
Flyers -4.44
Hurricanes -6.12
Islanders -3.64
Panthers -4.50
Lightning +1.87
Canadiens -7.29
Hurricanes -6.12
Lightning +1.87
Maple Leafs +0.61
Senators -4.15
Canadiens -7.29
Jets -4.36
Senators -4.15
Bruins -8.20

The Capitals have better puck possession than just three of their upcoming opponents: Buffalo, Tampa, and Toronto. Other than that, it’s going to be a hard row to hoe, or whatever that idiom is. I don’t see 9 or 10 wins here. Do you?

The Capitals have squeaked out wins against superior teams before, but they’ve had to rely on fantastically high shooting percentages (like scoring on every fourth shot on Friday) or brilliant performances by their goalies. Either one of those would be great, both would be ideal, but neither can be relied upon– at least not consistently. It’s just unreasonable to expect players to perform above their level for long stretches.

The odds are long, but not impossible. A handful of standout performances from guys like Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby would go a long way to closing the gap, but it is risky. Rosters will be locked after that first Hurricanes game. If the Capitals don’t use the trade deadline to prepare for next season, it’s looking pretty likely that they’ll end up missing the playoffs anyway before letting their unrestricted free agents walk without any return on value. Let’s call that the worst-case scenario.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The Caps’ wretched start may have put them at a disadvantage, but I think the team we’ve seen since the middle of February has been much better. At least until that weekend in New York. In back-to-back games against the Islanders and Rangers at the beginning of March, the Caps allowed 9 goals against, mustered just three of their own, and embarrassed themselves in front of a national audience. Those two losses sent the Caps’ likelihood of making the playoffs spiraling from 40% down to 14%.

That weekend really screwed the Caps, and we don’t even know how badly yet. We may not know for years. If the Caps are smart, they’ll make the moves they must to assemble a championship-caliber team for next season. But right now it’s looking awfully tempting to make a plucky-but-doomed push for the postseason, one that may very well be dashed by something as silly as Gary Bettman’s point for an overtime loss. Or even worse: the shootout (which the Caps still haven’t even played yet).

That playoff chase will probably end in the worst possible way: with the Caps in 9th or 10th place in the East– missing the playoffs, out of contention for a great draft pick, and letting a bunch of UFA contracts go without getting anything in return. The team will have mortgaged its future for no apparent reason.

Here are those unrestricted free agents. If the Caps don’t trade them before the deadline or re-sign ‘em, they all turn into pumpkins after the final buzzer on April 27.

  • Mike Ribeiro
  • Joey Crabb
  • Matt Hendricks
  • Wojtek Wolski
  • Eric Fehr
  • Aaron Volpatti
  • Tom Poti
  • Jack Hillen

This is sink or swim time for the Capitals front office. I don’t envy George McPhee or Dick Patrick their positions right now. They’re probably going to be scoured either way.

So what do you think? Can the Caps make the playoffs? Should they even try?

References

  • http://twitter.com/mattymatty2000 Matthew Kory

    I agree. They should probably get value for their players and live to fight again next season. But can one make an argument that the Caps new system is taking hold and they’re playing better hockey? That and team health (Laich and Green are back… for now) are about the only arguments I can conceive of that might be backed by something more than blind faith.

  • http://twitter.com/pthread Jim Kelly

    Is it possible to see the ice tilt % comparison viewing only the last, say, 15 games? That’s probably more indicative of what the chances really are, both for the opposing teams and especially the Caps.

    I suspect you’d still see a difficult and unlikely road to the playoffs, but that it makes the picture a little rosier.

  • Radack

    Keep Fehr and Hendricks, sell the rest of the farm for 6 bags of magic beans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515045371 Dave Fry

    They will know by this time next week. If the caps when the next 3-4 then they will keep everyone. If they spit or dont win enough it remain even close its sell time. The only person on that list they could get a decent return for anyway is Ribs, so i dont know what the big rush would be.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Next season.

    Gotta resign Hendricks & Fehr. Sell high on McRib.

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

    Totally agree on Fehr. He and Wolski are worth their contracts and then some.

    (also reDASHsign and resign mean almost opposite things!)

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

    You typically want a large sample of games or else the numbers are pretty noised up by variance. I see your point though.

  • chris

    There’s really only two names on that list, maybe three that need to be resigned: Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks and maybe Eric Fehr. With the way Ribs has played the past two games with Laich and Brouwer and the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Johansson it would seem that should be top priority. An entire offseason and training camp would benefit that 2nd line.

    I like the looks of the younger defense. Maybe they move Hillen if they can get Kundratek or Erskine back from injury? I would shop Schultz and a few of those other names above like Wolski and add Chimera to the lis even if they get late round picks, those guys aren’t contributing.

    Did Joey Crabb clear waivers yet?

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

    re·sign
    /riˈzīn/

    Verb
    Voluntarily leave a job or other position.
    Give up (an office, power, privilege, etc.).Synonyms
    give up – quit – relinquish – abdicate

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

    re DASH sign
    /riˈsīn/

    Verb
    To sign again

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all went through this when Brooks Laich seemingly retired two years ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515045371 Dave Fry

    Crabb did, hes in Hershey now. I agree with you as well. The other guys wont command much in free agency anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/VirtualYehudi Karaism

    30% chance to make it than. I say go for it.. The Caps got a pretty good squad of players right now.

    Caps should Sign Fehr, Wolski and Hendricks. Sell Ribeiro high and try Laich and Perreault on 2c. Perreault is highly underrated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikhail.pakhorukov Mikhail Pakhorukov

    If not now – when?
    If not us – who?
    Give them a chance. with the healthy roster their posession time will change, so will the playoff%

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

    haha

  • Waaaaaa

    I’d let Poti go, we need to drop him, shultz should be the next on the table whenever hes up for resigning. And they should look at Green, if he can’t stay health for more than half a season, what good is he?

  • http://www.facebook.com/coryperdue Cory Statler Perdue

    I had a thought the other day while listening to the Marek vs. Wyshinski podcast. Jeff Marek seems to think that Anaheim is done with Jonas Hiller. While I’ve personally been a fan of Mike Ribeiro, I thought maybe a trade of Neuvirth and Ribeiro for Hiller and Bobby Ryan would work out for both teams. I haven’t looked to see if this would work under the cap, and I’m not suggesting it is a trade to make the playoff push this year (I’ve already written off the playoffs).

  • Chris

    I think Fehr and Hendricks should be locks to come back. The rest … aside from Ribs … meh.

    Suppose Ribs gets dealt for picks. Who, then, replaces him next season? Looking quickly at the current UFA crop, who do the Caps sign to replace him? I’m not too high on the list of top UFAs, as all but two (Semin!) are over 30 years old. Is Forsberg ready to go in 13-14?

    If healthy Caps have, what, 10 d-men ready to go? Buy out Schultz, let Poti go … and that leaves 8 d-men. That probably leaves Hillen, Kundratek, and Oleksy battling for the 6th spot.

    I was in favor of dealing Ribs … but now, not so sure. Does he want to stay in DC? Has he said anything stating his desire to stay?

  • http://twitter.com/VaMedic Chris Gardner

    I generally agree. And I’m for the use of stats as predictors. There is a issue that time is not factored in in favor of a larger, but dated sample size. Its a tough nut. But setting aside the “do these number mean what we all say they do”, we still have to consider the back to back road game curb stomping of a team listed above at -4.36. If you count the number of game with a value >-4.37…you get, wait for it…9.

  • http://twitter.com/sirstanley11 bskillet

    Whether or not we make the playoffs or not he shouldn’t make a move, not anything drastic at least. Don’t forget how this season started, hint:(lockout). Give this team a normal off season with there “new” coach and “newer” players and October should look just about like Thursday&Friday.

  • Graham Dumas

    Agreed 100%. I don’t get the chatter about letting Ribs go at the trade deadline, unless we can get another Fedorov for him.

  • http://twitter.com/VaMedic Chris Gardner

    I think it may be the wrong question. Does making the playoffs make us buyers? Put another way, if I had a perfect knowledge that the caps WILL make it to day one of the playoffs, is it worth letting Ribs walk for nothing after? I say no. He has to be signed or traded for value independent of playoff entry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Andy.Wallace.839 Andy Wallace

    I see flashes of Mike Ribeiro when I watch Perreault play. I agree with you 100%

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

    I worry less about how to replace him and more about the cost of keeping him. Further, by selling him as a rental to playoff team, the Caps can get tons of future picks and strong prospects to build a great team in 2-3 years– when the Caps have Kuzya and Forsberg.

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

    ANA also said they want a second line center (I think to Friedman), I’m not sure Bobby Ryan is worth it, but I have a feeling a 2014 ANA first round pick becomes a lottery pick.

  • D Sullivan

    are lightning + or – 1.87? You have once with each – assume the minus is wrong.

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

    +1.87

    Thanks for the correction!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.kenny.142 Jonathan Kenny

    A tough call as the return of Laich has definitely seen the team playing better; even the loss to PIT was one of the Caps better efforts–save for the 4-minute PP execution–in a loss all year. With Green and Laich healthy the team is simply much better. Saw a stat on Washington Caps: Red Alert on Facebook that pointed out that in spite of Ovi’s mere 2 goals in the first 10 games, he has 13G in the last 21 games, which happens to be a 50G pace in an 82-game season. So he seems to be finding his rhythm in Oates’ system.
    i absolutely want Hendricks, Ribeiro, and Fehr back; I hope McPhee is drumming up some sort of contract extension offers to all of them. The others I’m not attached to and their should be some quality players available. I am not into picking up any rentals.

  • Joe

    I take issue with the whole concept of finishing in 9th or 10th place as being the worst possible scenario. The idea of giving up on a season when it is still possible to make the playoffs sends a terrible message to all those locked into the roster for next year and beyond. The Caps need to focus on winning every game they suit up for regardless of probability of being successful. Whether they are successful or not is almost besides the point. By focusing on improving each night will only make them better for next year. Selling off their top player for the potential of future returns sends the wrong message to the guys who have to suit of next season.

  • Yv

    That’s complete underestimation of BB mastery. With him Ducks will not miss a playoffs (see Caps).

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

    betcha a shiny nickel

  • Yv

    It is difficult for GM problem. While Ribs (if not for more than 15-16M$ for max 3 a years), Fehr and Hendy deserve to be resigned, the next 3-4 games should clarify the situation. The way they have played last 10-15 games there is quite a possibility that Caps maybe hidden LAK and Devils of the last season, who were #s 8 and 6 seeds and also were dysfunctional at the beginning.

    Considering that the Caps were pronounced doomed 3 times before they repeatedly showed up in 5 consecutive playoffs, I will not discount them. And one of the main reason is convenient schedule. If Caps will hang around 50% till last couple weeks of the season, they will play 6 of 8, including last 4 games, at home. They can win all of them, as in 2007-08 season.

  • http://twitter.com/dylanwheatley83 dylan wheatley

    Hendricks, Wolski, Fehr and Hillen should all be re-signed. All are better than their cap hit would suggest, and none should be over-valued come signing time.

    Ribs is a fantastic player, but he’s old, and as the top C UFA he’ll be asking for bigger money than GMGM can spend on a 33 year old having a career year. Better to trade him to a team desperate enough to overpay.

    And Poti, Volpatti and Crabb can just fuck right off.

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

    hahaha last line

  • http://twitter.com/VirtualYehudi Karaism
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yup. I’ve been critical of Perry in the past, but he’s been awesome this year.

  • http://twitter.com/VirtualYehudi Karaism

    Can’t agree more and Ribeiro’s on-Ice corsi is pretty much close to Poti.
    His point production is great but that’s only because of the 1-3-1 PP.

  • http://twitter.com/DCRothman David Rothman

    His Corsi numbers were sparkling last year too, shouldn’t be a surprise.

  • http://twitter.com/DCRothman David Rothman

    This is the first time all year we’ve had a near 100% healthy lineup. Therefore, I wouldn’t put too much stock in stats taken from earlier in the season…that was a different lineup. The odds aren’t great, that’s for sure, but with everybody else in the standings stumbling around us, there’s no reason to think this team can’t put together a solid enough run to make the playoffs. They’ve done it before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ctlaferriere Christian Laferriere

    Whatever GMGM does RE SIGN HENDRICKS. He is the heart & soul of the team believe it or not!!!!!! And if the they gain enough steam for a playoff run why not? At least the season wouldn’t be viewed as a TOTAL loss by players and fans….

  • Benjacamo

    I believe the questions of whether to/buy sell and who to sign and who to let go should be considered against the team make-up/playoffs in the coming years given the new division. If the Caps barely make the playoffs this year, how will they fair against the Pitts, NYR, NJD and Philly?

    It makes me sick to go through another rebuild, but after watching this core “young guns” fail in big games, not make it past round 2 and repeatedly describe themselves as mentally fragile, something has to change.

    As much as Ribs fills the 2C, what they’ve been sorely missing for years, I don’t know if overpaying him for a career year is something the team can afford. Depending on what the trade return would be, have to strongly lean in this direction, regardless of where they are in this years’ standings. Heck, they can still make a play for him as a UFA.

    OV is untradeable and may be able to recapture the glory under Oates’ tutelage. I really believe he hasn’t be “coached” in the pros until now–unbelievable. Backy hasn’t be the same since the concussion, but he’s supremely talented and a quality person–a keeper. Green–well I’m not a fan of his game and he hasn’t played “his game” for a couple of years–trade him. Get something for Mojo if you can, all he has is straight line speed, no scoring or passing touch, weak puck possession and a very soft, pretty much non existent physical game.

    The team is full of hard working, fourth line guys, but none of them play with intimidating physical toughness, which will be essential to compete in the new division. They’re virtually interchangeable and difficult to distinguish, but good character guys. I think an upgrade or two is possible. I do think Wardo is finally showing what GMGM saw in him, the most consistent fore checking, wall walker with a twinge of timely goal scoring.

    GMGM has to go, no questions asked if Schultz in on the roster next year. I can’t even comprehend how someone could defend retaining him. Sure a swell guy, he and Stretch can play back up, 4th string goalies in practice, but NHL defensive hockey?

    At the core, keep:
    OV
    Backy
    Brouwer
    Laich
    Matty P
    Wardo

    Erskine
    Orlov
    Alzner
    Carlson (although, I might think about trading him too. He seems to depreciate each year)
    Kundratek
    Olesky (man, I hope he keeps progressing, great toughness and character, solid)

    Braden (has the attitude/fire that the Caps need; consistency is the key)
    Nuevy (might be trade bait with Grubauer in the wings)

    I believe in Oates. He needs a full training camp and chance to pick players that fit his system. Remember, he took over the team and didn’t really have input into team composition.

  • StC

    Agreed. The proposition of making deals to build a championship roster for next season relies on the fallacy that GMGM will be able to fleece some other teams’s management for a lottery pick or two in exchange for Ribs and maybe Fehr. Maybe that deal is out there, but I’m not convinced of that. But if it materializes, then he needs to select player(s) that will pan out. Again not automatic. If it were, we wouldn’t be in this position because Kuznetzsov’s line centered by Gustafsson would be tearing it up. My point being, sometimes you whiff in the draft, and sometimes you draft a winger who is held hostage by his national team for 2 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cj.easton.7 CJ Easton

    Still that’s assuming Kuzy comes. I genuinely think he will post Olympics but it isn’t definite. I agree with your logic about Ribs but its hard to see someone come on so much stronger than anyone expected and in a position that has been of GREAT need for so long and just walk. Since now (after your comment was made) we beat the Rangers the next 5 game will make or break the discussion since if we drop 2 it’s likely game over and time to sell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cj.easton.7 CJ Easton

    2 cents on this, keep Fehr, Hendy, and honestly Wolsky. I find WW far better than he has been given credit for by everyone including the coaches. He costs peanuts and I really think can produce in way I only wish Joel Ward would. In strict terms of nickles and dimes I think WW is among our best buys.

    D-men I like:

    Alzner
    Carlson
    Erskin
    Oleksy
    Orlov
    Kundratek (man these 3 AHL’ers have been great to watch)

    Trade Green (can’t stay healthy)
    Crabb, Poti, Hillen, and Volpatti all just need to be gone.

    I am now going to say something that will draw nothing but scorn and ridicule.

    Keep Shultz – He has 1 year left for 3m and I cannot see anyone trading for him. Let him play that out as he knows the system we are building and he can be our backup. YES would like him gone but we may as well finish this bad contract by using him best we can. I don’t see buying him out as worthwhile and I would applaud and way to trade him but I don’t see it as realistic. If we are stuck him him then he can be the backup for a time until he finally expires.

    But if he EVER fails to touch up an icing again he may never see an NHL team again.