Ovi belly - Nick Wass

Photo: Nick Wass

The Caps are 42 games into their 82-game season. I could’ve offered my halfway analysis after the customary 41, but I figured the four days off between now and Thursday’s game in Tampa will offer us more time for careful reflection.

The Capitals used to be an easy team to describe. From 2007 through 2010, they were an offensive juggernaut that scored at will on the strength of puck-possession dominance and the world’s best scorer in Alex Ovechkin. Defensive worries (or perceptions thereof) tainted the team’s success, and a couple bad breaks– a hot goalie in the Montreal playoff series of 2010, a spot of bad goaltending to begin the 10-11 season, and the exit of several strong depth players– turned the team’s fortunes towards the mediocre.

Now, halfway through Adam Oates’ first full season as the Capitals’ coach, we have a better idea of who this team is. It is not nearly as strong as the Boudreau model, but it’s also not as wearying as Hunter Hockey. There’s a lot of gray in this painting, but there’s also a lot to learn from it.

Plus: Adventure Time GIFs!

Standings

20-16-6 The Capitals’ record. 20 wins, 16 losses, 6 overtime losses.
3rd The Capitals’ rank in Metropolitan Division, behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
18th The Capitals’ overall rank in the league, perhaps betraying the weakness of the Metro division.
12 Number of wins in regulation or overtime (ROW) by the Caps, the 6th lowest total in the league.

Gary Bettman’s scoring scheme has been very kind to the Caps. The team has won few games in 60 or 65 minutes, but they’ve won 8 of 12 shootouts. Because of the paucity of ROWs, the Capitals will have a hard time winning a standings tiebreaker come April. Should the other teams in the Metro start improving– or if the Caps continue to lose to inferior teams like they did this past week, the Capitals will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Puck Possession

We use shot attempts as a way to measure puck possession. It’s been shown that possession stats, particularly in close games, have more predictive value for a team’s future success. Teams with possession under 50% (that is– teams who are playing defense most of the time) tend not to make the playoffs or get eliminated in the early rounds.

22nd The Caps’ rank in puck possession during even strength when the score is close.
48.69% The percentage of unblocked shot attempts that belong to the Caps in that situation.
43 The number of unblocked shot attempts the Capitals allow per 60 minutes, 7th worst in the league.
40 The number of unblocked shots the Caps generate per 60 minutes at even strength, 18th in the league.

Washington Capitals 2013-2014 rolling 10-game 5v5 close FF

Chart by ExtraSkater

Basically, they don’t have the puck much.

The Capitals are not a strong possession team, extending a decline that began around 2009 and turned sharply downward after 2011. Despite short periods of encouraging play, the 2012-13 Caps have not reversed the downward progress. Actually, the last half of December was perhaps the worst the Capitals have played since the beginning of the Hanlon era, but that may not be indicative of where the team will end up by season’s end. It’s unlikely the Capitals will peek above 50% when all is said and done, which will likely presage another early-round exit from the playoffs– should they make the postseason at all.

Goaltending

Goalie 5v5 Sv% Shots Faced
Grubauer 93.3% 146
Holtby 92.3% 662
Neuvirth 91.1% 146

The Capitals have employed three goalies this season to mixed results. Braden Holtby began the season successfully, but he struggled in December before getting benched for two weeks. Philipp Grubauer started the season in Hershey but has performed terrifically well in his appearances with the Caps, earning the lion’s share of starts in December. Michal Neuvirth seems to the be odd man out and has requested a trade.

The Capitals depend on their goalies too much. Caps goalies see an average of 33.4 shots on goal per game, the 4th most in the league. As the skaters don’t have much possession of the puck, it too often falls on the goalie to win games. Braden Holtby’s impressive start was responsible for a number of wins early in the season, but weak goaltending in the last two games cost the Caps wins despite strong puck possession. The Caps should endeavor to reduce the burden on their goalies in the back half, preferably via upgrades to the defensive roster and its tactics per Calle Johansson.

Shooting

100.0 The Capitals’ PDO, a stat that serves as a proxy for luck. The Caps are neither lucky nor unlucky overall.
15th The Caps’ rank in PDO. Right in the middle.
7.2% The Caps’ shooting percentage during even strength, slightly below average.
92.8% The Caps’ save percentage during even strength, slightly above average.

Washington Capitals 2013-2014 rolling 10-game 5v5 PDO

Chart by ExtraSkater

Despite some lucky wins and bad losses, the Caps can’t blame their record on luck.

The Caps started the season with some excellent goaltending– as well as a couple blowouts by the offense. The percentages have cooled significantly since, particularly in the back half of December, which was brutal. There’s a lot of fluctuation, but on balance the Caps have been neither lucky nor unlucky. Good bounces in the opening weeks masked some weaker underlying numbers, just as bad bounces cost the Caps six standing points in the last week. PDO regresses strongly over the course of the season, but we have no reason to think the Caps will see a big change in their fortunes in the back half.

Power Play

2nd The Capitals’ rank on the power play.
25.3% The percentage of power play opportunities that the Capitals have converted.
3rd The Capitals’ rank in generating unblocked shot attempts during the power play, indicating a strong underlying system that can sustain success.
16.7% The Capitals’ shooting percentage during the power play, among the highest in the league and prone to drop slightly.
150 The number of power play opportunities the Caps have had through 42 games, 8th most in the league. That number may be difficult to maintain for a low puck-possession team.
17 The number of penalties drawn by Alex Ovechkin, highest on the team.

Adam Oates’s signature 1-3-1 power play has taken over the league in the last twelve months. Teams across the NHL have adopted some variation of it, though none with the effectiveness of the Washington original. The not-so-secret weapon: Alex Ovechkin threatening to score after a faceoff or with a one-timer from the left circle.

The Caps power play unit is rolling along, scoring on one out of every four opportunities. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins have been more successful. The shot-generation numbers behind the PP are encouraging as well– suggesting that the Caps will continue to make their opponents pay for penalties for the rest of the season. The big worries should be the Caps’ ability to continue drawing penalties and the team’s ability to keep the man advantage productive even when the opponents put man-on-man defense against Alex Ovechkin.

Penalty Kill

21st The Capitals’ rank on the penalty kill.
80.5% The percentage of penalties the Capitals kill without allowing a goal.
28th The Capitals’ rank in limiting unblocked shot attempts while shorthanded, 88.4 per 60 minutes.
88.8% Caps goalies’ save percentage while shorthanded, 10th best in the league. This number may not remain this high.
154 The number of times the Capitals have been shorthanded so far. Only six teams have had more penalties to kill. This is to be expected for low-possession teams– also teams that throw the puck over the glass all the gosh darn time.
21 The number of penalties committed by Tom Wilson, highest on the team. Mike Green and Troy Brouwer are tied at 19.
0 Number of penalties committed by Marcus Johansson.

For a while, the Capitals had the best power play and the best penalty kill in the league. The PP has continued to be terrific, but the Caps have faltered on the PK since the beginning of November. That early success was due to some terrific goaltending numbers that could not be sustained given the number of shots the Capitals were allowing. Only the Stars and the Leafs put their goalie through more misery. While Adam Oates’ conviction to build his PK units out of forwards who skate together during 5v5 is admirable, it hasn’t paid off. We should expect the Caps to suffer more from their penalties in the future until they make big changes to their PK tactics.

Alex Ovechkin

31 Goals scored through 40 games (with two missed due to injury).
62 Projected end-of-season goal total for Alex Ovechkin, which would be his highest total since his career-best year in 2007-08.
12 Assists by Alex Ovechkin, ranked 122nd among forwards in the league.
50.3% Ovechkin’s puck-possession number during 5v5 situations. This is Ovechkin’s first 50+ season in three years He’s generating 4 more shot attempts per game 60 and has more on-ice support than any time in past 3 years, though that’s not resulting in goals yet.

Alex Ovechkin is the best scorer in the world. If you adjust for how goal production has dropped overall in the last twenty years, he may be one of the best scorers of all time.

While much is made of Alex Ovechkin’s bad plus-minus, we see that the culprit isn’t that Ovi is hogging all the shots, it’s that everyone else is ridiculously snakebit.

chart_1 (3)

Ovechkin is not taking more shots in proportion to his linemates compared to recent years; it’s just that his shots are the only ones yielding goals. In fact, we see that Ovechkin is actually sharing the puck more with his linemates this season compared to the last three years.

chart_2

We should expect other skaters to start scoring in the final forty games. Ovi’s big blue bar at the right side of the first chart above should be smaller by season’s end. And, if you care, his plus-minus should look a little better too.

After three years of Ovechkin being pretty much the only guy shooting, the Capitals’ top line is truly a multi-dimensional threat for the first time since the pre-trap Boudreau era. It’s just that they haven’t scored… yet. The Ovechkin assists are coming; all that they require is patience.

Ovechkin’s resurgence in 2013 is probably Adam Oates’ biggest accomplishment. While it’s seductive to say the strategy has been “get the puck to Ovi,” that’s just not true.

Ovechkin may or may not have a career-best season in 2013-14, but his comeback still flies in the face of everything we’ve learned over the past three years. It’s a very big deal. Despite getting older, playing in a league with fewer power plays, and playing for a team that prioritizes offense far less than it used to, Ovi is Ovi again. I doubt he’ll hit 60 goals, but I won’t be disappointed whatever the result. (And I won’t be surprised if I’m wrong.)`

Everyone Else

Miscellany

0 Number of man-games the Caps have lost to suspension this season.
3 Number of goalies on the Capitals’ active roster.
$241k Estimated salary-cap space available to the Capitals, the lowest in the league.
19 Goals scored by an opponent within two minutes after a Caps goal, a time when the Capitals are a very weak team.
22 Games decided by one goal or by the shootout.
152 Number of people following RMNB on Pinterest, where we post pictures of adorable zoo animals.
36 Game recaps written by me. The other six were written by Chris Gordon.
0 Number of dates I’ve been on lately.

Conclusions

The Capitals first took second place in the Metropolitan Division despite the apparent weaknesses in their even-strength play. Excellent goaltending (at evens and while shorthanded) and the Ovechkin-anchored power play vaulted the team up the standings, but it won’t be enough to keep them there. They’ve already dropped to third.

The team seems unable to win games decisively, as evidenced by the preponderance of one-goal games, shootout decisions, and opponent goals surrendered right after the Caps score. Add to that the team’s below-average puck possession, and the Capitals don’t look like a playoff team.

But the Metropolitan Division is not strong, and the Capitals’ not-so-secret weapon is capable of extraordinary stuff. Alex Ovechkin‘s shot volume should mean he’ll keep scoring through early 2014. In addition, Ovi should start racking up assists as his linemate’s shooting percentages return to league average.

Though it’s less certain, the team’s puck possession may be on the rise as well, which will mean a great deal towards the team’s prospects for a postseason and a meaningful run should they get there. But the team will have to combat a very tough schedule in March and their own deeply flawed penalty kill to get there.

The Capitals are not contenders for the Stanley Cup right now, but they’ve got enough talent to make some noise. They’ve also got enough motivation to make some big changes before the trade deadline. If that goes well, look out. With an upgrade on defense– both on the roster and in tactics, the Capitals may become dominant team again. Not Boudreau dominant, but still pretty good.

At least, that’s what I’m seeing.

Your Turn

What do you think of the Capitals after 42 games?

How would you rate Adam Oates’ job as head coach and George McPhee’s as general manager?

Do you think the Caps can make the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division?

Do you think Alex Ovechkin can hit 62 goals?

What changes do you want to see made to this team?

This article has been modified to clarify that Alex Ovechkin’s share of shot attempts have not changed when compared to recent years.

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  • Roman Z.

    “12 Number of wins in regulation or overtime (ROW) by the Caps, the 6th lowest total in the league.”

    This is repeated both under “Standings” and “Puck possession”

    Mistake?

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

    Yes! Thanks.

  • Marky Narc

    I heart the optimism in this article and I subscribe to it, because the alternate hypothesis – that the Caps overachieved in the first half of the season and will regress in the second half – doesn’t seem to hold water when you take into account the 42 games as a whole.

    That said, the Caps gained many standings points in the first 42 games that they did not necessarily deserve, but that’s the nature of the way standings points are awarded now. So you take what you can get. Who knows? Maybe this team goes on a long unlucky streak and misses out on the points they were getting in the first half.

    If they keep playing at the pace they are now, it gives them a record of 39-32-11 (give or take). Is 89 points enough to make the playoffs? Maybe in the Eastern Conference it is.

    [Or, if you want gloomy pessimism, it's enough for them to sneak in, only to get eliminated in six games - because of course they would get eliminated in front of the home crowd - and perform just well enough for management to say "we feel like we don't need to change anything."]

    OK, OK, forget that bracket paragraph. Offensively, this team is fine, though I’d like to see a little more goal distribution among the lines. My fear is that the more likely Ovi is to reach 62 goals this season, the more it means nobody else is scoring and he’s having to carry the team on his shoulders. So I have mixed feelings about that 60-goal benchmark.

    Defensively is where we need help. Part of the problem is the personnel we have and part of it is the system they are playing in. I’ve said this before, but I feel like I was duped into thinking Oates was going to be a better coach than he is. Or at least the coach he has been so far. Maybe there’s a learning curve, I don’t know.

    GMGM’s reputation has taken quite the hit in recent seasons. Usually he has been pretty good at asset management in his tenure, but the past couple years have seen some questionable moves. But right now, it’s really on him to make this team better. He doesn’t have much wiggle room, but that’s of his doing, so I can’t give him a pass on that. We could move Erat (and Neuvirth? and others?) out, but are we really going to get a solid second-pairing defenseman in return? I have to admit I’m skeptical, but anything’s possible.

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

    A) Despite Ovechkin’s heroics (and I’m really, really amazed by his play), I am really disappointed by the Caps first half and I think it hints at potential doom in the second half. Their possession worries me. Some of the personnel decisions they’ve made have been confusing.

    B) Oates, D (three guys have asked for trades, the whole laich brouwer line combo disaster, giving Laich more mins than Erat, Orlov benching, destroying Holtby, Positives: Ovechkin, Mojo, three-piece suits)

    McPhee, B- (Draft picks are developing, Burakovksy looks to have potentially been a steal, depth on defense in minors has kept them from really being a disaster on defense, I think he convinced Oates to play Orlov and he’s been good, Cons: Laich contract, Chimera contract, Erskine contract)

    C) I think Ovi will slow down in the second half and score 53, which would be awesome

    D) I think — just like I felt last year — the team needs to start gearing up for the future instead of trading away it’s good younger players (Forsberg, Perreault). Wilson needs more playing time and hopefully Kuznetsov will actually be here. A guy can wish.

  • Ben Reed

    INJURIES – pretty much 0

    Ovi missed two games and Laich isn’t who he used to be due to injury. Otherwise, this team’s best players and secondary players are all in perfect health.

    In other words, this is the best they can do.

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

    True.

    Rob Vollman of Hockey Abstract has a cool tool to visualize stuff like that: http://www.hockeyabstract.com/luck

  • Chris Cerullo

    At this point I’m still not sure I completely believe in Adam Oates as a head coach. Luckily the Metro is horrid and I agree that after maybe a key acquisition(s) we are definitely in line to get back into the playoffs and (cross my fingers) make some noise. I’ve wanted Mcphee gone for a while now because I really believe this team needs a new perspective at the helm. He tried to save his job last year by dealing for Erat and that was a failure but for some reason he’s back yet again with his 6 playoff series wins in 15 years (Thanks Ted). Ovechkin IMO is probably going to be closer to 50 goals than he is to 60 at the end of the season mainly based on how the Olympics could drain him. I know I’d love to see a top 6 wing brought in because outside of Ovechkin we aren’t really rolling in depth there. Someone like Moulson, Eberle, Vrbata, Purcell, Cammalleri, Ladd, etc. We also are still in dire need of one or maybe even two new guys on the backend preferably one of the top 4 variety and one of the bottom pairing variety. For example maybe Edler, Gorges, MacDonald, Markov, Girardi, Tallinder, Klesla etc. for the top 4 and N. Schultz, Morris, Nikitin, M. Stuart, Murray, Fayne, etc. for the bottom pair.

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

    well put, across the board

  • Jim Kelly

    One thing I was thinking about today regarding our 3 goalies, this is really bad time for this right now. How many other teams have seen upstart youngsters (or in the case of Harding, old guys) suddenly upset the natural order of things. Lots of solid starters seeing great performances from guys pulled up from the minors. Grubauer, Rannta, Talbot, Jones, Harding. There seems to be a glut of decent goalies in the league now, which means unloading one of these guys isn’t going to be easy.

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

    I’ll be so bummed if Ovi hits only 53. I was thinking somewhere around 58– barring injury or getting put on a line with Aucoin and Beagle.

    I think I agree with your assessment of Oates. As much as he’s done for Ovi and the PP, there’s so much other stuff falling through cracks– particularly the bottom six and the D. I don’t like how Calle coaches his guys at all, and Oates is on the hook for that ultimately.

    GMGM gets infinity credit for Grabo, and much of went wrong this year was despite his smart moves (everywhere but D).

    So we agree. A lot. This is new.

  • Marky Narc

    Grubauer is not subject to waivers if the Caps want to return him to Hershey? Is that correct?

  • yv

    Excellent analysis!
    After recent prolong series of losses the Caps future looks gloomy as for now. It is quite possible that even before the Thursday’s game Caps could find themselves out of playoffs position.
    Since Caps D represents the most headache for the team, it would be very interesting to evaluate it statistically. For instance, it is very interesting to know how good or bad for the team is the strategy that favors Dmen pinching in Ozone (like appearance near and below hushmarks). Caps have been burnt so many times when Dmen pinching that it ‘d remarkable to find the balance of goals scored and allowed during such episodes (or shots generated), and, then, to made strong conclusion whether it’s worth to employ such system.

  • Ben Reed

    Neat. Sure enough, Caps #2 luckiest in terms of avoiding injury, 5th luckiest overall.

  • yv

    correct, he is on two way contract.

  • Adam Stringham

    I really like this article, Even if I believe that Mike Green really is as bad as all of his detractors say he is. I am happy that he is doing a good job generating shots but I feel like he is terrible defensively. Every time he touches the puck I worry about a potential turn over that leads to a grade A scoring chance.

    The grabo signing was great, but losing Forsburg may really hurt the Caps in the long run. Oh and I completely agree with the assessment of Oates.

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

    You’re absolutely right about the D. I wish we had more data available to do those kinds of studies. Unfortunately most of what we have is based on shot attempts rather than individual touches, which is what I think we’d need to be able to isolate the defense from the offense.

  • Joe

    I think this is a playoff team without question, especially in the relatively weak Eastern Conference. At this point, I’m very pleased with how Oates has turned Ovechkin and our power play around. However, his personnel decisions can be puzzling and frustrating. I feel like Erat is wasted on the fourth line, in both the fact that he is clearly a top-6 player and we’re killing his trade value by giving him less ice time. Why Erskine continues to play night in and night out after Schmidt showed great promise during the first half of the season, I have no idea. Oates’ defensive system does not seem to be working at all, but I believe he’s preaching what needs to be done – it’s just not getting through, for whatever reason. I’ve stopped yelling at the TV when we make a monumental defensive mistake because I’m so frickin’ used to it at this point.

    I think McPhee shoulders the blame for our lack of overall defensive depth, and the total weirdness of trading Perreault so that Wilson can play seven minutes per game just to hit people and start fights when he could be gaining confidence as a goal scorer in the AHL. If this team misses the playoffs or gets pounded in the first round, I think it’s time for a new guy at GM.

    As for Ovi’s goal total – not so sure, but I do think he’s coming damn close to 60 no matter what. What an athlete. We are so fortunate to have such a great player. What hurts is that we simply have not put together a Cup-contending team around him. I’ve said it in this space before, but an Erat-for-top 4 d-man trade has to happen for this team to make a playoff run. Who we conduct that trade with and who it would be for, I have no idea, unfortunately.

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

    Just going by the numbers, way more shots are winding up in the net when Carlson is on the ice, compared to Green. http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2014/01/05/week-14-snapshot-losing-for-all-the-right-reasons/

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

    Yeah, I forgot Grabo, and that was a coup (which Oates deserves credit for as well). McPhee — for all that our readers have criticized him this year — has really done his part. I’m really impressed that guys like Nate Schmidt, Cam Schilling, Connor Carrick, Patrick Wey, and Dmitry Orlov can all step in the way they have and not make boneheaded rookie mistakes and be liabilities. Not sure Oates has done his part however this year. Really disappointed with him seeing three guys ask to be traded in the same year, two of which should have been getting ample playing time and not needed to resort to that.

  • Jim Kelly

    Yeah I guess in a backhanded way I’m arguing against those calling to trade Holtby. lol.

  • Ben Reed

    With you, esp. on point D). Back in the ’03-’04 season, the Caps asked themselves, “can we win a Stanley Cup with this group or not,” decided “no,” and rebuilt.

    Management would be foolish not to at least ask themselves this question again. Or at the very least, if there is a championship core, ask who is a part of it?

  • Marky Narc

    Thanks. I thought so but I wasn’t 100% sure. I mean to mention this in my other comment, but I forgot. Obviously something needs to happen personnel-wise with the goalies. As enamored as many of us are with Grubi (myself included), the smartest option would be to return him to Hershey for now and go with Holtby/Neuvy. Grubauer will get many more chances to play and him having to spend time in the AHL does not worry me at all.

    {Fortunately, the smartest option is also the safest option so chances are good that’s what GMGM does. Wouldn’t it be head spinning if I was wrong, though?)

  • Alex

    I guess I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m just too old to understand what these GIFs have to do with anything.

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

    The only thing I disagree with you about is on defense. I actually think overall the Caps have fantastic organizational depth there. Just they lack a top end guy or two at the NHL level. But Carrick, Schmidt, Wey, and Orlov all excite me. Kundtratek — who is out for the year — is also a great puck-mover. He played well when given an opportunity last year at the NHL level, and Hershey is doing decent without him.

  • Hockey Mom

    Oh how I hate seeing us burned by this, too! I think we may need to mix up the D lines so that you don’t have more than one offensive minded guy on deck at once. Love to see a d-man score, but not if the team is scoring on us less than 2 or 1 (!) minute later. I think we need a “garbage” man on every line, too. It just seems like so many rebounds go untouched because no one is around to knock any in. Just one of those goals could have made a difference in how many games for us? I’m no expert, but I do have eyes…

  • yv

    I totally understand this. I can see one possibility, since the videos of all goals are available it is possible to count how many goals have been scored after Dman pinching. It’ll require a lot of time to do this, not mentioning to count shots generated. But I afraid that the score would be telling 0:15 in favor of goals allowed.

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

    Well really, you are harkening back to 2000-2003 — where the end was near. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s where this organization feels like it’s at right now. Sputtering with veterans.

    I really think a small infusion of youth would really serve this team well and hopefully Kuznetsov and Wilson can be those major players.

  • Johnny Knoxville

    Ovechkin will never win the Cup. And while he remains Caps Captain – Washington has no chance. Your optimism is just pathetic. And we both know that this summer, next summer and 10 summers next we will be watching Ovechkin golfing instead of lifting the Cup.

    Contender… Amazing bullshit.

  • Shawn Murphy

    If Wardo and Chimera are Meat & Potatoes, does that make Grabo the gravy?

    It could help explain those vexing Y’s showing up on the jersey.

  • Ben Reed

    I hold out the faintest hope, but I fear this group is approaching “sputtering.”

    Let’s not forget the consistent playoff flameouts. That counts.

  • Adam Stringham

    I agree that the numbers have looked better for Green this year, however as you pointed out Carlson is definitely playing against tougher opponents than Green. There is also a 2.9% save percentage difference between when Green and Carlson are on the ice (in your link).

    If we look at all of the goals that are scored with Green on the ice, especially over the last 10 days, I think we will find that a lot of those goals can be attributed to his defensive play. Mike Green is definitely a game breaker and “game over” Green still exists, but sometimes its the caps on the wrong side of that game ending play.

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

    Today’s lines:

    Laich-Backstrom-Brouwer
    Fehr-Grabovski-Ovi
    Chimera-Johansson-Ward
    Erat/Volpatti-Beagle/Latta-Wilson

    Fuck it. I give up.

  • Tattoo

    There are only 3 things that will ruin all of Washington dreams about SC:
    1) Oates
    2) McPhee
    3) Ovechkin

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

    Oh, I totally agree that Green has made obvious mistakes. Those mistakes should be addressed. I think I’m just trying to point out that the patterns we detect and the patterns that matter aren’t always the same thing.

    (Also, I don’t think an NHL D-man should be on the hook for his goalie’s save percentage writ large.)

  • Jim Kelly

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LclYvbuHc9s

    And it doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, except that Adventure Time is awesome.

  • Oatessucksballs

    Oates knows it better. Love Oates. Believe in your team. Enjoy losing.

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

    I like to think there are subtle thematic connections between the GIFs and the content of each section.

    Ovechkin flooped the pig. Obviously. I mean, DUH.

  • CM

    Two things. I think Corsi overvalues Green. I don’t think his play is as futile as most of his detractors, but he does things that allow high percentage plays for the opposition. That leads to real goals against and real games lost.

    I strongly disagree with Ian about looking towards the future. Ovechkin is a singular talent in the history of this game. Despite his renaissance, he’s getting older and if we can’t close the deal in the next few seasons I think it’s very possible that he’ll be the best player ever to never win a cup.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Mcphee hired Oates though. The mistakes he’s made have outweighed the positives IMO. He can draft well and again IMO Grabo was really a slam dunk obvious guy to get this offseason so I’m not sure I’d give him a ton of credit for that.

  • yv

    Gloomy, gray Monday HM?! Something like in Groundhog day: It would be cold, gray and you can do nothing about it?! Sun will come.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Greenberg’s tweets just make that top line look so very dumb. I just don’t. why.

  • Hockey Mom

    It looks like he is trying to find a balance of finesse and grit on each line. We need some ugly goals.

  • Adam Stringham

    Yeah, I would like to see Oates hold Green a little more responsible for his mistakes. I know that he can be a fragile player mentally, but I think he does not realize some of the mistakes he is making (because he seems to keep on making them).

    In regards to goaltending….I know how much you guys like Holtby; but the capitals would have been better off allowing non stop breakaways last game. Holtby saves .650 of SO attempts he faces, so that would have been better than the screened shots they allowed.

    All I can really say is that I often find myself reminiscing about the 08-09 Caps more and more often, my favorite Caps squad ever. That squad was fun to watch and had a great young goalie, I really miss the team that had 91, 25, 28, 8, and 40. The capitals need more russians….just kidding. I think the window is closing and the more I watch this year’s squad, the more I think that we are rapidly approaching a significant “retool”. Hate to be a negative nancy

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

    The 07-09 Caps were my fave too. So much fun to watch, never out of a game.

  • Owen Johnson

    I was wondering why Kundratek hadn’t been up this year…

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    god we were awesome in the 09-10 season. At seasons end we had only 15 regulation losses and not we have more than that!

  • Adam Stringham

    This game was on the best I have been to in my whole life. The pure unbridled enthusiasm of the crowd was different than it is today, I was never worried about our chances to come back.This team was magical, although this is 07-08 rather than 08-09. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qyNOY5Hknc.

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    just one lol we have 16 regulation losses this year.

  • Marky Narc

    Those lines are downright ……Cassidy-esque.

  • Hockey Mom

    Time for the team to watch “Miracle” and ask themselves what are they trying to accomplish this season…and what are they going to put into it to make it happen…

  • JH

    Great analysis, as always.
    On the lines, I think it’s clear that Oates is still looking for that elusive chemistry. We have a lot of talent, and one could argue that thus far the results are less than the sum of the parts. So why not tinker around a bit during the season?

  • Shaun Phillips

    Agree with you on all of them except Carrick. I think he’s too small to be an NHL defensemen. He can get bullied right out of the way in front of the net. Can you imagine him trying to push Heatley out of the way? Neither can I. With his offensive skills and skating, I think he needs to switch to the wing. Small guys can make a killing on the wing (ala Marty St Louis). He’d give the Caps some options up front too in an area that they are short in depth.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Welcome back Black Hole, now with more Nicky! Switch Erat and Laich and I’m fine with these lines.

  • Shaun Phillips

    1st line is just ugly ugly ugly.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I’ll reconsider how good this season’s team is after a few trades, which are presumedly bound to happen. My biggest issue with the team is how the goaltenders are being treated, Holtby needs to be getting his starts. I believe he’s an above average goalie and doesn’t deserve half of the grief he receives from the caps “fans”. Grubauer is not an NHL’er, he belongs in the A up I-83. I’ve been keeping tabs on him since his time with Germany at the WJC, and in my opinion can be the best of all three GK prospects. Neuvy is deadweight, and can be traded as soon as possible. He doesn’t want to be here, he can hit the bricks. On the same goalie topic, I think the team needs a veteran backup. Someone along the lines of Brent Johnson, I think he can still play and be an adequate 2nd chair to Holtby.

    Also, I miss Schmidt. He was a solid addition.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I’ve always figured the best combo is as follows:
    10-19-8
    90-84-20
    25-21-42
    24-83-46

    43 back in the CHL…

  • CAI

    Please don’t ignore the bracketed paragraph! It is so important. I feel like we are in the process of insanity (you know, doing same thing over n over and expecting different results)
    I am disappointed in Oates, and there doesn’t seem to be much desire to be a really good team. We’ve needed a big tough Dman for a few years, yet haven’t made any moves in that direction.
    Our goalies take the rap a lot, but last I checked, they don’t have X-ray vision to see through the bodies that are always planted in front of them. We need someone on D to be feared to get them out of crease. Something we also do way too little of. Still looking for pretty goals, see insanity above.

  • Barrett

    Until George McPhee is gone and a real GM is hired the team will always come up short. There’s a reason this team has gone no where in the past 16-1/2 years with him managing the Washington Capitals. He’s good at selecting the talent in the draft. He’s terrible at managing those players, signing and retaining free agents, making trades and handling head coaches. Get him out of DC.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Don’t hold your breath, Leonsis has never dismissed a GM… that includes the hapless Wizards.

  • Barrett

    Tom Wilson cannot play in the AHL, it was either the NHL and play with the big boys and go to practice and work everyday under Adam Oates’ system or go back to the OHL and play with the kindergarten kids that he dominated.

    I’d say for long term development him playing / practicing at the NHL level is better than developing bad habits at the OHL level.

  • JoeA

    The twitterati have got to stop trying to make Erat happen on this team. It seems pretty clear that he burned all his bridges to the top two lines when he asked for the trade.

    Erat got screwed when signs of life emerged from Laich’s groin. (By the way I love that I typed that last sentence.) He also got screwed by the healthy resurgence of Fehr’s shoulder(s).

    The biggest problem resulted from tremendous training camp Wilson had where it was pretty clear that he had outgrown the OHL. He at least deserved a look in the NHL, but it came at the expense of the wondrous Caps unicorn that was center depth on this team. The coaching and management got seduced with his size and potential and dealt away a pretty good center to make for what was now a glut on wing.

    So now the Caps are a team composed for a troop of wingers that include:
    Laich, who seems one tweak away from sitting for another couple of months.
    Erat, historically a possession monster stuck on the bottom 6 with no chance of moving up.
    Wilson, who has the size speed and skill to LOOK like an NHLer but has demonstrated exactly nothing to earn any more of the time he has been given.
    Brouwer, a power forward who has had trouble hitting the net from ten feet out.

  • 5manfront

    two-way contract has nothing to do with waiver eligibility, it only matters for how much he counts against the salary cap while at the NHL/AHL levels and how many zeroes his game check has on the end of it while at those two levels. Wiaver eligibility has to do with NHL games played, professional years played and their current age and age they turned the year he signed his first professional contract (2010-11, he was 19). Grubauer is NOT subject to waivers at this time, nor will he be subject for 2 years or another 60 games played.

  • Bob

    Awesome stuff. I do believe this team can get on a roll at some point but it might take them being on the border of missing the playoffs because of how complacent or comfortable they play when 2nd in the division. Im looking forward to the trade deadline to see if GMGM mans up and makes a big move for a shutdown D without trading away a top prospect

  • rotational

    Necessary moves – unload Erat and Neuvy ASAP. The Forsberg trade should represent McPhee’s walking papers if Ted ever wants this team to go to the next level. It’s irrelevant that Forsberg is/was an unproven prospect, it was a terrible move in almost every way *for this team*. Neuvy is too injury-prone and (translation issues aside) was clearly already unhappy to be #2 behind Holtby, and Grubauer has acquitted himself well as a solid backup.

    This is the second team in a row now where Erat has demanded a trade. At some point we have to stop pretending he’s just misunderstood and poorly utilized.

    Oates: B- or C+. He’s done more right than wrong. This is still his first full season as a head coach and I’d like to see him have time to shake things out on his end.

    Green’s problem is that when he screws up, he screws up BAD.

    I’m still concerned about Orlov. When he’s on he’s fantastic, but he still makes poor decisions especially on when to jump up and pinch.

    I don’t know what the rationale behind benching Holtby for two weeks is. If it’s just riding the hot hand that’s a failure on Oates’ part. On the flip side if they are planning to deal Neuvy and needed to see if Grubauer could handle the job, that’s less of a problem but bottom line you can’t ice your starting goalie like that.

    Ovie can hit 62, hell he could still hit 65 or 70 if the stars are aligned.

    McPhee needs to go. That’s probably the single biggest thing this team needs at this point.

  • Chris

    I think GMGM has done a terrible job lately, the erat trade still baffles me. We need an upgrade on D and another forward. Nuevo and erat need to go and will open up some cap space. I don’t like Calle Jo and am losing my patience with Oates. Does any other team have a more inexperienced coaching staff?
    Lastly, have you guys seen who we play in March? If we are still on the bubble going into march I doubt we will get in Pitt x 2, Philly x 2, Boston x 3, LA x 2, SJS, PHX, ANA, VAN, TOR… Gonna be rough boys

  • Shaun Phillips

    I’m not sure who you trade away at this point that has enough value for a top 4 dman without trading at least one prospect. No one wants Erat or Neuvy with their limited ice time (think they would’ve been moved already). I think you’d have to package one of the young guys in Hershey+ early round draft pick + established vet to get a top 4 dman (and maybe a mid round draft pick) in return.

  • johnnymorte

    GMGM should not get any credit for Grabo. Grabo cites Oates as the reason he signed in several interviews. As the team with the least cap space, we should be in the top 10 in the league with any GM worth his salt. Seeing Forsberg play in the WJC confirms that the Erat trade was an absolute blunder. Trading a potential 30+ goal scorer for a second liner on Nashville and a career grinder is just ludicrous. Even more ludicrous is the idea that we could have won a cup with Erat added to the roster. We could have had an amazing team in 3-4 years with a mature Ovi, NB19 and a young Forsberg, Kuzya, and Willie. What’s making me even more upset is that as intelligent as you are, you guys constantly endorse GMGM even though you rant how upset you are every time he makes a bad move. Like an abused woman that always returns to her lover You can’t disagree that not letting Willie go to WJC to get 15+ minutes per game where he could have gained a lot of confidence was a bad move. In fact, aside from drafting (where he gets a lot of help), GMGM makes more bad decisions than good ones. I really do apologize for my longwindedness, but you guys make me stress eat sometimes.

  • Hitt chris

    Having a bunch of 5/6 guys isn’t depth

  • Barrett

    The difference between that 2003-2004 team and the team now is all the players now are his. A bunch of those players in 03-04 were brought here by the previous GM David Poile. McPhee had no real connection to older players like Bondra, Konowalchuk and Gonchar. The other additions he jettisoned were Jagr, Lang, Nylander and Grier after the failed attempt to build a winning franchise the Daniel Snyder way. I don’t see him doing a complete tear down and rebuild like before. That would be a new GMs job if McPhee were ever replaced.

  • Barrett

    I agree. The loss of Kundratek and Jack Hillen has hurt the defense tremendously. Those two being healthy allows Oates to rotate the defense based on matchups. He’s stuck now with his top six.

  • Ben Reed

    If the current management regime is incapable of being honest about the roster it is built, it has to go.

  • riggorules

    Or pull a Bourque and win it in another jersey when the Caps do a end-of-the-Ovi-era firesale to rebuild. Sigh

  • Marky Narc

    I like what you said about the goalies here. I’m hoping that Neuvy’s trade request is merely a plea for more playing time, and that getting said playing time will cause him to rescind the trade request. Personally, I think Holtby/Neuvy ought to be playing games at about a 3:2 ratio. (Obviously Neuvy’s injury messes with that ratio and has to be taken into account.)

  • Joe

    Awesome point! I totally forgot about Kundratek – he looked promising last season. I will say, I’ve loved what I’ve seen from Orlov so far, minus a few (expected) mistakes here and there. That Hillen injury has hurt us too – is there a timetable for his return? He’s definitely not an All-Star, but he was a key contributor last year and he’d definitely help us back there. I just want to see somebody – ANYBODY – improve that area of our team. I think we have a pretty solid set of forwards and I don’t think the goaltending is an issue at all (I completely agree with RMNB that Holtby should be playing often).

    As for the Wilson stuff, I was misinformed, my apologies. Fingers crossed that his experience in the NHL this year helps him going forward, as Barrett said.

  • Joe

    By the way, this article today and the weekly snapshots are absolutely fantastic. You guys are doing an awesome job of covering this team and bringing info our way that we wouldn’t get otherwise, and I thank you for that.

  • Matt McNeely

    … uhhhh… … well if anyone can fix the black hole it’s Nicki??

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

    Your recollection is not perfect. Our opinions on GMGM are varied and complex because the world is varied and complex.

    He’s wrong about a lot of things: http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2013/04/02/george-mcphee-is-wrong-about-a-lot-of-things/

    He is smart http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2013/07/01/george-mcphee-lets-mike-ribeiro-go-is-a-smart-guy/

    We trashed his usage of Wilson: http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2013/11/05/tom-wilsons-future-is-not-on-the-fourth-line/

    I think you’ve got a strong point about Oates and Grabo, but your characterization of our opinions isn’t accurate.

  • Winstonian

    I think Adam Oates is doing a good job. The only criticism is that he seems to create drama when there shouldn’t be any. Since I’m no longer in Northern VA, I don’t know what’s going on in the practices. But, they need to take a page from the Mighty Ducks and play some beach ball hockey out there. They need to have fun. And through that fun, see where true chemistry lies. When you have this much talent, and no success, to me it seems you’re forcing something. Unshackle the offense a bit and see where it goes.

    Can Ovi get to 62? Probably not. Not because he’s not capable, but, because the goals he has been scoring are an easily discerned pattern, which teams are now being proactive against. He’ll need to get more creative to keep the volume up. And, I’d love to see Ovi skate a little bit in our half of the neutral zone and in. The gwg that came from Skinner in our recent loss to Carolina, if Ovi had been skating, he could’ve easily stick checked Skinner and maybe we win. He needs some responsibility, esp as Captain, to do at least something defensively.

    The Caps should make the playoffs. If they don’t, it’s simply mismanagement of resources and execution. And I love Holtby, but how can we return the #1 spot to you if you’re giving up over 4 goals a game. With our defense, you have to be on your game night in & night out. The last game he saw some very unfortunate scenarios (2v1, unchecked screens, etc), but, he needs to make a few of those saves. There’s no room for a slump. Grubauer is amazing, and given time, he’ll likely be a #1 goalie on a team (even if not Wash). If nothing else, he gets us into OT and secures at least the 1 point. I hate to say it, maybe Holtby needs a vacation to Hershey and rotate Grubauer & Neuvy for a bit. Neuvy is a goalie who has been pretty steady and isn’t nearly as prone to the blowouts that Holtby has when he’s not on his game.

    But hell, let’s just solve this by investing in a top defenseman or 2…

    Overall, offense needs to do a lot of drills focusing on possession and use dump & watch as a last ditch tactic instead of the #1 zone entry tactic. And if you’re name is not Ovi, shoot the puck! Quit hesitating. Good things happen to those who shoot. Seriously makes me wonder what they do in practice… Troy Brouwer, you have a helluva shot, quit missing. You don’t always have to roof it glove side… maybe a 5 hole shot every now & again…

  • Dave

    This post deserves a Pulitzer.

  • Myan

    You have so much optimism, Peter. Can I have what you’re smoking?

  • Daniel Walker

    I love this team. My happiness relies far too heavily on how
    well (or how poorly) the team performed in their last game. Maybe that’s why I
    hate the summer time. That being said, I really hope we miss the playoffs this
    year. It is the only thing that will prompt the kind of meaningful change that
    this organization desperately needs. Each year we get further and further away
    from the goal. Each prospect dealt for an aging formerly productive veteran at
    the trade deadline will make our inevitable decent then climb back up the
    mountain that much more difficult. I don’t care who you add to this team in March,we cannot, will not compete with Chicago, Anaheim, Pittsburg, etc. Even if a freaking miracle happened (think 1998) and we made it to the finals (which we
    will not), we will be swept just like we were before when we meet a vastly superior
    Western Conference foe. We need to get rid of George. We need a new direction.I read a lot of comments where people suggest we trade this veteran or that veteran to get a top four d man, or another scoring winger and this will put us over the top, but I think these are pipe dreams. Erat has been devalued to the point where you would be lucky just to get a team to take on his salary. Ditto
    for Brooks and Greenie. The only commodities we have that might net us a decent return at the deadline is our youth. Inevitably when this front office realizes at some point, this incarnation doesn’t have the stuff to bring the cup to DC, they will look back on each Varly or Foresberg we shipped off to “win now” and it will burn.

    Now that that’s off my chest…. When the inevitable happens,
    and we trade a package of prospects to get some aging Dman March 5th,
    I will be as excited as the next guy. I will convince myself when we sneak into
    the playoffs in April, we have as good a chance as anyone and when we get beat in a game 6/7 of Round 1, I will blame the refs or bad bounces, etc, and next September I will be chomping at the bit to do it again. Someone please put me out of my misery (I’m looking at you Ted)

  • Dave

    I like the first 3 lines here. 10,19, and 8 represent different (and hopefully complementary) skill sets, as do 90, 84, and 20. But gotta get rid of 24.

  • Jim Acker

    Like the stats link. It’s all about the number of shots and the shot differential. The Caps are 26th in the league in shot differential, despite having the top player in the league in shot attempts. That means the D is giving up too many shots, there’s too many neutral zone turnovers, and also, they look like they’re scared to take shots. The number of times I’ve seen a player skate in looking like they have a decent shot and then spin, look for a pass, go around the net, get poke checked near the top of the circles… shoot, or pass and shoot, it’s that simple. The more shots, the more rebounds. Now, that didn’t work against Miller, but it usually works.

  • Dave

    I agree with this idea. It would be great to pair defensively responsible guys with Green and Orlov, and then let the 3rd pair (presumably with Orlov) take some more minutes, but that probably requires talent the Caps don’t have.

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

    Haha. I might have a puff of the tobacco pipe maybe once a month, but you’re welcome to it.

  • JessHughes

    Beginning to think Laich has incriminating photos of either AO and/or GMGM.

  • brian!

    The only comments I have are that it’ll be interesting to see if Ovi/Backstrom/Carlson/ETC suffer any post-Olympic droughts, and for the life of me I don’t understand the fascination people have with Adventure Time.

  • Jack Conness

    I was going to say something about that earlier. Stupid. Absolutely stupid. What is he doing? Trying to get fired now?

  • riggorules

    Missing F16 also

  • dylan wheatley

    oates has kind of lost my confidence at this point. mostly because of erat.

  • Super43

    I agree with 90% of this. I actually liked the Varly trade, because it was for picks. The draft pick that we actually picked Forsberg with, and traded him away for old washed-up talent…. dun dun dun, Draft-ception

  • Hockey mom

    It is baffling and frustrating…like having a Ferrari with a governor keeping you at 55 mph…

  • Bugs Fire

    > What do you think of the Capitals after 42 games?

    Stuck in the first gear. OK, maybe second.

    > How would you rate Adam Oates’ job as head coach and George McPhee’s as general manager?

    Too early to rate Oates. Coach is easy to criticize, I think it’s important to realize not everything is under his control. He has a tough task of turning around a haphazardly designed team without the luxury of making any significant changes to the lineup.

    McPhee has a longer record and is even easier to criticize. Major issue in my mind is that the emphasis is on filling the seats, not winning the Cup. That dictates that everything revolves around #8. It is perhaps assumed that at this level of management there must be a decent long-term plan in place, but it sure does not look that way. The plan early on seemed to be that Ovie will carry the team to the top, and it remains that. Unfortunately, it’s too late to start building a winning team for Ovechkin/Backstrom era, and random patching with rental players (Ribeiro, Erat, Grabo) has only limited success. Honestly, it does not matter much what McPhee does next, or whether as many suggest he gets replaced. By the time the team gets redesigned, Ovie/Backy will be too old, and the organization is not willing to drop to the basement for couple of seasons to accelerate the process.

    > Do you think the Caps can make the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division?

    Yes, but so do Flyers, Canes, Devils, Blue Jackets, Rangers and even Isles (in any order). The only definite thing this year is an was the Pens winning the division. You may call it the curse of the Caps, but they have surely brought the doom over from Southwest. Flyers are still fragile; Canes tend to go on losing streaks that are way too long; Devils are too old for a full season; Blue Jackets can barely make playoffs even with Bobrovsky on fire; Rangers need more time to transition between two vastly different coaches; and Isles have essentially crumbled under the weight of high expectations. One or two of these teams can yet overcome whatever is afflicting them, but all of them definitely cannot. This gives Caps an opening to reach the playoffs again even if they remain only slightly above 0.500.

    > Do you think Alex Ovechkin can hit 62 goals?

    Of course he can. He would have to be worse in the second half of the season than he ever was not to reach 50.

    > What changes do you want to see made to this team?

    There is the obvious list (much better blue line, shore up PK, improve possession, get more secondary scoring etc). But if I have to pick one change, it’s not some fancy trades or minor or even major tweaks to the system.

    We keep hearing that this team has a lot of talent. Perhaps it’s true, perhaps it’s a hype. Some say that there is not much top talent beyond Ovechkin and Backstrom. There maybe some truth to that, given how easy it was in the past to shut Caps down in the playoffs by just shutting down #8. I think truth is in the middle – there is talent on this team, but it has hard time asserting itself when everything is focused on getting another goal from the living legend.

    And so here is my post-holiday wish for Capitals. I hope they find the urgency. I hope they play like this is the last chance this group will ever get to make a deep run in postseason. Because maybe it is. Otherwise we are just going to see another playoff spot and early exit. And of course, I will thoroughly enjoy every good play, every goal and every save. That is by choice.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Yeah I just noticed that about 30 minutes ago, I say 3rd line. Ship Chimera off for a draft pick.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Volpatti is my jam. I love ECAC players and member colleges.

  • Patrick

    My Turn:
    I think the Caps are 2-3 players away from being a legit cup threat. What we are missing is a scoring left hander that can play a Top6 left wing spot. What I think we need to do is trade Brouwer or Fehr plus a high end pick(1st/2nd/3rd) to Buffalo for Matt Mouslon. Buffalo is rebuilding and will take all the high picks they can get. And although they are rebuilding it is always a benefit to have a young vet such as Brouwer or Fehr to help the young talent. Proven assets in a sense. After that we get rid of Erat, he does not want to be here that is obvious so trade him for another player looking to get out which is Daniel Briere. Erat and a possible 4th/5th for Briere. Slot him at 3rd line center with Chimera and Ward, thats a line that can score and do well in the d zone, plus Briere is a $4M cap hit although small .5 less than Erat. Finally Trade Neuvy plus an AHL’er for Andy MacDonald from the Islanders. He fits the mold of an experienced left handed stay at home d to play with Green, and someone that he can trust. That leaves us with:

    Moulson Nicky Ovi
    MOJO Grabo Brouwer/Fehr
    Chimera Briere Ward
    Laich Beagle Wilson

    MacDonald-Green
    Alzner-Carly
    Orlov-Olesky

    I think that is a dependable line up that balances 5 on 5, keeps that powerplay in tact and will give the team a great playoff boost.
    As it stands now I do not think the caps will make the playoffs, goaltending is too inconsistent, defense is too inconsistent and not deep enough, and the offense is not strong 5 on 5. I think Oates is a great coach with great systems but GMGM does an awful job and does not get Oates the proper personnel to fit the system.

    Now that I got that off my chest maybe some things will change.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    LMAO.

    A.) Les Habitants are not giving up a Montréal native for freaking Erat, a guy requesting a trade from the 2nd team in two years. Nor is Brére a 3rd liner.

    B.) Matt Moulson (whom I do like very much as an undercover Isles fan), is not the answer. He’s a glorified meat and potatoes guy, just like Laich, Brower, Wardo et. al… Also what are the odds he’s traded twice within 2 months? He cost Buffalo Tomas Vanek, they’re not going to give Moulson away.

    The only thing you’ve stated that is even close to be remotely factual is that the goaltending is inconsistent.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I think that might show more of disconnect between the Front Office, who acquired Erat and the coaching staff who refuse to play a proven top 6 forward who cost an elite prospect.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    Some millennials like this Adventure Time show, I don’t get it and I’m glad Cartoon Network booted it from the Adult Swim line-up.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I’m all for Cammalleri, that’s who I thought we were going to snag instead of Erat. But Cammy’s salary is like 7MM, that’s pretty high.

  • Bugs Fire

    Here are the stats from previous 8 seasons (Ovechkin’s era) comparing how many points Caps had halfway through the season and at the end of it. Percentage shows what fraction of total points Caps earned in the first half.

    2012: 21/57 – 37%
    2011: 46/92 – 50%
    2010: 52/107 – 49%
    2009: 54/121 – 45%
    2008: 57/108 – 53%
    2007: 37/94 – 39%
    2006: 41/70 – 59%
    2005: 29/70 – 41%

    This averages at ~47%, so Caps do slightly better in the second half. If they repeat the average, they are looking at projected 98 points – probably enough to make the playoffs.

    In these consecutive years (2012 prorated to full season), they earned 41/29/57/51/67!/55/46/61 points in the second half. Notice how good it was under Boudreau/Oates, while poor under Hanlon/Hunter.

    None of this is meaningful. of course.

  • Red

    Fantastic writeup. Thanks for the effort. You’ve got content and presentation nailed down tight.
    I think the Caps should squeak out a playoff spot on talent alone. After the initial celebration, it’s business as usual; exit in the first two series (I wanna be wrong so bad). As far as I’m concerned, the owner provides the funds, the GM provides the tools, and the coach provides the structure/discipline. Based on that criteria, Oates carries most of the burden, but it’s much too early to make any sorts of judgements. Let’s try a little patience, and stick with this one for a little while mmkay? I don’t think Ovi will hit 62, but he’ll certainly break 50. Most needed improvement: Defense. Trade, buy, steal, i don’t care. Just address it in some way.
    Let’s see what the new year will bring.

  • Bugs Fire

    Over 2005-2012, Cup winners had the following number of points as of January 6 (Hawks numbers in 2012 are prorated to the half season mark)

    CHI-13: 76
    LAK-12: 47
    BOS-11: 48
    CHI-10: 63
    PIT-09: 44
    DET-08: 67
    ANA-07: 62
    CAR-06: 56

    No, this does not mean that Caps have 3/8 chance to win the Cup this year. It probably does mean that there was little certainty about Pens/Bruins/Kings winning the Cup in respective year at half season mark. It is also curious to notice that Pens won after firing Therien with 25 games to go and Sutter was in his first year as a coach after taking a multi-year break.

  • prut

    offtopic: this is the second article with 100+ comments this week – is that some kind of a record?

  • johnnymorte

    I appreciate your clever forensics regarding my recency bias. I only disagree with the smart observation. I could only imagine what kind of player Sasha would be with Oates at the helm and playing alongside Grabo, assuming that resigning Sasha would not have caused some kind of rift in the time space continuum. 7 mil is not so bad considering that Brouwer + Erat + Latta = 8.75 mil. I would take Sasha over those guys in a heartbeat.

  • Patrick

    As a matter of fact both the sabers and the habs have expressed interest in moving both pieces. Several sources have confirmed that the Canadians and Briere have not been a good fit and are not working out much like erat and the caps. In respects to him not being a 3rd liner just look at Grabo when he played there. I don’t see a problem with having 3 very talented centers. The Sabers have also expressed interest in moving Moulson from the day they got him. I disagree that he just just a meat and potatoes guy. Although he is known for the garbage goals as meat and potato guys do he has a shot and has proven to work well with superstar players example Tavares. We lose out on a lot of rebound goals especially from the line of Ovi and Nicky they need a winger in front who can jump on loose pucks and that is Moulson. And he was just part of the deal for Vanek which included a 1st and 2nd I believe.

  • Dave

    oh right. Replace 10 with 16. Erat may be a good player, but doesn’t seem like a great fit in what Oates is trying to run. Plus he wears his I-want-to-be-traded heart on his sleeve.

  • Pat

    I’m sorry but the last thing we need is Briere. We don’t need to take on another horrible contract. You cant justify Brieres contract just because Erat is more expensive. Both are being overpaid.

  • Roy Schue

    Don’t forget burakovsky, hopefully a year after kuznetsov

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    The good old days…

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

    Though I agree that we need some help on scoring (take the focus off Ovi a bit–much harder to shut down 2 legit scoring threats rather than one), I agree Moulson is not the answer. If we really, truly wanted a player who would make noticeable difference, I think you have to look at other teams 1/2 LW’s, and go after them. Frankly, if Edmonton continues to tank this year, I say package everything we can and see if they’ll bite for Hall. Probably not, but give them enough shiny things to look at (Brouwer, Neuvirth, Green, Fehr or Wilson), and maybe they would. And can you imagine that top line–Hall-Backs–Ovi?

  • Patrick

    I really don’t see that many LW that are better than Moulson, other than the elite superstars, of which Hall falls into. I do not see that caps having enough “shiny things” to get Hall. Moulson could be a steal and a reason why I think we should go after him. One key point to remember as well is we will have Kuznetsov coming over( hopefully) at the end of the season. He could slot in at 2 LW with Grabo and Fehr/Brouwer. Giving us a pretty stacked Top6 and three solid skilled left handed players in MOJO, Moulson, and Kuz. One other option that I highly doubt would happen would be to go after Marion Gaborik. Yes i know he is hurt but I think he could be had for very little. When he is healthy in my opinion he is still a lethal goal scorer who would be a perfect add to our top6.

  • Sisyphus

    Agreed Moulson could be had for cheap. That said, I’m not sure he’s the caliber of player we really need on that top line. We need someone considered to be a very serious scoring threat–the idea is to make opposing teams realize they have to seriously defend RW AND LW. I’m just not sure Moulson strikes fear into the hearts of the opposing team all that much. But would be a serviceable option.
    I say the Caps go after the elite LW however. Worst case is the teams say no deal, and then we move on to guys like Moulson. As for placing too much hope on Kuz….well, not sure I believe any of his hype until I see him actually over here, playing, and healthy

  • Patrick

    Trust me I do realize that there are better options than Moulson but are there any realistic chances of the caps trading for that left winger. I have attached a list of some of the best left wingers in the league. Ahead of Moulson are players that would require a kings ransom to receive. Is Moulson the best players we can get, no, but he is a player that could really help the team to win a cup

  • McPhee

    I agree that Oates is given too much credit for his great 20 game run at the end of last season and reigniting Ovechkin. I don’t know what to think of him or his system. Plus his lines and use of players gives me headaches. I think his stubbornness will be his downfall unless he can learn to adapt.

    I also believe that the standard hasn’t been high enough in washington during the Ovechkin era. Too often it just feels as if they were way too satisfied with having a good season and making the playoffs to see what happens.

    Still think the worst thing that happened was forcing Bruce B to implement the trap and completely change his system and ultimately firing him. His track record has been incredible and how many coaches in other sports had to go through years before eventually breaking through in the playoffs. Bill Cower in Pittsburg didn’t win a Super Bowl until his last season. What if they had given up on him after a couple playoff exits?

    Sure Beaudreau fizzled out early with some impressive teams but those teams were soo close to breaking though. A few pieces away and maybe a minor adjustment to the system.

    I miss the 2007-2009 Capitals so much and keep holding out hope that were on our way back to that point but starting to realize the Caps are a mediocre team with a few exceptional pieces. If Kuzya and a few other top end prospects pan out this team could have another window in a couple years.

  • AlexanderSemin

    I know teams don’t like to trade within their division, especially if it’s your bitter rival, but trading with the Penguins might make sense. Pittsburg is looking for a scoring winger to flank Sidney Crosby to replace Pascal Dupuis, who’s a solid veteran 2-way forward with a decent scoring touch. Erat would also probably be able to play his natural RW position, which might be part of his problem in Washington.

    I read on NHL Trade Rumors that Pittsburg is dangling D- Simon Despres (6’4″/230lbs) as trade bait to replace Dupuis. Pittsburgh has a glut of blue-chip-to-high end defensive prospects in their system, and with Olli Maatta playing so well Despres has become expendable. By the way, the Capitals could have drafted Olli Maatta in 2012 but passed on him for Tom Wilson. Not that I’m not excited for Wilson, but given our teams needs it Olli Maatta would look really nice in a capitals sweater right now. Maatta looks like he might develop into a quality top pairing defenseman.

    Another reason I like this move is that it clears up around $3.5MM in cap space for the Capitals (Despres is still on his ELC), which gives us more flexibility to make other moves.

    The Panthers could use a young talented goalie to replace Tim Thomas after this season…..maybe Neuvy is a fit there. Shawn Matthias & Tom Gilbert for Michal Neuvirth???

  • Kevin F.

    No F16? We need his secondary scoring. My lines would be-
    90-19-2
    16-84-8
    25-10-42
    21-83-43
    IMO Erat is starting to play center much better and is getting alot of scoring chances that will soon go in. Laich, Beagle, Wilson make a pretty good 4th line that can play good D and create some scoring chances, with Wilson not just playing along the wall in our zone like he was. I think Wilson is improving but definitely not enough to warrant MattyP’s trade. Brouwer and OVI and even F16 could be interchangeable depending on D match ups. Ward and Chimera work much better with a skilled pivot that’s why I don’t have Laich there. If Erat can start scoring it would be huge for the CAPS in more ways than one. Peace I’m out.

  • Eric Schulz

    I’d be surprised if Ovie didn’t get to 62, honestly.
    GMGM – awful. I don’t think he’s made a single trade I like since the early Boudreau years. I thought the Forsberg trade was by far the worst trade I could think of from the last 10 years in the NHL. Erat asking out of Washington makes it even worse. Awful, awful trade. I didn’t see where Erat fit on this team (Oates agrees!), he is overpaid even if he’s on a team that he fits on, Forsberg is on a cheap ELC, and the Caps had too much cap tied up to make a dumb trade like that. His drafting is above average-to-very good (we could’ve had Teravainen and Erne instead of Wilson and Burakovsky, which is what I would’ve done, but overall he’s done a solid job finding value late, and a good job of picking up enough picks to be able to gamble, like he did on Semin). His signings are spotty. Adding Grabovski was great, of course, but then again, everybody (outside of Toronto) knew Grabovski was the best FA available last year. Signing Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, and Laich to MONSTER deals was monumentally stupid. The Green deal hurts a lot (although at times he’s dynamic, and it’s hard to figure we’d be able to replace him if he left, or get proper value in a trade), the Laich deal is MURDERING us. Ovie’s and Backstrom’s deals don’t hurt, really, but we aren’t getting value on those deals; they are probably fair. If you are getting only proper value, why would you lock somebody up to such a long deal? Just sign a guy to a 4-5 year deal, then you can sign him again after that to a 3-4 year deal; even if it ends up being for about the same, that buys you flexibility (how great would that be?). There’s nothing wrong with that; if he falls off, you can get him for less, and if he doesn’t, you have no problem signing him to a fair deal, but this way you have the knowledge of knowing what the cap is, and how much you can sink into one or two players.
    Letting Semin walk was horrible. It typified the stupid overreaction to not winning the Cup that has killed this team. We used to be a contender, now we aren’t, and it’s because GMGM saw that we didn’t win, and instead of thinking “the playoffs are so fluky, as will be the case in a small sample size, so we should just stay the course, develop players, and hope we get some breaks; also, not having a rookie goalie, having a veteran, would be awesome,” he thought “we have TOO MUCH SKILL, let’s change this team” and he did. Stupid. I like Brouwer, Ward, guys like that, but that’s essentially the entire team now. Adding some grit is fine, but replacing skill with grit doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially if you don’t add any on the blueline. Rewind back to the Forsberg trade; I’d’ve kept him, he was too great of an asset to give up, UNLESS YOU ADD THE RIGHT BLUELINER. That would’ve been the piece you’d be willing to give up a top-tier prospect for, not ANOTHER 3rd line winger, especially an overpaid one. We don’t even have much on the blueline in the pipeline. We may still add some nice pieces, with Neuvirth on the block, but I have absolutely no faith that we won’t go ahead and move our young players out for tapped-out middling, overpaid vets.

  • Eric Schulz

    Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of IDIOCY, not insanity. Think about it, if somebody kept trying to pull a door open, and it didn’t open, wouldn’t you say “what an idiot?” You wouldn’t say “he’s crazy,” would you? I hate that. It’s the definition of stupid, idiocy, anything like that.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, I loved the Varly trade, on both sides. And, at this point, it seems pretty clear it was a great trade for both sides.. you know, until we turned hitting the lottery (getting the 2nd best player in the draft at 11) into an overpaid, redundant 3rd line winger.
    I’m hoping we make a similar move with Neuvy. I am 90% confident we will. Then, I hope we keep the prospects we draft/acquire due to the trade and develop them; I am 100% confident we screw up that part.

  • Eric Schulz

    The problem is, Ovie is still relatively young (although nearing – probably – the end of his prime), and we could’ve kind of reloaded.. then we blew that. We could’ve had a young core of Ovie, Backstrom, Grabovski, Fehr, plus young developing/improving guys like Johansson, Kuznetsov, Forsberg, Wilson, Burakovsky, and supplemented that with veterans like Brouwer, Ward, Chimera, Beagle… with Holtby, Grubauer, and Neuvy in net, we would have enough pieces to supplement a blueline of Alzner, Carlson, Green, Orlov, Schmidt, Oleksy, Erskine, and Hillen. We obviously need more physicality (and just better defense) from the defensemen there, but we’d have flexibility to acquire that, with so much youth. We moved Forsberg, which really hurt because he don’t have so much in the pipeline that you can move another guy, and even if we could, we couldn’t fit in another contract since Erat is so massively overpaid (not that he’s the only one on the Caps). And, we need those young guys because we can’t afford to pay anybody on a non-ELC. We could’ve rolled with, say
    Johansson – Backstrom – Ovie
    Fehr – Grabovski – Forsberg
    Brouwer – Kuznetsov – Burakovsky
    Chimera – Laich – Wilson
    Alzner – Carlson
    Orlov – [TRADE]
    Green – Schmidt
    Holtby
    Grubauer
    with Ward, Beagle, and Oleksy as healthy scratches, and we could move Neuvy for that 4th defenseman. Erskine and Hillen would be expendable too, although I don’t see what they would net us, but I’d take whatever picks for them just to clear them out (and rebuild the farm system). If we could reverse the Forsberg and Perreault trades, we’d have enough depth that we could trade even Kuznetsov and Neuvy and get back a very, very good blueliner, and still have enough young skill players with Forsberg and Burakovsky (and Wilson, depending on how he develops), in addition to still-in-their prime guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Grabovski, Fehr, and Perreault.
    Instead, we moved young talent out by moving Forsberg and Perreault needlessly… and compounding those massive mistakes, we took back Erat, which KILLED our flexibility (as has been mentioned, we have like $200,000 in cap space, worst in the league. Look at this roster, and tell me how we have the least cap space in the NHL.. Unbelievable).

  • Eric Schulz

    In Oates’ defense, he’s still new to the team, so I wouldn’t knock him for having to play guys together for a while in order to figure out what works. Also, Erat asking for a trade… that’s on McPhee, because he acquired a guy that we didn’t have room for on this team. Not Oates’ fault he couldn’t find room for him; if McPhee had any idea what our roster looked like, he would NEVER have made that trade, because he would’ve A) figured out that we had no spot for Erat, B) realized we couldn’t afford Erat, or C) both.

    I think you are being WAY too generous to McPhee. He drafts well… but how good is that if you are just going to use our great prospects to acquire middling, massively overpaid players, or mid-round picks? I think he was the one telling Oates to NOT play Orlov, until Oates figured out he is an idiot.

    As far as gearing for the future… I mean, I don’t think there’s necessarily this clear, definitive line between contending and rebuilding. I hate when teams say “we aren’t rebuilding, we are reloading” because it always comes from teams that SHOULD be rebuilding, but we could’ve contended with guys like Ovie, Backstrom, Grabovski, Fehr, Alzner, Carlson, Green, and Holtby supplemented by more gritty types like Brouwer, Laich, Chimera, and Ward, all while slowly bringing up prospects like Kuznetsov, Forberg, Wilson, and Burakovsky…
    We immediately stopped being contenders when we let Semin walk, but with the emergence of an elite or near-elite goalie we could maybe get back up there, at least to being quasi-contenders, while waiting on the youth, and once Kuznetsov, Forsberg, and Burakovsky were hitting their prime, Ovie and Backstrom would still be beast 2nd line players (past their prime, but immensely talented 2nd liners), and we could’ve gotten there again… and had Green and/or Laich recovered their late-aughts form, and/or we got lucky, we could’ve been competing WHILE waiting for those guys. It just seems like there’s no plan for now OR the future, just flailing in an effort to NOT be like we were when we were contenders but DIDN’T win… as if there was a problem with contending, or as if the problem WASN’T goaltending (3 straight rookies in the playoffs… not great). It’s just hard being a fan right now.