Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn
The folks who were clamoring for more hockey coverage by Washington Post columnists are probably kicking themselves right now. Mike Wise’s Thursday night column, “It’s time for the Washington Capitals to move defenseman Mike Green,” is a jumble of ill-advised analysis culminating in that titular recommendation, which doesn’t make sense.
In his defense, Wise’s piece is charming, and he does a splendid job summarizing the Capitals woes. I don’t think anyone would disagree with his first sentence:
Something has to change.
But Wise’s choice of Thing What Needs Changing is totally capricious, and I hope no one in the Capitals front office takes it seriously.
Mike Green has one more season left on his hefty $6M contract. While unloading that cash would be attractive for a cap-strapped team like Washington, it’s also pretty unlikely. Green’s value as a trade asset has plummeted in the last three years due with injury. Even if the Caps could convince another team to take him on, it seems unlikely that would happen without a) retaining some of his salary, or b) getting an inferior player in return.
And besides– and this part is important: Mike Green is good.
While Karl Alzner and John Carlson take on the toughest competition, Green is still the best on the Caps blue line at limiting opponent shot attempts. But despite that, Caps goalies are allowing more goals when he’s on the ice than any other D-man.
|Player||Opponent Shot Attempts / 20||Save %|
That save percentage goes a long way to explaining Mike Green’s awful plus-minus rating, which Wise identifies an indicator of Green’s problems.
This is the part where I point out that a Serious, Salaried Writer should not be using plus-minus to evaluate players. It’s a statistic that measures players by things that are beyond their control– their goalies’ save percentage and their linemates’ shooting percentages. It’s a volatile stat that doesn’t persist well from year to year. It’s noise.
I don’t want to dismiss legitimate criticisms of Green’s defense. He sees a lot of odd-man breaks, and he hasn’t exactly been spectacular at shutting them down.
But while Green’s coverage of those rushes has been bad, the problem of allowing them is a systemic one, not an individual one. The blame for all the breakaways falls on Adam Oates and defensive coach Calle Johansson. Moving Green won’t fix the problem, and it might make it worse.
That’s because the Capitals defensive corps is pretty shallow. If Green, who ranks second in time on ice, were to leave, it’d fall upon someone else to take those extra shifts. Someone like John Erskine or Connor Carrick.
Put another way: Green is a top-4 defenseman. If he’s gone, who steps up?
So far this has all been a discussion of Green’s defensive performance, but we shouldn’t discount his role on the powerplay. We went over this back in November, but Green is an excellent quarterback for the league’s third-best power play, where he ranks fourth in points and first among defensemen.
So, no. It is not time for the Washington Capitals to move Mike Green. Maybe three years ago it was, but not now. And that’s not to say the Caps shouldn’t make a move; they absolutely should. Just not this one.
The Capitals are overpaying Joel Ward, Brooks Laich, and Troy Brouwer. Martin Erat and Michal Neuvirth want to leave. Alex Ovechkin’s linemates don’t score.
Oates does not deploy his lines effectively. He pairs up forwards who do not play well together. His system doesn’t result in dominant puck possession. He plays the hot-hand goalie in back-to-back games. He scratches some of his best players.
Trading Green will solve exactly none of those problems. It will just introduce more.
I enjoy Mike Wise as a writer. His self-effacing style is always fun, and he’s certainly clever. I choose to read this column as only half-serious, as a genuine demand that something must change with the Capitals. We can all agree with that. But the actual substance of this column is shallow and capricious. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to read on only the most amateurish of Internet forums. Blogs.
— Peter Hassett (@peterhassett) January 24, 2014