Photo: Jamie Sabau

This is going to be brutal, but it needs to be said.

The Washington Capitals are one of the worst teams in the league. This is the most frustrated I’ve been with a Capitals’ team since 2001-02, when that version of the Caps missed the playoffs despite acquiring Jaromir Jagr over the summer

I’d be more okay with the Capitals’ play this season — sometimes teams just don’t gel — if they were actually a bunch of terrible players playing terribly. But this team is loaded with a good core: a three-time MVP, one of the best centers in the game, three above-average defensemen, an above-average goaltender, and a bunch of intelligent veteran players. Unfortunately, the players in front of Braden Holtby either repeatedly make the same dumb mistakes, are too passive on defense, or are too careless with the puck.

There is no urgency with this team despite their difficult upcoming schedule and their recent seven-game losing streak. In the last two games, the Caps have given up nine goals against the Sabres and the Blue Jackets. Nine goals. Against the Buffalo freaking Sabres and the Columbus effing Blue Jackets.

Let’s review the Columbus goals. I want you to understand my pain.

Columbus’s First Goal, Shorthanded

As Martin Erat poorly dumps the puck around the boards on the power play, Sergei Bobrovsky stops it behind the net. Alex Ovechkin watches.


As a Blue Jackets defenseman zings the puck around the boards, Alex Ovechkin — the other defenseman on the power play — watches.


John Carlson, who probably should have just given up the blue line, is unable to corral the puck. Notice he has no help. The Blue Jackets go down the ice and score shorthanded. Two dudes make bad plays. The Captain of the team has a front row seat to the goal despite hustling back.


Columbus’s Second Goal, Even-strength

As Jack Johnson takes a shot from the point, Nicklas Backstrom loses his man, Ryan Johansen. Connor Carrick plays soft in front of the net.


A screened Braden Holtby gives up a huge rebound. Goal.


Columbus’s Third Goal, Four-on-four

This one was bad. Brandon Dubinsky skates into the Caps zone while the two teams skated four-on-four. He skates in one against three. John Carlson meekly puts his stick out to try and block the shot. Instead Carlson deflects the puck seven-hole past Holtby. Wave to Ovi at the top right. Not his fault, but he’s watching again.

This goal should happen 0 times out of 100.


Columbus’s Fourth Goal, Even-strength

This was a great play by Johansen, but dear lord it should not have resulted in a goal. Johansen curls-and-drags around Marcus Johansson. That’s as close to posterized as you’ll get in hockey. Erskine — who’s supposed to be a physical presence — doesn’t push his man out of the paint, forcing Holtby to play deep in net. Then young Connor Carrick guards an imaginary person whom I cannot located. Look at this screenshot. All five Capitals players are around the puck. They still can’t stop the goal from happening.


Columbus’s Fifth Goal, Even-strength

On the Blue Jackets’ final goal of the night , the dagger that ended the comeback, Connor Carrick reverses the puck to a phantom player around the boards.


Matt Calvert picks up the turnover, but the Capitals get in good position. They recover. Good!


Calvert then puts his head down and goes to the net. Carrick follows his man; Dmitry Orlov is guarding the paint. Backstrom is in good position. All someone needs to do here is make a clutch stick check.


That does not happen. Calvert blows through Backstrom and Carrick. Carrick leaves his man to try and break up the play.


Calvert passes to Carrick’s wide-open man, Cam Atkinson, with a pass. Atkinson has a layup goal.


In my opinion, all five goals were the fault of skaters, not goaltending. I would have loved to see Braden bail the team out with a save on that long-range, deflected shot by Dubinsky though.

This pathetic outing follows a game where veteran Jason Chimera was criticized on national TV for giving up on a play while shorthanded to complain to a ref.

The Caps haven’t been a good defensive team for years. Even when they brought the Presidents’ Trophy to Washington, they still gave up the 13th most shots and the 15th most goals. What we see now, however, is much worse. George McPhee has spent to the salary cap but has not assembled a viable winning roster. There are problems with effort, concentration, and decision making, which can be corrected. There are problems with the systems, which can be adjusted. There are problems with the lineup, which can be changed.

What happened in Columbus is not acceptable for this franchise, which has come too far in the last decade to blow it now.

  • Topher Gee

    It felt like I saw the F3 over compensating for the lack of D last night. You are right we haven’t been a good defensive team in years but when you dial back on the aggressive “SCOAR MOAR GOALS” this is going to happen in the transition. We are going to have to give up some of the forwards that we all love to get some help in the D.

  • Patrick Neimeyer

    This better not be the solution of Oatesy IE the “Connor Carrick Experinece.” God bless them for trying but John Erskine and Connor Carrick on the back end is perhaps on par with having Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn playing defense.

  • Kate

    I think it’s for the best if they miss the playoffs.

  • Topher Gee

    It will put some reality into the situation.

  • FStreetFaithful

    As much as I hate to say it, I feel the system the coaching staff has implemented is just bad. In the offensive zone, it results in a lot of board play and point-to-point passes. At times, this creates a good cycle, but the puck never gets to the slot. In fact, they rarely get a player into the slot. Down low, they run the same little cycle that occasionally ends up in a goal, but more often than not, makes them look like a whirlpool in the corner. I also think they miss the net too often on the rush, leading to chances the other way. The defensive zone is similar, they fail to control the slot, especially around the crease. I’ve lost count the number of times an opposing player sets up in front of the net and nobody even bothers him. This is especially noticeable on the power play. I understand players can’t just cross check screeners like they used to, but you can do more than just ignore him. It’s basically like they just try to cut him off from the rest of his team, but it fails time and time again. The failed clears stand out to me especially because I feel that this team has struggled with that going all the way back to Hanlon. I truly want Oates to succeed, but this system just doesn’t seem to be producing results.

  • DCHammer

    Discipline, determination, and desire to win from top to bottom. This team has a country club attitude. Carry your weight or you’re out. McPhee has actively demonstrated he needs to be replaces. And the D sucks. If this season ends, McPhee remains, and he has his usual post-season “I don’t really see a lot of things we need to change” speech – I’m done until he’s done.

  • Your illustrations on goals 3 through 5 show the most basic of ice hockey problems that the Caps have consistently had for the last 5 years: They play weak inside the dots in all three zones.

  • Bugs Fire

    From what I understand (and I am no expert, so help me out), there are basically two ways to play defense. Players can either play one-on-one with some switching (e.g. if Erskine given his size is guarding the paint then if opposition switches the screen player Erskine stays there) or have zone coverage with some switching depending on situation. I am not sure which system Caps are playing (if any), but what they clearly have a problem with as Ian’s excellent analysis emphasizes is communication.

    On the third goal (which, imho, was the actual dagger) Dubinsky dances around Ovie before enterening Caps zone. OK, Ovie is not a blueliner. But it seemes that Carlson and Alzner have no clue who is supposed to take care of it. This seems like a standard situation and they must have a plan already in place so it’s automatic.

    On the fifth goal, it seems that Backstrom is covering Calvert just fine. Yes, Calvert drives to the net, but if that is his only option Holtby shold be able to stop given that Backstrom will keep interfering with Calvert’s stick. Yet Carrick abandons his charge and tries to help, which turns a hard charge to the net which is unlikely to end in a goal into a prime passing opportunity. Once again, this seems like a rather standard situation where Carrick must know what the pre-approved plan is.

    This reminds me a bit of how Rangers looked early in the season when Vigneault was switching them from Tortorella’s system to his own. It takes time to readjust, but they did. Caps had this mess going on the whole season long.

    Which brings me, admittedly begrudgingly, to the point where I am ready to give up on Oates. I like many things about him. But either his system is just a list of sensible suggestions that are not really drilled into specific plays, or endless line shuffling just does not give players a chance to develop chemistry. Maybe it’s both, but I tend to think it’s the lack of attention to detail. Carlson plays with Alzner all the time, they should have no hesitation as to who takes care of Dubinsky. Carlson plays first D with Ovie on the PP all the time. He should know to back up when Ovie is deep and puck is coming around the boards with two Jackets ready to break away. Yes, if he corrals the puck and puts it back deep Caps are 4-on-2. But it’s a risky play and a wrong decision. At this point in the season right decisions should be automatic. Which brings us back to coaching and the question as to why nothing has changed since day one. I think it is beyond assuming that players just aren’t good enough. Coaches have responsibility.

  • Michael Riley

    What has Oates done that has created a positive impact for this team? People like to say he reinvigorated Ovi’s scoring but really the only reason #8 scoring was down was due to being in a terrible system that relied on winning games by going up 1-0 then playing the equivalent of an NFL prevent defense and blocking 30 shots per game.

  • Safoster

    Putting no fault on Holtby for the third goal isn’t right IMO. It was deflected, but deflected early. Holtby also tried to arm it instead of squaring the shot up. Bad position, bad goal, and you have to recognize that Holtby played it bad. You don’t address that here.

    Holtby has 91 starts in the NHL over four seasons. He’s never played a FULL season in the NHL, however. You keep saying he has “proven he is an above average GT in the NHL” by citing his career SV%. His SV% is trending down, and GAA is trending up. Does Oates’ system have to do with that? Yes. Does bad defense have to do with that? Yes. But he’s had a bad year and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that.

    IMO, the only thing Braden Holtby has “proven” in the NHL is that he’s wildly inconsistent.

  • John Atchison

    Ian, sadly I think you analysis is flawed my friend. You say we have 3 above average defensemen. I would say to you we have one above avg “Defense”men. Green and Carlson are very good offensive defensemen, but I would not call them above avg because they do not play an all around game. Carlson is getting better. Alzner is the only true defender. With the exception of Ovi, I dont see a consistent heart out of this team night in and night out. Nicky is a great center, but there is no fire there. Wilson has fire, but he needs to do more than fight. Obviously the real problem is George, because he built the team. He hamstrung it with horrible contracts that leave it with little room to help it out. That is why we field lines with average to below avg NHL talent in most cases. Ward is not a $4 mil player. Laich does not deserve his money. Green has flashes, but $6 mil is not paid to “flash” players. I am not even sure you can say we have an above avg tender at this point

  • northcountry

    I don’t think this team is quite Country Club as a couple of the Gabby led teams, (Montreal first round loss would be my example), that being said one thing that has plagued every caps team for the last 8 seasons is: poor possession, poor zone clearing, bad penalties (sasha), horrible ability to close or maintain a lead, and of course lack of depth to carry through the playoffs. I love Ovie, but we might as well be on a PPK every time he is out there, watch other great team leaders, they HUSTLE back even when they are up, not Ovie….its getting boring and predictable at this point.

  • Owen Johnson

    I kind of agree, but I just can’t root for that to happen. The playoffs are just too darn fun.

  • Owen Johnson

    I posted this earlier, but I feel like it needs to be said again.
    Even when our goaltending is mediocre, I can’t blame losses on the man between the pipes. Our defense is so bad, any less-than-herculean effort from the goalie gets magnified.
    Holtby didn’t have a good game last night, but his teammates sure as hell didn’t help him out.

  • I understand why you’re questioning his influence on Ovechkin now because the entire team is floundering. But I still think he deserves a ton of credit for having the kahones to switch Ovi to his correct wing. Oates’ 1-3-1 power play is copied and used by a lot of teams now. Then consider how Ovechkin has become a more versatile scorer. Ovi trusts his teammates more to carry the puck, and he depends more on positioning to score.

    Ovechkin doesn’t try to use same move where he tries to use a defender as a screen to score. He doesn’t skate into the zone and try to score going 1-on-3 (and eventually turn the puck over). He shoots ALL the time.

    Oates has had a great influence on this guy and that shouldn’t be lost. Now the rest of the team? :/

  • Rob W.

    They have been careless with the puck all season so is it fair to think that they wont turn it around at all for the remainder of the year? Getting rid of Calle is the first step to solving the problem then getting some defensemen who play the body and not puck watch all game is the next step. Sell at the trade deadline to get picks and ill be happy

  • Matt Lauer

    Yup, I agree, Ian. Been thinking the same basic stuff for a while now. I’m basically at the point where all I do after a game is tell jokes.

  • northcountry

    Agreed Kate. But you got rid of Sasha, and Gabby and Hunter etc…..whats the pattern here. I like the Rangers because they all play tough, block shots. Im tired of the Green’s and Ovie’s I want guys that hustle back up the ice and lay down, block shots and don’t take stupid penalties. I want a team that can win games, not score lots of goals. Bury forever MOAR score
    How about just win a game, how about just make the playoffs, how about not give up a goal every 15 seconds after you score?

  • Matt Lauer

    Yup, especially because I don’t think a rebuild would take all that long.

  • Owen Johnson

    “Ovechkin doesn’t try to use same move where he tries to use a defender as a screen to score.”
    Actually he did once last night, but that’s maybe the first or second time I’ve seen that this season.

  • Bugs Fire

    And there maybe lies the real problem. Yes, Ovie is great (until he gets frustrated by putting up Gretzky-like numbers while missing the playoffs) but all it does it sells tickets. So in an unfortunate way, improved Ovie is even worse for the team, because they feel even less pressure to perform.

    I do like Adam Oates. I do wish him success. His only excuse is that he is a rookie coach. Because an NHL coach should be able to walk (i.e. re-invigorate Ovie) and chew gum (coach the team to the point where they can win half of their games without Ovie’s magic).

  • “Putting no fault on Holtby for the third goal isn’t right IMO. ”

    I think Holtby would have made that save 100 out of 100 times if Carlson didn’t even try to block it. He also screens Holtby’s view of the puck. Former Caps goalie Brent Johnson said as much last night, post-game on CSN.

    It’s a bad goal, and obviously it would have been nice to see him come up with a save there. But the point of this post is to illustrate how little help he’s getting.

    On your last point: “IMO, the only thing Braden Holtby has “proven” in the NHL is that he’s wildly inconsistent.”

    I would disagree. I think he’s a very consistent player. Though I do think the lack of consistent playing time has affected him. The terrible team defense has affected him. Olie Kolzig having him play less aggressive and deeper in net has affected him too.

    But I am not worried about Braden Holtby (or Michal Neuvirth or Philipp Grubauer).

  • Green, Alzner, and Carlson are above average.

    Alzner and Carlson face really tough competition with crappy zone deployment night after night. Green is a puck driving offensive defenseman.

  • kmostergard

    Alright, I’m going to lay it out, and try to keep my emotions in check (that post would be short and along the lines of #Bench70 #Trade52and10 and #FireGMGM), and I’ll offer my suggested fixes at the end of each point.

    First, much to Peter’s chagrin, I’m going to talk about goaltending. I know what the #FancyStats say, and honestly, I don’t care. Our goal tending is INCONSISTENT. The numbers may balance out to equal an “above average goaltender” (take a shot every time you read that on this blog), but if one week is crap and the next is amazing – we still lose games, and points. FIXES: Get a new goalie coach. I love Godzilla as much as the next guy, but I’m not convinced he can get our goalies to the places they need to be. Kids come up from Hershey, play amazing, and then spend a few months in his system and become inconsistent. How many times does this have to happen before we say there is something wrong with the system?

    Now, it is NOT, and I say again – NOT – all the goalie’s fault. Our play in front of them has been terrible. Some players have had off nights. John Carlson wasn’t that impressive last night, but on the whole, does us pretty well. Erskine is past his prime (when was that, again?) and Carrick needs more development time. Green is about as consistent as jello. FIXES: Let’s get some new blood in our D. Green needs to go. Package him up with Erat and let’s make a deal. Offer up something crazy to get his salary off our books. Volpatti and Erskine can go as well. Somebody, somewhere, has to have some D to spare.

    Moving on to our forwards – I’ve read the criticism of Ovi over and over and over again. He doesn’t play D. In almost 10 years now, we’ve known full well what he can and can’t do. Playing D just isn’t his thing. He isn’t Crosby. That being said, his resume speaks for itself. Sure, we wall want him to, but he just won’t. Take it or leave it – and I’ll take leading the league in goals over a 2-way player here (assuming the rest of the line isn’t the same). Wilson just makes me angry. Somebody get that kid in check and stop talking about his potential until he learns some discipline. Brouwer, Mojo, Chimera, Fehr, and Laich should be beaten with sticks by Oates until they learn to crash the damn net. FIXES: I don’t know how much clearer it gets: get in the paint, get in the goal. They’re not doing anything on the outside, so let’s put them inside and see what happens. How about it, AO? UNSUNG HEROES: Jay Beagle, Joel Ward.

    Finally, coaching. I don’t know how AO is in the locker room, but if it were my team, I’d be PISSED. It wouldn’t kill him to light a fire under them every once in a while, without the useless benching of top talent that gets us nowhere. FIXES: Put your pride aside and get back to hockey basics.

    So, in summary:

    -Trade Erat and Green for Top-6 D talent.
    -Fire Kolzig.
    -Put your pride aside.

    At least if we did those things I wouldn’t be upset about my season ticket dollars.

  • John Atchison

    Peter my point is still the same. This team lacks gritty defense first guys. I think Carlson is a nice piece and will only get better. I, in no way, consider Green above average. There was a time when offensively he was among the best. But as an all around defensemen, there is no way he is above avg

  • I think he used it to score a goal on a rush like 20 games ago too. Offensively he’s been super this year.

  • Green is an above average defender. The stats back it up.

    Next time he plays, watch how many easy chips, how quickly he gets the puck out of the zone. How few turnovers he makes. When Green has a solid defensive game, you don’t even notice him.

    I do think he could challenge himself to play odd man breaks better, but to be honest, when he’s been healthy, I think he’s been the Caps best — defensive defenseman — for the last three or four years.

  • bggb

    Strongly disagree. I think Green is perfectly decent/average/whathaveyou at defense, and well worth the offense he brings to the table.

    There’s no reason 74/27/52 and a good stay at home guy can’t be one of the best defensive corps in the league.

  • John Atchison

    Ian, with a straight face, can you tell me he is a $6 mil a year defenseman? Do you put him on par with Chara, Suter, etc?

  • bggb

    “and a bunch of intelligent veteran players.”


  • Shaggy

    Three words.
    Calle. Must. Go.

  • Michael Woolford


  • John Atchison

    You make my point. He is perfectly avg as a defender. Oh, and one can look at the past 3 seasons and calmly state he is still not the same offensive force. In bursts, maybe. My point is, Green is not a $6 mil a year D-man. Guys that make that money are forces on their D. A “perfectly avg Defenseman” does not merit that contract

  • I can elaborate: Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich, etc. All of these guys I would consider leaders on this team that know how to play the right way.

    What’s your actual question though? Or did you just want to mock me?

  • Bugs Fire

    Green has shortcomings, mostly as a result of prior injuries and being too self-protective. But to understand his impact on this team, consider this – Columbus game is how Caps look like without him.

  • For this team and the lack of depth it has on defense? Yes, he is worth $6 million. It would be even worse without him.

    Also, John, they NEED someone like Chara, Suter, etc on top of what they already have.

  • Bugs Fire

    Is it fair to say that you are criticizing GM, not Mike Green? And I think the point was he is fine/average on D. What makes him above average overall is his offence.

  • Lawrence

    I don’t see a lot of these issues being caused by the coaching staff. Its the roster and sadly that’s much harder to fix. As much as I love the players on this team, we have way too many “overpaid grinders” (Laich, Brouwer, Ward, Chim, Erat, entire 4th line). This might sound a bit harsh, but our skilled players are a bit overrated and can’t make up for the lack of talent throughout the rest of the roster. Look at how bad we looked without Ovi for those games. Ovechkin means more to this team than any other player means to a team in the entire nhl (and its not even close, that was not the extreme case it is now a few years ago).

    Players like Mojo, Laich, Brouwer, Erat, and even Fehr to some degree would not be in good teams top 6 and especially not together in the top 6. That just covers the offense, which is the better part of this roster. The defense is a complete train wreck full of young players who aren’t being groomed properly and goons who cant skate very well 🙁 (well maybe just 1).

    It’s hard not to blame McPhee, but I think he listened to the fan base way too much after that Halak series. He jeopardized our talented roster and changed our teams direction in hopes of getting a better playoff team, but the strength of the team has been gutted way. Now we can just hope to make the playoffs and get lucky. Which who knows, maybe it will happen, but don’t be fooled, our chances are much worse with this roster. If you look around the league, the rosters have gotten more talented, defensive schemes are more profound, teams have identities, rosters make sense, etc. These are qualities that the capitals are lacking right now, some of which they weren’t just a few years ago. Like I said, I don’t blame the coaching staff nearly as much as the rosters. The coach can only do so much with a roster like this.

    Now that said, I still love the players on this team. I will still follow them through the terribleness we have to endure too often. Yes I even like Laich (lol) and I obviously hope they prove me wrong, but this is what I honestly think has happened to the team. They were much better a few years ago. I just hope that McPhee doesn’t make a terrible trade that dooms us for years to come (again) before he gets the boot.

  • rotational

    I remember some talk last year that essentially (and paraphrasing) Oates’ system and style wasn’t meshing with the talent on the team once you got past the elite guys like Ovi and Nick. Not agreeing or disagreeing with that, but curious if you feel it has any validity at this point.

  • Michael Riley

    Agree with Erat and Green for Top-6 D talent. Been thinking about this for a couple weeks now.

  • I’m concerned about the current make-up of the roster. I’m concerned with the dumb mistakes they constantly make (which makes me concerned about coaching). I’m concerned about their defense. I’m concerned about Brooks Laich, his salary, and if he’ll ever be healthy again. I’m concerned that three players asked for trades. I’m concerned we carried three goaltenders for a month and a half and the logic behind that. I’m still concerned we traded one of the best prospects in the game for Martin Erat, when the team was going nowhere.

    For whatever reason, I’m not as concerned with Oates’ system as I am with the fact that he or the coaching staff haven’t really adjusted much as the team defense continues to be insufferably bad. If you remember Glen Hanlon, he would stop playing so open and would have played more trapping hockey.This team doesn’t really change its strategy much – at least from what I can tell.

  • Hitt

    We don’t have any experience behind the bench. The defense looks terrible under Calle and I don’t really see a system under Oates, not enough experience for this team. I said it from the get go we should have hired Hitchcock when we fired Bruce. I almost think GMGM is scared of a coch with experience, anyway this team is very boring to watch. Alzner, Carlson, and green are good ( not 6 mil a year good but good). GMGM has failed when u look at the other Dmen though. Laich and Brouwer are 3rd liners and nothing more, Wilson looks better than Brouwer. Holtby looks awful when I watch him play but he also gets hung out to dry, carrack and erskine on the PK YOLO! Need a new GM and a new coaching staff with experience. Laich must be bought out and trbo and erase need to be traded along with nuevy, u want out the. Good by. With a couple creative moves and FA signings we could be competitive, maybe even draft a player capable of contributing.

  • Bugs Fire

    A lot of what you say is true, but I would disagree that this is the best that can be done with this roster. Ovie looked great with Fehr and Grabo, yet this line was hastily scratched. Backstrom perhaps should be a threat of his own, not just a guy who delivers the puck to #8. And, yes, Erat. Say what you want about his lack of scoring, but to sit him in favor of Volpatti does not fit the “best we can do” line. Brouwer-Laich? Mistakes were made, no doubt. What’s troubling is that they persist.

    D is a different story. And still, why isn’t Erskine told to clear the crease? He can at least try, but the fact that he does not indicates this is the plan.

  • Jack Conness

    Clean house. Start fresh. Let’s look forward to the playoffs in 2015. If the right moves are made, we definitely can compete next year. We just have to start NOW.

  • Michael Riley

    Wonder is any team would even consider that trade though. Erat has ZERO value now and Green’s value has taken a plunge due to subpar play this year.

  • bggb

    “he’s not above average” and “he’s overpaid” are two very different arguments.

  • Jack Conness

    Is wrong.

  • bggb

    I think team-intelligence/hockey-smarts and veteran leadership are something this roster has been lacking for the better part of a decade.

    I think Ward and probably Laich are very hockey-smart (though sadly neither brings a ton of talent to the table), but personally I don’t think the rest of the names you listed are particularly intelligent.

    Not to the point that they provide veteran leadership, stability and other nebulous things I like to complain about.

  • Jack Conness

    Exactly. If we start making some moves now for next year, we will be a much better team 2014-2015. We just have to start doing that right now.

  • Safoster

    You make good points, and I agree he’s getting little help. The defense being iced is not adequate. My main point is you guys are big on sample size and Holtby’s is pretty small to crown him a legit no. 1 or above average in the NHL. Steve Mason at 91 starts was in the middle of a mediocre sophomore season, but coming off a Vezina Trophy. It was too early to crown him elite, and it’s too early to crown Holtby above average.

    I guess Holtby just maddens me sometimes. There are goals where he seems to display lack of focus – see 1st goal 1st period NSH game where he casually tries to glove and lets in a wide angled shot, an error puckhandling – see goal vs NJD where he rammed it around the boards and didn’t get back in net, and he can throw up a shutout and then give up 4 and 5 in back to back games.

    I really do know he’s not getting the help he needs. But I am worried about him, because he’s regressed. Just my opinion but I don’t think it’s right to absolve the goaltenders of all guilt this season.

  • Hitt

    Should have never let Jim Johnson go, I wish we could get a coach like sutter or Hitchcock that could run a good system. The overall team D needs to improve and 90-19-8 are too much of a defensive liability.

  • bggb

    To which I’d add: if one of the 3-4 best defenders in the NHL is available, I’d love to get him. Don’t think that’s the case though.

  • bggb

    Yeah I don’t see much evidence that he’s good at his job.

  • kmostergard

    How do you explain his incredible ability to turn over the puck? I agree, he is very talented – when he isn’t creating odd man rushes for the opponent.

    I don’t hate him, and think he should be playing while he is here. Given AO’s apparent hatred of him, though, I think we should unload him.

  • Yes, he is.

  • “worth his salary” is not the same thing as “above average”

  • Michael Riley

    That is what is super frustrating. Erat has good talent but zero trade value because of Oates.

  • JGP

    I do think this comes down to coaching. Oates appears to be an excellent offensive mind. But the little mistakes that players make are his responsibility as a head coach. So Wilson fighting at the wrong times, lots of dumb penalties, poor line makeup, the Chimmer example above, scratches that don’t make a ton of sense, etc. come down to him. I can barely stomach bringing in yet another head coach, but GMGM has tried this young guy/first-time HC thing a few times with varying degrees of success but none past the second round. Ron Wilson was the one guy who got us to the Finals. I’m on board with a Laviolette or another experienced guy with the resume to hold players accountable.

    Question for everyone, if I may: would anyone support trading someone young but talented, even a Kuznetsov, if it meant getting 2-3 years of a proven veteran? No specific examples, but are we prepared to give some of the young guys 3-5 years to really mature while Ovie, Nicky and MoJo get older?

  • rotational

    Can’t disagree with any of that. I keep trying to reconcile how this team can go out and play amazing hockey some nights (and not just bottom feeding on scrubs but playing at a solid, high level) and then look like whatever it is we saw last night.

    A new GM is still the team’s most pressing need. Whatever the dysfunction(s) with this team, nothing substantive is going to get fixed until there’s a new approach to talent evaluation/acquisition/etc.

  • Stardawg

    The only thing we would get out of having an elite goalie in net is another trade request

  • Green ranks 33rd out of 133 defenseman in puck possession despite being on a team that is below average at that skill. That’s the top quartile, i.e. above average.

    He allows fewer shots against than any other Caps D-man except Orlov

    He is in the top third in the league among restricting shots against

  • CSA

    “This is the most frustrated I’ve been with a Capitals’ team since 2001-02, when that version of the Caps missed the playoffs despite acquiring Jaromir Jagr over the summer”

    I was typing the same thing last night in the game recap but never hit submit because I was to depressed. I remember when Hanlon first came in and we sucked bad, like real bad. But those two years the team brought effort every single night and we were tough to play against – even opponents came in and said the same thing.

    Now we are soft as pillow to play against. There is no killer instinct what so ever. I wouldn’t be the least bit upset if there was another tempered sell off at some point this season. I would be more than happy to leave my Laich jersey in the closet if for some reason it became obsolete. We need some fresh blood and hopefully some of these younger guys that have impressed in camp will start coming along. I’m tired of the overpaid and under producing that happens so often on this team especially amongst the 2nd and 3rd liners.

  • Stardawg

    I’ve had something in the back of my head that I can’t quite remember. It was something another GM (possibly) said when the
    Caps were struggling early in Oates tenure. He said that the Caps weren’t smart enough to play Oates systems. I think he took a lot of flak for that statement. I wonder if he was right?

  • Lawrence

    Erskine just can’t keep up with skaters anymore, its as simple as that. He gets out-skated and out-skilled on a nightly basis. Let me ask you this, if you take out Brouwer and Laich from the top 6, who do you put into their spot? Trust me, I know how bad Brouwer and Laich are, but as sad as it may sound, they are probably the best choice for our top 6. Erat has better possession than both of those guys and he should, because hes a much better player, but hes having a pretty lackluster season (0g). If you take Erat off the 3rd line and say put Laich or Brouwer there, that 3rd line becomes even more terrible than it currently is. This is why I say the issue is directly with the roster and not the coach. I don’t agree with things Oates has done, but I think it has had little impact on how we are as a team. No coach would do well with this roster and that’s why I can’t blame him.

    Also, the point about Backstrom, he needs to be a lot better than he has been in the last couple weeks. The teams success relies completely on two – three players on the team, (Ovi, Backy, and Green who now looks to be out). I wish it wasn’t the roster, because anything else is a much easier fix. Firing a coach, getting a big name player, etc., is much easier than rebuilding a roster. At this point, as a fan of Ovi, if they do decide to rebuild, in a few years, I sincerely hope they trade him to a contender. If they go without a championship during Ovi’s prime years, they have wasted one of the best talents in hockey history.

  • Stardawg

    Yes, people need to stop getting on Greens case because of the rest of the teams play. He is def worth 6M a year

  • Chris Cerullo

    I agree. It needs to start this year though before the deadline with the roster. Scrap this year. I don’t think we can/should wait for the offseason. Then in the offseason we address the major problems with potential changes in the front office/coaching staff.

  • Shawn Murphy

    I think we all know what the real problem is obvious: Verizon Center is haunted.
    How many times in this post alone did you reference a Caps player neglecting their role because of a “phantom opponent”? Are you SERIOUSLY going to claim they were ALL mental mistakes?!
    TAKE OFF YOUR BLINDERS SHEEPLE! It’s clear what we’re dealing with here:
    Ice Ghosts.
    Now let’s just call up some exorcists and get this shit fixed

  • Stardawg

    I wonder how much Holtby’s invite to the Team Canada prelim camp and the possibility of being considered for the Canadian Olympic team has had on his season. Maybe he’s been trying a bit too hard? Putting more pressure on himself?

  • Stardawg

    Where the heck is GMGM in all of this? Seems like he’s in hiding.

  • Agree agree agree. Hit submit next time!

  • I don’t think that’s been the problem. Goaltending can sometimes be a team stat. If you have a bad, bad defense, the goalie is going to take that on the chin in his stats.

  • Eugene Chernov

    How about Lidstrom or Chelios as a def coach? 🙂

  • Chris Cerullo

    One flaw. This game was played in Columbus.

  • elguapo

    You hit the nail on the head – it’s effort. Plain and simple. They’re not hustling on defense. Ovi should take a lot of the blame on that. Show some damn HUSTLE. Reminds me of the Boudreau rant on 24/7. Stop feeling sorry for yourselves and go out there and SHOW THAT YOU EFFING WANT IT.

  • CSA

    LoL, I will. But it is sad, like for reals sad. I’ve been a fan of this team since 1st grade…so like 30 years. This team is mediocre at best, but we excel at mediocrity.

  • Shawn Murphy

    that is somewhat problematic.

  • VeggieTart

    Caps didn’t get rid of Hunter; he chose not to come back because he preferred his work with his junior team.

  • Stardawg

    I agree. I think Oates was on the right track splitting up Backstrom and Ovi. I think Ovi needs to play with guys who will battle along the boards for pucks, who can cycle and maintain possession. Ovi, Backstrom and Johansson can be spectacular offensively but too often end up pinned in their own end standing around waiting for the outnumbered dmen to get them the puck. Backstrom and Ovi can work their magic on the PP.

  • ThrowmetheWHIP

    I don’t think that green is a bad player at all, I just think he is overpaid is all. It’s kind of my feeling on a guy like Wilson, who isn’t necessarily a bad player, I just have issues with his relevance.

    Early first period Wilson knocks some CBJ player hard after a dump in, and it visibly irritates the entire enemy army. It gave THEM lots of life, but that was Wilson playing Wilson hockey, like ribs, an Sasha minor, and even dare I say it Matt Bradley.

    I think of guys like Boyd Gordon and Jason arnott. Yes it understand these guys didn’t bring MVP quality hockey every night, particularly in the case of arnott. But these guys made a difference on how the physical game translates to the offensive game in a way like our defensive mindset can’t grapple with. I’m not sure I agree with the use of the word “lazy” I just can’t imagine a guy like brooksie or Brouwer not caring enough to fight hard in a game, and if you read their faces, I think you see genuine distress. I think the defense just looks confused, extremely confused. Conner seemed like he was guarding no one because I think he thought he was assigned to be there, for whatever reason or another.
    I hate to say it, but I think the problem lies with coach Johansson, not squarely, but he sure ain’t helping. He just seems like the kinda guy who buys novelty cups at kings dominion. I would be confused by him greatly.

  • RT23

    From a roster point of view we’ve been doing what your asking for for 3 years and things have only gotten worse. After the Montreal series everyone freaked out and pushed for a more tough defensive style. How many times did we all see or hear “we need a team full of Brooks Laich’s, not Alex Semin’s” (not on this site but most others)? I liked Laich but that was crazy. You don’t throw away talent in favor of toughness. We needed a balance and we weren’t very far off. But we undermined Gabby and then dumped him when he couldn’t build a tow truck out of Ferrari parts. With Hunter we went too far and became predictable and boring. I was hoping Oates could find that balance but it doesn’t look like he’s ready or the right fit. We have a few really special players here and they’re still young enough to make a run (not this year). It may be time to try a new system (probably with a new coach/GM) but it has to feature our offensive weapons along with a decent defensive system. Not scrap the offense in favor of D. Maybe I am over-characterizing your comment but I don’t want to go back Hunter’s hope-to-win-1-0 approach. Every time we gave up the first goal I new we had lost.

  • Lawrence

    Right, I think ideally you want Backy and Ovi together, but under this roster it may be better to split them up. The thing is, the way ovi plays now (less carrying the puck more turret mode), he less benefits with a big body who can grind in corners and needs someone like backy who can carry the puck and feed it to him. Ovi would thrive under a team with good defensman and a high % puck possession team. Can you imagine what numbers Ovi could be possible of putting up under those conditions (90 goals in a season wouldn’t be out of the question imo)?

  • Kelly Johnston

    Really good technical analysis. Whether it is the posts here or elsewhere (such as Katie Carerra’s excellent analysis in the WaPo today), a recurrent theme emerges: “There are problems with effort, concentration, and decision making. . .” and I would hasten to add, discipline. This is a lazy, sloppy, inconsistent, poorly motivated and unintelligent hockey team straddled with a system they either cannot implement, will not implement, or Oates will not adjust. Otherwise, they’re great!

  • I am too, but have hope. I do. At the very least the team will be more interesting with Kuzya around.

  • I loved Katie’s piece.

    Here’s my thing– discipline and focus and stuff like that all get sorted away in a better system. If you know what you’re supposed to do, there’s a lot less space for breakaways and bad penalties and such.

  • Rob W.

    This team needs some young skilled forwards like columbus has, its time to move on from laich, brouwer, and erat.

  • johnnymorte

    I’ve seen Ovi become a spectator in the D zone a lot this year. I don’t know if he is being enabled by the coaching staff, but it’s their job to help him develop his two way game. In years past he was quick enough to take the body, but now that he’s a bit slower he has to learn to rely on good defensive habits. Some nights he is completely disengaged, and it looks like he’s a bit lost when we get hemmed in. When Oates played the two way game was not as important as it is today. I know +/- is a garbage stat, but when your +/- is significantly lower than your teammates there is something there. I would like to see someone on this coaching staff step up and manage some issues. Knowing how Ovechkin plays the game, I don’t think that it’s for a lack of effort. Hockey is not soccer, there’s only 200 feet of ice and you need all five guys to play defense sometimes. In today’s game you can’t just be a pure offensive player and expect not to get burned.

  • RT23

    I’m no Wall St guru but “buy high / sell low” doesn’t sound like much of a plan. The key to coaching is to make the most of the pieces you have. Green is one of the most talented offensive D around. I hated the trade and still do but on many nights Erat is creating more positive situations in the offensive zone that any other forward on the team. This isn’t just about line assignments, which have often been terrible, it’s also about individual coaching. I thought Oates would be great at this sort of thing and it seemed to work with Ovi but who else in the lineup is playing better than they did 2 yrs ago?

    A top 4 defensive D that could pair with Green would be huge. Green could be more free to gamble and Orlov could become the offensive stud of the 3rd pair and have a little more time to develop, If Green is out it might worth trying Laich at D. I was hoping they would do that last night.

    Offensively lets assume we can’t add anyone. I like the 8-19-90 offensively but the rest is a mess so we probably need to reshuffle almost everything. We need to put Erat with players that can capitalize on the chances he’s creating. I’m not that impressed with Wilson yet but I’m willing to try moving him up if someone will explain that there are plenty of goons available. We want him to play hockey. Laich and Brouwer are good on PK so until they snap out of their slumps lets have them take turns on the 4th line and save energy for the PK.

    So with Grabbo out, let’s try this:
    46-83-20or21or43 (Latta is 46, right?)

    Boy, looking at this depressing. Other than 8 we just aren’t very strong right now. When we get Grabbo back and Kuzya through customs. we’ll have better options.

  • Eric Schulz

    A million times, yes. I hate when people think you can’t win with talent (aka those wanting to ditch Semin/happy we let him go).
    I think Oates is making some mistakes, sure, but it’s his first full year coaching; there’s no reason to think he can’t improve, and I really hope he does. I have a bigger problem with the defense; we probably need to replace Calle Jo (I love the dude, but damn), and oh yeah, Carrick isn’t an NHL defenseman.

  • I know very very little about hockey. Here is my analysis.

    -I think Calle is the problem. Whatever he’s feeding these guys is either not working because it’s a poor system OR because the boys aren’t doing it well. Lots of odd man rushes, breakdowns, and sloppy passes.
    -I think the Opponent scoaring seconds after the Caps do is a WHOLE team issue, but majority of the fault lies on the defense, in my opinion.
    -Jack Hillen won’t solve these problems. Don’t hold your breath.
    -Trade Mike Green? Dumb. We need Top D, not to get rid of one. Instead of beating that Mike Green drum, spend your time finding us another Alzner… and maybe a kid on the right that can play “stay-at-home defense”.

    -I love Holtby. I’m sorry, I do. And I don’t care for Neuy. So, I’m extremely biased. Play Holts every game forever. Whatever Olie wants him to do has caused a drop in his performance (Or he is simply leveling out to show us he is an average goal-tender and not above). I think he’s a kid that thrives on rhythm, repetition, and focus. Something has upset that, but he will work his ass off to not be the issue soon enough.
    -I’m in favor of trading Neuy or Gruber for something. But Hockey is a business, stop whining when GMGM doesn’t make moves… it means he probably CAN’T.

    -I don’t care about Ovi’s play not being defensive. The caps should have 4 other dudes on the ice that can play moderate to solid D… Ovi doesn’t get paid as the best scoarer in the league to block shots or scrap behind the goal. That being said… Ovi… hussle a little back there… just a little more pressure would be nice.
    -Limit Laich’s ice time, all special teams, move Erat to a line with people that don’t hate him. Allow Fehr to do everything. Show us what WIlson can do. Experiment… we don’t have a lot to lose going into Olympics.

    Again, I know very little about Hockey.
    And now that I have typed through my deadlines… Gotta go “Crash the Emails”.

  • Diller M

    I could not articulate my own thoughts better. The issue with this team is the lack of a real identity. The players don’t seem to know what to do in any given situation, and it results in mistake after mistake. Ink about when you don’t really know the purpose of a work assignment, you can’t really get behind your actions and the product suffers because you second guess your actions. We had an identity and built on that, a young coach second guessed himself and we lost it. There is no magic formula or style, it’s all about clarity in identity and doing the BEST you can based othat identity that everyone can buy into. Oates lacks a real identity for the players to buy into and we see the result.

    GMGM is a good personel guy but I think interferes has issues with identity as well, the shift from run and gun to trap, I believe came from GMGM pressure. I believe that hunter had an identity but it didn’t mesh with the roster that was built and he saw that and walked (personally I hated Hunter’s style). GMGM needs to go, not for the Erat deal, not for Semin, Bruce or any other single move, he needs to go because we lack consistent leadership with a real vision.

  • Eric Schulz

    Lots of people saying we need to rebuild:
    why did we trade Forsberg, why did we trade Forsberg, why did we trade Forsberg… and not get back a defender? The only way I would not hate on moving Forsberg out was if we got back a young, top-4 defender. A) It’s what we needed, and B) it would actually have been a legit trade. Top-4 guys are hard to acquire, but Forsberg was, and is, valuable enough to warrant that kind of return. Instead, we gave away Forsberg for a return of no cap space. Sweet trade; I hate GMGM so much sometimes; we had enough young talent with Forsberg (both guys in their prime, young NHLers, and young prospects) that we didn’t need a rebuild, we were primed to be good for a long, long time. Instead, we dumped our 2nd best young player (the gap between Kuznetsov/Forsberg and everybody else was enough that this really hurt, despite only moving one guy) plus, I’m assuming we won’t be paying Kuznetsov a typical ELC because of how long it’s been since we drafted him, although I don’t really know what the rules are for a player like him. Maybe/hopefully I’m wrong; I’m choosing to assume not though, because nothing good happens to us, ever.
    This team is so close to being promising; we SHOULD only be missing a top-4 defender; not easy to get, but I wouldn’t hate on GMGM that much for it, because there’s nothing wrong with being patient (let me say that again: there’s nothing wrong with being patient) and waiting for the right guy, and/or trying to develop him. Reaching is what really kills me, either overpaying for a guy, either in salary, contract length, or trade value (especially if you overpay for somebody you don’t need), and we’ve done that too much (who on this team is on GOOD contracts? Johansson, Alzner, Grabovski, Chimera, Fehr, Beagle, end of list; I’m not counting ELCs). Instead, we have no cap flexibility, no defense to speak of (have no idea why it took so long for Orlov to play regularly; he’s not great, but he’s also not Erskine, or Carrick. Why is Carrick in the NHL right now?), and nobody playing well aside from Ovechkin and Ward. Backstrom’s production is fine, but he doesn’t pass the eye-test IMO (he’s not awful, but also not good), and Grabovski is great, but really the only guy who’s producing at a level higher than you could expect is Ward. Ovechkin is producing at what he should be, so is Backstrom, so is Grabovski. It seems like everybody is underproducing, based on what you could fairly expect based on their career as well as where they are in terms of development. Looking at the stats, I guess the top 7 guys are fine (Ovie, Backstrom, Grabovski, Johansson, Green, Ward, Chimera), although Ward is the only one playing above his level. Would be nice if Johansson had taken a bigger leap than he has, but I’m okay with the development he’s shown. I would prefer him to center the third line since Grabovski’s out, and move Erat into that 1st line LW spot. I hated getting Erat, and he’s an overrated player, IMO, but he isn’t awful. We have him now, we may as well use him. IMO, having him on the first line balances us better; it’s not that he’s one of the top 3 players on the team, it’s just that I prefer having skill distributed roughly evenly on the top-2 lines, with enough left over for a nice defensive 3rd. Brouwer is down with regards to production, as is Erat, as is Fehr (although he’s played well, his points just aren’t coming; that’s a familiar refrain, isn’t it?), Laich is way down. Add to that the fact that Erskine and Carrick are regularly playing, for some reason… god, I hate this season.

  • Eric Schulz

    I really, really, really hate this season. If everybody starts playing even NEAR their ability level next season, we’ll all be shocked at how quickly we turned from a bad to a good team; I don’t think the talent level is what’s lacking (on paper, this is at least a playoff team), but with that being sad, we are awful. Man, I hate this team right now. I’m okay with giving Oates more time to improve (if you said, or think, you want a rebuild, then you should consider that. Maybe you aren’t a fan of Oates, but he’s done some great things, and the bad things will at least improve with time. No rush; he’s not exactly holding us back from doing great things), but GMGM needs to go. Too bad we can’t go back in time and fire him before he killed our flexibility, but better late than never. A year ago, I could’ve fixed this team with MAYBE three moves (one big one, two small ones). Now… I have no idea. 7, at least… and it’s much harder to find teams that would be willing to be on the other side of those moves.

  • dylan wheatley

    on good teams goaltending is always a team stat.

  • dylan wheatley

    hahah what

  • snarf

    FIRE adam oats FIRE george mcphee FIRE kolzig FIRE my butthole

  • Jonah

    “carrick isn’t an NHL defenseman”
    yeah and neither is erskine, orlov, or strachan.
    notice a trend?

  • Eric Schulz

    Orlov doesn’t belong in that group; he’s an NHLer.

  • Re: Orlov,

    I hope so. We need to see more before we can be sure he’s a real big leaguer. He hasn’t done well apart from Mike Green.