George McPhee Bruce Bennett

Photo: Bruce Bennett

On Sunday, Joe Micheletti of NBC Sports reported a quote from George McPhee that has been making the rounds. Except it’s not really a quote actually– just hearsay. According to Micheletti, GMGM said that the Washington Capitals would have ten more standings points if only they had better goaltending this season. McPhee declined to elaborate on that little piece of apocrypha on Monday, and the team didn’t get back to us when we asked about its veracity.

Katie Carrera of the Washington Post ran a wonderful piece about it on Monday. My favorite part was this quote by Braden Holtby:

“I think if we pay any attention to comments like that it brings the team apart.”

For perspective: That is a goalie talking about his employer, whose words might tear the team apart.

So… that’s not good.

I would like to set Braden’s mind at ease. If George McPhee actually said that (and I’m not sure he did), he’d be categorically wrong.

Let’s start with this. The NHL average save percentage in all situations this season is .910 (4,496 goals on 50,203 shots). The Capitals have a .912. That is unequivocally above average. It’s not up for debate. I will slash your tires if you come at me with this again.

CORRECTION 2PM: The above data include empty-net goals, which makes it imprecise. The average save percentage is actually .913, and the Caps have a .9128. So they are actually below average. By two goals every ten thousand shots. That’s enough for me to say a) they are NOT unequivocally above average; b) it IS up for debate; and c) I will NOT slash your tires if you come at me with this again.

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And yet, head coach Adam Oates more or less ditto’d his boss’s alleged quote. Oates told Carrera, “I think definitely there’s 10 more points out there that we’ve wasted.”

And he’s basically right. We can probably find five games the Caps would’ve won if they had better goaltending on those nights. December 23rd’s home game against Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks was a close one, and one or two extra saves from Grubauer (.897 Sv% on 29 shots) would’ve done the trick. Same thing on January 15th, when Neuvirth saved .892 of 37 shots in a heartbreaking, one-goal loss to the Penguins. And on December 21st, the Devils beat the Caps in overtime when Holtby put up a .865 on 37 shots. And there’s also the Canadiens on November 11th, the Hurricanes on October 10th, and the Canucks on October 28th. I could do this all day.

Except that would be stupid. I can’t just pick the examples that push my agenda and ignore everything else. [Insert your own political joke here.] 

We can do better. Rob Vollman of Hockey Abstract adopted the idea of quality starts from baseball. He figured out how good a goalie has to be to give his team a good chance of winning a game. Based on that standard, I count thirty quality starts from the Caps this season– more than half their games. We’d expect the Caps to win 75% of those games or better– between 22 and 23– but in reality they won just 18. The Capitals wasted 12 quality starts from their goaltenders, costing them about 8 standings points more than expected.

Goalie Total Starts Quality Starts Wasted Starts Bailed Out
Holtby 33 16 4 3
Grubauer 13 9 5 2
Neuvirth 10 5 3 1

And when the Caps goaltenders aren’t putting up quality starts, the team isn’t even winning the 25% of games we’d expect them to win despite low save percentages. Instead of 7 or 8 bailouts (i.e. winning despite a non-quality start), the Caps have just 6.

That tells us what we already knew: the problem isn’t in net.

Let’s do a silly and totally informal thought experiment.

In real life, the Caps have won 25 of their 56 games for a 44.6% win percentage.

Let’s pretend they got exactly league-average goaltending in every game. Now they’d win just 21 games for a 37.5% win percentage.

Now let’s get really stupid and say both teams had league-average goaltending. Now the Caps would win just 19 games for a 33.9% win percentage.

That’s a bunch of fuzzy math and faulty logic, but it serves as an object lesson for a few points:

  1. You can’t cherrypick games that goaltending has blown.
  2. Caps goaltending has won more games than they’ve lost.
  3. Getting outshot is a bigger problem than goaltending.

So for the hundredth time: no, bad goaltending is not the problem in Washington. Maybe having three goaltenders was a problem for a while, but that’s over now. The real problem lies– as it ever has– on the other 189 feet of ice, particularly where John Erskine, Connor Carrick, and Tyson Strachan are skating.

  • Jack Conness

    I think we are all at an agreement here, except for GMGM. I will echo what you had to say Peter. Goaltending isn’t the issue. It is our brutal defense and inconsistent offense that plagues this team. These Ryan Miller rumors better not heat up. If we end up trading Burakovsky, Barber, picks, etc., I will lose my mind.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I think any sv% above 91% is damn fine. The only way we’d be 10 points better in the standings is if we had a better team, you can’t just limit it to the goalie.

    The very fact the Joel Ward has scored as many times as he has is terrible, we shouldn’t be depending on him to score goals.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I like Ryan Miller, but he’s not the answer. I believe we can win with either one of the goalies on this current roster, its a team game and one guy isn’t going to make a difference.

  • John Bolt

    right or wrong doesn’t even matter, if McPhee made these comments not only is he not a very good gm, but he’s an ass as well.

  • Jaime

    I hate this “let’s blame the goalie” trend. It’s tantamount to blaming a kicker for a loss in the NFL because they missed one field goal after the rest of the team barely performed for an entire 60 minutes. (That trend also irritates the crap out of me.) Stop looking for scapegoats! It won’t fix anything!

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

    If he made those comments (and I still kinda doubt he did/doubt he was quoted accurately), he probably didn’t expect them to be made public.

  • John Bolt

    In which case I’ll add ‘fool’ to the list.

  • CapsCast

    Agreed. Seconded. Cosigned. Also, I will help out with the tire-slashing, if it comes to that.

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

    I *love* Ryan Miller, and I agree.

    Like it’s messed up how much I love him.

    But even if he guaranteed a .925 Sv% for 60 games, as long as he costs $4M, you can spend that money better.

  • Shawn Murphy

    “Torn Apart By Words: a GMGM Story”
    Airing on Lifetime at 8pm tonight. Dean Cain will play GMGM. Knoobs will play himself in a cameo.

  • Tadd

    I hate to correct one of my own God of hockey writing, but it was actually Neuvy who tended goal in the 3-4 L to the Penguins on Jan. 15th.

    Sorry, Peter <3

  • Jaime

    I would absolutely watch that.

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

    Thanks, I knew that– just made a typo. I deliberately picked out three games by three different goalies, but I made a copy/paste error.

    Appreciate it!

  • Brackaphobia

    Cue McPhee trading for Ryan Miller in 3….2……1…..

    Plz no.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    I agree, 4MM can go a long way and it’s especially not worth it if you believe (as I do) that Holtby is capable of putting up similar numbers if given the lion’s share of starts.

  • Tadd

    That was actually what I thought you were doing!

    Now – finish reading this highly intelligent piece.

  • Pat Magee

    It’s all gone straight downhill since Sasha left………… amirite?!?

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

    Nice pull with Dean Cain. I will always look upon him favorably because of The Adventures of Lois and Clark.

  • Bradley Spies

    I mean, couldn’t literally every team in the league find 10 more points with better goaltending? That’s trick of not specifying the frame of reference there. Actually, I’m kind of curious if there’s a certain set of numbers that actually do line up that way. Like, is this a hint that they looked at Miller’s sv% and did the math and said “yeah, he would have done this for us”? That would be kind of scary since if it points to a specific player it probably also points to a specific level of interest.

    Spot on of course that goaltending isn’t the issue, even if they likely (IMO rightfully) expected more from Holtby this season. Not the right place to be looking if you want meaningful improvement.

  • Graham Dumas

    Obligatory “Best))))))))”

  • Graham Dumas
  • Graham Dumas

    I will burn the tires. All of them.

  • Jaime

    My point exactly.

  • CM

    I think you misread Oates’ quote

    “I think definitely there’s 10 more points out there that we’ve wasted. I think it’s a cumulation of all of us.”

    I interpreted this as him uniformly spreading the blame to the entire team in a pretty tame tautological way. Like “If we played better we’d have more points!” I really didn’t read it as an affirmation that we need a new goalie, or of endorsing really any specific course of action.

  • Barrett

    Hey, I agree. Just stop bashing my children, Johnny and Michael are sensitive.

  • Safoster

    “Let’s start with this. The NHL average save percentage in all situations this season is .910 (4,496 goals on 50,203 shots). The Capitals have a .912. That is unequivocally above average. It’s not up for debate. I will slash your tires if you come at me with this again.”

    You may want to put Braden’s mind at ease, but I think he should be worried, because his personal SV% is .909, unequivocally below average. Michal Neuvirth’s is .910, unequivocally average. Your team data is skewed by 16 games of Grubauer operating at .926.

    The two goalies that are currently on the Capitals roster have been below average this season by definition. Come slash my tires.

  • VeggieTart

    I would disagree: Everyone BUT the goalie should contribute to scoring. And here’s why: If Ovi gets injured again (or, Apollo forbid, suspended), I’d like to think there’s someone else who can reliably put the puck at the back of the opposing goalie’s net. The lack of secondary scoring has been talked up ad nauseum. The more players with ten or more goals on this team, the better.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    You must still be living in a dream world where Gabby is still the coach…

    Ward is a third liner, he should not be second on the whole team in goals scored.

  • http://twitter.com/1bscarbro Benjamin Scarbro

    For all those following along…
    “Hearsay” – A statement made out of court that is offered in court as evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

    “Asinine” – Extremely stupid of foolish

    “Slashing Tires” – an activity that RMNB partakes in as a sacrificial ritual to get Erat some goals.

  • Topher Gee

    Might be the greatest conclusion to fuzzy logic ever! “So for the hundredth time: no, bad goaltending is not the problem in Washington.”

  • Chris Cerullo

    “The RMNB article that drove Neil Greenberg to insanity”

  • Topher Gee

    Ripley’s believe it or not he’s still the GM, starring George McPhee.

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

    That’s a completely fair reading. I guess if I tie closely to what he was asked about (McPhee and goaltending), I could go the other way, but you’re right as well.

  • VeggieTart

    No, I’m just saying that EVERYONE needs to step up. But given how much the Caps are paying him, I’m glad they’re getting some bang for their buck.

  • Shaun Phillips

    You know what 4 million can also get you? A broken groin and a permanent resident of the 4th line/press box.

  • Patrick Neimeyer

    I smell a massive dinosaur sized turd coming from GMGM. The Miller boondoogle might look good in the capitals future. If it could happen for Ryan Miller, who would you guys be willing to jettison. Steep price, but like Ian Malcolm once said, Capitals trades usually result in one big pile of poop.

  • Shaun Phillips

    I think its time for some more rubber cows and chickens.

  • Scott

    Individual plays and the potential for a save on any given play isn’t reflected here. It doesn’t matter if a team throws 20 terrible shots at you and the last one goes in. If it’s a stoppable shot, stop it please. Just because you have an ok save percentage doesn’t mean the goals you’re letting in aren’t bad Too many leaker goals this season . But this season does not fall solely on the goalies in any way shape or form. But to say we’ve had good goaltending this season is a slight stretch. Quality over quantity, we need key stops at key times in a game and these stats don’t accurately reflect that

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    GREAT article. Peter, you rock. The goal tending comment really stuck out to me since watching the game the other day. I can’t help but see the difference in Holtby’s confidence levels lately. I know he can do better but his numbers aren’t as bad as the team’s W/L records suggest.
    Is it too bold to believe that there are some serious internal “front office” problems contributing to the lack of inspiration on the ice? I understand there are some serious defensive issues here but I just don’t see the hunger I used to with these guys. I’ve watched every single game for the last 8 seasons. I see a bunch of guys showing up for work on a Monday morning. No spark.
    Thanks for putting this into perspective and breaking down what most folks would prefer be swept under the rug.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    Not an excuse but there has been a recent increase across the league in sloppy “routine” goals allowed. Is it possible some of this has to do with the adjustment to the new pad measurements? Weren’t those changed with the hope of allowing more scoring to boost league viewership?
    More scoring = More fans. Yes, in a perfect world our goalie would stop everything that came at him but the reality is there are defenders for a reason. These guys need to make it harder to put a puck to the net and they need to be in position. That is not happening.

  • SO_CAL_Brat

    I think this organization has been focusing on the wrong “problem” for quite some time. (Hint: It’s not always the guys on the ice). I really think we need to continue to commit to the two guys we have. Holtby can and will be better and Nuevy is confident and in the zone. The organization should give them the backing they deserve so that these guys can regain their confidence and get back to the important stuff…..being awesome!

  • Chris R

    Says the same guy who constantly uses injury as an excuse for this team, and also still doesn’t regret trading for Erat. Each of the past 6 seasons I feel like Ive watched a repetitive cycle of mediocrity. All those years wasted not complementing Alex Semin with a proper 2nd line Center. The experiments which where Corvo, Wideman, Hannan, Hamrlik, ext. The flaws in each team where obvious and always got exposed. It’s just a shame with each passing season the window for this team is just getting smaller. I do however like Holtbys response to this unnecessary criticism. The Caps could have 10 more points in the standings if many different things had happened, one of which being gmgm having better asset management throughout the years.

  • Guest

    My takeaway from this article is appreciating how great Phillipp Grubauer was in the 16 games that he played with the big club. In nearly every single stat he smokes both Neuvy and Holtby this year. Small sample, yes, but it’s his 16 games where you see a lot of points stolen, and a lot of points wasted too.

    If you want to look at the guy that stole points, look no further than the 70% quality starts, .926 SV% and the fact that over 50% of his quality starts were wasted. The guy was unconscious.

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

    He was awesome. The Caps were smart to get all those lucky starts out of him before he had a chance to regress. ;)

  • Pete

    I’m not sure whether GMGM even believes what he said. I think it was a clever PR move to sell the public on the idea that we need a new goalie right right before we acquire one.

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

    “I hate to correct one of my own Gods of hockey writing”

    Oh geez, don’t let this go to Peter’s head.

  • HunterVT

    Even strength SV% is at it’s highest level ever so far this season, so I’d say pad changes didn’t do a whole lot to increase scoring.

  • Tadd

    Relax, Ian. I’ll suck up just as much to you in the next few days!

  • Diller M

    Awesome post Peter. I think we all heard that quote and had the same reaction because we knew of the previous interest in Miller. If we take away that context it could be constrewed as GMGM pushing his goalies to get more consistent. To give McPhee a tiny bit of credit, since we don’t really know the whole story, maybe he went after Miller with a package deal that included Erat and Laich/Brower in an attempt to offload unhappy customers and salary. I doubt that is the case, but we should look at things from all angles in order to best judge the situation.

  • Diller M

    Probably not Buffalo or NJ but other than that yes

  • rapmadrob

    I know the D is terrible, but the goalies have given up their fair share of weak goals. They have also made their share of saves that no one thought they would make… so I guess it evens out??

  • Matt Lauer

    If Burakovsky is traded the Swedish Army might mobilize.

  • Eric Schulz

    I was kind of hoping the same thing; I don’t know the specific context (just the general) of Oates’ comment, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

  • Eric Schulz

    I liked Hannan; Hamrlik also played well, although I don’t know what his contract was at the time, so I can’t say off the top of my head if that was a good or bad signing, but he was solid.
    Totally agree about Semin and a proper 2nd line C.
    Also, I feel like the consensus on RMNB is that the trade for Erat was bad, but that Erat isn’t a terrible player, so we may as well use him properly, now that it’s done (coincidentally, how I feel; HATE the trade, CANNOT say that enough, but now that he’s here we can use him a bit better, at least to push Volpatti out of the lineup). I could be wrong, Peter may not regret the trade as much as other writers on here, or at all. I don’t have a feel for each individual writer’s feelings…

  • Diller M

    I wonder if the latest news of the caps looking at Miller has Neuvy going the other way. I don’t see how or why else GMGM could justify this. This also tells me they don’t expect Green back or they are sending a contract back. The only bright light would be getting rid of a goalie, getting miller as a rental dumping contract like Laich, Brower or Erat and moving forward at the end of the season. If GMGM can pull that off and possibly get a prospect it’s really not that horrible, except for the possible damage to Holtby. If he just takes on Miller in place of Greens 6M and loses any prospects or picks I’m going to slash his tires.

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

    At the time I wanted the Caps to rebuild, so I called it a bad trade that signaled GMGM overestimating his team’s ability to go deep in the postseason. But I do like Marty Erat a lot as a player (more than I ever liked Forsberg).

    The team’s a lot stronger now than I thought it was before the 2013 deadline, so I think a lot more kindly on that trade now. I’m still not convinced I was that far off though.

    I still the Caps roster needs some big changes though.

  • Eric Schulz

    More than you like Forsberg? I strongly AND vehemently disagree (at the same time), but I have to ask, in what respect? Do you think RIGHT NOW Erat is better (I’d have to assume so), or that Forsberg will never be as good as Erat right now (I’d have to think no)? Also, I can’t fail to take into account Erat’s albatross of a contract; Forsberg will provide, IMO, more bang for the buck for probably the next 7 years of his career, and by then, I think he will have easily outpaced Erat as a player (Erat NOW; of course he will be better in 7 years than Erat in 7 years; I’d expect Erat to be retired).

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

    Erat is proven, Forsberg’s valuation at this point is just based on aspiration (“we hope”). I might end up wrong here– that’s fine. I’m wrong about a lot of things.

  • Eric Schulz

    My problem with that is, if you take it to it’s logical (if extreme) conclusion, then we should’ve traded Kuznetsov for Shawn Thornton, because we know what Thornton is, whereas we have no idea what Kuznetsov will be; the next coming of Pavel Brendl? At some point, you have to trust that you have prospects in the system that will develop, or else you will always be over the cap because you are paying for veterans. Every single evaluation of Forsberg I saw leading up to the draft had him as the 2nd or 3rd best prospect in it behind Yakupov, and some argued that they may value Forsberg 1st over Yakupov because he’s a center. To me, even though we got him at 11, he should be valued like a top-5 pick, at the least. You don’t just move those guys for a veteran just because you know what the veteran is. Also, again, I thought we had at least 4 2nd or 3rd line wingers (Brouwer, Fehr, Ward, Chimera, and arguably Laich and Johansson, if you think they are wingers), so you traded a top-5 pick for something we had in abundance, except Erat has the worst contract of them all, and we are already top-heavy with Ovie, Backstrom, Green, and Laich (and Brouwer and Ward aren’t cheap either). The only reason to give up a top-5 pick would be to fill a huge hole, and that’s something that you still probably don’t do unless addressing that area makes you a contender. Had we given up Forsberg for a legit top-4 defender, then and only then would I have been okay with the move. I would’ve been disappointed to see Forsberg go, but I would’ve been pleased that we finally addressed our defense. That GMGM felt the need to address WINGER, of all positions? I’m flabbergasted. Our offense has been a bit stagnant at times this year, but I don’t think anybody would argue that our biggest weakness is anything aside from defense. (A 2nd line center… maybe would’ve made sense, if it’s like a Jarrett Stoll-type… we had Ribeiro last year, Grabovski this, so Stoll might not play 2nd line, but he is overqualified to be a #3, and is a good enough two-way forward that you can expect him to help out the defense even though he isn’t a defenseman. I’d say I’d be okay with a 2nd-tier prospect and maybe even a pick for him – had we NOT made the Forsberg move, then this year traded Burakovsky and a 2nd for Stoll, for instance, that may be a smart move. I know most wouldn’t be happy to see Burakovsky go, but in this scenario we’d have Kuznetsov, Forsberg, and Wilson. So even then, I wouldn’t move Forsberg for him – unless we somehow
    addressed the top-4 defenseman; maybe Neuvirth, Galiev, Sanford, and a 1st, and then leverage Forsberg to add a Stoll-type. Moving Neuvirth, Forsberg, Galiev, Sanford, and a 1st, and getting back a top-4 defenseman and a 2nd/3rd line two-way centerman could arguably put us back into contender status. That would make sense. What we did… didn’t.)

  • Eric Schulz

    I like the headline: “George McPhee may or may not be colossally wrong about Caps goaltending” but, spoiler alert: he’s wrong.

  • Eric Schulz

    Okay, let’s look at the context of the trade: the Caps are paying Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, and Laich quite a bit of money. That’s our core, right there. The first two are fairly paid. Green’s contract made sense, but we just got unlucky there; injuries have sapped his impact, so that he’s now more of an x-factor than a core player. Laich was overpaid from the start, but he was a very useful piece, and I didn’t mind overpaying him because of the defense, grit, and intangibles he provided (or at least, the intangibles he provided as far as I could discern; it’s hard to tell how much impact a guy like that has if you aren’t in the locker room, or at least part of the team or media covering the team. I could be wrong as far as how much he provides. He seems to me like a similar player to Jarrett Stoll; overqualified 3rd line C, but I’m not sure you are a contender with him at 2nd, unless you are above average in multiple other areas). But, then he gets hurt, and now we have 4 guys paid to be the core of the team, and only 2 are up to it. That means we have to be very careful with how we spend the rest of our money, especially since we aren’t paying for elite goaltending; you kind of need it to win the Cup, and so you have to earmark some money for that, whether you sign a goalie (unlikely), trade for one, or have to give, say, Holtby a raise. So, we can afford to pay people what they are worth, but we have to be very careful. Acquiring both Brouwer AND Ward, not only at that price, but for the length involved, I don’t think was smart (and didn’t at the time; I preferred Brouwer, not Ward, partially because of the timing – we added Brouwer first, that’s fine, but then you can’t add Ward afterwards), and although maybe you can’t have enough guys like that, at that price, you definitely can. So, now we will be FORCED to fill out our rosters with young guys, which makes secondary players like Johansson, Alzner, and Carlson so important (maybe more than secondary now, but paid like it, they are all relative bargains), and guys on ELCs like Wilson, and should’ve-been Forsberg. It’s hard for a team like the Caps (contender, or at least bubble-contender) to add a talent like Forsberg. We made a very shrewd trade with Colorado (I liked it for both teams at the time; we were able to move Varlamov because Neuvirth AND Holtby looked like at least solid NHLers, and we liked Grubauer too), and even then, we got lucky with Forsberg falling so far. You have to value those guys more because of how much we need them if we expect to contend. We have be smart about shopping for free agents; Grabovski is a great example of the types of signings we should/need to make. Obviously, he’s kind of a lucky (for us) outlier, guys like that are rarely available for so cheap, but we can sign secondary guys looking to prove themselves on short contracts just about every off-season; they are out there. I didn’t like seeing Ribeiro go, but how we handled that made sense, due to our cap situation.

  • Eric Schulz

    I hated the trade for, at least, 4 reasons: 1) Erat was redundant, as we
    already had four-to-six 2nd and 3rd line wingers, 2) we took back WAY
    too much money (we have less than $1 million in cap space), 3) we got
    rid of a young player who was a top-5 value in his draft and, as I said,
    those players are even more valuable to us than to the average team,
    due to our overpaying (through bad luck/injuries, but still) of Green
    and Laich, and 4) Erat isn’t as talented as Forsberg, and it’s rarely
    smart to give up the best/most talented player in a trade. (If you want
    to quibble with “best” because you think Erat is better NOW, okay, but
    as far as talent, I disagree, if you understand the distinction I’m
    making.)

  • Roy Schue

    “The very fact the Joel Ward has scored as many times as he has is terrible” Are you kidding me, I have never heard someone complaining about secondary scoring. Should he be second on the team, in short…NO. But to say it is terrible that he has scored so many times is a ridiculous statement.

  • Eric Schulz

    Okay, let’s make a comparison. Let’s turn our attention to the Blackhawks. They have a prospect whom I think is very similar to Forsberg in Teuvo Teravainen (those, IMO, were the two steals of the draft, and we could’ve had BOTH. I like Wilson, so it’s not like we whiffed on the pick, but I think in 5 years, we’ll all see that as a missed opportunity, as long as we are willing to set aside our bias. Of course, I hope I’m wrong, but I think Teravainen will be a 1st line caliber player, and Wilson will be 2nd). Teravainen isn’t quite as good, but he’s got a ton of talent, and is also a few years away from being an NHLer; Teravainen probably isn’t quite the defender Forsberg is, nor the finisher, but he’s a very creative passer and is probably a center, and he’s playing against men in Europe, so I’m not sure how big a deal his lack of size really is. Handzus, similarly, is a somewhat similar player to Erat, IMO. Obviously the comparison here isn’t quite as appropriate, but they are both secondary contributers who can provide some defensively-conscious play. Obviously Erat is a clearly better point-producer, but I think the difference between Forsberg and Teravainen and Erat and Handzus is rather similar. SO, had the Blackhawks traded Teravainen for Handzus, I would think that a worthwhile gamble. Obviously, in retrospect, it’s easy to see how Handzus made a difference, but it’s not like at the time nobody understood the rational; we would’ve known WHY they made the trade, those who didn’t like it would’ve merely disagreed with those who did about Handzus’ ability to fill that role, not on the thinking behind the trade. Also, the Blackhawks are in a relatively enviable position with regards to cap space, having most of their core young and cheap (not a huge difference from the Caps as far as youth, and it’s not like they are underpaid, but definitively better when you compare Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, Crawford to Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Laich, Holtby… and then the difference is bigger when it comes to secondary/role players). Also, I love how they draft; I loved the pick of Saad, Danault, and Teravainen, and I LOVED Mark McNeill (at this point, Saad looks like a better pick, of course… we’ll see how right I was about the relative value, but I clearly am correct that those 4 picks were, overall, very good ones). So, with their farm, they could afford to lose Teravainen; we are not in nearly as enviable of a position. So, I wouldn’t, necessarily, hate a trade like what we made, I just think the specific one we made was bad in EVERY way a trade CAN be bad.

  • Eric Schulz

    What you say makes sense, we want everybody to score as much as possible, but when Ward, or a few years ago Chimera, is your 2nd leading goal scorer… it’s a awful sign. Partially it’s because they are having good seasons: Hooray! But also, it’s a much bigger indicator that the key players (aside from Ovie) are having forgettable (to say the least) seasons, and that more than evens out the gains we make by having guys like them (Ward, Chimera) scoring at a higher-than-expected clip. If you look at our forwards, you can say, oh, Ovie CAN score 60; Backstrom, 30; Johansson should be capable of 20; Erat, 20; Grabovski, 25; Fehr, 25; Chimera, 20; Ward, 15+; Laich, 20; Beagle, 5; Wilson, 5-10 (with his limited minutes); Wellman, 5. That’s 250 right there, you aren’t likely to get that from your forward group. It may not seem like there’s a limited amount of goals to be scored; scoring NOW doesn’t prevent another goal LATER, but realistically, you are only going to score within a certain range. We’d rather have our better players playing like it, with our role players like Ward and Chimera, providing overqualified 3rd line play, rather than 2nd line play because our actual 2nd liners aren’t getting the job done.

  • novaviking2

    The real problem this year is that Oates brought the Devils defensive-oriented system to Washington and (with the exception of Carlson and Alzmer) we have minor league defensemen (all of whom have been tried this season). A major roster overhaul is required if we’re going to commit to this approach.

  • Jason Smith

    I can’t argue that defense is more of a problem than goaltending and I believe that GMGM and Oates not only letting this rumor circulate but also implying it is true displays an appalling and frightening lack of judgment.

    I don’t, though, believe that we have a playoff caliber goalie at this time. This could be almost entirely because of the silly carousel Oates that has had them on, I’m not knowledgeable enough to say for sure; but we definitely could be stronger in goal if we had thoughts of contending.

    Of course contending should not be in any one’s minds right now when we should be focused building a defense for the first time in decades and maybe finding a second goal scorer. Or if you’re as stupid as Mike Millbury, a first one.

  • johnnymorte

    He’s been in an upper management position since 1992. He hasn’t been “in” the game for quite some time. The man has lost touch. It’s evident in his statements and his decisions. Your analysis is correct, while the goaltending has not been par excellence, it’s not the issue. The bulk of our team is overpaid third-line forwards and we are scraping the AHL to fill out our blue line while just under the cap.

  • bskillet

    I think (hope) we won’t have to worry about what George says after this season, right Ted?

  • MrJokeyJokester

    You must be referring to some other Erat.. because Martin Erat has 21 points to date this season.. The same Martin Erat had 0 points in the 13 Playoffs.

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

    Picking a sample of 13 games to measure a player– even if that sample is important– is poor form.