Photo: Bruce Bennett

Monday was fun. All the Olympic hockey players arrived in Sochi, practiced with their teams, and posed for a billion photos. Alex Ovechkin, our namesake and inspiration, took up the leftmost spot on a very impressive line with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin for Team Russia, and everything was peachy. And yet I’m filled with dread about what’s coming.

A few dozen articles about the burden on Ovi and Russia’s inhuman expectations of success have done nothing to ease my nerves. I read Mike Wise unabashedly supporting Ovi because of all the pressure he faces. I read an AP item about how all of Mother Russia has pinned $50 billion (yeah right) on Alex’s wings. I read the L.A. Times congratulating Ovi for smiling despite the unspeakable tumult he’ll be feeling by Wednesday. I read The Globe and Mail describe Ovi as a “hero” and a “brand.” I saw bloggers and players predict gold for Russia in general and Olympic glory for Ovechkin in particular. Even Greenberg think they’ll get silver.

To hear the press say it, Ovechkin has never looked more serene, more confident, or more friendly– not like that sourpuss-loser-grump who blew us all off in Vancouver; no. That’s when it occurred to me: this is a whole lot of posturing for a guy who may have very little say in who wins gold. And if Russia doesn’t win gold, look out.

Like I said: Ovechkin-Malkin-Semin is a dominant line. Semin and Malkin are two of the best playmakers in the NHL, and Ovechkin is one of the greatest scorers of all time. But they’re just one line on a Russian team that really isn’t all that deep. If Pavel Datsyuk isn’t healthy enough to center Radulov and Kovalchuk, I worry that Russia will have just one complete, marquee scoring line. Canada and Sweden each tout at least three– and they’ve got more scoring to spare. And while the USA lacks in star power, they’ve also got more profundity among forwards than Russia.

Plus, consider who Ovi will be facing.

Canada’s top defensive pairing is Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Nashville’s Shea Weber. Those guys rank in the top 15 of total time on ice this season, and they’re very comfortable with the role of shutdown defense. The USA has a pretty tough-looking checking line comprised of Max Pacioretty, Ryan Callahan, and Paul Stastny as well as a D-pairing that knows Ovechkin pretty well: Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Ovi’s teammate John Carlson.

There is no player whose offense is more written about than Alex Ovechkin. The book is out, even if Ovi has been rewriting it since last year. So despite the dynamism of Malkin and Semin, Russia’s competition still has the will and wherewithal to give Ovechkin some grief in Sochi. Even on a double-wide ice surface. Even in front of a home crowd. Even if Ovechkin gets mountains of ice time.

Ovi is a once-in-a-generation player (okay, twice in-a-generation), and I am possessed with cosmic certitude that he will score a bunch in this tournament, but he’s not gonna win it on his own. The rest of his team, however flawed their roster and systems, are gonna have to contribute as well. Besides, these tiny tournaments come down to goaltending more often than not, and I can’t help but think that– despite all this pressure– Russia’s medal status is largely out of Ovi’s hands.

Not completely, obviously, but certainly more than the predominant narrative would have us think. This “he carries the fate of his nation on his back” and “he is the face of Russia” stuff is really dangerous. Not, like, actually dangerous, but it’s definitely the setup for a bunch of hitpieces to come.

For reference: Damien Cox [turns around three times, spits] said Ovi was “bouncy” and “charismatic” in Vancouver before he stopped being his “swaggering self on the divided team.”

Should things not go as planned for Russia, I’m sure we’ll see some somber stories mourning a country’s hope and describing in excruciating detail its disappointment in its star. We’ll see needlessly castigatory columns– probably coming out of Canada– punishing the preening foreigner for being a rock star instead of a good Canadian boy.

Maybe that won’t happen. Maybe Ovi can shake off Keith and Weber, grind down Patches and Callahan, and put a hat trick on Lundqvist (and then lose gold to the US anyway). But with the stakes so absurdly high, it’s hard to see any outcome that doesn’t involve Milbury, Roenick, Cox, Cherry, Engblom, Wilbon, Kornheiser, Crawford, Melrose et al. wringing their hands and sharpening their teeth.

It’s possible I’m being unfairly pessimistic. It’s great that Ovi’s a big deal, and that he’s enjoying it, and that the press loves him– even if it’s temporary. But I know hockey can be mean. The competition in this tournament is ludicrously tough, and no player in the world is better scouted-against than Alex Ovechkin. I know hockey is fickle. Even if he puts eight shots on goal in every game, Ovi might run into a hot goalie anyway. And I know hockey is stupid. Ovechkin could be the tournament’s top scorer, but if Russia doesn’t medal, I’ll doubt we’ll hear the nuance of that effort on NBC Sports in March.

I’m beginning to notice that my years following and writing about hockey have made me cynical in ways I’d rather not be. When the guys are on the ice, I’ll be the happiest hockey fan in the world– just like you. But all this noise around it– the studio segments, the human-interest preambles, the stake-building, the emotional investment in a personality that’s at least partially a performance– it’s not getting me excited. It’s just filling me with dread and anguish.

Someone drop the damn puck already.

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  • Hockey mom

    Yea, this is tough…it is crazy the amount of compartmentalizing that these players need to do play in the olympics…in one day, a rival becomes your teammate, a teammate becomes your rival, your home country is counting on you to come through for them, but no matter the outcome you have to go back to your NHL team and still have something left for those communities and fans.

    I wish them all well and most importantly that they all return safely and uninjured.

  • Derek Eklund

    Good piece.

  • Ash

    This is why I desperately want Russia to win the men’s hockey gold. I’m American and I could not give a shit if we get the gold; we’ve already won it in the past with a fantastic storyline, even, and it’s just not worth it to me to win again if it comes at the cost of decimating Ovi’s reputation and play.

    I freaking love Ovi. And, I mean, I’m a Caps fan. I want a Stanley Cup, and I would love it to be with Ovi. I would take one Stanley Cup in DC over ten Olympic gold medals for the US. I know mileage may vary, and I wouldn’t fault anyone who wants to cheer for whoever they want, but it’s an easy sacrifice in my mind, to cheer for the outcome that makes a Cup likelier, which I think runs through a joyous, vindicated Ovechkin.

    And that means, in my mind, saying до свидания to cheering for the US for a while, and fiercely hoping Ovi comes home with gold around his neck.

    …plus, I mean, Jesus, people. Think of the epic posts RMNB could write about an overjoyed Ovechkin up on the top of the medal stand.

  • Clint Petty

    This article is both pro-Ovechkin and anti-NBCSN, and thus a very good article

  • Thank you.

    FTR: Still rooting for USA, still predicting Sweden wins gold.

  • Jim Kelly

    I agree with everything except for the idea that Sascha-minor is one of the greatest playmakers of all time. That seems not really in line with how he plays, his scoring history, or anything else. Perhaps you just mean generally driving play?

  • I think I said he’s one of the best playmakers in the league, not of all-time.

    And I totes stand by that.

  • Michael Reschly


    Also, writing articles like this keeps you from getting invited onto TV shows where you can do things like this:


  • http://montrealhockeytalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/superman.jpg

    Max Pacioretty. Ex-RMNB writer Ana used to call him “Patches” and I loved it.

  • Clint Petty

    Agree 100%. I think Lundqvist goes on a crazy hot streak and wins it for Sweden.

    But of course…
    U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

  • Jim Kelly

    Oh, sorry, meant to say in the league as well. But I think we’re perhaps using different definitions here – when I think of a playmaker, I’m thinking of somebody like Backstrom or Oates, a guy that feeds a sniper. That’s not what you have in mind here, is it?

    I mean he is clearly transitioning to assisting a lot more in Carolina, but one of the best in the league seems a little much, no?

  • scrubversive

    Echoing my sentiments exactly. I would usually be USA (Carly!) all the way, but I am sick of listening to pundits eviscerate @Ovi8 for not being a North American two-way player that single-handedly leads each of his teams to tournament victories by being a miracle worker like Ryan Miller and posting 15-shot, hat-trick, 50 save shutout every game.

    He’s a generational talent that takes the heat for his team/managements shortcomings every year and even puts them all on his back just to crack the playoffs. He usually does it with swagger, but also a degree of fun-loving kid-like excitement that makes him fun to watch – especially when he loads the basket with biscuits. And he does a good job of shrugging off the incredible amount of pressure the media loads on him (which naturally gets criticized as well).

    The man deserves better treatment than he gets. I don’t want to see him go through his career without some Olympic hardware and a Stanley Cup. Not just to shut up his plethora of critics (I’m looking at *YOU* JR/Milbury), then a reward for being a stalwart Russian scoaring Machine that Never Borks (oh wait… thats SWE, bork bork bork).

    Here’s to RUS this year. Hoping our boy Ovechkin can HELP his TEAM to Olympic gold in their home country. Lest we forget the Olympics are about the world’s best athletes competing at the highest levels – not the mass of sociopolitical controversies.

  • troyerlaw

    The times they have achanged. We grew up hating and fearing Soviets. Now I am certainly rooting for them to win gold in mens hockey. All because of the Great Eight. That smile! I want to see his crazy Russian smile (which is one tooth shy of a load, it must be said) while he bites on gold. Plus, it would be good for the Caps. It would help 8’s confidence immeasurably during the stretch run.

    That said, as far as actual chances for Russian gold, yikes, I look at some of that roster (and yes, I’m talking about you, curfew-busting Radulov, and you, sniper-simulating, Backstrom-reverse-check-absorbing Anisimov), and I cringe. Not to mention Semin and Kovalchuk. Oodles of skill, but their names are not synonomous with ‘tough,’ ‘disciplined,’ or ‘backchecking.’

    I was pinning my hopes on Datsyuk, the Magician, but he is hurt. Who knows what percentage of capacity he’ll be operating at?

    If the Russians do surprise (and delight) me by winning top podium spot, I think it will be due to Varlamov in net and Malkin in front of him. Malkin has been unstoppable lately.

    Gold for the gap-toothed Gr8. Make it happen, hockey gods.

  • Owen Johnson

    Still gonna be rootin’ for ‘Merika, but I would be thrilled if Russia wins gold if only to see Milbury’s face. Of course, he would probably verbally fellate Malkin saying “see what playing with a good ol’ Canadian boy like Crosby can do for you?”

  • CM

    I can’t help but think this is a little silly. If Russia wins gold Ovechkin will get flattering coverage… until the next time the other team scores while Ovechkin is on the ice, and then we’ll be right back to where we are now.

    Russia winning isn’t going to make Milbury into not an idiot. Ovechkin scoring multiple hat tricks against Canada and the US isn’t gonna make Don Cherry think Ovechkin “plays the right way.”

    The sports journalism world has already written the Ovechkin story. Crosby good Ovechkin bad. It drives page views. As a fan of Ovechkin I don’t like this but it is what it is. And one Olympic tournament isn’t gonna change it, no matter the outcome.

    As a fan of the game though I always feel privileged watching the multi-generational talents of Crosby and Ovechkin play. No matter how asinine the coverage is.

  • katzistan

    No, it’s the years of following the Caps that have made you – and the rest of us – cynical.

  • ATPinDC

    Excellent commentary. I share your fears, but I am also filled with hope that Ovi & Team Russia rise to this challenge and make all those vultures choke on their glee for his anticipated failure.

  • Owen Johnson

    No way! I thought I was the only one who called him “Patches!”

  • Darla Doxstater

    I don’t care who wins, as long as Ovi gets gold.

  • Michael Reschly

    30 minutes after you posted this, Wyshynski posted “[Ovechkin’s] not a one-man team. But few players can rise to this occasion like Ovechkin can.” at http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/alex-ovechkin-olympics-150643468–nhl.html

  • ATPinDC

    Stellar comment, Ash. I agree with every word.

  • I like your POV

  • heh

  • Shaun Phillips

    ” Ovechkin-[world class center]-[solid playmaker/sniper] is a dominant line… But they’re just one line on a Russian team that really isn’t all that deep. If Pavel Datsyuk isn’t healthy enough to center [wing X] and [wing Y], I worry that Russia will have just one complete, marquee scoring line. ”

    You can replace Datsyuk here with Grabovski and it sounds a lot like Ovi’s other team…

  • I don’t think a playmaker *has* to feed a sniper, but I grant you that the term is ambiguous enough to allow for a lot of interpretation.

    He doesn’t suck– how about that? Heh

  • zing

  • Shawn Murphy

    The important thing that I think WE CAN ALL AGREE ON is that Canada is the bad guy here, not RUS
    and obviously we will all continue to love Ovi regardless of Olympic outcome

  • Michael Reschly

    Years ago, you’d hear statements like ‘If Peyton Manning doesn’t win a super bowl, it’s going to hurt is legacy.” A few weeks ago, I heard a sports commentator say “If Peyton Manning *only wins one* super bowl, it’s going to hurt his legacy.”

  • Jaime

    Well, if things go south, we can always hope that Costas infects everyone at NBC Sports. That way they’ll at least be miserable and look stupid (more so than usual) while criticizing Ovechkin. Hell, we can hope he infects them even if Ovi comes home with the gold.

  • Owen Johnson

    Canada has 0 Capitals on them. Easy to root against.

  • ZyphZorg

    Ovi’s 2014 Olympic story on Tuesday February 11, 2014 is not a story of impending doom. It’s a story of opportunity and burgeoning redemption. Especially if the narrative is that he and Russia already fell short of expectations in Vancouver and has done so for many Olympics now.

    High hopes are what Ovi and Team Russia has. High expectations are an external and perhaps more Western narrative.

  • johnnymorte

    The Olympic tournament is a tournament of 4-6 games total. There is a tremendous amount of luck involved. Despite strong odds for certain teams, there is a parity in the international field never before seen in the sport. To discount any team in this tourney from the big six is just speculation. Each team has solid goaltending and that should make them all contenders. There is also a lot more space to operate which should limit the physical advantage of North America’s game to some extent. Again, luck will play a huge role, and having USA in the same group will present a challenge to the Russians in the qualifiers. No question that both Malkin and Ovechkin are dominant players. If they can heat up at the right time, they can take over games in the same way Sid can. But nothing would compare to the drama of a Canada – Russia final to a true hockey afficionado.

  • Igor Kleyner

    The thing about Bilyaletdinov, he is a stickler for his own rules, of which rule number one is two scoring lines and two checking lines. So don’t be surprised that all of the team scoring power seems to be concentrated on top two lines. In fact I am somewhat surprised Taras is on that third line right now, as defense is not really his thing. It almost appears that Semin addition was forced upon Bill by the public outcry.
    And as for the expectations – this is a single game elimination tournament, and while Canada is better than everybody else on paper, it’s not by enough to become a major difference maker. (Except for one aspect – they are the only team that can sustain a slew of injuries to top players without any significant impact.) Four teams have enough top skill and depth to be 1st tier contenders. And Canada has the most questionable goaltending of the big 4, which can easily offset their depth – especially, again, in a single game elimination format, where one bad game by a goalie is enough.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Igor and I gonna sink or swim on the Tarasenko boat. I’m rooting for him to really have some big moments!

  • That two checking lines thing worries me, though I can see the merit in a tournament with this much talent for the opposition.

    P.S. I’m gonna be watching USA / Slovakia on Thursday morning anyway.

  • Jim Kelly

    Oh I definitely miss him a bit. He could be frustrating but I think he was a great threat on our second line that we’re missing a bit of now.

  • yv

    Peter becoming indeed very pessimistic! I think Ovi and Russia would be fine. Reading about and watching Ovi and other players one can tell that they are happy to be in this situation. After 2010, twice Ovi, Malkin, Datsyuk and other key players gathered together, in 2012 WC and 2012 1st Channel Cup, and every time they showed really powerful, sparkling hockey. I don’t think this time it would be any different. HC Bill have made a great move by putting together Ovi-Malkin-Semin line. They can change the outcome of any game. Malkin creating so much space for his linemates, and himself, that each of them have become snipers, like Neal, Mozyakin, Jokinen, etc. And they are not even close to Ovi and Semin. And how to defend against them when this line plus Datsyuk and Markov would be in PP?! I wish Caps have this line right now!

  • Pat Magee

    Also have to take into account how many times those Canadians have played on the big ice. The super skilled Russian forwards will have way more room to do their Russian things.

  • Roman Z.

    Hmmm everyone calls him Patches here in Montreal.

  • Igor Kleyner

    And if he does, the I’ll be thinking “WTF is his wing man from WJC team who thought he’d have a better chance to make Sochi by staying in Russia?” [sigh]

  • Igor Kleyner

    The biggest problem for Russia may be – they don’t have the personnel to match the coach’s vision for the game. Bill likes to keep things tight, orderly and play defense. All the best players on the team (except Datsyuk) are not really defensive stalwarts.

  • Chip

    Exactly the same for me, Peter.

  • JJ

    I certainly agree with rooting for Russia. Lets not act like we must root for USA hockey when we all know the majority of this country could care less. This is probably the biggest moment of Ovi’s career. If Russia wins the gold, it would be surreal, and Ovechkin would garner an incredible amount of praise. The international failures of Russia with Ovechkin are certainly a major fuel for the Ovi critics. Its russian style vs “rough and tough” Canada. As someone who is has seen almost every shift Ovechkin has taken at home in his career, I do not need to be convinced that he is a winning player. Offense is always the most talked about subject, but intelligent hockey fans understand playoff hockey is won by a hot goalie and good defense. It is actually unreal how GMGM has created this team. The caps have no fluidity in their decisions. We fire Bruce because we figured out the run and gun offense was going to lose in the playoffs because of the lack of defense, but we continue to neglect the fact that our our defensive personnel is horrendous. Carlson/Alzner/Orlov are truly the only defenseman who will benefit us in the future. Green needs to go. No questions about it, he is detrimental to us. Green plays 24 minutes a game. He’s never fully healthy, and he hasnt had a “good” offensive season since 2010-11. The argument that his offense outweighs his poor defense is a farce. His playoff stats are anemic, but yet he still is praised. If the point of owning/managing a team is to put fans in the seats more than producing a winning product than the Caps have succeeded. This poor season has nothing to with Oates or Ovechkin. but the continual job of management to put the emphasis on offensive players that we then get rid of once they ask for a decent dollar(ribeiro). I dont think I was the only fan who noticed during the 07,08,09 playoffs that Mike Green was a complete liability at the defensive end. Our power play is amazing, and it will remain that way with Ovechkin and Backstrom. We do not need to continue to act as if we NEED an offensive forward to be successful (especially when he isnt that efficient offensively anyway!) Brouilette in his two games was the perfect example of how a defenseman should conduct themselves offensively. It is extremely simple, and all it requires is throwing the puck near the net. The amnesty clause needs to be used on Green quite simply. I said it five years ago and I will say it again, no team will ever win a stanley cup with Mike Green as long as he is plays the type of minutes he does. the exact same way ovechkin is killed by the media is completely true for Green. Except that he is a beloved Canadian and can do no wrong. Sorry to rant about this but the Caps mean so much to me, and Mike Green is undoubtedly a reason for our lack of success especially in the postseason.

  • Big red flags– we kinda saw the same thing with Hunter and the Caps. DISASTER LOOMS.

  • JenniferH

    I’m with you! Russia for the gold!

  • CM

    Thanks man. I like your(s all) website.

  • lindad28

    This is my POV, too. Ovi bears the pressure with grace, but all the gray hairs he has (before getting to 30) show that he feels it. I love that he plays with joy, despite his critics. So, I’d like to see him lead Russia to the gold. Maybe home ice will offset some of the weaknesses in the Russian team. If that’s not to be, then I’m pulling for the USA or Sweden.

  • Diller M

    This is one of your best posts yet! This encapsulates my fears for Ovi if Russia cannot take the gold. I always root for the best story, so while I would pull for the USA in literally every other situation, I will be wearing blue, white and red instead of red white and blue for this one. After that I will go back to wearing red, white and blue for an epic home stretch in March and April.

    P.S. This is so well written, where did get your BA again?

  • Diller M

    Your post conflicts itself: “If the point of owning/managing a team is to put fans in the seats more than producing a winning product than the Caps have succeeded.” is this a slight? I think you need to define winning. If the cup is your definition of winning, then most teams are “losers.” You also say “Offense is always the most talked about subject, but intelligent hockey fans understand playoff hockey is won by a hot goalie and good defense.” but doesn’t this just play into the philosophy that the Caps just need to continue to make the playoffs and hope they get a hot goalie and ride him to the cup? Also, ironically, our biggest failures (ie 09-10 and 10-11) have come at the hands of our offense drying up at the wrong time ie. hot goalie.

    While I agree with your basic premise that we are not a well constructed team, I think your focus is a bit off, Green is not the problem, he can be productive when healthy, I would argue that he is overpaid, but due to the lack of options when he was resigned, we paid what we paid. Our problem is a lack of real identity.

    Either way, if you ask me, I would argue that this team, HAS been successful as they have managed the team well, built a fanbase and made the playoffs for seven straight seasons. All of these things will lead to a compounding of success, however I do believe that the train is starting to slow down and could use a good retooling before it derails.

  • jj

    I think we agree for the most part. I don’t think it plays into the philosophy simply because our defense is that bad. No hot goalie can save us at this point in the season. Where I place the blame, is the caps management not understanding where our problems were in the lineup, and set us up for where we are right now. We kept bringing in veteran forward after veteran forward, but for the most part, we never truly tried to develop a strong blue line. Whether that was in the draft or through free agency, we failed to improve. The problem with Green for me is his minutes played. In a 5 on 5 game of any sport, if someone is playing almost half of that game, that guy better be mistake free or close to it. Green is a constant danger. He makes mental errors. He tries to make too many unnecessary offensive plays, while neglecting his main job. He is the worst role model for Orlov. “The other night on his hit, he got caught a little bit out of position. He’s in better position, he probably doesn’t take that hit. He tried as hard as he could to recover, but he wouldn’t have had to recover if he was in little bit better position. Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy, but the warrior in him wanted to take the punishment.”-Oates

  • jj

    Anyways, we gave up 4,3,4,5 goals, respectively, when we got swept by the Lightning in 11. So lets not act like the defense wasnt the problem. Green had 0 goals, so basically he was worthless. I mean, that is why he’s so good right? hes supposed to score goals or at least contribute offensively. Against the Canadiens in 09-10 Green committed six penalties in seven games. The bottom line is until we put Green into his place and lower his minutes, we will forever be a fundamentally bad defensive team. I stand true to that, because no team ever in my opinion will be a successful playoff team with Mike Green anchoring the defense. When it is all said and done, we will see how many big time defenses Green will anchor, and I have a hunch that number will be zero.

  • Ash

    True, the narrative will never die completely.

    …But those ten minutes where the hockey world is forced to acknowledge that Ovechkin wins? Pretty effin’ sweet.

  • Eric Schulz

    Um… I don’t know why the hate on Green. He isn’t supposed to be a shut-down guy. If we could actually pair him with a worthy top-4 guy, we’d be fine defensively. Imagine a top-4 of:
    Alzner – Carlson
    Beauchemin – Green
    for instance. I’d prefer Green on a 2nd pair to allow Alzner and Carlson to act as more of a shutdown pair to complement a top-line of Kuznetsov – Backstrom – Ovechkin, then allow Green’s offense to supplement our 2nd line of something like Fehr -Grabovski – Wilson, and have Green paired with a guy who can focus on defense – like Gonchar and Reekie back in the day. And our PP will always be top-5 for as long as we have Backstrom, Green, and Ovechkin. Appreciate what Green is, not what he isn’t. Not his fault we haven’t added a legit top-4 DEFENSIVE-MINDED defender (to some degree, the blame doesn’t even fall completely on GMGM; it’s not easy to get a top-4 defender. However, he traded Forsberg; not getting back a top-4 defender for Forsberg automatically makes that trade idiotic, at best… it was much worse than that, btw).

  • Eric Schulz

    “A bit?”… that’s generous.

  • JJ

    Well because of the amount of money we gave to Mike Green we basically blew any chance of signing a shut down dman. No pairing that we can financially obtain will change Green. His contract was a premature signing and it resembled a Redskins decision.

  • jj

    You claim he was never supposed to be a shut down guy. That argument is thrown out the window when he consistently plays 25 minutes a game. That symbolizes a fundamentally wrong belief of the caps front office. How can you trust a guy on defense who has “never been a shut down guy”?

  • RT23

    As much as I’d love to see Russia win with Ovi as the clear MVP I might be even happier if Russia wins, Ovi is great but Semin is actually slightly better and edges him out for MVP.

    And while I’m dreaming… Then the league discovers that there is a typo in his Carolina contract and he is reassigned back to the Caps. 🙂

  • Eric Schulz

    I absolutely disagree. We could’ve easily used Forsberg to acquire a top-4 guy instead of Erat… the Islanders may have to move Andrew MacDonald, and he’d look great on a 2nd pairing with Green. I have little doubt that they would’ve taken Forsberg for MacDonald straight-up, should they decide that they can’t keep him. We’d easily be able to extend him next year with the cap going up, had we not taken on Erat’s albatross. Look at our roster now, and undo the Forsberg-Erat trade. We free up $4.5 million right there. Then, un-do the Ward signing (both were moves I didn’t like at the time – b/c of the money involved in Ward’s case – so this isn’t just hindsight. Now, we’d have $7.5 million free, and imagine the cap goes up next year by as much as it’s supposed to. You don’t think we can sign a defender for $7.5 M+? You could easily un-do Erskine’s deal too, freeing up almost $2 million there as well, since having a top-4 guy makes Erskine more than expendable (his play makes him expendable too).
    We have a core of Ovie, Backstrom, Green, Laich (he’s fallen off due to injury, but it was understandable to think he’d be a part of it, and he’s being paid like it), and that top-4 guy. Let’s say the top-4 guy makes as much as Green (obviously, in the case of MacDonald, it’s less, but let’s be conservative here; I’m gonna use Tyler Myers, let’s just say Buffalo is willing to move him because he’s regressed and they are rebuilding. He’s young, so could fit into their plans, but they have a lot of young talent on defense, and with his regressing, they will move him for the right price. We send them something like Neuvirth, Carrick, Stephenson, Kundratek, Galiev, Sanford, and a 1st – that should be more than enough to get it done. Honestly, I’m overpaying given his regression. I want to keep Forsberg although he’d make the trade much easier, but also you’d think Buffalo would be eager to take a cheap, young goalie, with Miller headed out of town), then add Alzner and Carlson: that’s about $39.5 M.
    Then, we have the secondary guys: Brouwer, Grabovski, Johansson, Chimera, Fehr, Wilson. That’s almost $13 M. Now we’re at, call it $53 M; that’s about $11 M left. Well, that fills out the top 3 forward lines
    Johansson – Backstrom – Ovie
    Fehr – Grabovski – Wilson
    Chimera – Laich – Brouwer
    and our top-4 defense
    Alzner – Carlson
    Myers – Green
    now, add in goalies:
    Holtby will need a raise, so I’m gonna just use the money as if Neuvirth were still here, to earmark some for Holtby. That’s about $4.5 M. Total: $57.5 M. We still have almost $6 M under the restricted cap (restricted because remember, this year it dropped, and it will jump significantly next year). Does that look like a contending team to you (assuming Myers is the guy we need him to be, and assuming good coaching)?
    Then, we fill out the 4th line and 3rd D pairing with guys like
    Stoa – Wellman – Beagle, or we sign a cheap guy. Also, we add Kuznetsov soon; he moves to the top line LW spot, pushes Johansson into Laich’s 3rd line C spot, and Laich can be a 4th liner (which, at worst, he deserves, at best he returns to form and we have a lovely problem). Forsberg is probably an NHLer next year, at the least a great 3rd liner, and he can push an aging Chimera to the 4th. We should be able to keep Grabovski with the cap going up, and the guys we add (Kuznetsov and Forsberg) being cheap on ELCs (not sure what the deal is with Kuznetsov, maybe his contract situation is different). But even if we don’t keep Grabovski because we want financial flexibility, Kuznetsov and Forsberg are centers and one could fill in the 2nd C spot, then we could fill in from there easy. Burakovsky is a very, very high-end talent also coming up a year or two later.
    On defense, it’s much easier, with guys like Orlov, Schmidt, Oleksy, Brouillette, Strachan, and Wey to choose from. We had, conservatively, $6 M to add 5 guys (4th forward line, 3rd D pair), and all of those guys are between $541,667 and $925,000. Let’s say it’s
    Stoa – Wellman – Beagle on 4th line (that’s $2 M). We don’t have a healthy scratch, but once Kuznetsov comes over we will; probably Stoa. On defense, let’s say Orlov and whomever, I like a lot of guys (Schmidt, Oleksy, Brouillette); let’s say Schmidt and Oleksy, b/c Schmidt is the most expensive, and the others are all about the same. That’s not quite $2.5 M. So, we had $6 million left, I spent $4.5 M and we have a healthy scratch at forward and defense. And again, that’s with the lowest the cap is likely to get.
    And even though I gutted the farm to acquire Myers, we still have prospects like Wilson, Kuznetsov, Forsberg, Burakovsky, Barber, Grubauer, Schmidt, Bowey, Wey, and Lewington (and a few more if you are just counting http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/2014/02/03/washington-capitals-prospect-rankings-winter-2014/#comment-1230758367). In addition, we can fairly expect young guys like Johansson, Orlov, and Holtby to improve.

  • Eric Schulz

    He was paid when he was young, so it was reasonable to expect his defense to improve, which it did before he had to deal with too many concussions. Also, he’s great on defense; he just keeps the puck in the offensive zone to prevent goals against.

  • Eric Schulz

    And since we can’t afford him, we are “forced” to undo the Forsberg trade to free up cap space (sending Erat and Latta back to Nsh, and getting Forsberg back), and we nullify Erskine’s contract to free up the rest of the money we need.

  • RT23

    The Caps new motto can be “The Russian Time Machine Never Breaks”. But if we can do all that let’s just get a better ref assigned to game 7 against Montreal. He doesn’t call the crease violation on Knuble and we go on to win our first Cup.

  • Eric Schulz

    Or back in 2004, when Kolzig was called for high-sticking for 4 mins with less than 2 mins left in game 3 vs the Lightning, and they scored on both PPs (regulation time, then OT to win), to swing that series. Since it was on the follow-through of a pass, it shouldn’t have been called, and we win the Cup instead of the Lightning.

  • RT23

    Now you’ve gone too far and fallen into the “kill your grandmother” paradox. If we win that cup we never get to draft Ovi, these guys never build RMNB and we have nowhere to post this brilliant discussion.

  • Eric Schulz

    I was thinking about that.. but we drafted Ovie #1, and we made the playoffs, obviously, so I don’t grok how that could’ve happened. I don’t know what the repercussions winning the Cup would’ve had, since I have no idea how we had the #1 anyway…

  • Tom Veness

    Wow, reading some of these comments makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. I fear the way you were raised and the way you raise your children when you sit there and root against your country, assuming you are actually Americans. What happens in 2018 when Ovie goes free agent and goes and plays for the highest bidder? Are you all going to go follow him with your tongues wagging like good little puppies and put on what ever sweater he puts on? I want the Capitals to win a Stanley cup as much as anyone, but this is the international stage. When you root against the USA you root against yourself. What ever happened to patriotism?

  • dude, it’s hockey

  • Tom Veness

    Come one, if that was your sentiment you wouldn’t spend your free time writing on it. I’m not saying I think he should walk away empty handed. Silver, bronze. I’m happy for him but when it comes times to play a national anthem on the 23rd; I want to hear the Star-Spangled Banner.