dmitry-orlov

Photo: Igor Kleyner

Caps breakdown day is never a particularly festive affair, and yesterday was no exception, as the Washington Capitals brought down the curtain on their dismal 2013-14 season. Understandably, none of the players were in a particularly cheerful mood as they addressed the media for the last time before summer break. Not all of them, however, are putting away their skates for the season. Some, including defenseman Dmitry Orlov, are looking forward to joining their national teams in preparations for the World Championship, which opens early next month.

The 22-year-old Russian is joining the Sbornaya training camp in a few days, and hopes to put his country’s uniform on for the first time since he was a prominent member of the 2011 WJC gold-winning Russian team. A consolation prize, at best, as the dream of winning the Stanley Cup – or even playing for it – will remain just that at least for another year. But it made for a good conversation starter.

Tell me about your upcoming debut for the Russian National Team.

From the Capitals Snapchat!

From the Capitals Snapchat!

Dmitry Orlov: Yeah I received a message, so it’s all definite now. This is not for the World Championship yet, just the training camp for the Sbornaya. But in any case, it is great news for me. I am very happy it is happening for me. But then, of course, while it is great for me personally, on the flip side there is great disappointment because we did not make the playoffs. This is my first invitation to the National team. So of course there I am experiencing all kinds of positive emotions, I can’t wait to get to Moscow and start practicing with the team. I have hopes and expectation, so I am going to try to do everything I can. I am going to have to show that I can play so I can make the team for Worlds. I haven’t talked to anybody from the coaching staff there yet. I will be on the plane for Moscow on Thursday.

A lot has changed for you personally since we talked last time in November. What are your thoughts on this?

DO: Yeah, I am not even sure how to describe it. There has been a bit of everything this season, both good and bad. And the season is not over for me yet. I am still going to practice and play hockey this season. So it’s premature to try to draw any conclusions. As far as how my season in Washington went, yes, there were some positive things, and some negative too. Especially in the beginning of the season, it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. But it all worked out for the better, I am very happy that I signed a new contract here in Washington, and all those negative things – it’s all in the past. It’s just that as a team we did not make the playoffs… but that means there are goals to achieve in the future. We must get better for the next year. Everything will be all right.

Specifically, though, how much of an impact did that difficult period when you were shuttling between Washington and Hershey have?

DO: Of course it was difficult to deal with; it affected me to some degree, as it probably would anybody. But the way I see it – it did not break me, I managed to hang on and deal with it reasonably. And now it is April already, it’s been a while, and it’s all in the past.  You cannot live in the past.

So when you were signing the new deal with the Caps, you did it without any hesitation?

DO: Of course. I was playing hockey, I was enjoying playing hockey and being a member of the team. I really like everything, so I am very happy to be here.

I don’t know if you are familiar with terms like Corsi or puck possession. Do coaches discuss things like that with you and other players? And did you realize your Corsi rating is the second highest on the team behind Mike Green?

DO: I never heard of such things. So what does it mean that mine is second highest – is it bad?

[I channel my inner Neil, explain fancystats best I can in 15 seconds]

So why do you think the two of you have the best numbers when it comes to puck possession on the team? Also, based on these numbers, it seems like you two have developed some kind of chemistry even though you are both offensive defensemen?

DO: I think it is actually a positive when both defensemen have a good offensive game. It’s easier to read each other’s game. He can help out – get in a good position, get open, carry the puck forward, create advantage for the team that way. I think he is a really good hockey player, and it is a pleasure to play with him.

Do you think he is one defense partner with whom you developed the best understanding?

DO: It’s hard to say that for sure, but I did play paired with him more time than with anybody else, so it probably helped. But that is something the coaches decide. For me personally, I always liked playing with him; he can make a good pass, he can score a goal. And according to these stats, it seems we as a team were spending more time on offense when [Mike and I] were on the ice – isn’t that a good thing? Doesn’t that give us more opportunities to create scoring chances?

Speaking of your ice time, defense coach Calle Johansson mentioned recently that you were getting a lot of ice time lately because you have earned it with your play.

DO: Well, when I play well, I do hear that from the coaches, that I need to continue to play the same way. It’s great when the coaches talk to you, and not just about what we do well, when they watch the video with us, point out the mistakes we make – that’s how we learn and get better. Of course it feels great when you hear your coach making such positive remarks about you; I just need to keep working hard and everything will be fine.

Head coach Adam Oates is known for his great attention to such things as his players sticks. Did he give you any suggestions regarding yours?

DO: He actually did. He took a look at my stick, and suggested that I make it a bit shorter. So I tried it, and it turned out to be a good idea. I did what he suggested, and that’s the stick I am playing with now. It just took a bit of time to get used to it.

What do you personally think was the biggest (or the most obvious) problem with the team this year – given the fact that you did not make the playoffs?

DO: It’s hard to say. First of all, this is a very tough, strong league. All the teams fight to make the playoffs. Maybe we were unlucky a bit sometimes. You know, we only needed four more points, a couple of wins and everything could have turned out differently. You can see from the overall standings how crowded it is. I don’t want to blame anybody in particular. You know, we are a team. We play together. We share the blame. Everybody knows what the problems were. Let it stay within the team, even though I understand how interesting this may be for the fans. Everybody tried to do their best. Everybody wants to win the Cup. Every season everybody on the team tries hard. We did not succeed this time. Maybe we need to learn some lessons.

So, what lessons do you think they should be?

DO: I don’t know. And you know – sometime it’s just how things start going, like a team goes on a winning streak, and it creates confidence. Or the opposite, you lose a few games – and things start going in that direction. You get nervous, the puck just doesn’t settle for you, and so on.

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  • Owen Johnson

    I was scared when I first saw this picture. I though “Oh no, Dmitry Orlov got arrested?”

  • Topher Gee

    Does anybody else have a problem with “4 more points” I think the biggest thing these guys need to realize is how far they have to go to win 16 games in the playoffs. When we start thinking that way up and down the bench we will be better off.

  • Igor Kleyner

    This was my thought as I was taking the picture:

  • Jack Conness

    I think the emergence of Dmitry Orlov should lead to the departure of Mike Green. They are basically the same player BUT Orlov is younger, healthier, cheaper, and has more room to grow. Green has been plagued by injuries and will probably never return to his old form. He also costs a fortune. If the Caps want to make big moves, I would move on from Mike Green. I’m not saying I don’t like the guy, but the Caps don’t need all these offensive-minded defensemen. Green has to go. Big changes have to be made.

  • Pat Magee

    “I know you’re all comfortable playing with your sticks as they are, but I want you all to make them shorter and play with a flat blade.” ~ Adam Oates, 2013

  • John

    Yeah that seems to be a common thread though a lot of these exit interviews, that just making the playoff would make everything OK

  • Igor Kleyner

    I would have a problem if this was coming from a veteran player. But this is a 22 year old kid who for two years in a row watched his team go out in game 7 of SCP – first from the press box, then from Hershey. Not sure how well the transcript relays it – but from the look on Dima’s face it was obvious how much it would have meant for him just to get a taste of playoffs. So, I’d give him a pass on this, at least for now.

  • Matt Lauer

    I agree. I also can’t watch another devastating check on Mike Green behind our net as he makes yet another waify attempt to corral the puck.

  • CadleCreek

    What do you think another team would trade for green? I don’t think the return would be very good and the Caps would have to eat some salary. I’m all for moving the player and the salary, i think it would have to be a salary dump move with prospects or picks in return. If a solid d or 2 were signed via FA, then I am all for dumping the salary but I doubt MG52 fetches a 2nd line center or top 2 d-man in return.

  • JH

    The questioning is leading them there, too. When you are being asked, “Does it suck missing the playoffs?” You reply “It sure sucks to miss the playoffs – and by just a few measly points.” I’m sure they would love to win the President’s Trophy, be a No.1 seed and sweep into the Stanley Cup.

    Everyone needs to lighten up on these guys. They wanted it as badly as we fans do. Probably a lot more. No one wants to lose. It sucks.

  • JH

    You need add just one veteran, stay-at-home blueliner and the whole makeup of the D changes. It would take pressure off everyone and change the complexion of the D completely. Don’t need to get rid of anyone unless the math doesn’t work.

  • Jeanne Blue

    “Let it stay within the team”. Anybody else think that is a telling statement?

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

    A lot of guys said that yesterday. There is clearly some internal friction of some sort.

  • Topher Gee

    That’s a great way to look at it. I was probably a little quick to judge.

  • Topher Gee

    You’re right… consider me lighter.

  • OVECHKING

    Essentially have to trade Mike Green at reduced value, but in saying that, I don’t think his value can go up much in the next few years. He’s lost a step in his game and that’s pretty obvious.

  • OVECHKING

    Really like Orlov. He’s got the most potential on this caps team to be a complete three zone dman. He also has physical aspect to his game and isn’t afraid to play with an edge. Only caps dman on the roster who can seperate an opposing player from the puck regularity. Odd that Oates had this guy sitting on a bus travelling back and forth from Hershey for a good month until he requested a trade. If Oates had his way, Orlov would be with another organization and that would be quite the disappointment to add on to an already long list for Mcphee and Oates.

  • Myan

    Great interview. I have a lot of reservations about GMGM but the contract he signed Dima to is a home run. He’s shown a lot of promise since his inclusion in November and I’ve been really impressed with his game since his suspension. I really do believe that he will be a Norris candidate in the coming years. If he prepares properly in the off season, we may have less to worry about than we think regarding a Top 4 D.

    PS. I’m still waiting to hear what Kuzya said about America, Igor!

  • OVECHKING

    Caps seriously need at least one top pairing dman another top 4 player with more defensive tendencies rather than offensive. Green isn’t the answer. Also can’t put that much hope on Orlov to fill that role next season. He still needs time to grow.

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

    “He’s lost a step in his game and that’s pretty obvious.”

    No, it’s not.

    He’s not awesome in his own end is obvious, but it always has been. The difference now is that he’s in his own end more often– so is everyone else. That implies systemic problems, not individual.

    And no, you don’t have to trade Mike Green at reduced value because YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRADE MIKE GREEN. Ditching a solid second-pair D on a team with huge D roster problems would be a very very very bad management move.

    Please don’t be the Paul Holmgren of armchair GMs.

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

    I totally agree.

    The most encouraging part for me is that his mistakes all seem to be of the teachable kind– when and how to pinch or not.

    I think he could one day be a Norris-level player, which would be insaneo.

  • OVECHKING

    You have to analyse the entire roster first. Mike Green on the St Louis blues would be fine. But Mike Green on the Washington Capitals team that lack offensive depth and has defensive issues with forwards, then that’s a problem. He is on a team that exposes his weakness far more than takes advantage of his strengths. For that reason he should be traded. It a lot easier to trade him and work with the pieces you get than to keep him and add guys who can hide his weaknesses. Mike Green is a helluva hockey player. I watched him play for the Saskatoon Blades, he played all three zones and had that “in your face” aspect of his game.

    He was pretty serviceable hunter, but hunter’s coaching was not sustainable in the long run. To me, he doesn’t play the game with the same passion as he once used to.

    Finally, please justify how you envision a team needing Orlov, Green and Carlson? Orlov should be the guy eventually getting #1 PP time. Carlson is a better, at this point in time, as a defenseman than green. If you propose moving Green to a forward position, that’s the only way I can see him remain on this team. GIven the optics of the roster, the caps can’t have a defensively suspect offensive dman who is overall “average” in their top 4.

  • OVECHKING

    I don’t think its a surprise that when Orlov came up, he was fantastic for the first 15-20 games. Then he hit a rough patch which I coincide with him learning “Oates and Calle Jo defensive system”. Having listened and adjusted to the defensive schemes the coaching staff wanted, he “regressed”… finally the last month of the season, he has been working hard and with more ice time and what appears to be less involvement from the coaching staff in his game, he grown a lot. Against tampa a few days ago, he played 3 out of the 5 minutes of OT and was dangerous the entire time he was out there. I don’t think Tampa had a shot on net while he was on the ice.

  • OVECHKING

    BTW, you will really like Brian Mcnally’s article today. “Why the caps shouldn’t trade mike Green”. Can’t wait to read it.

  • CadleCreek

    that’s been the development model once the big contracts started to fly. No room for journy men or top tier FA. Have to rush the young El guys along to stay under the cap. I would have liked to see Carlzner stay another year in Hershey. just when they started to really get it in chocolate town they were moved up. They could have used a little extra time to develop other aspects of their game and gain some swagger.

  • Myan

    I don’t think it’s essential that we move Mike Green. The defensive scheme under CalleJo & Oates exposed a lot of Green’s defensive weaknesses but under a better system, I think that he has more upside than follies. Fact is, he has one year left on his current contract and I don’t know if there are Top 4 D guys available this summer. We’re already depleted on the blue line so I think Green will stay in DC next season…at least until mid season trade window.

    I disagree with you about Orlov. With his World Championship experience and a full NHL level off season, I think he’ll really come into his own as a Top 4 guy next season. I hope I’m right ;)

  • http://batman-news.com tominsocal1

    I like Orlov, I think he might eventually make top pair, he certainly has the raw talent, but I think they overpaid him. I did not take the time to do comparables to other d men coming off ELC, but he got the same money as Johansson who had more success during the ELC years. I realize Johansson has plenty of weaknesses, and I would take Orlov on my team over Marcus right now, but $2M a year was too high (Alzner got $1.285M after ELC) unless the KHL was a real threat.

  • Semintheghost

    A home grown Russian winning the Norris would be awesome. When was the last time a Russian won it? Next year should be Orlov’s and Kuzy’s breakout year.

  • Myan

    Alzner probably could have gotten more than $1.3 a year but he came off a season where he got something like 5 pts and was a minus. Orlov contributes offensively.

    I think the contract we paid him is a home run for us. Worth every penny and unlike other GMGM contracts, it’s very risk averse. Orlov is bordering on being a Top 4 D, he’s already getting 20:00+ a plus and we got him at $2m a year for 2 years. If he doesn’t work out for us (knock on wood), we could move that contract very easily. To compare, Kindl gets $2.4m a year, Meszaros is on $4m a year, Andrew MacDonald just signed for $5m a year, Nick Leddy is $2.7m a year. I think those guys are comparable to Orlov in terms of ability, TOI, and potential. Based on that, I think we got a great deal.

  • BorntoHula

    I don’t think a russian has won it. Karlsson, Chara, Leetch, Chelios and Lidstrom I think are the only non-canadians to have ever won the norris. But then again Lidstrom won it like 6 times in a seven or eight year stretch.

  • http://batman-news.com tominsocal1

    I understand, but you can’t compare him for salary to UFAs like Meszaros and McDonald. This is his second contract and he isn’t even arbitration elgible. Even if you believe he’s as good as those other guys, his pay should only reflect comparables signing second contract. I agree on his potential and agree the contract isn’t that risky, just thought it is too high unless Caps thought he might bolt for KHL.

  • Myan

    True but even comparing Orlov’s contract to other 2nd contracts, we’re still getting a deal. Faulk’s second contract is $4.8, Cam Fowler is $4m. Dima’s contract at $4m for 2 yrs gives him the opportunity to earn that larger contract and enables us to manage our own risk.

  • Igor Kleyner

    I think KHL factor is worth about as much as arbitration eligibility, especially for Orlov whose KHL rights belong to a petro-$$ based team (CSKA). So I agree – slight overpayment – but not enough to lose sleep over.

  • http://batman-news.com tominsocal1

    Agreed. Let’s face it, I lose enough sleep over the Laich, Green and Erskine overpayments. And occasionally I wake up screaming as memories of Hamrlik, Poti, Schultz and Nylander overpayments haunt me like the ghosts haunt Scrooge on Christmas Eve. But most of all I lose sleep over McPhee. May he soon, God willing, take up residence in a different town.

  • Semintheghost

    OK. Thanks.

  • Dcsportsfan85

    I completely agree. It’s crazy how one veteran stay at home physical blue liner would impact out line up. I also think Oates and Calle need to adjust their schemes to max their players talents not hinder them. If they are coaching.

    The only problem is there are really many legit options for a top 4 shutdown defenseman. Brooks Orpik who’s 33 and who know if he’d come to DC.

  • Simon Moon

    The only valid argument I know of is that it would be trading him at his lowest value. If you think he is going to play his way into a higher value I think you are kidding yourself. I’m all for keeping him if he wants to get paid like the player he is but you know that isn’t happening. Isn’t he UFA after this season? If so that is his trade value, deadline deal to contender who is willing to overpay.