Head coach Adam Oates of the Washington Capitals is. That sentence is still correct in the present tense. I’m astonished.

This is not another article listing the problems with Adam Oates, or even the problems with George McPhee. This is an article, the last in a series, describing the Capitals on a week-to-week basis using quantified analysis. If at any point the following article reads like a hitpiece against Caps coaching or management, that’s only because the math totally hates them. It’s not me, I swear.

Also, I think Dmitry Orlov is gonna be real good someday. Let’s do the numbers one more time!

These are the numbers as of 8 PM on Sunday, April 13th, though I’m not posting this until a few days later. The sample is 5-on-5 play while the score is close. That means within one goal in the first two periods and tied in the third. That way special teams, blowouts, and comebacks don’t color the data. Stats of note are highlighted in powderpuff pink and discussed below.

But first, here are all the previous snapshots:

  1. Even-Strength Anxiety
  2. Precious Little Progress
  3. Turn and Face the Strain
  4. Underwater, But Winning
  5. Line Shuffling, Good and Bad
  6. Small Steps in the Right Direction
  7. The Gauntlet
  8. R.I.P. The Black Hole Line
  9. Scratching, Benching, Winning
  10. Addition by Subtraction
  11. No, Really, Mike Green is Good
  12. Everybody, Goalie Panic!
  13. The Unsustainable Lifestyle
  14. Losing for All the Right Reasons
  15. Need Points Now
  16. Waiting Out the Percentages
  17. The Beagle and the Damage Done
  18. Thinning the Herd
  19. Hold That Thought
  20. Shallow Depth and the Trade Deadline
  21. It’s Later Than You Think
  22. Wagons West
  23. Victory in California!
  24. Time to Reunite Nicky and Alex
  25. The Wonderful Futuree

Forwards

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Aaron Volpatti L 41 205 3 5 39.5% 4.3% 95% 99.3 52.6%
Alex Ovechkin L 78 714.4 21 31 48.8% 5.6% 92.1% 97.7 59.6%
Brooks Laich C 51 397 12 13 46.5% 7.1% 93.3% 100.4 51.6%
Dustin Penner R 18 124.6 2 0 46.8% 3.9% 100% 103.9 45.3%
Eric Fehr R 73 588.3 20 23 49.8% 7% 92.1% 99.1 45.3%
Evgeny Kuznetsov C 17 132.3 5 7 36.8% 12.8% 90.7% 103.5 45.9%
Jason Chimera L 82 649.3 33 29 46.6% 10.3% 91.9% 102.2 43.8%
Jay Beagle C 62 405.1 5 10 46.2% 3.3% 94.6% 97.9 48.5%
Joel Ward R 82 628.5 32 26 48.4% 10.4% 92% 102.4 44.8%
Marcus Johansson C 80 665.3 21 34 47.7% 6.9% 90.6% 97.5 52.1%
Michael Latta C 17 67.6 3 4 48.1% 10.3% 88.2% 98.6 48.5%
Mikhail Grabovski C 58 514 22 14 50.1% 8.1% 94.7% 102.8 51.5%
Nicklas Backstrom C 82 733.9 24 34 48.3% 6.4% 91.6% 98 56.4%
Tom Wilson R 82 419.2 11 11 44.1% 7.5% 94.4% 101.9 53.3%
Troy Brouwer R 78 630 19 22 47.6% 7% 93.1% 100.1 47.8%

Defense

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Nate Schmidt D 29 283.1 12 10 50.6% 8.5% 93.4% 101.8 55.9%
John Erskine D 37 336.7 13 15 45.1% 8.4% 91.7% 100.1 47.7%
John Carlson D 82 832.7 25 33 46.3% 6.4% 92.6% 99 49.5%
Karl Alzner D 82 822.7 26 29 47.3% 6.8% 93.1% 99.9 49.6%
Mike Green D 70 806.9 27 30 52% 6.8% 92.2% 99 54.8%
Connor Carrick D 34 293.1 8 11 42.7% 6.8% 93.5% 100.3 46.8%
Dmitry Orlov D 54 646.1 20 22 52.5% 6.4% 92.4% 98.8 50.5%
Jack Hillen D 13 116.3 2 6 38.7% 5.4% 92.3% 97.7 50%

Observations

image (2)

  • Seriously, why hasn’t he been fired yet? Right now he’s just circling the block, waiting to park the bus on someone else.
  • Total 5v5 ice time shared by Dustin Penner and Alex Ovechkin: 10 minutes, 40 seconds. That’s almost as long as “Starla” off the Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot comp. Unrelated tidbit: Adam Oates told the press that he and McPhee speak every day.
  • Shout-out to the iron men who played all 82 games: Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, Nick Backstrom, Tom Wilson, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner. That is… not a lot of dudes. The Caps were one of the healthiest teams in the league going by cap hit of injured players, but they iced almost 40 players. If you’re looking to apportion blame for that, I’d split it up pretty evenly among the dude behind the bench and the small dude who whispers a lot and punched another dude that one time.
  • Tom Wilson‘s 82-game campaign featured less ice time (651) than Brooks Laich got in 31 fewer games (880) . To make up for it, I propose that Wilson play goalie for the first five games of next season.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s possession stats (SA%) stunk. Just 36.8 percent of unblocked shot attempts during 5v5 in close games belonged to the Caps– awful even for a fourth liner. Let’s hope those 163 unblocked shot attempts he saw aren’t indicative of what kind of player he’ll be in the long run. I loved what I saw from him on offense. The rest of the time… we shall see.
  • During 5v5, Alex Ovechkin was outshot during 641 to 547. If all shots were equal, that’d be about a minus-4 goal rating (not counting 4v4 play or the 10 shorties he was victim to). Instead, Ovi was a minus-35, the 884th lowest in the league. Then again, Ovi’s PDO– a stat based on things he mostly cannot control– was 96.6, putting him around the 6th percentile. Factor in all the action he saw in his 1126 minutes played during 5v5, and it’s not all that crazy. Expect some dumb-ass stories about Ovi turning around his defensive game next season, when all that will really have happened is a reversion of crummy luck.
  • Actually, a little more on that: A friend asked me whom I would trade and whom I would keep. Like in all things, the answer is complicated. If the Caps become an offense-focused team next season, their roster is ready (aside from D depth). If the Caps hire a defensive-minded coach instead, it’s time to *gulp* break up the core. I think Ovechkin is one of the best players in the world, but on a team that — by design– won’t have the puck much, he’s a liability. On the other hand, if you build a team around him like Boudreau did– obsessing over his offense and optimizing him like a pit crew tweaking a Chevy SS at Talledega, then he’s the nucleus of a very viable core. Ovi’s chief problem was never how he plays without the puck; it’s that he’s been playing without the puck so much. Same goes for Mike Green. And a bunch of others, like this next guy…
  • Bold prediction time: Dmitry Orlov will one day be a Norris trophy candidate. His individual shot creation is up, his possession (SA%) is way up, and he’s shutting down shots better in his own zone. Some experience and some excellent coaching will help him choose when to pinch and when to retreat better, and then I’d bet we’ll have ourselves a stud here. On the other hand, there’s a backlog of offensive defensemen on this roster, and not a ton of PPQB time to go around. I worry a bit for Orly’s development.

That’s it for the snapshot! 26 weeks and 40,000 words later, here we are …despairing at a team whose management seems to be less rigorous in self-reflection than this hapless blogger. If the last 26 weeks have taught me anything, well let’s make a list:

  1. The problems were apparent early. Week one was titled “Even-Strength Anxiety” for crying out loud.
  2. Changes were not made to address those problems– not on the ice, not on the roster.
  3. This team probably does not use anything like the peer-reviewed, statistically validated metrics used by serious hockey analysts. (I don’t count myself as a serious hockey analyst for the record.)
  4. I have no idea why I used “position” as a column in the snapshot. I have no idea why I did a lot of things, but I know I’ll make a lot of adjustments next season– if you’re still willing to read.
  5. ExtraSkater.com is the bomb dot com diggity donkey kong.
  6. Despite an imperfect roster, the Capitals are capable of a lot more than they showed you this season. An overhaul in decision-making should come with a very nice return. Things suck now, but they’re not so bleak as they might seem. To paraphrase Warren Ellis: the world is never perfect and the world is never doomed. That goes for hockey teams too.

Now I turn it over to you: What did you like this season? What did you hate? I’ll have A LOT more to talk about in coming weeks, but it’s your chance to steer the conversation. GO NUTS!

Glossary

  • GP: Games played
  • TOI: Time on ice
  • GF: Capitals goals for which the player was on the ice
  • GA: Opponent goals for which the player was on the ice
  • SA%: Percentage of shot attempts (from both teams) that went towards the opponent’s net, excluding blocked shots
  • Sh%: Capitals’ shooting percentage while the player was on the ice
  • Sv%: Capitals’ goalie save percentage while the player was on the ice
  • PDO: The sum of Sh% and Sv%, a number that regresses closely to 100 in larger samples; a proxy for luck, in a sense– i.e. high ≈ lucky
  • ZS%: The share of shifts the player started in the offensive zone, excluding neutral-zone starts; data not limited to close games.

Thanks to ExtraSkater.com for the stats.

Tagged with:
 
  • Mojo

    Mojo had had an abysmal year. 7.5% shooting percentage, just over a quarter of Ovi’s shot attempts, and a sub 35% face off percentage. His play and stats have really suffered and it’s become increasingly clear he has been carried by Backy and Ovi.

  • Alli S.

    Willie the Goalie… Now THAT would be a sight to see.

  • VeggieTart

    He’d hit even more guys near his crease than Holtby did.

  • Searle

    There was a lot of talk about Oates not using decent players brought in by GMGM, do you think Penner should have been given more of a chance on a line with Backy and OV given the success he had on the top line with the Ducks?

  • Rob W.

    Mojo has been really frustrating to watch at times, i always tell myself he is still young and devoloping but i dont know anymore, i wouldnt be against trading him

  • Amykins

    So what I have learned is that next year’s Week 1 wrap up should be titled “Caps Are A Cup Contender!” and then we wait for that to be the case a year from now. I am of course joking, but that would be magical.

    I have actually learned so much more about the game through this blog, which I discovered early this season. For that, I thank you very much!

  • Scott

    Perhaps this isn’t the most apposite reply to a detailed quantitative post, but all season didn’t the Caps just look like a team afraid to lose? Poor puck possession, lots of dump and chase, inept offensive zone entries (even on the power play), etc. It was like watching bad junior hockey, when clearing the puck after allowing the goalie to get shelled for ninety seconds is the pinnacle of a team’s strategic aspirations.

    They just never looked confident despite having, as you say, a fairly strong if imperfect roster and a solid core. The most damning statistic to me is the number of loses in one-goal, low-scoring games. This is all about attitude and coaching, and the latter drives the former.

  • Scott

    Agreed – this is one of the best blogs in hockey: passionate about the Caps but measured and very analytical. Much like Washington DC in general, I would say.

  • AloeCap10

    Quite a few players took a step back this year and the coaching staff drove off a cliff. The deployment and line selection was absolutely abysmal this year. Beagle centering the top line, Penner on the 4th line, Mojo carrying a 7.5 S% and less than 35% on the dot on the top line damn near all season, a constant stream of defensemen who probably would struggle in the AHL let alone the big leage. These issues start with the coaching staff and go right to the top of team management. But I have to say that Oates in particular seemed a little too headstrong about his ideals (e.g. wingers never playing on their off wing & defensemen told to chip and chase when they spent their whole career carrying the puck through the neutral zone). Even Olie Kolzig threw a wrench in Holtby’s game by asking him to sit back in the crease more and be less aggressive. These coaches came in and asked these players to wildly change their game when they weren’t broken which resulted in… completely breaking them. The approach needs to change, the deployment needs to change, the coaching staff needs to change! I hope they fire damn near every coach on the staff. A change is needed and badly.

  • AloeCap10

    Absolutely agreed! RMNB is far and away my favorite hockey blog! Keep up the great work guys!

  • Shaggy

    The longer that Oates survives, the more I sense he returns. Even if management is using an abacus to crunch numbers (assuming they review stats/metrics, which appears doubtful), there is no way it should take this long to either 1) can Oates, or 2) issue a statement that he’s returning.

  • Amykins

    Coaches, as a rule, should see the strengths in their players and enhance them, while addressing their weaknesses. It seems to me that Oates and Olie in particular concentrated on their own strengths as players, and then tried to project them onto the team. That ain’t workin’ dudes.

  • Amykins

    Maybe they need to find his replacement first?

  • Steven Lemmeyer

    This season was painful to watch yet possibly the very thing the team needed to finally make some significant changes. This season highlighted many weaknesses, due to coaching or not, and I think we all know certain areas in the front office and on the ice that need to be fixed because of it. But, alas…http://media.giphy.com/media/FZL4qIVF0cv7i/giphy.gif

  • Marky Narc

    I think Penner should have been in the top six, for sure.

  • Marky Narc

    hasadamoatesbeenfiredyet.tumblr.com

  • Marky Narc

    Not a legit link. Sorry, everyone. :(

  • Marky Narc

    But then again, when you click, it says “There’s Nothing Here.” – so maybe that’s a sign?

  • Val

    You gotta start at the top,
    1.Leonsis needs to start focusing on winning (Cups) instead of making money, once they start winning (Cups) the money will follow.
    2. Get a new GM who wants to win (Cups) and let him hire a coach who wants and has a plan how to win (Cups)
    3. Coach/GM will work with current players and get new ones if that’s what needed and explain to them what they want and how they want it.
    After that and only after that the Caps will be where we want them to be.
    The theme here is – everyone has the same goal and the same vision to accomplish the mission (win the Cup).

  • Shaggy

    Maybe. Or perhaps they are in negotiations with someone? But I don’t think that’s how most of these situations occur – I mean, Nashville canned Trotz without a replacement …

  • djlotus

    May not want to put the cart ahead of the horse. If they are thinking new management, they may leave the coaching decision up to said new GM.

  • JenniferH

    Just a quick comment on Holtby and Kolzig. After listening to Holtby’s exit interview, I think now it’s pretty clear that it’s not Kolzig to blame, but all on Oates. Kolzig was just doing what Oates told him to do and was trying to help Holts adjust to what Oates was unnaturally forcing on him as best as he possibly could. A reporter specifically asked at one point if Adam and Olie worked with Holtby, and Holtby clearly said that it was him and Olie and made it quite clear that it was Kolzig who helped him, he and Kolzig were on the same page from day one. He never said anything negative about Adam Oates, but he was very, very complimentary about Kolzig while his silence about Oates–especially when Oates was specifically brought up–was quite damning, I thought. Add onto that the goaltending section from the Katie Carrera article with comments from Dave Prior and Oates himself, and well, it’s pretty clear that Oates was the issue here and not Kolzig.

  • JenniferH

    That’s why I love it so.

  • Shaggy

    I have a hard time with this – despite the issues with Caps and their management, I have never thought they don’t want to win a Cup. If they want to make money, wouldn’t winning a Cup bring them MORE money?

    I think they want to win as much as the next guy, they just have the wrong people in place to do it.

  • Shaggy

    Valid …

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

    Neil wrote at the beginning of the season that Marcus was important in neutral in getting the puck into the offensive zone. I hope that’s true.

  • bulk

    Don’t f around with Grabo and sign him soon!

  • Shaun Phillips

    Definitely, Penner and Erat. I fear both ships have sailed now.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Reading between the lines of his interviews the past week or two, he’s not going to resign unless they get rid of GMGM/Oates.

  • CadleCreek

    Hypothetically say, the caps trade ovi and green and by some miracle bring in 3 roster players- a 1st pairing d-man, #1 center and 30 goal scorer that’s better in their own end. Also, sign an Orpik like guy and another 20 goal scorer clutterbuck type player. they play Hunter hockey and after 3 years win the cup but the sellout streak ends and season ticket sales decline by 15%.

    Do you think Ted would do it?

    I don’t see him getting rid of Ovi for any aasinine trade some schmuck dreams up on the interwebs. Ovi is his marketing ticket and always remember, Ted may have made his money by being in on AOL early, but only because AOL bought his marketing company to bring him on board. Ted is a marketer first and foremost. it’s good marketing to win but the product is OVI(young guns) then the Capitals. I don’t blame him for wanting a return on his investment, he spent the dough to be the owner and he should make money. However, I don’t have to like it and the interwebs, which he helped grow, gives me a platform to shout my opinion.

  • CadleCreek

    The nail in his coffin occurred during the exit interviews many of the players said something along the lines of “if we are all on the same page”. The head coaches job is to make sure everyone is on the same page. This team admittedly is not on the same page.

  • voiceofreason

    In most of the posts about who should get fired/replaced one never reads the name Dick Patrick. Isn’t he the one that’s most responsible for this decline?

  • Steve

    Hated:

    1) Most post-game press conferences/player interviews. There are only so many times I can hear a player say “We weren’t mentally prepared” or “mentally ready” or “we didn’t try hard enough” until you really do start to wonder if the problem really is personnel….either because they don’t care enough to figure out the real problem and say it, or if they are just so confused that they really don’t know what else to say.

    2) Any time the Caps had a 2 goal lead.

    3) Any time the Caps had to play defense. Conversely – I loved their ability to clear a path in front of their own net for the other team. Hope those teams remember next year and pay back the Caps generosity.

    4) NBC’s analysis of “What’s wrong with the Capitals?” or “What’s wrong with Ovechkin?” Noted I can live with bias in the light of expertise….but they don’t seem to have that either. A paragraph in any RMNB article chosen at random covering the same topic will drive donuts around anything out of the NBC network 99.9% of the time when it comes to Caps hockey (The 0.1% is for randomness. If I put my cat in front of a keyboard long enough, she’ll eventually type out a legitimate word/sentence/Caps statistic).

    5) Oates Line Pairings and Goalie direction. In all seriousness – must be tough as a player to learn/adjust to something different than what you’re used to, watch the team fail to maintain consistency, get hammered in the press, and finally wonder about the job you’re doing. At that point – what does it mean if the Coach tells you you’re doing a good/average/bad job? How do you improve with such conflicting information?

    6) Penguins. No good Caps yearly hate list is complete without the Penguins.

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

    I really think Ted would do something that drastic if he genuinely thought it was for the best of the team.

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

    I don’t see any evidence that Ted is interested in money over Cups. He spends to the cap limit, hires whom *he thinks* are the best people for the job, and has invested heavily in the Verizon and KCI– to the benefit of both neighborhoods.

    Items 2 and 3 I’m on board with!

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

    Probably, yes. But he’s insulated in a number of ways. With Oates I can tie actual on-ice events to him. With McPhee I’ve gotta make one leap before I can attribute problems to him. With Patrick, it’s way harder.

  • DCSportsDork

    Question to all, would you trade Mike Green and go after Dan Boyle as a Mike Ribeiro-esque rental this summer?

  • Brackaphobia

    Obviously there are a lot of variables that hurt the team this season but line combinations and deployments were pretty horrid in particular. AO constantly seemed outcoached and never mastered the use of his time outs, either. Assuming he doesn’t come back and barring some crazy trades, I would want to see a new coach try:

    Grabovski-Backstrom-Ovechkin
    Kuznetsov-Fehr-Brouwer
    Chimera-Johansson-Ward
    Laich-Beagle-Wilson

    I put this together mostly by playing styles that I thought would be complementary.

    First line is easy. Backstrom is a playmaker, Ovi is a scorer, and Grabo is IMO a combination of both. Not a hard decision.

    I split up the 3rd line and put Fehr as 2C because he drives play no matter where he is in the lineup. Plus he has a super quick release and could hook up with Kuzya all day. Brouwer can do Brouwer things and stand in the crease.

    Not splitting up Chimmer and Wardo, but I do think Mojo could bring more finesse to that line. Mojo’s cycle game and wall work is great when he is on his game and would work well with 25 and 52.

    Don’t really know where Brooks fits in next season. I worry about his brittle groin. But since he can get hot and I like to think of him as an “energy guy” he fits in on the 4th line. Beagle is comfortable on the 4th line so no issue there, but then comes Wilson. I wanted him to be the 2nd line RW but putting Brouwer down there after a 25 goal season didn’t seem right. Maybe keep Brouwer there and give Wilson his spot in the slot during the PP?

  • voiceofreason

    Ted Leonsis is running a business of which the Washington Capitals is but a part. I don’t pretend to know how the Washington Capitals are being run as a business but I assume Dick Patrick reports to Ted Leonsis as to how well the Caps are doing as a revenue stream and how well they are projected to do in the future. The best hope for the fans is that the projected future shows a downward trend and Ted will be prompted to make changes. It’s easy for me to say but if I were him I would replace Dick Patrick.

  • CadleCreek

    #4 cats are assholes, so even if it did type out a logical sentence, the cat would delete it out of spite.

  • Myan

    Here’s a question: how important do you guys think it is for us to have a coach and/or GM who has won a Cup or at least has taken a team to the Finals? After what we’ve seen for the past few years, I’m starting to think that this is the X factor we need to legitimately challenge for a Cup.

  • Jack Conness

    I’ve been saying it all season. MoJo is extremely overrated and has looked good playing next to Ovi and Backstrom, like anyone would. He just disappears on the ice. I hope they move on from him.

  • voiceofreason

    I think the most important X-factor is that the whole organization, from top to bottom, has the mindset, from day one, that they will extinguish all hope their opponents might have of beating them.

  • Guest

    What do you guys think the caps need to do in order to increase the amount of ice time that Tom Wilson sees? Is it a matter of a coach who doesn’t care what wing guys play, or do you think they should trade Brouwer or Wardo at the draft/offseason. I’m also curious on who, if anyone, should be bought out this season, and if you think we should trade away a guy like Mojo to maybe help out the back end.

  • Myan

    To be completely honest, I didn’t even know who Dick Patrick was until a few weeks ago. From what I’ve read, it seems like he deals mainly with the finances of the organization and the operations of Verizon & KCI. Isn’t he also a part owner of the Capitals franchise?

  • Shaun Phillips

    I don’t think there’s any decent candidates left to use the buyout on (would’ve bought out Laich, but LTIR = no buyou). I’d try and trade Mojo+13th pick for a 4-5 dman. This solves the logjam at wing and gets the dman that the Caps need. Minus a trade to move one of the wings, I think Wilson should spend next year in Hershey to get ice time and work on his other skills.

  • Shaun Phillips

    No. Also, Boyle is a UFA as soon as the current season ends, so no need to trade for him. He’s also 37 and has maybe 1 decent year left.

  • voiceofreason

    He seems to be a “behind-the-scenes” type of figure. You always see Leonsis with McPhee or the players in the videos. Was he even in the team photo? If he’s a part owner it will make his replacement more complicated.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Our cats actually watch hockey with us. The one usually stands in front of the tv and follows/scratches at the puck.

  • Myan

    From the Monumental Sports Entertainment website: “A mainstay for the Washington Capitals’ franchise for more than two decades, the owner, president and alternate governor continues to lead the club with his tireless effort and intense desire to continue a family tradition – engraving the Patrick name onto the Stanley Cup.”

    Yeah, it may be tough to replace him.

  • Shaun Phillips

    I’d rather see Grabo at 2C. We have so few natural centers/faceoff guys I hate to see 2 used on the same line. Assuming the Caps don’t resign Penner (I still want him), I’d move Kuzya up to 1. God knows what to do with Brouwer/Wilson. If Wilson is gonna be stuck on 4 again, I’d rather see him in Hershey getting top line minutes and developing.

  • johnnymorte

    Laich gave a very compelling yet misguided interview. He stated that the team under Hunter had the best chance to win. Although Hunter’s system might have played to his strengths, this team had ZERO chance to win under Hunter. I remember watching the Boston series where we spent entire games hemmed in our own zone completely comfortable. On the surface, that might have looked okay, but that pattern was completely unsustainable. Ovechkin seems completely uncommitted to forechecking and backchecking, and when he does do it he seems to give up at the first failure. That might be okay for now because he scored 50+ goals and that’s his saving grace, but when his numbers regress to 30 or so these problems are going to be exacerbated. I would have no problem with Ovi running amok if we had Shea Weber or Ryan Suter back there every time he was on the ice, but that’s not reality. The 5v5 play today does not allow for successful run and gun hockey, and you’ll see Boudreau’s team collapse in the playoffs every year like clockwork as the play tightens up. He’s also made defensive adjustments to his system to accommodate the state of the league. This dichotomy between player mentalities is why this team has no identity, and without some kind of mutual ground on playing tactics this team looks like the debut of a national team put together in a weekend on a nightly basis. Oates’ intelligence is prevalent in his meetings with the press, but I don’t know if that translates well on the ice. My hope is that Ovi can come to terms with his weaknesses as a player and start to work on those, no matter how stupid or futile it looks until it improves. I know that Caps nation will be behind him no matter what. Oates has got the brains, but he needs to grow some balls. Look at the top coaches in this league: Babcock, Julien, Hitchcock. These are not “players” coaches. When I look at Hitchcock I want to punch him in the mouth. These are the types of SOB’s that create a winning culture.

  • voiceofreason

    LOL!, Forget I even mentioned it.

  • Brackaphobia

    Good point. But then again I am not set on keeping Brouwer. I want Wilson up in the top 6 badly because of his size and (alleged) skill set but take away Brouwer, add Wilson to 2nd line and then who is 4th line RW?

  • CadleCreek

    If the issue facing a team going into the season is who plays 4th line rw, then they don’t have a problem. The Caps have not known who was playing 1LW, 2C, D, 3C, or 1G for the last few seasons.

  • Ben Reed

    I understand Ted’s desire to be patient and make an informed decision. That’s smart business.

    BUT.

    What information is left to compile on Oates? What exactly does Ted need to consider here? The evidence is plentiful, compelling, and right in front of his face.

    What am I missing?

  • Diller M

    Thats an interesting take, I have never been a big supporter of Kolzig as I thought he was overrated as a player. I don’t see how Kolzig will survive a coaching change, but if he does, it will be interesting to see if things chage.

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

    Maybe smooth transition?

  • Diller M

    McPhee says that he only fires a coach if he has “lost the room.” That is what did in Bruce. After looking at the exit interviews and seeing the final numbers, it is pretty obvious to me the players are tuning Oates out, probobly to their benefit. I really can’t see him surviving much longer.

  • DCSportsDork

    I am certainly not saying that trading away Green and SIGNING Boyle as a stop gap would be a good idea, but at least it’s up for discussion, right? Remember, Green is also a UFA by 2015.

    Again, not saying that it is the right move, but my thinking behind it is to keep developing Orlov so that he can finally get some special teams TOI (name me anybody else that is on the PK or PP outside of the big 3?) and then hope that Bowey lives up to his potential. Plus, to follow Ed Francovic’s theories, you get a Cup winner in your locker room (’04 Lightning) for a short term deal and you could still get a ton of nice pieces in return for Green.

    After all that, you have Carlson, Bowey, Alzner, Orlov and/or a still productive Boyle within two years. Remember, it wasn’t until this year that Sergei Gonchar looked old. Yes, Boyle is old and had his worst season in 12 years, but he is SIGNIFICANTLY better than anybody outside the big 3 and we also better not forget that Green could be gone soon, especially if the Caps higher ups think he is an enigma like Adam Oates does.

  • Rotating Earth

    no it’s not. There have been two constants in this debacle; McPhee and Patrick.

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

    Constants mean they’re present, not NECESSARILY responsible.

    They may very well be– and I think they are– but it’s harder to PROVE that, and proof has been my requirement for criticism on the site.

  • Rotating Earth

    sorry. Patrick is suppose to be Teddy’s hockey brain trust, because Teddy doesn’t know anything about hockey. He (Patrick) has failed miserably at that.

  • Ben Reed

    What makes for a smooth transition?

    There seem to be three possible explanations. One, he has not decided yet, which is idiotic. Two, he has decided, but is waiting (for what?). Three, he has decided not to be the decider, and is waiting to make a decision on GMGM one way or another, and will allow whatever GM is in place to decide on Oates’ future.

    All of these possibilities strike me as absolutely horrible, because they all mean that either a) Oates is a lame duck coach who, while he is on the chopping block, allows other players to be in emotional or contract limbo, possibly leading to Grabo’s departure; or b) the unthinkable, Oates will actually remain the head coach of this team, and I will have to set myself on fire.

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

    Yeah that seems legit.

    What if they want McPhee to walk away without being fired, and they also want to hire a new coach that the new GM would be okay with. That’s a delicate operation and could take time to organize.

    Or maybe they’re gonna fire McPhee and make Oates the GM and they’re figuring out if there’s anything else they could do to guarantee that the most possible Caps fans suffer an aneurysm.

  • Bilal

    Also, I read from from Holtby’s Interview that he a Kolzig agreed that Holtby was a lot better when he was aggressive, so I guess Olie gave him the green light to play as his instincts told him too. Which is probably why Holts was so much better in the last few games, and much more aggressive.

  • Bilal

    I actually learned about RMNB around Trade deadline time this year lol! But ever since then, my knowledge and love for the game just doubled. Love this site

  • Shaun Phillips

    I’m not either. I think we can trade either Mojo or Brouwer to make room for Wilson higher up.

  • Bilal

    to be fair, if they let Holts be aggressive, it would have been same

  • Dman

    Can we all agree that the next head coach of the Capitals needs to have NHL head coaching experience on his resume already. AO makes 5 coaches in a row getting their first ever head coaching job with the Caps. Hanlon, Cassidy, Boudreau, Hunter, Oates.
    And a couple of Cups would be nice too, but I would settle for reasonable past success in the playoffs.

  • Justin

    It’s not Thanksgiving. GMGM only fires coaches around Thanksgiving

  • Ben Reed

    What’s the advantage of having McPhee walk away, as opposed to firing him? $$ issues you think? If you mean letting his contract expire, that would take us to June 28 (per Gormley), which would be agony for all parties involved and detrimental to finding a quality new hire, I think.

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

    There’s probably no practical advantage, but it’d be kinder for George’s career and probably the preferable business-ethical decision.

  • Ben Reed

    I can see that, like asking for his resignation (with the implied threat of firing if he does not step down).

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

    Oates has coached 130 games. If he’s not fired by tomorrow night, I’ll do a comparison of players in the first and second halves of that time. My hypothesis is a huge dropoff.

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

    Yeah, I hope it goes down like that. Whatever my disagreements with McPhee, I think he’s a mensch. When a guy wanted out of the team for any reason, he was very accommodating. I really do like him.

  • Ben Reed

    It still shouldn’t take much time for this to happen.

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

    I think you’re totally permitted to have that opinion. I’m just saying to make a flawless, evidence-based case that you can put your byline on is a lot tougher.

  • OVECHKING

    Neil also wrote Alex Ovechkin will never score 50 goals again.

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

    No, he didn’t.

  • Holtby Fan (Katie)

    My kitty Lola loves hockey. She does the same thing.

  • Matt McNeely

    Lots of things not to like. Most of all I did not like the line combinations. That was frustrating to the point of literal madness. I adamantly disagree with Oates obsession with handedness. I disagree with any rule or theory that either ignores logic or limits creative thinking. With Oates you know there are lots of things that might benefit the hockey team that you’ll never ever see. I want to see an Ovi/Fehr-Backstrom-Ward line, for example. I think that line would dominate. Never gonna see it with Oates. I don’t know how I’m going to manage to watch hockey if Oates is still the head coach next year. I’m starting to get very scared that he hasn’t been booted yet.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Signing a #1 center, are you getting rid of Nicky and Grabo?

  • JH

    I think it would be a shame if they let McPhee go. He’s been a phenomenal drafter. He’s had good trades and bad trades but who hasn’t. No one could have predicted that the Erat trade would end up so incredibly awful.

    Oates puzzles me. The players praise him, saying he’s a hockey genius, yet the lines were for the most part unsuccessful and downright puzzling. A coach can coax things out of players, but you have to game-plan to people’s strengths, too. I think he did that with Ovi on the PP, but I don’t see where else he did that. I really don’t see how one can defend retaining Oates.

    The biggest question I have is, supposedly McPhee and Oates talk all the time. If that’s true, then why did McPhee trade for Penner if Oates wasn’t going to use him? Or, if Penner got here and Oates didn’t like him, why did Oates tell McPhee he wanted him in the first place (if he did)? It’s weird.

    Personnel-wise, I still think this team is one solid defensive Dman away from going deep into the playoffs next year. It’s loaded with talent. But to get them to truly play as a team with a good gameplan requires coaching, and I’m not convinced Oates is the guy.

    PS: The cause of the delay on a McPhee announcement could be to see if they can work out a new contract with McPhee. Just a thought.

  • Matt McNeely

    Not sure if that’s right. Sounded to me like he was happy with his deployments and usage under GMGM/Oates. Or at least he knows what to expect under that regime and thinks he can produce. What he’s worried about it having another coach brought in that might not use him effectively or give him enough ice time, which is what happened to him in Toronto. He wants to avoid another Toronto debacle for himself. He wants to know who the coach and GM are going to be and how they will use him. If it’s GMGM/Oates, he would probably be fine with that knowing what to expect.

  • Matt Root

    For those parameters I’d say no. However, if Mike Green has value/interest outside of DC, I’d be fine with pulling the trigger or at the very least entertaining the idea. His injuries, unfortunately, have really held him back from being a Norris candidate to where he’s at now. His contract isn’t meeting his output, in my amateur opinion, and having Carlson and Orlov really seems like cheaper, more reliable fallback options.

    PS. I’m also totally cool with using the final amnesty on Laich and shopping Brouwer as his value couldn’t be higher. I like the guys like Wilson, Ward, and Fehr as replacements to Brouwers production if given the ice time.

  • JH

    Seriously, does anyone think that everyone in the Caps organization DOESN’T want to win a Cup? The idea that Leonsis, McPhee or anyone else might have something other than winning a Cup on their minds is bananas.

    And even if you look at it from a purely business perspective, Cups are how you make money. A friend of mine who does sports franchise valuations tells me that NHL teams pretty much don’t make money unless they make the playoffs. That’s because the NHL has such a crappy TV deal, they make their money primarly filling seats, and the break-even point is pretty much the regular season. (This is completely different from football, which makes all its money on TV deals). I don’t know if that’s 100 percent accurate, but regardless, surely winning cups and/or going deep in the playoffs correlates more with making money off your hockey team than the alternative.

  • Fedor

    “I’d try and trade Mojo or Brouwer+13th pick for a 4-5 dman.” You’re getting shafted right there.

  • Matt McNeely

    Much rather see Grabo at center. He is supposed to fill the 2C spot. I think he played well there before he got hurt. i’ll throw out:

    Ovi-Backstrom-Ward
    Kuznetsov-Grabo-Wilson
    Chimera-Mojo-Brouwer
    ???-Beagle-???

  • Matt Root

    Agreed. Brouwer’s value couldn’t be higher after this year, MoJo (while underperforming) has the age/potential sign, and that 13th pick is still juicy. I’m all about changing things up, but not those pieces for that return.

  • Matt Root

    I’d prefer ward with chimmer, because why not.. it’s worked. So I wouldn’t mind seeing Fehr flanking Ovi on the top line with the current players and complete unlikeliness of Penner returning. I like the second line you have. So placing Ward at RW on the 3rd line would mean not much room for Brouwer because after his year I doubt he’d be the happiest guy in the room to take a 4th line role. Beagle would totally be my pick for manning the 4C but as for guys on the wings, I’d guess thats a slot for a callup or someone in FA since in my head, Laich and Brouwer would not be returning.

  • Matt Root
  • Shaun Phillips

    Yeah, guess I wasn’t sure how much other teams would value them. Maybe a 3-4 dman + a later 1st round or early 2nd round pick.

  • DCSportsDork

    Couldn’t agree more!!! I have had dreams of a Troy Brouwer for Dan Hamhuis trade, but I doubt that would happen.

  • Matt McNeely

    I totally forgot Fehr! whoops. He’s gotta be in there. The Chimmer/Ward thing works of course, and it would be a tough decision to break them up but I’ve been thinking about that Ovi-Backstrom-Ward line for a while now and I really really want to see it. My reasoning is that my eyeballs tell me Ward and Backstrom are the two strongest players on the puck in the offensive zone. Ward is a master on the boards and Nicky is just so smart with the puck, they should be a possession monster… put those guys with the World’s Greatest Shot… ya know??

    My goal would be to make sure the World’s Greatest Shot is over 50% possession. I’d rather the Ovechkin line be my top possession line over my 3rd line. And i think Ward is the biggest reason for that line’s success this year. Put him with the best scorer.

  • Shaun Phillips

    I guess I was putting more weight on the interview from Grabo and his agent a few weeks ago. Feel like the exit interviews are more careful/controlled, especially when everyone knows the GM and coach are on the hot-seat.

  • Matt Root

    Sold. Haha. Totally understand your reasoning. I also think Ward is the driving force of the 3rd lines success and think he’d fit in well with Backstrom and Ovi.

  • Jonathan Kenny

    The Capitals are in danger of missing a golden opportunity to land Barry Trotz, who would surely not only have this team in the playoffs, but turn the defense into a force to be reckoned with and Mike Green into the Norris candidate he is capable of being.

  • Shmoo

    Trade MoJo for this and many other reasons. Like leveraging him for a veteran D. Orlov, Carlson, Alzner, Green, New Guy, Schmidt / Hillen. That and the ability to hold the puck more than one second (y’know, skate with it) would do wonders for our defense.

  • Matt McNeely

    Haha! right? And I’m surprised I left out Fehr, because the other thing I was thinking… if for some reason Ovi-Backstrom-Ward isn’t working on a given night, I’ll tell you what will. Throw out Fehr-Backstrom-Ward instead to shake up the lines. Remember how awesome Fehr was on the LW earlier in the season when Oates finally realized he should give him a jersey? Why he was ever demoted back to the 4th line after that I will NEVER understand.

  • JenniferH

    Yeah, I had read that interview too and found it interesting in light of everything we thought, but now realizing that it was Oates and not Kolzig that makes a lot more sense.

  • JenniferH

    I never saw him as a player, only know him as a coach and I thought that he was the one messing with Holtby, but thinking it’s Oates now, I’m OK with him. If the goaltenders have any say (ie, Holts), Kolzig might stay.

  • JenniferH

    Cats are awesome. My cat Joey will stop and watch it sometimes too. That’s a GREAT shot.

  • Matt McNeely

    Oh. And of course if Ovi/Fehr-Backstrom-Ward for some reason isn’t putting pucks in the net, there’s always Chimera. You KNOW that will work! They won’t score as many goals with Chimmer, but they’re sure to tilt the ice. I shall call the Ovi/Fehr/Chimmer-Backstrom-Ward line #THEBANK Line.

  • Owen Johnson

    I’m a little tired of this “Ted cares more about money than he does about the Caps.” This may or may not be true, but I also think that he knows that the Caps being good = $$

  • Owen Johnson

    I won’t pretend to know Ted’s motivation. On one hand, maybe he cares about the team. On the other hand, maybe he only cares about money. One thing I do know is this:
    Solid, stable organization + Caps winning = $$PROFIT$$ FOR TED

    So either way, I think he cares about winning.

  • Jonathan Kenny

    With respect to the players opinions of Oates, remember that no player had anything bad to say about Hunter on the exit day yet it is doubtful that any of them wanted a coach who didn’t talk to them–akin to not respecting the players–to return.
    My only real issue with McPhee is an apparent inconsistency of philosophy. On the one hand the Caps have drafted excellently in the name of building prospects so they will consistently put a playoff team on the ice for years but then they trade away one of their best prospects (Forsberg) for a player who at best would give them 2-1/2 years (Erat). Then 6 months later McPhee trades away one of the Caps best face-off centers and passers (Perreault) so that they could make room for prospects on the roster (Wilson and others). The team he put on the ice this year may have been a playoff team if better coached but was in no way even an Eastern Conference Finals team much less one that could be expected to win the Cup. So it seems to me that at the start of the year McPhee wasn’t so much interested in putting the best team on the ice so much as getting promising prospects time at the NHL level. He gambled that there would still be enough talent to make the playoffs and that would satisfy fans since there wouldn’t be any shame in, say, losing to a team like Boston in the 1st round. Of course he didn’t expect Oates to misuse so many talented players (Fehr in November, Erat and Penner the entire time they were here) and his gamble blew up in his face.

  • accidental_diva

    I just want to point out Braden is 24… which in any other profession is barely out of entry level. Ollie didn’t even play a full season for the Caps (as back up) until he was that age- and really a season later (it was a year later). Its not unheard of that a coach might ask him to try something new, he’s young and might need some guidance.
    I am not saying Holts isn’t a good goalie, but he’s young and its not exactly unheard of that someone might ask him to adjust to either a new system or a new idea.

  • JaLaBar

    My take as well was that Grabo is hoping Oates comes back. McPhee, I think he could do without but he wants Oates back, or at the very least wants to make sure he’s not getting a or the Carlysle before he re-signs.
    Not sure if the hyphen belongs in re-signs, but otherwise resigns (to renew your contract) looks just like resigns (to quit your job).

  • JaLaBar

    Coaches asking Braden to try something new isn’t the issue. A career centerman telling a goalie coach of 30 years and a player who played 20 years as a goalie how the position of goalie should be played is the issue.

  • JaLaBar

    Never? No. Highly unlikely? Yup, Neil said that. And prior to the ’13-’13 season, he said it was highly unlikely he’d ever score or shoot at that pace again.

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

    There’s a gigantic difference between what that article said and how it was quoted.

  • John M

    My first Capitals player t-shirt: Orlov. Thanks to you guys and the Fancy Stats; saw him in the one game I saw, and he looked great. I know he made some lousy decisions earlier in the year, but the difference between his presence in the D-zone and Carrick; let’s just say there are fixable gaffes versus simply struggling.

  • Rhino40

    Totally agree: Dick Patrick is so far/deep behind the scenes with respect to what happens on the ice that it is impossible for us to be in possession of all the facts that would confirm–or refute–the notion of his responsibiity for those (disappolinting) results…

    That said, I do believe that Dick Patrick has at least something to do with why GMGM is still GM after the team has failed to advance beyond the second round since its lone SCF appearance 17 years ago.

    But direct responsibilty for on-ice results? I don’t think so. Holding Dick Patrick accountable for the Caps’ malaise is like blaming Ted Leonsis for a specific missed shot by a blue-liner in Game 23.

    Peter Hassett: the sworn, mortal enemy of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.

  • Eric Schulz

    Ward, along with Chimmer, had a below 50% possession rate… so, if you think Ward is the biggest reason, I agree.
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Fehr
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Wilson
    Laich – Johansson – Brouwer
    Chimera – Latta – Ward
    (if you believe that Laich and Brouwer can’t play together – I don’t; Brouwer was playing badly because he was playing out of character for him, and he admitted it right before he took off, and Laich was playing hurt; not surprising that two players not playing well would not play well when combined. I think if Brouwer carries over his style from late in the season, and Laich is healthy, they work well together. If not, swap Brouwer with Wilson.)

  • Eric Schulz

    I don’t know a hell of a lot about coaches, but I would be very, very satisfied with hiring Trotz.

  • Eric Schulz

    *I* predicted the Erat trade would end horribly.

  • Eric Schulz

    McPhee is overrated in the draft, btw.

  • Eric Schulz

    On the surface, it did NOT look okay.

  • Eric Schulz

    Brouwer’s value will be higher after next year #theBank.
    Ward’s value will never be higher. EVER.

  • Eric Schulz

    Brouwer has a Cup ring. Do you want Carlyle to come in? It’s not about experience, it’s about skill. Had GMGM decided to keep our core together, we would still be contending.

  • Eric Schulz

    But it’s obviously not.

  • Myan

    I mean experience at the management level, not necessarily among the players. Management is supposed to lead us to a Cup and it seems counter-intuitive that we’ve been led all these years by a bunch of guys who have never even gotten to a Final as a GM/higher management or coach. From what I understand, the Capitals team that went to the Finals under GMGM was one that he inherited from Poile, not one that he put together. I’d like to see how our players respond to leadership from a GM and head coach who have at least been part of higher management that took a team to the finals, if not to a Cup. There’s always been talk that our players are “coach killers” and I’m interested to see how they would respond to a guy who can simply say “we’re going to do things my way because I’ve won a Cup.”

  • Eric Schulz

    Well, let me tell you: Randy Carlyle is garbage. He’s an awful coach, who runs a system that has literally no chance of being successful in the NHL. The team that has been assembled is exactly the type of team he wants, and it’s just no good. He replaced good players like MacArthur and Grabovski with guys like David Clarkson and David Bolland. He claimed that (and I’m paraphrasing here) MacArthur and Grabovski sucked, and then replaced them with more expensive guys who are poor versions of them. Stanley Cup experience is overrated.
    If somebody told me that we were gonna do what he said because he said so because it worked, I’d essentially tell him to shove it up his ass. If somebody told me we were going to do something, then explained why it made sense to do it, and gave me the freedom to create within the confines of a system that made sense, then I’d go out and perform. I know I have uncommon confidence, but it’s hard to imagine that players would react well to being told to do shit that didn’t make sense to them just because their asshole coach said to do it. I didn’t react well to that type of bullshit when I was in middle school or high school; hard to believe that NHLers have less ego (and confidence) than I did then.

  • Eric Schulz

    I agree that Kolzig was overrated as a player. I’m not sure how good of a goalie coach he is; you don’t have to be great to be a great coach. As a general rule, it may help to have NOT been very good… but I would feel a lot better if the hiring didn’t reek of nepotism. However, I feel like Kolzig not standing up to Oates and telling him to mind the team and leave the goaltending to him is a bad sign.

  • Eric Schulz

    You skipped 3rd RW.

  • Matt Root

    You sure have a lot of faith in a guy who likely overachieved and benefited from 48% of his goals coming on the PP. The same PP who opposes are really only looking to shut off Ovi. Ward is also 33, so if you think his value is skyrocketing past a 28 year old Brouwer, I’d say that’s unlikely. If the caps have a team looking for a RW, you really think they set their sights on a 33 year old over the 28? Brouwer has

  • Eric Schulz

    I’m not saying Ward has a higher trade value, I’m just saying Ward’s value will take a bigger hit than Brouwer’s at the end of the year. Brouwer will have a better year next year than this last one, and Ward will have a worse one.

    I don’t think Ward by himself would fetch anything great, but as part of a package, he’s much more attractive than he was last year, and will be next. I would much rather trade Ward than Brouwer… with Ovechkin and Wilson and Fehr, we could pretty easily move both, but in a perfect world, I’d keep Brouwer and move Ovechkin back to LW.