I want to start by saying I genuinely like Barry Trotz. I think he’s a good man and a good coach. He’s brought with him to Washington some of the brightest minds in hockey, he’s reversed a decline in the organization, and he’s helped Alex Ovechkin become a more complete player. I don’t think Trotz has gotten enough credit for that. He is exactly what fans wanted last summer: an experienced head coach.
But now that we’re more than halfway through the season, I see some worrying trends in this organization that reach all the way down to the AHL level.
After the NHL All-Star Game wrapped up, the AHL held their own all-star skills competition in Utica, New York. The Caps-affiliated Hershey Bears were well-represented at the event with Philipp Grubauer, Connor Carrick, and veteran Tim Kennedy competing for the Eastern Conference.
The 20-year-old defenseman, who spent a large chunk of last year in Washington, unleashed a 98 MPH slapshot during the Hardest Shot competition, which is kind of surprising. His three scores, according to Chocolate Hockey, were 93 MPH, 98 MPH, and 93.2 MPH.
Andre Burakovsky is the best Caps prospect yet to play a game with the big club (Photo: Elsa/Getty Images).
With rookie camp upon us, RMNB presents the new edition of its semiannual prospect rankings.
Prospect rankings factor in a player’s potential, his probability to reach his ceiling (including an assessment of that player’s adaptation to NHL’s style of play), and physical and mental maturity.
The Caps prospect pool is considered top-heavy, with four Caps prospects ranked in top-50 league-wide by both Corey Pronman and NHL.com. However, there’s believed to be a significant drop-off in talent after that. While Capitals management has tried to make their prospect pool deeper, they’ve still got work to do. The Caps are considered thin at center in particular, underlined by auditioning their two top wingers for a center slot.
With “help” from Troy Brouwer, the Brouwer Rangers, Connor Carrick, and Wes Johnson, I completed the Ice Bucket Challenge in front of 100 crazed lunatics at center ice. I’m told it was a balmy 25 degrees at ice level.
The Brouwers with all three Brouwer Rangers. (Photo: Sheena D.)
9/8 Update: With post-event bake sale money and online donations included, the total raised actually comes to $2,800!
Thanks to everyone who braved the wicked traffic to come out to PARTYZORD: The Brouwer Rangers/RMNB ‘Legends of Ice Dancing’ Tour de Pouwer (to Support Fort Dupont Ice Arena)™ on Saturday morning. In just two short hours, we raised more than $2,100 for Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena! Can you believe it?!
That includes money contributed through the raffle, bake sale and silent auction, and surpasses the total donation we made along with the Brouwers last year! Even better is that the real total is probably even higher than that, thanks to folks who couldn’t make it out to the party but still donated online. (If you’d like to do that now, head over to FDIA’s donation page.)
I’ve never played golf before, but I’m pretty sure I know a terrible golf swing when I see one. On Friday night, Washington Capitals defenseman Connor Carrick went to a Chicago golf course with some friends and– this is just an educated guess— played golf for the very first time.
Happy Gilmore was a natural in his transition from hockey to golf (putting aside). Carrick, not so much.
Of all the new defensemen the Caps suited up the season, Connor Carrick lasted the longest. The rookie had a bit of a rollercoaster season– one of those rollercoasters where you almost fall out or get hit in the face by a swan or something.
On Monday, the Washington Capitals held Breakdown Day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For two hours, Caps players filed out of the locker room and conducted exit interviews with the media. Because of the whole no playoffs thing, there were a lot of long faces.
There’s about three hours of interview video to surf though on Monumental Network. Because I hate myself and care only about you, dear reader, I’ve transcribed all the key quotes. And because this is RMNB, I also pointed out the fashion choices. Sadly, there was no crazy hair this year.
NHL plus-minus spokesman and hair model Alex Ovechkin speaks for the final time this year. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
Monday was an odd day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. We entered the day expecting to Adam Oates and George McPhee shed some light of their respective fates — or at least try to defend their time here.
Instead, we got an awkward stand-off with reporters. Within minutes of a spokesman announcing that McPhee would not be meeting the media, the general manager walked out to an area clearly visible to reporters. He chose to hold court with Connor Carrick in front of the entire Capitals press corps before reiterating that he would not speak today.
McPhee’s job — if he doesn’t leave of his own volition — is now in the hands Caps owner Ted Leonsis, who has never fired a general manager.
There were, however, other things that happened at Kettler on Monday: Jay Beagle got asked what he thought of Jay Beagle centering Alex Ovechkin, Dustin Penner ignored reporters to play with his phone, and Brooks Laich said that he really, really, really believes he’s healthy again.
Below, take a look at some of my photos from the day.
Since then, Carrick, who scored his first NHL goal on a breakaway in his second NHL game (and also got pied), has been challenged in every way. Three games into his NHL career, Carrick dealt with the disappointment of being sent down to the American Hockey League. A few months later, he left the Bears and flew to Sweden to be a leader on Team USA’s World Junior Championship team. That’s three different coaches in three months for a teenage defenseman.
Once he returned to the states, Carrick was recalled to Washington to play 27 games for the Capitals through March. During that time, Carrick was paired with veteran John Erskine (who has been injured much of the year) on the third pairing. They struggled together and at times, Carrick looked overmatched. Though his footwork, fundamentals, and decision-making improved during that time, Carrick has felt the pressure of not succeeding and producing immediately.
On Saturday, after Caps practice ended, I caught up with Carrick in the locker room and asked him about his season so far. He seemed to have a lot of things on his mind, knowing he was not playing his game but remaining optimistic and realistic for the future.
“The biggest thing in success is not just being in the lineup,” a determined Carrick said to me. “Making the team is one thing, making the team better is another, and that’s kind of that next step. I’m hoping to take it as soon as possible.”