Elliotte Friedman is one of the most connected and respected journalists in hockey. On Friday morning, Friedman released his latest 30 Thoughts article, in which he expounded on why the Patrick Sharp trade never materialized.
After this season, with the futures of Adam Oates and George McPhee in doubt, many wondered what the relationship was like between the two men. There was good reason to. During Oates’s administration, McPhee made two major offensive acquisitions: Dustin Penner and Martin Erat. While McPhee talked up both players as top-six powerhouses, Oates never gave them significant minutes on the top two lines. During his final press conference as the Capitals general manager, McPhee declined to talk about whether there was a row with Oates.
“I don’t want to talk about individuals because when you do that you either miss somebody that you should be praising and people get upset, and I just would rather have a happy day and duck individual talk,” McPhee said, adding later that Oates’s firing “was unfortunate for Adam because it was a short tenure.”
However, McPhee heaped praise on Bruce Boudreau, a coach he personally fired, and Dale Hunter, whose departure led to Oates’s hiring.
When Peter Laviolettewas panic-fired Monday morning for his team shooting 2.4% through three games at even strength, I laughed. Then I thought about the five-year contract they gave Vincent Lecavalier over the offseason, and I laughed some more. Then I thought about how they traded Vezina-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky one season and then bought out Ilya Bryzgalov the next, choosing to pay the Russian $23 million over the next 14 years not to play, tears started rolling down my face. Paul HoLOLmgren, you are teh best.
Once I got past that (it was difficult), I was quite happy for long-time Washington Capitals enforcer Craig Berube, who was named the Flyers’ new head coach (Not interim!).
Berube becomes the third player from the Capitals’ 1997-98 Stanley Cup Final team to become a head coach in the NHL joining former Capital captains Dale Hunter and Adam Oates. With former Caps’ 98 Cup Final players Calle Johansson and Olie Kolzig serving as assistants in Washington (Kolzig is goaltending coach), I wondered how many other players from that very-talented, overachieving team are now coaching in hockey.
Washington Capitals first-round pick Tom Wilson put up another impressive playoff performance. In game two against regular-season champions the London Knights, Wilson scored three goals and added an assist (unofficially as of right now) as his team won 4-3 in double overtime.
Potential 2013 first-rounder Bo Horvat opened the scoring after winning a puck battle in the corner, giving the Knights a 1-0 lead that they preserved until the end of the first period. Wilson tied the game in the second, holding his stick behind his back to score a wild deflection goal.
Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirthrecently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.
On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.
I guess it’s appropriate to start by saying that we’re all unimaginably happy about the return of hockey. That said, we’ve learned a lot over the four-month lockout, and this seems like the appropriate time to take stock.
Lesson 1: Mario Lemieux was right
The NHL is a garage league. I’m not talking about riff-raff players spoiling up the staid finesse hockey of a bygone era; I’m talking about business competence. Since my adolescence, the NHL has lost part or all of three seasons. Fans who have been following hockey for a decade have seen 20% of that time obscured or obliterated by lockouts.
Imagine running a business where you do work 80% of the time. The rest of the time you’re struggling to master a skill most functionally social humans learn in kindergarten: sharing. Your business plan is flawed.
We’ve been through this before. No matter how poor I am, my frugal instincts go out the window when Washington Capitals treasures are unearthed online. So that’s why on eBay last week, I shelled out even more cash on some vintage postcards depicting two iconic Capitals in all their early 80s glory.
In the remainder of Neuvirth’s interview with František Suchan of iSportz.Cz, the Czech goalie shares his honest opinion of pretty much every other big-name Capitals figure. He gives Alex Semin the classic “he could have been the best player in the world, but he doesn’t want to” line; he laments Alex Ovechkin‘s decline but praises his leadership; and he sheds no tears over the exit of Dale Hunter.
Tuesday afternoon was a busy time for ex-Capitals coaches, as Dale Hunter was officially re-hired to be the London Knights head coach and long-time assistant Dean Evason was hired by the man who originally drafted him into the NHL, David Poile, to coach the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.