[ED NOTE] This post is a ramble, hopefully not an unorganized stream of consciousness, but at the least a bit of a ramble through all my musings, there isn't any real single defining, centering activity going on here in Bristow this morning and if I wasn't writing this posting I'd be cleaning up the garage and washing a car or two. I'll do both those two tasks after finishing this posting and watching another couple of Sunday Morning news shows. So if you're looking for erudite thoughts on the end of the Washington Caps Development Camp, they aren't here though over at the Red Skate and other blogs there is plenty of that, most of which I agree with - I didn't make it to the last scrimmage yesterday so don't have any original thoughts that are new on that. If you're looking for insightful or humorous commentary on the usual subjects of my musings - well we'll have to see how I do.
It's a lovely day here in Northern Virginia though our house has been much quieter than I thought it would be. I guess that's probably not overly surprising to most people though it is to me. I thought I wanted to get over to see the final scrimmage of Caps Development Camp, however I didn't get much sleep on Friday night so I woke up too late. I was really glad to see the turnout and the excitement only built in the Caps fan base from the couple hundred I saw on Day One to the reported ~2,000 yesterday. I was also happy to see that many folks, who are more knowledgeable than me, felt Karl Alzner was the consensus standout, and that Phil DiSimone had great and good showings, respectively. The Caps need another good D-Man in the pipeline, especially since it appears Brian Pothier will probably be out for most, if not all this coming season. No, I don't have any more insight than any other fan on that matter, I just do the math relative to the Salary Cap and note that it's clear that George McPhee is certainly moving forward in a deliberate manner that treats Pothier as on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR).
Karl Alzner's rapid rise, along with the continued improvement and development of Jeff Schultz, are something the Capitals will need and welcome in their quest to go deeper into the playoffs in 2009 and beyond. Don't get me wrong, I love John Erskine's grit and watching Milan Jurcina lay board rattling hits on opponents. However, as has been well chronicled elsewhere this past season, Erskine and Jurcina's potential at cracking into the Top 4 of any NHL Team's depth chart is limited by their skating ability. A top six blue line depth chart for Defensemen that looks like this: 1) Green; 2) Poti; 3) Morrisson; 4) Schultz; 5) Alzner; 6) Jurcina; and 7) Erskine with Pothier on LTIR might work, assuming Schultz, Alzner and Jurcina all continue to rise to the occassion. The selection of who plays the 5th, and 6th position and who sits will no doubt be situational and based on injury status. This all also depends on Schultz continuing to develop. While "Sarge" takes a lot of heat here in the "blogsphere", and even I routinely shake my head while watching him NOT play physical hockey (how can a guy who is 6'6" and 221# not want to just use that size to crush guys in the corner?), his numbers are pretty good and he doesn't get burned even strength often. I trust his development and confidence will continue and hope that next season we have an entire season of the kind of play he showed fans last December/January. If that occurs the Caps top two defensive pairings (Green/Morrisson & Poti/Schultz or Poti/Alzner) will be the equal or better of any of their opponents in the league. If a third pairing can be grounded by either Schultz, Jurcina or Alzner as a solid defenseman capable of logging ~13 - 15 minutes of ice time a game with respectable, hopefully positive, +/- ratings, then the Caps will indeed be able to go far. With Erskine in DC as the seventh man and Sami Lepisto, Josh Godfrey and Patrick McNeill in Hershey as well as Joe Finley, Eric Mestery, and John Carlson in the pipeline, it's easier too see why the Caps traded Steve Eminger to the Flyers even after the series he had against them. The Caps have a solid young defense and a solid development pipeline at the position.
As for the rest of the team, there may still need to be one more move made among the forwards to deal with the salary cap, depending on what comes out of the Shaone Morrisson arbitration/negotiations between now and the end of the month. That said as has been pointed out by others it sure seems that the Caps will have a solid roster coming into camp in several weeks. it also seems like this team will be well suited to play the game using the system that Jack Adams trophy winner, Coach Bruce Boudreau, put in place when he took the reigns last December. Question marks still center around the health status of Team Captain Chris Clark, as well as the fit and line pairings for Center Michael Nylander. Clark seems committed to doing what it takes to get back into shape and if his 32 year old body cooperates and heals, he will likely again be a key part of the Caps at both even strength and on special teams. Nylander's injuries from last season appear to also be behind him, however whether he will center the first, second, or third line is clearly open to discussion. This situation has NOT been caused by any of the wrong reasons, before his injury, the 35 year old Swede was playing his best hockey of the season. Once Nylander was out for the season, Caps general manager George McPhee (GMGM) went out at the trade deadline and brought in 38 year old center/play maker/3 time Stanley Cup winner, Russian Superstar, Sergei Federov. Federov filled a couple of late season needs the Caps had for a seasoned, star and play maker AND he had excellent chemistry, almost immediately on and off the ice with younger countrymen Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin. The acquisition and retention of Federov, along with the faster than hoped for development of rookie Swede center, Nicklas Backstrom, as well as solid seasons by Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon and David Steckel, mean the Caps have a minor "embarrassment of riches" at center. This situation, as well as the tightness the Caps find themselves against the $56M 2008-2009 salary cap, and the fact that management, coaching staff and the fan base are all talking about how far the Caps might advance into the 2009 playoffs, instead of if they will even make the playoffs, are the real signs the "rebuild" ended at the middle of last season.
It may be local phenomenon fueled by the recent comments by the Caps new goaltender Jose Theodore and the re-signing of Sergei Federov for a fair value contract of $4M, even though he no doubt could have made a lot more in Russia, but it's really nice to think of and hear Washington is becoming a good hockey town. Getting a standing room only crowd of a couple thousand fans to watch a scrimmage at the end of development camp continues to show and fuel the excitement of the fan base here in the DC Metro Area. The next event is an Open House and Autograph session with Caps Defenseman Mike Green on July 24th. Finally even the local mainstream media (MSM) are getting on board with the idea the Caps are worthy of solid coverage both in season and during the off season. While the front pages of today's sports section have little on the Caps, the online edition of the Washington Post's section/web page on the Caps has a lot of excellent coverage; and the Washington Times has a similar set of good articles in it's online edition. As they say, it's all good, hopefully the spirit and sentiment builds as we go through next season and the Caps get a larger, just as dedicated, and knowledgeable fan base as the long term core has been. Can't wait till next season.
What has occupied most of my time these past three days has been work, busy time at ICx Technologies continue, and looking at the USMMA parents page to catch glimpses into what our son Chris is doing , via online postings of pictures of the Class of 2012's "Indoctrination". The four large program pursuits I'm personally involved with all continue to move forward and we are getting going on three more opportunities so my days have been pretty interrupt and event driven these past two weeks. Those things along with the trip to Long island to drop off Chris as well as just getting settled in this next phase of our life as an empty nest couple have been and continue to be the real grounding items in my life. I'm also starting to really try and figure out what I should be thinking about when picking who I'll vote for in November. I watched a few news shows this morning, they were less than helpful, but I am very biased against the media and how they cover politics, nobody is without an agenda - I know "duh".... I want to find a moderate who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal and will have the ability to make a budget and policy that is both effective and reflective of those desires and values. i guess that means I'm living in fantasy land - here I sit approaching 50 years old and still somewhat of an idealist, I don't think that's too, too terrible a thing. It's also probably very reflective of the great life we have and the great country we live in. Sue me - I'm a relatively happy and sentimental, patriotic guy. It's hard not to have those feelings stirred when you've just seen 307 great young men and woman begin their journey through life by joining a group and ideal that they all know is something bigger then themselves - even when they don't fully understand what it all is or will be.
ACTA NON VERBA
Can't wait till next season; LETS GO CAPS!!!!!