Friday, July 31, 2009

I think ...

Okay so the numbers are in and Milan "Juice" Jurcina has a new 1 year, $1.35M deal. Some may beg to differ but I think that if John Erskine is worth $1.25M, Karl Alzner is worth $875M + bonus to take his cap hit up to $1.675M and Shaone Morrisonn is worth $1.975M then Juice is worth the number he got in arbitration and fairly compensated at $1.35M. Interestingly, even though I'm no big Jeff Schultz fan, he's now the only blueline on the Caps I think that is underpaid and worth more than his current $715K, 1 year contract. As the year goes on and things move forward it will be interesting to see who the Caps consider moving out to make room for the other blueliners coming up in their system.

Can't wait for training camp to open...


Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Wonder ...

This AM as I drove into work, as usual I listened to WTOP news radio you know "Traffic and Weather on the 8's" - BTW nice weather today, eh? Anyway I listened to a piece on the opening of Redskins Training Camp - they had advice from a veteran attendee and noted "it's not too late - open workouts will continue apparently for the next week" - bottom lines from this Redskins fanatic - dress in cool clothes, wear comfortable shoes and bring a lawn chair. All told good advice, not at all interesting or appealing to an Eagles fan like me but good advice all the same.

In any case, it made me wonder (or perhaps the right word I'm looking for is "muse") how much coverage and buzz the opening of the Washington Capitals training camp this summer will generate. I'm sure here in the blogsphere they'll be lots, the relative quiet of this summer as regards Caps News certainly has created "pent-up demand here." However, I really wonder, especially given a) the Caps are the one winning team in town now, b) they are the one team in town with two legitimate league leading guys (Ovechkin & Green) on their roster, c) they now have a relatively large following - season ticket waiting list, etc., and d) there was standing room only at numerous development camp events open to the public earlier this month - how much buzz will the Caps generate when the regular roster is back in town and camp opens? Any bets?


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

OV - The Romantic?

Looking at a translation of Ovie's latest interview over at "Japer's Rink" I couldn't help but wonder is OV a true romantic when i read this Q&A:

"So you don't have a favorite girl?
"I have a lot of girls-but I don't have a favorite (laughs - ed.). I still haven't found my one and only. To be honest, I'm not in that big of a hurry to start a family."

Sure the "I'm not in that big of a hurry line combined with the procession of really attractive women through his life might lead you to conclude a result 180 out from the idea or notion of a romantic. However who else but a true romantic would talk about finding their "one and only" or is that a typical Russian expression I'm not getting?

Also for all those folks who think the Caps PR machine has to keep a tighter leash on OV's interviews and expressions - read this one in its entirety and then tell me if you still feel the same way. It's a great interview and he handles it 100% great - even the harder points and questions - at least IMHO.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer In Bristow...Not So Lazy, But Often Hazy Days...

Well summer goes on here in scenic Bristow, VA.... Wingman was home for a while after his school year ended until last week, actually Friday, the 17th when he left for Long Beach, CA - he caught his first ship for his sea year. He's now on his way to Honolulu which he should arrive at this afternoon our time and this morning his time by my best guess. That is of course, a more educated guess thanks to technology - We haven't heard from him since he left Cali on Wednesday afternoon, I guess his Internet access on the ship while underway is limited if not non-existent due to the high cost of connectivity and that's something that hasn't changed much since I was last at sea 18 years ago. In any case tracking his progress and hoping he's enjoying this aspect of his training at "Kings Point" aka the United States Merchant Marine Academy (see is something I've been doing daily, like the parents of the other ~220 KP Cadets/Midshipmen who have children at sea. It sure beats the daylights out of what he was doing last year this time - "Indoc" - Indoctrination/Regimental Orientation. I'm quite, quite sure working on a ship beats the daylights out of doing push ups, running and getting yelled at by Mids 1, 2, and 3 years your senior for 14+ days, but then again perhaps Wingman is a closet masochist, or not nearly as bright as we two proud parents always think he is - but I'm probably right. I'm hoping to hear from him later today as I know he'll have cell phone service in HI. For us (his mother and I) this sure beats what we'd be worried about if he was returning to the Academy this week or had been an A-Split who was a Drill Instructor at Indoc. It seems there has been a few cases of confirmed Type A Influenza and that of course is just what anyone needed to increase the stress on a situation where elevated stress is always present by design - Indoctrination - NOT.

I think about those parents of this year's Plebe Candidates - most of whom are relatively unfamiliar with the Academy and many of whom live much farther away then we do so they will be feeling more helpless, detached and as such worried then we were last year about our son and wonder about what I might be able to do, say or write to ease those parts of that concern that might be unfounded and find myself with - nothing, nada, nichts, nutin' sorry. All I can say is the USMMA Medical Staff and the professionals from North Shore-LIJ got me through my four years (1979-1982) in fine form and my son seemed well cared for last year. Now I'll go back to being self-centered and hoping the phone rings and it's "our mid" from HI later today. In the meantime, there's been work and searching for news about "my Washington Capitals".

Last Saturday, since Wingman wasn't around ZI went to the last scrimmage of Development Camp at KCI (Kettler Center Iceplex). It was - well great for an Ice Hockey fan such as me and since it was packed I didn't feel like a jerk for going to KCI to see a bunch of prospects, also since the Caps have one of the better talent pipelines in the NHL and these guys were good and admission was free I didn't feel dumb either. Several guys stood out - one of whom was Joe Finely because as I arrived a little late - about midway through the first period - he laid a monster check on someone (I think it was Andrew Gordon but I'm not sure as I was still looking through the crowd for a good place to watch the rest of the game at the time). At 6-7 Finley is hard to miss, he made a few other good plays and a couple of missteps - again hard to miss; I was excited about him until this past week when he was busted in ND for basically being 22 and well stupid, as well as I suspect a little inebriated. Hopefully he'll quickly grow out of that and continue to develop this season in either SC or Hershey and we'll see if he has what it takes to play in the NHL. Others were really all four goaltenders, John Carlson, Dmitri Orlov, and Gordon and in general about five other forwards who made some pretty good plays. Fortunately we aren't far from the start of training camp, it's been a quite week for Caps news. The big news on the blogs is that Ovie started his summer training routine back in Russia and he still wants to meet Maria Sharapova. See the gratuitous picture of the stunning, blond Russian tennis star to the right if you can't figure out why. Personally. I'd have thought the Bondarenko sisters more AO's type - they have more of that "worldly look" while Maria is more "good girl next door" - with AO's scruffy bad boy look I'd think Alona Bondarenko's tattoo would be somewhat intriguing and seductive to AO. Of course perhaps it's the height that has AO wondering.

" Wait, stop get back to hockey butthead! Oh yeah forgot, lazy, hazy Sunday and all..."

Coming up this week we have Milan Jurcina's arbitration hearing or whatever other resolution that gets reached in that piece of the roster puzzle. That could make for a few days discussion, banter, etc.

Consensus around the hockey blogsphere is that Florida will have a hard time staying even close to the level they had last season given their moves, or lack there-of this off season and that Carolina is probably well poised to make a battle of it for the SE division for the Capitals. Many also agree that after last summers disastrous moves during the short "Melrose Era" Tampa Bay also have had a very good off season and Atlanta is making good, steady progress with their rebuild. On Long Island besides Swine Flue and Indoc at KP, the NY Islanders seem to be collecting goaltenders to compliment their first round pick of John Tavares - interesting moves and a commentary on the likely health of Rick DiPietro for the start of the season at least. In Chicago - could these guys in the front office have made any more bonehead mistakes, this off-season - maybe, but they would have had to really, really work hard at it - amazingly it's clear the ripple of their mistakes will haunt them for at least another year, if not longer and they are still likely to be a solid playoff team - that's how good Toews, Kane and Campbell are (IMHO).

Well I don't know about you but I just can't wait for the season, or at least Camp to start. When do you think Caps GM, George McPhee should start talking to Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom about their contract extensions? How about right after the Jurcina arbitration is settled? I say no later than Thanksgiving to start talks and have them inked no later than February. Come on, let's talk about that with some comments here boys, we need some grist for the mill. Talking about Finely throwing a kitchen table out in the street in ND doesn't cut it for me.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Late to the News - But Congratulations Johnnie...

As everyone who reads this blog already knows - Brent Johnson signed a 2 year, $2M ($1M per year) contract with Pittsburgh to back up MAF. I hate to see Johnnie go anywhere, and really hate to see him or anybody else go to Pittsburgh. No I don't really hate them - I sportsfan hate the Penguins - I feel they are our rivals - the guys that we got Jagr from and stupidly saddled ourselves with a bad contract from (as opposed to Nyls who we pursued...go figure another 3rd degree of separation from Jagr that is now an issue for the Caps).

In any case Brent Johnson has been a good Capital, he married a local girl and if the Caps had wanted him to stay they could have made that happen, but we have Theo and three good prospects in the pipeline one of which will back him up. I know folks may try and make it like Brent left the Caps but that's not the case, so let's not even think about going there. I liked the guy as a Cap and for a guy who played less than 100 games as a Capital he's been a fan favorite - a guy we all hoped would do well. To me getting a raise after a good season in a contract year that ended in an injury is doing well. Too bad it's playing for a rival. It'll be interesting to see if he moves, Pittsburgh is a pretty cool town and I guess it's between he and his wife's families so there's another positive if you're him.

Good luck next season Johnnie and I hope you do well, I just hope the Caps goalies and players do a little better on any games where we play against you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Thoughts Looking Ahead to Next Season Now The Roster is Shaping Up ...

So there is no shortage of posts on the net today about development camp - I'll stop by tomorrow - haven't done so yet but can't wait... and there's a fair amount of chatter or at least was before the dust settled about Jeff Schultz's qualifying offer status but not about what things are looking like thinking ahead to next season - at least today on "blogdom" so I'll contribute things there. But first if you haven't seen it go here and look at WaPo's blog and Tariq's Q&A with Capital great Dale Hunter - it seems pretty cool to me.

One other thing - Caps Fans, especially those 2,000 or so of you now on the season ticket waiting list, mark your calenders for the Thanksgiving Roadtrip to Montreal - that's right - Montreal -
The Washington Capitals will play the Montreal Canadiens on November 28, 2009. This is the much-rumored game to be played inside Montreal's Olympic Stadium in front of 60,000 fans. Whether or not the kinks are worked out to make that happen, Alex Ovechkin is sure to make the highlight reels as in the past two seasons he's had his four-goal game and added yet another classic goal to his ever-growing resume against the Habs. Should be a real "kickin' good time. If you like that road trip another good game for a roadtrip will be to South Florida in February when the Calgary Flames meet the Florida Panthers on February 5, 2010. It's not a Caps game but it'll be when former Cat Jay Bouwmeester comes back to South Florida and the geographic area that he claimed doesn't hold enough hockey passion for him to re-sign there. You would think Bouwmeester would be booed loudly every time he touches the puck.

With that out of the way here's how I think things look for the Caps on their roster and the start of the season - what say you fellow Internet savvy hockey fans? Here's the news on the wires yesterday without the attending confusion and drama: The Washington Capitals have signed defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and Jeff Schultz as well as forwards Eric Fehr, Chris Bourque and Kyle Wilson to one-year contracts and forward Steve Pinizzotto to a two year-contract.

So as of today the Caps have the following players signed for the 2009/2010 season; salary & bonus (not their cap hit) listed as is the last year of their current contract to the Capitals:

Forwards: POS AGE SALARY Last Year of Current Contract

Ovechkin, Alexander L 23 9.000 2022
Nylander, Michael C 36 5.500 2011
Semin, Alexander L 25 4.200 2010
Knuble, Mike R 36 2.800 2011
Clark, Chris R 33 2.650 2011
Backstrom, Nicklas C 21 2.500 2010
Laich, Brooks C 26 2.100 2011
Morrison, Brendan C 33 1.500 2010
Bradley, Matt R 31 1.000 2011
Fehr, Eric R 23 0.772 2010
Gordon, Boyd R 25 0.761 2010
Fleischmann, Tomas C 25 0.725 2010
Steckel, David L 27 0.725 2010
Osala, Oskar L 21 0.850 2011
Beagle, Jay R 23 0.875 2010
Gordon, Andrew R 23 0.660 2010
Bourque, Chris C 23 0.578 2010
Aucoin, Keith R 30 0.500 2010
Laing, Quintin L 30 0.500 2010
Pinizzotto, Steve R 25 TBA 2011 (Note Last Season "Pinner" made $615K)

Green, Mike D 23 5.000 2012
Poti, Tom D 32 3.500 2011
Pothier, Brian D 32 2.500 2010
Morrisonn, Shaone D 26 1.975 2010
Erskine, John D 29 1.250 2011
Schultz, Jeff D 23 0.682 2010
Alzner, Karl D 20 1.675 2011
Sloan, Tyler D 28 0.640 2010
Collins, Sean D 25 0.675 2011
Carlson, John D 19 0.846 2012

Theodore, Jose G 32 4.500 2010
Varlamov, Simeon G 21 0.850 2011
Neuvirth, Michal G 21 0.850 2010
Holtby, Braden G 20 0.683 2012

In Arbitration:
Jurcina, Milan D 26 Salary Last Season: 0.912

With that roster here's my current forecast for the opening night lineup:

1) Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
2) Semin - Morrison - Laich
3) Fleischmann - Nylander - Clark
4) Gordon - Steckel - Bradley

Reserves: Fehr (start Season on IR then he will transition to a regular spot rotating into the lineup with all but the top six forwards unless one of them is injured or "in a slump"), Bourque, Osala, Beagle, Aucoin

Green - Morrisonn
Poti - Schultz
Pothier - Erskine

Reserves: Jurcina ****, Alzner, Carlson, and Sloan.

Goaltenders:Theodore, Varlamov
Reserve/Hershey: Neuvirth, Holtby


**** Eric Fehr will not be ready at the start of the season so look for Chris Clark and Matt Bradley to move up a line while Chris Bourque, Oskar Osala and Jay
Beagle all get some NHL playing time and try on Caps sweaters. After Fehr recovers from his shoulder surgery then look for him to routinely rotate into a regular position on the roster with all but the top six forwards unless one of them are hurt or in a prolonged slump.

**** Milan Jurcina is the only Capital who requested arbitration, given he was second on the team in hits (behind Ovechkin) and was a defensive leader in blocked shots I believe he'll return this coming season. However, if the arbitrator awards him much more than his qualifying offer the Caps my now have to let him walk away from the team given their salary cap position. Assuming that doesn't happen look for Jurcina to be paired with Tom Poti, when he's in the lineup. Also if necessary and if Jurcina starts the season off playing like he did when he played well in the playoffs both he and Karl Alzner can pretty much pair with anybody else, except possibly John Erskine, when they adjust their styles appropriately so I look for both them to get a fair amount of playing time this coming season. I look for Carlson to get at least a try or two up in DC when somebody is hurt and to start the season off in Hershey. After playing ~40 minutes a night at the tail end of the regular season in Juniors and playing well for Hershey in the Calder Cup playoffs, there's little to be gained in the way of development if he doesn't move up and he's clearly shown he's able to play at least at the AHL level so there's no reason for a career stop in Charleston, SC at all.

The big question now is do the Capitals have enough horsepower to significantly improve on last season's performance. To significantly improve they probably have to advance through the playoffs to the finals and at least compete for Lord Stanley's Cup. That is a tough, tough challenge - winning the Stanley Cup may well be the hardest thing for a professional team to do in sports given, the length of the regular season, the length of the playoffs, the pace and "physicality" of professional ice hockey and now in the "modern era" the parity the salary cap creates in the NHL. To automatically assume the changes to the Capitals will all gel is not prudent. Clearly they have a coach and a team core with drive and talent but so too do the league's other top echelon teams. One thing for sure this season will be a fun one to watch, can the Caps improve on their 50 win season of last year sure but 100+ points is a big deal in this league. Can the Caps finish the regular season better positioned than last year for a very, very deep run in the playoffs? We're all waiting for that answer with baited breath. Our anticipation started this week, I wasn't there but it's clear from the pictures here in "Caps Blogdom" yesterday's scrimmage was SRO - Standing Room Only so I know at least a couple hundred other folks are as impatient as me to see what next season will bring.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Development Camp Roster and Who I Can't Wait To Watch Next Week ...

Well I certainly hope to get out to Kettler some next week I like both the Caps Development Camp Schedule and the announced roster:

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Birthdate 2008-09 Team

22 Brett Flemming D 6’0" 172 2/26/91 Missisauga (OHL)

36 Francois Bouchard RW 6’0" 180 4/26/88 Hershey (AHL)

45 Zach Miskovic D 6’1" 195 5/8/85 St. Lawrence (NCAA)

50 Cody Eakin C 5’11" 176 5/24/91 Swift Current (WHL)

54 Greg Burke LW 6’2" 190 5/1/90 Cedar Rapids (USHL)

59 Joe Finley D 6’7" 240 6/29/87 North Dakota (NCAA)

65 Andrew Glass LW 5’11" 180 7/14/89 Boston University (NCAA)

67 Benjamin Casavant LW 6’1" 213 1/21/91 P.E.I. (QMJHL)

70 Braden Holtby G 6’1" 202 9/16/89 Saskatoon (WHL)

73 Josh Godfrey D 6’1" 202 1/15/88 S. Carolina (ECHL)/Hershey (AHL)

74 John Carlson D 6’2" 218 1/10/90 London (OHL)/Hershey (AHL)

75 Phil DeSimone C 6’0" 195 3/19/87 New Hampshire (NCAA)

76 Garrett Mitchell RW 5’10" 180 9/2/91 Regina (WHL)

77 Jake Hauswirth C 6’5" 210 2/16/89 Omaha (USHL)

78 Patrick Wey D 6’3" 203 3/21/91 Waterloo (USHL)

79 Joel Broda C 6’1" 200 11/24/89 Moose Jaw (WHL)/Calgary (WHL)

80 Dan Dunn G 6’5" 200 6/20/88 St. Cloud State (NCAA)

81 Dmitri Orlov D 6’0" 197 7/23/91 Novokuznetsk (KHL)

84 Stefan Della Rovere LW 5’11" 196 2/25/90 Barrie (OHL)

85 Mathieu Perreault C 5’9" 165 1/5/88 Hershey (AHL)

86 Eric Mestery D 6’5" 196 5/28/90 Tri-City (WHL)/Lethbridge (WHL)

88 Trevor Bruess C 6’0" 192 1/6/86 Minnesota State (NCAA)

93 Dmitry Kugreyshev RW 5’11" 185 1/18/90 Quebec (QMJHL)

94 Anton Gustafsson C 6’2" 194 2/25/90 Bofors IK (Sweden)

Who To Watch/Who You'll Want To See If You Stop By

While all the players on the list should be fun to watch (the Capitals Developmental Pipeline is indeed one of the best in the NHL), the roster has guys who range from "No Brainers/Have to Sees) to "Possible Sleepers Who You May Still See In An NHL Uniform Soon"

No brainers are basically the first round draft picks and names most of the more "well" read hockey fans will know:

1. Anton Gustafsson, the 19 year old Swedish Center and son of Caps great Bengt Gustafsson.

2. Braden Holtby, the other (besides Varlamov and Neuvirth who were at last year's development camp) goaltending prospect.

3. John Carlson, the other (besides Karl Alzner) Caps blue chip defensive prospect.

4. Stefan Della Rovere, the 5'11" winger gained notoriety in last years World Juniors playing for Team Canada and did well at last year's development camp, now at 19 he'll be looking to getting noticed so he can soon earn a spot on the roster in Hershey.

5. Dmtri Orlov, while not a first round pick, he could have been, the 18 year old Russian played in the KHL last year and he has both size and skill. A welcome add to a pipeline that already has several solid prospects at defense. Orlov will be looking to begin earning a spot on the roster at Hershey for this upcoming season and possibly even a few games in DC as a replacement for any injured defensemen.

Possible Sleepers and/or Guys I Just Like So I Want To See Them, and Way I Like Them ...

1. Phil DeSimone, a solid prospect who has played NCAA hockey at a solid program UNH, DeSimone attended last summer's development camp and the two days I watched, he played solidly in scrimmages and worked hard, showing a lot of skill in close to the net and handling the puck. He seemed like a solid citizen who works 110% every minute he's on the ice. I think DeSimone has the potential to someday make the team and I think he would really compliment another guy with a super work ethic and grit already in the lineup - Brooks Laich.

2. Joe Finley, the big bruising defensive prospect who played for the Fighting Souix of North Dakato in the NCAA last season. I like big, bruising defensemen and I think he plays with a combination of skill and grit. I feel over the next two or three seasons he, Carlson and Alzner will all be playing in DC and along with Green will form the core of a really solid blue line corps.

3. Jake Hauswirth, a big tough Center who played in the USHL last season and had a solid season, because well I just like to see guys from the USHL get a chance and do well, besides who's going to take Dave Steckel's place when we can't afford him under the salary cap anyway? Though that won't be for another couple of seasons so the 20 year old 6'5" Hauswirth has a few seasons to polish his skill set before being called upon for that duty.

4. Andrew Glass, perhaps we should just refer to Glass as "Chris Bourque #2" - who wouldn't want another speedy, feisty, Left Wniger with hands and bundle of energy around? Besides take a good look at the size of the defensmen in this Camp and won't watching Glass buzz around the zone be fun during scrimmages?

5. Trevor Breuss, the 6'0", 192# Center led Minnesota State in scoring this past season and he plays with an edge. An edge that has gotten him suspended, but hey, the Caps Coaching Staff is no stranger to young, aggressive, talented, and slightly undisciplined players. Seriously, everything you read about this kid says he just goes out and tries to prove he's the best thing there is, every shift - all out at that. He should be fun to watch, it'll be especially interesting if he and Big Joe Finley are on opposing sides during scrimmages.

Well if that doesn't have your appetite whetted - how about this, it (development camp) is open to the public and it's free; that's right free hockey at Kettler in July. Some people ask why but hey, I'll just be saying why not.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

All Things Considered A Fair Amount of Hockey News Today....

If you've followed the blogsphere and wires already today there's nothing of real note here except two pieces of original content - the first item and my closing item....

First item - profuse apologies to any Carolina Hurricanes fans who read this blog - I don't know why I screwed up my post but I certainly did know that the Hurricanes made it to the THIRD round of the playoffs before bowing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion - those d%m# flightless birds from Steeltown.

Second item - After over 1,200 NHL games Claude Lemieux has decided to end his comeback attempt and I guess really hang up his skates again.

Third item - the next stops in the careers of several more unrestricted free agents was settled today.

A) The now former Montreal Canadiens Captain Saku Koivu is an Anaheim Duck after spending the last 14 years in Montreal and signing a one-year, $3.25 million deal .

B) It appears Detroit's Jiri Hrdler is off to Russia and the KHL with the Moscow Dynamo.

C) Rumors are that the Flyers' Antero Nittymaki is also off to the KHL as well.

Fourth item - The Chicago Blackhawks Restricted Free Agent "faux paux"/"controversy" is totally behind them now.

Fifth item - After loosing out on the "Monster" sweepstakes to Toronto, the Dallas Stars made a trade with the Senators, acquiring veteran netminder Alex Auld for a sixth-round pick next year. In Dallas, Auld will back up Marty Turco. At times last season, Auld was the No. 1 guy in Ottawa, going 16-18-1 with a .911 save percentage and 2.48 goals-against average. The Sens acquired Pascal Leclaire to be their #1 guy this past March.

Sixth item - The Caps will be having a "Convention" at National Harbor's Gaylord Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland on September 26th - I know I'll be there - will you?

Last item - okay so I'm updating my thoughts and forecast for next season's Caps lineup once again and here it is:

Mark's Crystal Ball Projected 2009/2010 Caps Lineup (7/8/2009)

1) Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
2) Semin - Laich - Fehr****
3) Fleischmann - Nylander - Clark
4) Gordon - Steckel - Bradley
Reserves: Bourque, Osala, Beagle

Green - Morrisonn
Poti - Schultz
Pothier - Erskine
Reserves: Alzner, Carlson, Jurcina ****

Theodore, Varlamov
Reserve: Neuvirth


**** Eric Fehr will not likely be ready at the start of the season so look for Chris Clark and Matt Bradley to move up a line while Chris Bourque, Oskar Osala and Jay Beagle all get some NHL playing time and try on Caps sweaters.

**** Milan Jurcina is the only Capital who requested arbitration, given he was second on the team in hits (behind Ovechkin) and was a defensive leader in blocked shots I believe he'll return this coming season. I also recently was watching a replay of Game 2 against the Rangers and had to note how well he played when paired with Tom Poti, also both he and Alzner can prtty much play with anybody when they adjust their styles appropriately so I look for both them to get a fair amount of playing time this coming season. I look for Carlson to get a try or two up in DC when somebody is hurt.

Well it won't be long now before Development Camp starts and the season opener is just something like 14 weeks away ... I don't know about you but I'm starting to think more and more about hockey and I can't wait till we all get to cheer ---

LETS GO CAPS!! for the start of the 2009/2010 regular season.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Looking Ahead to 2009-2010: Southeast Division

Well I figured as the free agent season for the summer progresses, I'd look at each division and the teams within moves this off season and jot down some thoughts.

As of this afternoon the following Free Agents of note are still available so things could still change where a team within a division could or will be positively or negatively affected by a free agent move I note my thoughts. I also figured I'd start with the Southeast Division for two reasons: 1) the Capitals are in the Division and 2) it seems to me a lot of the moves that need to or will be made in the Southeastern Division have already been made.

Here's the top UFAs that remain unsigned right now:

1. Alex Tanguay
2. Martin Biron
3. Saku Koivu
4. Jason Williams
5. Miroslav Satan
6. Mike Comrie
7. Manny Malhortra

Others of Note/Interest: Steve Eminger, Manny Fernandez, Martin Gerber, Mike Grier, Brent Johnson, Bobby Holik, Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace, Matt Pettinger, Michael Peca, Andrew Raycroft, Dmitri Kalnin, Joe Sakic, Antero Nittymaki, Mathieu Schneider, Daryl Sydor, Ossi Vaananen, Kevin Weekes, Kyle Wellwood, Maxim Afinogenov, Richard Zednick, Sergei Zubov and of course: Brendan Shanahan, Mats Sundin, and Chris Chelios (if fo no other reason than morbid curiosity for those last three names on the list...)

Now looking at the Southeast Division Team's finishes from last regular season. At the end of the 2008/2009 Regular Season, the standings were as follows.

1) Washington: 108 points (50-24-8) 2nd in Conference, 4th in League
2) Carolina: 97 points (45-30-7) 6th in Conference, 11th in League
3) Florida: 93 points (41-30-11) 9th in Conference, 14th in League
4) Atlanta: 76 points (35-41-6) 13th in Conference, 27th in League
5) Tampa Bay: 66 points (24-40-18) 14th in Conference, 29th in League.

Looking ahead to the 2009/2010 season I predict things will end up with the teams in the following finishing order and with the following total points.

1) Washington, 100+ points
2) Carolina, 93+ points
3) Florida, 80+ points
4) Atlanta, 80+ points
5) Tampa Bay - who knows? and will we care?

Current Situation and Roster Notes Looking Ahead to 2009/2010

Washington Capitals: The Capitals currently have 19 players on their roster and three openings, assuming you don't feel that one of the prospects in their solid talent pipeline doesn't move up. Right now the Capitals have an estimated salary cap payroll of $52.625M against an estimated budget/max Cap of $56.8M leaving them $4.175M of salary cap space. They are probably done with the free agent market for this season though the signing of veteran right wing Mike Knuble was a pleasant and pretty universally welcome surprise in "Cap-land". The Caps made qualifying offers to 8 Restricted Free Agents and the only one to file for arbitration was Milan Jurcina but he will likely get something out of it given his good showing in the playoffs and the fact he led the D-Corps in Blocked Shots and Hits during the regular season. That combined with the looming necessary contract extension offers to Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom later this season as well as the probable desire to have some space for a trade deadline pickup leave the Caps with little room and probably less desire to make any big moves at this time. Save of course the possible trade of Michael Nylander to a place that wants him, his $5+M cap hit and that he with an NMC wants to go to. In addition to picking up Knuble the Caps have also lost Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Federov from their lineup, enforcer/4th liner Donald Brashear has left town for the big apple and backup goaltender Brent Johnson is a UFA and not expected to return. The remainder of the Capitals lineup remains pretty firm and behind the team that racked up the fourth best record in the NHL last season is a pipeline that includes prospects on an AHL Affiliate that won that league's Calder Cup, and an ECHL affiliate that won that league's Kelly Cup last season. Right now it looks like the replacement for Fedrov will be a juggling of the top six forwards that moves Brooks Laich to the second line center spot; Knuble is a clear replacement, and scoring upgrade for Kozlov, Johnson's replacement is one of two excellent young goaltenders in the Capitals' pipeline - Seymeon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth - either of whom , if they continue the form they showed in the post season, will be an upgrade and should give Jose Theodore competition for playing time next season. Last the "replacement" for Brashear appears to be an upgraded soring punch on the 3rd and 4th lines and an even more potent power play in the likeness of the Detroit Red Wings per statements from Caps General Manager George McPhee.

2) Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes currently have 17 players signed and five openings on there roster; right now they have an estimated payroll of $48.142M against an estimated budget of $51M and a max cap of $56.8. That leaves them budget room of $2.858M and cap space of $8,658M. The good news so far this off season is the Hurricane's haven't lost anybody from a lineup that made the playoffs last season. The bad news is the Hurricanes haven't added anybody of note to upgrade a team that lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Penguins. The 'Canes still have to resign UFA Dennis Seidenberg and hang on to restricted free agents Anton Babchuk, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen for their roster to remain in tact. They could also use some additional firepower to augment their scoring punch and build around a core that is goaltender Cam Ward and star center Eric Staal. They haven't tried to do that yet this off season and given the remaining top UFAs it doesn't look like they will do so either. That said, they are coming off a great end of the season run and solid playoffs even though they were ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup Winner. The way Carolina ended the last season, even without any major upgrades, they will give the Capitals a run for their money in the division, but there are still some "chinks in their armour" as well.

3) Florida Panthers: The Panthers, are the biggest question mark in the division. They finished last season with quite a good run and missed the playoffs only on a tiebreaker. They currently have 18 players on their roster and four openings; they've achieved this with a payroll of $49.42M against a estimated budget of $54.5M. That gives them $5.08M and $7.38M of space against their budget and the salary cap respectively. In the wake of Jay Bouwmeester's departure from South Florida, the Panthers have been making a few moves to try and ensure they do return to the playoffs next season. However, they also lost backup goaltender Craig Anderson to free agency, and that shouldn't be dismissed as Anderson filled in ably last season for an injured Tomas Vokoun for a period. Those moves include picking up veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold from Calgary and signing him to a one year $1.75M deal; resigning veteran forward Radek Dvorak to a 2 year $3.4M contract, and signing leading goal scorer, forward David Booth, who was an RFA, to a six-year contract worth $25.5 million. That said given the slow pace the Panthers are taking in possibly bringing back their other veteran free agents: D Nick Boynton, D Jassen Cullimore, F Ville Peltonen, D Karlis Skrastins, and F Janis Sprukts, they certainly also be leaving themselves a fair amount of room to build from within using their younger players ... but with a goaltender like Vokoun and solid forwards like Stephen Weiss and David Booth to serve as a core to build around, the Panthers will not be a push over this season - even without Boumeester in the lineup. I'm sure some South Florida hockey fans are wondering what the Panthers would be like with a star defenseman to anchor their blue line corps... kind of makes me wonder too.

4) Atlanta Thrashers. There's almost no doubt the Thrashers should be one of the most improved teams in the NHL this coming season. With the following guys as the possible free agent losses on July 1st: F Mike Hoffman, F Joe Motzko, D Nathan Oystrick, F Eric Perrin, D Brett Skinner, F Grant Stevenson - a bunch who as a group totaled 148 games played and 12 goals scored last season - the Bluebirds weren't at risk of loosing much in the way of team strength anyway. Then they went out and signed big free agent Nik "Borat" Antropov to a four year $16M deal to play alngside scoring machine Captain Ilya Kovalchuck and in front of a young but talented blue-line corps as well as talented younsters like Bryan Little, Rich Peverley, and Colby Armstrong as well. The Thrashers still need more talent to really compete for a Cup like their star wants but they have salary cap room and also seem convinced that goaltender Kari Lehtonen is ready to be the main man between the pipes for them as well. The Thrashers may do well picking up some of the now available, cheaper free agents and they may still have salary cap room to be one of the few teams in the league to actually play in the trade market. Hmmm - you think there's any chance they are looking for a 36 year old Swedish, puck control center? Probably not but I can dream can't I?

5) Tampa Bay: Okay despite some relatively rationale behaviour so far this off season, all of which seems to be well considered and likely to strongly improve this team, it's just a fact that the train wreck perptrated by the new ownership and Barry Melrose last off-season will take more than one year to remedy. So far this off season, discounting allegations of possible tampering, just because lets not get too surreal, th free agent pickups of defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Matt Walker, and forward Stephane Veillieux all will improve the team. Also the prices paid for Walker and Veillieux don't seem excessive and while there's lots of spectulation and conjecture going on about the Ohlund deal there can be no doubt he'll be a good mentor for first round draft pick Victor Hedman who also appears ready to make the transition from the Swedish Elite Leagure right to the NHL. Truth be told with Lecavilier, St. Louis, Malone, Prospal and Stamos up front and the improved blue line carved out this off season, if young goaltender Mike Smith can hold his own, and the ownership/management drama subsides, by mid-season Tampa Bay should be settled in and also looking good. That said their has just been so much turnover the past two seasons and so much drama this past season it'll probably take all year before the Lightning get in a groove. Like I said - it takes a while to clean-up a train wreck and get normal operations resumed - just ask riders of WMATA's RED Line.

Well what's it all mean Caps fans?- first, you don't have to read this blog to know your guys, those "Young GUns" Washington Capitals aren't going to sneak up on anyone this season. They along with Pittsburgh and Boston are picked to be "The Beasts of the East." So expect opposing teams to play harder than ever when they match up with the Capitals. Also expect oach Bruce Boudreau to emphasize more than ever that the Capitals need to make Verizon Center a tough place for opponents to come away with even a point. Last year set a bar and the young Caps aren't gearing to surpass it. Let's all keep hoping that ... "THIS will be THE year."