Saturday, September 26, 2009

T - 6 Days And Counting....

Just six more days till the Caps open their regular season against the Bruins up in Boston and counting. I missed the Capitals Convention today. I had a ticket but I needed to work since I'll be going out to Long Beach, CA to meet up with "wingman" while his ship is in port the next three days. I wanted to go to get some more autographs from the Caps of yesteryear's but such was not to be.

I'm thinking more and more about the upcoming season. Tom has the tickets to tomorrow's pre-season finale against the Rangers, but I'll be at the home opener next Saturday and I am psyched. As I look at the season ahead, I'm starting to wonder about a couple of things, perhaps for example I need to rethink my thoughts about the Southeast Division. I was thinking the SE Division would go: 1) Caps, 2) 'Canes, 3) Panthers, 4) Thrashers, and 5) 'Bolts but then Tampa Bay went and made some great moves, IMO, this off season and the late pickup of Alex Tanguay along with the stellar preseason play of 1st round draft choice Victor Hedman on top of the moves to strengthen the blue-line corps overall has me rethinking things - alot. If Lightning Goaltender Mike Smith stays healthy and can play in 55+ games well, Tampa Bay could well be back to form and a threat to anybody in the league on any given night. After last year's debacle that's saying something. I watched their pre-season game against Edmonton the other night on NHL Network and though they struggled with fatigue a little, that seemed totally understandable since it was their fourth game in four nights. The style of responsible hockey they generally played was clearly a team driven by Coach Rick Tochett. The Lightning start the season with a solid set of scoring capability in their top six forwards, a responsible maturing blue line corps and pretty good pair of solidly NHL caliber goaltenders. These guys are looking like they want to give the Caps and 'Canes a run for their money and try to be one of the 8 playoff teams from the Eastern Conference.

Florida's moves to back fill the departure of Jay-Bo haven't been earth shattering and it looks like the panthers are still looking to primarily build from within. I think that has been proven now to be the right general strategy for longer term NHL success and the Panthers have some excellent foundational players in Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Nathan Horton. Steven Reinprecht is a good off season pickup IMO, and the goaltending duo of Scott Clemmensen and Tomas Voukoun is probably the most reliably good duo in the division on face value. The only area the Panthers didn't upgrade or won't benefit from maturing in system folks is really the blueline. I really think the Panters should have gotten more for Jay Bouwmeester, after all he would have resigned with the Panthers before going to somewhere in Europe no doubt... In any case Florida will likely once again be a "bubble team." I expect them to play very solid, defensive hockey and they have a couple of guys who can hurt you by "putting the biscuit in the basket" as well. They start this season in a similar position to the way they started last season though 2 - 4 players away from being a solid playoff contender, but with the set of goaltenders they have, they will again likely flirt with the playoffs. For the sake of the general franchise health, I'm rooting for them.

Atlanta, what can you say, they made some good moves, moves probably prompted by trying to work towards being the team they really want to be and that their star, Team Captain, Ilya Kovalchuck wants them to be. Thankfully for us Caps fans though - our Russians remain better than their Russians. That said their off-season moves have been all solid moves in my opinion and their home grown talents and recent high draft choices are moving along nicely. They will no doubt be a better team, if not much better team then they were last season. The question mark for the Thrashers, IMO, remains their netminding. If Kari Lehtonen can settle in for a good run, Atlanta could also make a run for the playoffs and be an Eastern Conference "bubble team". If they make a similar improvement to the capabilities and level of their team next summer, they too could find themselves solid playoff contenders, but right now they are, again IMHO still 4 players away form that position.

Carolina didn't loose any ground as a team this off season IMO, they really didn't gain any though either. The Hurricanes are down to a roster of 25 players right now so they only have two more cuts to stabilize, they should come out of the gates faster than last season and that will likely make up for anything they loose in the way of standings points to the fact that when they face Tampa Bay and Atlanta for their 4 matches this season they'll be playing against an better team then they were last year. If the Hurricanes, who have the oldest roster in the Southeast Division, stay healthy and Cam Ward again shows his consistency and durability, they are likely to repeat, if not improve on, last seasons 97 point performance. So they'll likely make the playoffs again but they will be given a run for their money by Tampa Bay. If we believe the "stuff" NHL Commissioner Gary Buttman is selling about participation in the Olympics and it's general negative affect on the NHL regular season, an older team like Carolina, who will likely not have a disproportionate number of their players on National Team rosters in Vancouver, should benefit disproportionately from the Olympics break this February. If that's true, Carolina might even improve their regular season record and top 100 points, they were close to that last season.

So my revised projections for finishing positions and estimated point totals for the Southeast Division are:

1) Washington Capitals - 112 Points
2) Carolina Hurricanes - 99 points
3) Tampa Bay Lightning - 94 Points
4) Florida Panthers - 91 Points
5) Atlanta Thrashers - 90 Points.

I expect it to take 94 points to make the playoffs and whether Tampa Bay makes it or not will be a function of their record against the other likely non-Southeast division bubble teams in the Eastern Conference this season who I am picking to be: Toronto, Ottawa, and the Rangers. One thing is for sure though, if the Caps do finish with 110+ points, and Carolina finishes firmly in the playoffs and flirts with or just exceeds 100 points, and a third team from the division makes the playoffs in 2010, then the idea that the Southeastern Division is the weakest division in the NHL should finally die. The fact is if that were to happen the Southeastern Division would look pretty much like any of the stronger divisions from the 2008-2009, or the 2007 - 2008 seasons - they'd look very similar to the Atlantic Division from those years. What that means for Hockey in the Sunbelt is anybody's guess. But for us Washington Capitals fans and Season Ticket Holders it would mean 12 - 16 really good games every regular season. Who knows, the desired for (by Mr. Buttman) rivalries might even start to really develop and grow.

Anyway while I continue to be very bullish on the Capitals prospects this season, it's clear there won't be any free points for the taking in the division this season, IMHO.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preseason Caps 6 - Blackawks 2 - That was fun and now free wings! Yeeha!

Preseason Caps 6 - Blackawks 2 - That was fun and now free wings! Yeeha!

Okay so last night I went to my first live hockey game of the season and boy was it fun - reminded me why I love live hockey and not because the Caps pasted the Blackhawks either. Because it was just "good clean fun". First lets not get too excited it was preseason and all but here's what I saw that was what I will class as

1) The Caps that played last night were NOT the same ones that lost on Monday Night to Buffalo - this Caps team remembered how to put Shots On Goal and hey it worked... That's why in the next 7 days I can get free wings at Glory Days - YeeHa - who doesn't love free stuff?

2) The influence of having Mike Knuble on the team is indeed evident - he's not the only one crashing the net and looking to score down low. In fact one of Ovies two goals was from closer in then we've generally seen and to me, that means if "The Great 8" keeps that in his bag of tricks we might even see a 70 goal season. So in this regard a "Good" shout out goes to: Knuble, Ovie, Backstrom, Laich, Boyd Gordon and Captain Chris.

3) Mobile Defensemen and smart play by them - Shoane Morisonn joined the rush twice and had a positive impact; Tyler Sloan nice goal!; Brian Pothier is looking good and Tom Poti had a good game (except the 3 penalties...). Based on last night and the prior preseason games performance I'd say that right now Tyler Sloan is looking like fair possibility to open the season as a Washington Capital, if he does what that means, I believe is that Karl Alzner is in Hershey and the 5 and 6 slot on the depth chart any given night that 1-4 are filled by a healthy Green, Poti, Pothier and Morrisonn is split between the following 3 or 4 guys: Erskine, Sloan, Jurcina, and Schultz. The way these guys have looked in Camp and the pre-season, that would be a nice organically grown upgrade to where the Caps started last season off on the blue-line.

4) Seymeon Varlamov was very, very solid last night. He ended the night with a SV% of 0.929 and the two he let in were 1) a Power Play goal on a second shot and 2) a tip in off of one of his defenders (Mike Green). I think that unless Neuvy gets a shutout tonight he'll be starting in Hershey at the beginning of the regular season, backed up by Braden Holtby. Not hating on anybody here - just sayin' Varly's performance was hard to fault in any way.

5) I don't know if you want all that firepower on one line every night but watching the Ovechkin - Backstrom - Semin line was great fun - especially on Ovie's second goal which was the Capitals second of three power play goals of the night. Maybe this we don't really need a heavyweight enforcer approach can work. Semin's primary assist on Ovie's second goal was just classically awesome.

Wierd/Mildly Humourous/Akward Moments-Thoughts:

1) Mathieu Perrault can play at the NHL Level, however a) he's not ever likely to be your "go to face off guy" and b) he ought to know his limitations and NOT try and put moves on/out skate Bryan Campbell - though since it was a preseason game it was fun watching him try to do it.

2) The Caps scored 3 power play goals in 6 chances - nice!; the Caps gave up 2 power play goals in 6 penalties, pretty close to being ironic, eh?

3) Sickly feeling seeing Alexander Semin laying on the ice; ditto Patrick Sharp in a preseason game.

4) Interesting thought - four guys and only four guys who played last night were not +/- positive when the game ended: Mike Green, Oskar Osala, Andrew Gordon, and Kyle Wilson. Of those four only one was a Norris Trophy finalist at the end of last season, as of this morning's news the other three were all sent down to Hershey. Think the competition for roster slots is fierce in DC this fall?

5) I really need someone to give me some ideas as to what we should be "jeering" at Patrick "20 Cent" Kane when he's on the ice. "Hail A Cab" doesn't really have any relevance to ice hockey situations ... AT ALL...

Based on what we've seen so far I'd have to say the inside track for the competition for roster slots right now and the opening night lineup/roster are:


1) Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble or Semin

2) Laich - Morrison - Knuble or Semin

3) Steckel - Beagle - Clark

4) Laing - Gordon - Bradley

Reserves: Nylander


A) Green - Morrisonn

B) Poti - Jurcina

C) Pothier - Sloan

Reserves: Erskine, Schultz


Take a good look at that lineup, it shows that right now the impact of the extra defenseman the Caps have and a forward who doesn't fit their system means GMGM wil likely move somebody soon so when they go on their first West Coast road trip in mid-december they can take two reserve forwards (likely Nylander + one other) and one reserve defenseman. Also given the great caliber of play the younger guys in camp have shown so far, the Capitals are far more likely to pay Michael Nylander $5+M this year to ride the pine a lot and call up guys from Hershey who fit into the system when they are needed then they are to dress Nyls and have to try and adjust the play/game plan around whatever line he plays on.

So tonight it's the Rangers at MSG and the game is only being shown on NHLN-Canada so I may have to buy Center Ice already this season.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Looks Like It'll Be A Tough Year To Break Into the Caps Roster Even ....

It looks like it'll be a tough year to break into the Caps roster even with Fleischmann and Fehr likely to both still be out when the season opens.

Well the Washington Capitals are 2-0 in the preseason, normally that's not something you care about and if anything being the worrier, I might point out that to date it sure doesn't look like either of the top 2 forward lines have played a shift together against an opponent. Also, probably not been often that a normal defensive pairing has taken a shift together either. However last night from what I can tell looking at the statistics against the Chicago Blackhawks, it sure seems that the Hawks skated a pretty solid lineup against the Capitals. The Capitals on the other hand on seemed to skate one of their top six forwards, though to be fair, the blue line corps in front of Michal Neuvirth was composed of 5 of the likely top six defensemen on the current depth chart. Despite that fact, and the fact the Capitals started the game "sluggish" they managed to come back, win in overtime, and out shoot the Blackhawks 30 to 26. All in all a pretty good night, especially when you realize that despite what they've been doing with the lineup, through the first two pre-season games, the Capitals penalty kill unit is 10 for 10. This from a team that had the 17th "best" penalty kill unit in the NHL last season.

So what's it all mean? Well today there were a few more guys sent out of the Caps Camp and one would suspect to Hershey's camp which will open soon. That should make some room so over the next game or two the coaching staff should be able to give enough ice time to the guys on the bubble to thin the herd further and still have the final two preseason games left to let the "normal" first and second lines get enough shifts to hone their timing back to shape by opening night. However, it also means it's unlikely that many of the top six forwards will skate tonight when the Caps take on the Sabres at Verizon Center. I also wouldn't count on seeing more than four of the likely top six defensemen play tonight either. We should get to see starting goaltender Jose Theodore for at least half the game though who knows, perhaps the coaching staff will want to alternate between Varly and Neuvy for another two games before Theo takes the draws to get ready for the season opener.

One thing is for sure, the "bubble guys" aren't making it easy for the coaching staff to decide who to put where on the depth chart. Several veterans are also looking good and ready for the start of this season as well. In that regard both Pothier and Clark are looking solid. Though last night wasn't his best outing as a Cap, the first pre-season game by Pothier was solid. Clark has shown he is working hard to get his timing back, and Brooks Laich's two "post hits" last night show he is honing his "nose for the net" as the the regular season approaches. The bubble guys making an impact so far when they get on the ice seem to be: Tyler Sloan (5 blocked shots); Jay Beagle; Alexandre Giroux; Mathieu Perrault; and Kyle Wilson. I expect both Beagle and Chris Bourque to get a fair amount of ice time tonight to show what they can do. I also expect Sloan. Jurcina, Alzner and McNiel to get a fair shot of ice time on the blue line tonight as well. Up front, I wouldn't be surprised to see at least three of the top six forwards take the ice tonight, but I don't expect them to log too much more than 17:00 TOI tonight, yielding ice time in favor of letting the guys battling for the last three or four forward slots on the roster skate more.

Welcome to the preseason, post - rebuild.... Now lets all get out there and


so the team knows how glad we all are that the hockey season is near at hand.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Michael Nylander - A Good Guy In A Bad Situation That Cannot Be Ignored

A lot of ink and bytes are flying around on the subject of Michael Nylander and the Washington Capitals right now if you following the usual message boards, etc. I've mused openly about the situation with Nylander since late last season but the recent stuff has driven me to revisit the situation and make sure I am firmly on record about a couple of things on this topic. Here they are:

1) When he was signed to his current contract, I don't think Caps Management made a mistake. It was a smart signing given where we were and the situation dictated that if we wanted Nyls we needed to pay what we did to get him. The minute he signed he was not overpaid. The current situation started to arise when the Caps opt'ed to change their style of play to the current system they began to adopt in November 2007.

2) I don't think anyone should feel dismay that Michael Nylander wants to make sure he gets what he negotiated and that he takes care of himself and his family by exercising his NMC. He earned it - why/how? - he did that the minute the Capitals gave it to him. As long as he shows up, in shape, with a good attitude and works at his game like every other player with a contract, he deserves what it says he deserves in his contract. That means, he's here until someone else in the NHL offers a deal to the Caps that they and he will both accept. That doesn't make either him or Caps management stupid, it's just the way things are.

So I pretty much feel like, while it's clear the Caps need to do something if they can to move Michael Nylander and free his Cap Space given they aren't using him as a top line center which is what they are paying him as, - well I feel pretty much like the sentements expressed over at "On Frozen Blog" today:

"Also on the unhealthy front -- and unlikely to heal -- is the Michael
Nylander saga; it simply can't be ignored. As best as I can tell it's training
camp's lone non-health-related downer story. Michael Nylander does absolutely
nothing wrong within this organization except fit poorly in Bruce Boudreau's
system. And in the earliest hours of this camp I personally have felt great
empathy for him watching him move about, expressionless, largely isolated from
gregarious bands of players, seeming so . . . out of place.

The start of a new hockey season is an occasion of so many smiles, so much
laughter within an organization, but Michael Nylander knows neither thus far
this autumn. On Saturday he sat alone at a table by a rink for a terrific while
signing a truckload of Caps' merchandise -- signing longer than any other
Capital. It was an odd sight, and after two days at Kettler and being regularly
confronted by this queer dynamic I can't help but analogize Nylander's situation
to the separation period a married couple endures before a divorce."

All that said it's worth looking at the pertenent facts as they apply to this situation. Michael Nylander, as he pointed out yesterday to the press, has two years left on his contract here in DC. the contract contains a No Movement Clause, and calls for the Capitals to pay him a salary of $5.5M this season and $3.0M next season; his salary cap hit each of those years will be $4.875M. Nyls will be 37 on October 3rd and he has 15 seasons of NHL experience under his belt. Over that span he has played in 920 NHL Regular Season Games and 47 NHL Playoff contensts. He has 221 goals (209 regular season and 12 playoffs) and 492 assists (470 regular season, 22 playoffs). He came to the Capitals as an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2007 after two excellent (20+ goal/50+ assist) post lock-out seasons with the NY Rangers. At the time the Capitals were in the middle of a total team rebuild and few unrestricted free agents looked to Washington as a place to come and have the latter part of your career be highly successful. The Capitals had drafted a 19 year old Swedish Center named Nicklas Backstrom in the first round that year and needed a mentor for him. The fit was relatively straight-forward and complete at the time the deal was made.

Had the Capitals bought Nyls out this summer it wouldn't have made any sense due to the impact in the out years (particularly next season when the Caps need to make room somehow for Backstom and Semin's resigning...). According to - here's what a buyout of Nyls on June 15th of this year would have looked like:

2009-2010 $5,500,000 $4,875,000 $1,416,667 $4,083,333 $791,667
2010-2011 $3,000,000 $4,875,000 $1,416,667 $1,583,333 $3,291,667
2011-2012 $0 $0 $1,416,667 $-1,416,667 $1,416,667
2012-2013 $0 $0 $1,416,667 $-1,416,667 $1,416,667.

Next season, June 15th, 2010 however, things look a wee bit different. Take a look:

2010-2011 $3,000,000 $4,875,000 $1,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,875,000
2011-2012 $0 $0 $1,000,000 $-1,000,000 $1,000,000.

So what's the math above say? To me it says Nyls is likely to spend the rest of this season as a Washington Capital. He may or may not be a healthy scratch often depending on a lot of things including the health and durability of 34 year old UFA pickup, Brendan Morrison. If Morrison returns to the form he had before his last two injury shortened seasons, Nyls could spend a fair amount of time "riding the pine."

However given that the Caps will likely be starting the season without either Tomas Fleischmann or Eric Fehr, there is some room for Nyls though when he signed with the Caps in 2007, I don't think anyone foresaw him as the third line center....

Hopefully this all works out somehow, but it's hard to see how. Right now the only teams with significant salary cap room for a guy like Nyls could be are: the Islanders, the Predators, the Avalanche, and the Thrashers. Would any of those four teams be willing to take Nylander and his $4.875M cap hit for the next two years and would he be willing to go there? Hard to say. I have to think that if somehow a deal could be worked with any of them, and Nyls thought he'd get a fair shake at playing time, he might take it. No premier athlete wants to "ride the pine" even in the back nine of his career. That said, it's hard to see him going to Europe or Russia this year before the Olympics are over either, and from his perspective, why should he?

In any case, the professionalism he's displayed since this stuff started speaks volumes about his character and professionalism. If Nyls continues to be the guy he's been so far throughout these times, and as a father of six children Nyls probably has the patience required to be so, one thing is certain. When it is over, Michael Nylander will have no regrets and will be able to point to these times as a period in his life where he acted like he hopes his children all act when they are facing adversity.

Like I said, I hope it all works out, because right now this is really the only big cloud that's a bit of a downer over the Capitals organization.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sept 12 2009 - A Good Day Goes Into The Books ....

So yesterday was a pretty good day here in scenic Northern VA, despite the mediocre weather. I spent two hours at KCI watching the Washington Capitals Veterans report to training camp; got a haircut without having to wait since all the usual folks got theirs last week before the return to school; watched the USMMA beat our rivals USCGA in D-III football 33-27 in double OT; and then had a call from our son whose ship arrived in China last night. So all in all I ended the day knowing: a) the start of Hockey Season is just around the corner; b) my Alma Mater is on track to a good football season and to winning the Secretary's Cup overall from the USCGA this year; c) I once again can look okay for a couple of more weeks and d) most importantly our son is safe and well and seems to be enjoying what he's doing. So that means I can once again self-centeredly retreat inward to my musings about hockey without feeling guilty - right?
Like others I took some pics at KCI yesterday which I'll post here. Before that let me say I love the slogan the shirts the guys had on their backs yesterday: "Get Ready" ... "Its Our Time." Everybody I saw looked like they were showing up ready. The Defensemen all look in great shape - like they know everyone is watching them and they will be competing with each other for playing time. Jeff Schultz seems to have bulked up in the upper body area, Mike Green looked in great shape, and Shaone Morrisson and Milan Jurcina both looked liked they were muscled up, but lean and mean as did John Erskine. Those were the guys along with David Steckel and Matt Bradley I got good looks at off the ice. Steckel and Bradley also looked very ready to play as well. As others noted Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Smin laced up their skates and played around a bit on the ice - and all I can say is WOW! Even when these two guys are clearly just fooling around you get glimpses of their awesome talent. Semin can put a puck from one side of the Kettler Ice surface all the way out of the other end, above the glass - using pretty much just the strength and muscles one uses to make a wrist shot. No wonder, the guys wrist shot is like a laser. When OV just skates normally you can see the power in his stride in a manner that is totally unmistakable. It was just great seeing the guys on the ice and knowing that in less than a month we'll be watching hockey again at Verizon Center. Here's my pics:
The banner at the Ballston Commons Entrance...

Alexander Ovechkin taking to the press...

Alexander Semin on the practice ice....

Ovie taking a slapshot from one end of the ice to the othe where a waiting Alexander Semin will snap it back ....

The two Alexes just passing the puck back and forth, even just fooling around you can see the form, skill and talent these two guys have ... it was another good day to be Alex Ovechkin....

Can't wait for the season to start...

"Get Ready - It's Our Time"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Isn't It A Great Time To Be..

Isn't it a great time to be a Caps Fan?

If you don't agree look at what some Ottawa Senators fan with a great imagination and too much time on their hands did - it is quite good and really funny if you don't get offended by foul language....being a "sailor" that's not a problem for me... as we say on the interwebs - ROTFLMAO...
Dany Heatley -- Hitler reacts to news that he has turned down a trade.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Caps Defense - Other People's Thoughts and Our Own...

From "On Frozen Blog" Coach Boudreau is quoted as saying "I think we've got eleven NHL defensemen." Over at The Peerless Prognosticator, Peerless makes the point " Why are there questions about the Caps defense? Well, because there should be, and here is why." Both these blogs usually bring up good and valid points - so you may be wondering "which is it?" My reaction after reading and thinking about it - "Probably both..."

What?!?!?!? You say...

Well here's the 11 guys who can and probably will make NHL rosters either in DC or elsewhare as NHL Defenseman and hold their own in the next 24 months:

1) Mike Green; 2) Tom Poti; 3) Brian Pothier; 4) Shoane Morrisonn; 5) Milan Jurcina; 6) John Erskine; 7) Jeff Shultz; 8) Karl Alzner; 9) John Carlson; 10) Tyler Sloan; 11) Sean Colins and possibly 12) Bryan Helmer and a few others too...

Speaking of Caps current and former Defensemen did you all hppen to cath this signing: "The Anaheim Ducks have signed defenseman Steve Eminger to a two-year contract."

So with this "wealth" of NHL caliber blue line talent in their system how can Peerless be right too? Well first of all it's because he's Peerless and well he's very often, mostly, usually right... Secondly, having 11 NHL Caliber defensemen the majority of whom are guys who can play a regular shift and be worth between the NHL Minimum and say $1.5M per year and having a defense anchored by 3 or more guys who are worth a lot more then that and rugged enough and fit enough to log significant (say 20+) minutes per game, play in 65 or more games in the regular season, and be ready for a playoff run that is long and takes you too and through say the Stanley Cup Finals... Well that's an entirely different set of conditions and leads to an entirely different set of "worries." Further, add in to the discussion, consideration of the level of experience a Stanley;ey Cup finalist's blue line usually has as a consideration when looking at the Caps today and is Peerless wrong or too pessimistic when he says:

"Well, because there should be..."

For my 2 cents - I think not. However, I'm a fan first and foremost and I take encouragement and derive optimism from his other very valid point - "We could be accused of splitting hairs when no matter which of these groups of six we're looking at, we're looking at a record that reflects a 100+ point pace. And given how bad the Caps defense was a short few years ago, we might be seen as splitting the split hairs. " I'm still thinking that with everything else that GMGM has to consider throughout the first part of the season through the trade deadline, if this looks like a year that could be "The Year" - we have a lot of pieces to use to complete the puzzle in a myriad of ways...

Less than a month till the season opener y'all.... My understanding is we STH's should be receiving our tickets this week....


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Finally! Rookie Camp Starts Tomorrow and I Follow-up On My Thoughts re: What About Nylander and Clark....

Finally...Some Caps Hockey News Is Likely to Start Being Made...

Rookie Camp opens at Kettler Center Iceplex (KCI) tomorrow, the Capitals announced the rosters, 23 players will participate in rookie camp starting tomorrow at KCI with a 10:30 a.m. practice and runs through Friday, Sept. 11, when the rookies visit Vorhees, N.J., for a scrimmage against the Flyers’ rookies at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone. The rookie camp roster as announced is:
79 BRODA, Joel 6’1” 203 Left 11/24/89 Yorkton, Saskatchewan Moose Jaw/Calgary WHL
88 BRUESS, Trevor 6’0” 209 Right 1/6/86 Minneapolis, Minnesota Minnesota State-Mankato WCHA
67 CASAVANT, Benjamin 6’1” 200 Left 1/21/91 St-Hyacinthe, Quebec Prince Edward Island QMJHL
84 DELLA ROVERE, Stefan 5’11” 196 Left 2/25/90 Richmond Hill, Ontario Barrie/South Carolina OHL/ECHL
72 DUBUC, Michael 6’3” 170 Right 6/29/88 Granby, Quebec Hershey/South Carolina AHL/ECHL
50 EAKIN, Cody 5’11” 187 Left 5/24/91 Winnipeg, Manitoba Swift Current WHL
59 FINLEY, Joe 6’7” 245 Left 6/29/87 Edina, Minnesota North Dakota/Hershey WCHA/AHL
94 GUSTAFSSON, Anton 6’2” 195 Left 2/25/90 Karlskoga, Sweden Bofors Sweden
77 HAUSWIRTH, Jake 6’5” 200 Left 2/16/88 Merrill, Wisconsin Omaha USHL
65 JASINSKY, Ryan 6’2” 205 Right 1/13/90 Richmond, Virginia Victoriaville QMJHL
93 KUGRYSHEV, Dmitri 5’11” 192 Right 1/18/90 Moscow, Russia Quebec QMJHL
76 MITCHELL, Garrett 5’11 185 Right 9/2/91 Regina, Saskatchewan Regina WHL
74 CARLSON, John 6’3” 211 Right 1/10/90 Natick, Massachusetts London/Hershey OHL/AHL
38 DAWSON, Aaron 6’5” 220 Left 3/11/85 Peoria, Illinois Univ. of Prince Edward Island AUS
66 FLEMMING, Brett 5’11” 178 Right 2/26/91 Regina, Saskatchewan Mississauga St. Michael’s OHL
73 GODFREY, Josh 6’1” 199 Right 1/15/88 Collingwood, Ontario Hershey/South Carolina AHL/ECHL
96 KERR, Ryan 6’2” 208 Left 3/4/89 Lions Bay, British Columbia Portland WHL
86 MESTERY, Eric 6’5” 203 Left 5/28/90 Winnipeg, Manitoba Tri-City/Lethbridge WHL
68 MISKOVIC, Zach 6’0” 198 Right 5/8/85 River Forest, Illinois St. Lawrence ECAC
54 SCHMIDT, Kevin 6’1” 176 Left 2/14/86 Markham, Ontario Bowling Green CCHA
70 HOLTBY, Braden 6’1” 206 Left 9/16/89 Lloydminster, Saskatchewan Saskatoon WHL
30 NEUVIRTH, Michal 6’1” 197 Left 3/23/88 Usi Labem, Czech Republic CAPITALS/Hershey/South Car.NHL/AHL/ECHL
40 VARLAMOV, Semyon 6’1” 183 Left 4/27/88 Samara, Russia CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL.
A couple of interesting notes here. Joe Finley was announced as a forward so it does appear the Caps will try and get him to make the transition from large bruising defenseman to large, bruising, checking forward; a role we saw him play several times earlier this summer in development camp. Caps fans who stop by KCI for rookie camp will once again get to see Jake Hauswirth, Stefan Della Rovere, Trevor Bruess, Anton Gustafsson and Dmitri Kugryshev all work for a roster spot once again. All six of these guys performed well during this summers development camp at times, though Gustafsson appearance was shortened by injury. It will be interesting to see who from this group impresses enough to make which roster (South Carolina, Hershey, and even possibly the Capitals.) The Caps "System" is certainly remains quite full of talent. It's very interesting to me that despite the high powered offense the Caps skate and the pipeline full of talented scorers and offensive threats, the Caps have apparently decided to try and see if Finley can make the transition from the blue line and bulk up the skaters up front.
On the defensive side of the rookie camp roster, the most notable area is in the net - in Neuvirth and Varlamov, the Caps have two legitimate liely future NHL #1's and in Holtby, they have a guy who could also one day be "the guy" for an NHL team night in and night out. That these guys will be pushing each other throughout this entire year shouldn't be doubted at all. The blue liners you ask...Carlson, Godfrey, and Mestery are all names that rabid Caps fans have seen before and are looking forward to seeing make the jump to being pros in the Caps System but the other five D-men listed here, especially Miskovic, are all guys I want to see and check out as well. After all this is a pipeline that along with the group in Washington and Hershey that has GMGM and Bruce Boudreau pushing big Joe Finley from the blue-line up to winger.
I'm hoping to swing by KCI tomorrow and sneak a peek and maybe get a few pics in the AM.
Training camp for veterans begins Sunday, Sept. 13, when 48 players, including 32 who played at least a regular season game in a Capitals sweater last season join the rookies at KCI. The announced veteran training camp roster is:
20 AUCOIN, Keith 5’8” 165 Right 11/6/78 Waltham, Massachusetts CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
19 BACKSTROM, Nicklas 6’1” 210 Left 11/23/87 Gavle, Sweden CAPITALS NHL
83 BEAGLE, Jay 6’3” 208 Right 10/16/85 Calgary, Alberta CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
36 BOUCHARD, Francois 6’1” 190 Left 4/26/88 Sherbrooke, Quebec Hershey AHL
56 BOURQUE, Chris 5’8” 181 Left 1/29/86 Boston, Massachusetts CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
10 BRADLEY, Matt 6’3” 201 Right 6/13/78 Stittsville, Ontario CAPITALS NHL
17 CLARK, Chris 6’0” 196 Right 3/8/76 South Windsor, Connecticut CAPITALS NHL
16 FEHR, Eric 6’4” 212 Right 9/7/85 Winkler, Manitoba CAPITALS NHL
14 FLEISCHMANN, Tomas 6’1” 190 Left 5/16/84 Koprivnice, Czech Republic CAPITALS NHL
33 GIROUX, Alexandre 6’3” 201 Left 6/16/81 Quebec City, Quebec CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
63 GORDON, Andrew 5’11” 180 Right 12/13/85 Halifax, Nova Scotia CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
15 GORDON, Boyd 6’1” 201 Right 10/19/83 Unity, Saskatchewan CAPITALS NHL
61 JOUDREY, Andrew 5’11” 185 Left 7/15/84 Bedford, Nova Scotia Hershey AHL
34 KANE, Boyd 6’2” 225 Left 4/18/78 Swift Current, Saskatchewan Philadelphia/Philadelphia NHL/AHL
22 KNUBLE, Mike 6’3” 230 Right 7/7/72 Toronto, Ontario Philadelphia NHL
21 LAICH, Brooks 6’2” 210 Left 6/23/83 Wawota, Saskatchewan CAPITALS NHL
53 LAING, Quintin 6’2” 210 Left 6/8/79 Rosetown, Saskatchewan CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
9 MORRISON, Brendan 5’11” 181 Left 8/15/75 Pitt Meadows, British Columbia Anaheim/Dallas NHL
92 NYLANDER, Michael 6’1” 195 Left 10/3/72 Stockholm, Sweden CAPITALS NHL
48 OSALA, Oskar 6’4” 217 Left 12/26/87 Vaasa, Finland CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
8 OVECHKIN, Alex 6’2” 220 Right 9/17/85 Moscow, Russia CAPITALS NHL
85 PERREAULT, Mathieu 5’9” 166 Left 1/5/88 Drummondville, Quebec Hershey AHL
90 PINIZZOTTO, Steve 6’2” 196 Right 4/26/84 Mississauga, Ontario Hershey/South Carolina AHL/ECHL
45 REID, Darren 6’2” 202 Right 5/8/83 Lac La Biche, Alberta Hershey AHL
28 SEMIN, Alexander 6’2” 205 Right 3/3/84 Krasnojarsk, Russia CAPITALS NHL
39 STECKEL, David 6’5” 222 Left 3/15/82 Westbend, Wisconsin CAPITALS NHL
25 SUGDEN, Brandon 6’4” 233 Right 6/23/78 Toronto, Ontario Hartford AHL
57 WILSON, Kyle 6'0" 200 Right 12/15/84 Oakville, Ontario Hershey AHL
27 ALZNER, Karl 6’2” 205 Left 9/24/88 Burnaby, British Columbia CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
44 AMADIO, Greg 6’2” 232 Left 5/13/81 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Hershey AHL
62 COLLINS, Sean 6'1" 208 Right 10/20/83 Troy, Michigan CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
47 DENISOV, Vladimir 5’11” 207 Left 6/29/84 Novopolotzk, Belarus Hartford AHL
4 ERSKINE, John 6’4” 216 Left 6/26/80 Kingston, Ontario CAPITALS NHL
52 GREEN, Mike 6’2” 208 Right 10/12/85 Calgary, Alberta CAPITALS NHL
43 HELMER, Brian 6’2” 208 Right 6/15/72 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
23 JURCINA, Milan 6’4” 233 Right 6/7/83 Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia CAPITALS NHL
75 McNEILL, Grant 6’2” 220 Left 5/8/83 Vermilion, Alberta Hershey AHL
46 McNEILL, Patrick 6’0” 195 Left 3/17/87 Strathroy, Ontario Hershey AHL
26 MORRISONN, Shaone 6’4” 210 Left 12/23/82 Vancouver, British Columbia CAPITALS NHL
2 POTHIER, Brian 6’0” 200 Left 4/15/77 New Bedford, Mass. CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
3 POTI, Tom 6’3” 210 Left 3/22/77 Worcester, Mass. CAPITALS NHL
55 SCHULTZ, Jeff 6’6” 221 Left 2/25/86 Calgary, Alberta CAPITALS NHL
89 SLOAN, Tyler 6’3” 190 Left 3/15/81 Calgary, Alberta CAPITALS/Hershey NHL/AHL
41 WELLAR, Patrick 6’3” 210 Left 12/4/83 Carrot River, Saskatchewan Hershey/South Carolina AHL/ECHL
24 YEO, Dylan 5’11” 210 Left 6/16/86 Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Manitoba/Victoria AHL/ECHL
31 BACASHIHUA, Jason 5’11” 175 Left 9/20/82 Garden City, Michigan Lake Erie AHL
35 FORD, Todd 6’4” 176 Right 5/1/84 Calgary, Alberta Victoria ECHL
60 THEODORE, Jose 5’11” 182 Right 9/13/76 Laval, Quebec CAPITALS NHL.
For anybody who still might be wondering if the rebuild is complete, just take a look at this talented group, their ages and their statistics from last season. The Caps finished the regular season with the 4th best record in the league before loosing in the second round of the playoffs, in a 7 game series, to the eventual Stanley Cup winner. Their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears won their league's championship - the Calder Cup and their ECHL affiliate - the South Carolina Stingrays - won their league's championship - the Kelly Cup. Additionally, if you look at this summer's few pickups by Capital's GM George McPhee, this years team is stronger then last year's and you have talented, young players who have had success at the AHL and ECHL level fighting hard for the few roster spots available "on the big club."
This will be an interesting camp for the Caps, us fans, and the season should be a great one too. All of which leads us to the next topic...
What about Nylander and Clark?
While to some degree both have some similarities, these are two entirely different stories and may very likely end in two entirely different outcomes. So you need to look at them one at a time. We'll go in order of salary cap hit..
Michael Nylander, Center, age 36. Nylander will be the second highest paid Capital this season with a salary of $5.5M and a cap hit of $4.875M. That's a big number, especially when you consider what's been going on with him and his role on the team since they've transitioned from a puck control team playing the trap under Glen Hanlon to an agressive open style forecheck under Bruce Boudreau. Right now, if he has a good camp and plays well Nylander might realistically expect to get a sweater every second or third game here in DC. He has a no trade clause, and that's not his fault, the Caps gave it to him and it's his right to make sure that under any deal that might get cut this season or next neither he or his familiy suffer. That said right now, from a salary cap management perspective, he is a big challenge for the Capitals. On his side of things, the lack of playing time he has been getting is a big problem for him. He's genuinely a nice guy and I hope things work out for him. However, his future here in DC seems basically non-existant unless, there are a few guys who can't play early this season for some reason AND he changes his game and syle of play somewhat, a daunting task at age 36. To be sure, he isn't making the contribution you'd expect from a guy who is tied for the 59th highest paid hockey player in the NHL (ref No doubt, if the Caps Management can do something to move Nyls that makes sense they will, and if it is something that doesn't hurt him too much, he'll likely take it. That said don't expect the Caps to buy him out this season, the numbers don't make sense - next season might be a different story. However, it's also clear the Caps are looking to make a big move up this year and they won't play Nyls at the expense of wins and the team just to make it possible to move him either.
Chris Clark, Right Wing, age 33. Clark, the team captain has the 8th highest salary cap hit ($2.63M) and 8th highest salary ($2.65M). That salary puts Clark in a tie for 235th in the league this season; that's probably a fair number for a team captain, IF he can regain his form (with a performance closely approximating his 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons) AND stay healthy. Unlike Nylander, a healthy Chris Clark can and does fit into the Capitals "look" and style of play under Bruce Boudreau. It's not hard to see a healthy, gritty Chris Clark playing right wing on a regular third line shift and netting 15+ goals, playing solid two way hockey and being the team leader the Verizon faithful know him to be. If that happens then there's probably not an issue for him and the Caps will be a better team for it. If on the other hand he has another injurey shortened/marred season like the last two, well it's hard to earn your money confined to the press box because of injury even when you're not the team's Captain.
All the above said here's the reality of things - this season the Washington Capitals have $7.5M of salary cap space tied up in Clark and Nylander. Next season, if nothing changes over the next 12 months, they will also have that same $7.5M of salary cap space tied up in them for the 2011-2012 season. It's unlikely that regardless of how either of them play this season, GMGM will want to go into the summer looking to have to resign RFAs Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr, as well as UFA David Steckel with ~13.2% of the teams salary caps space tied up in both Nylander and Clark. So something is likely to be done with at least one, if not both these guys. Regardless of how much, the fans and management like Chris Clark, unless he turns it around thsi season and then even if he does, it's 50/50....
Look at the rest of the other 7 of the top 8 teams in the league and their 5 top paid forwards:
1) San Jose: Thorton, Marleau, Michalek, Clowe and Cheechoo;
2) Boston: Sevard, Bergeron, Ryder, Kreji, and Strum;
3) Detroit: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Filppula, and Hudler;
5) New Jersey: Elias, Rolston, Zajac, Zubrus, Parise;
6) Chicago: Hossa, Sharp, "Babyface Nelson" Kane, Boland and Versteeg;
7) Vancouver: Daniel and Henrick Sedin, Demitra, Samuelsson, and Brenier;
8) Pittsburgh: Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kunitz, and Guerin.
In all those cases nobody else has two guys who are not clearly part of their top six forward/top two lines that are two of their top five paid forwards. That would say that something probably has to give on the Caps roster with Clark and Nylander - it's probably Nylander if Clark has a ~20 goal season; it's probably both if he does not. Even teams that have similar salary distributions between Forwards, Defensement and Goaltenders as the Capitals (Pittsburgh, San Jose, Vancouver (sortof since they have six defensement making between $2 and $4M), and Boston; all have at least 4 of their top five paid forwards on their top two lines.
So what's the point of this ramble - the battle for every spot on lines 3 and 4 and the final 2 defensemen will be a battle amongst a large group of talented young players in the Caps system - ALL SEASON LONG. Among other things. that means both Clark and Nylander who haven't really been earning their full salaries relative to the rest of the team will need to turn things around to even get ice time. Me - I'm not betting against Chris Clark and I wouldn't risk too much coin betting on Michael Nylander at this point.
Should be a great season -