Saturday, August 7, 2010

Some May Say ....

Some may say that comparing John Madden to Tomas Fleischmann is a waste of time. They are truly apples and oranges. I will agree they are apples and oranges, at least when you look at age, long term potential, and the roles they play on an NHL team or are likely to play during the 2010 -2001 season, and the 2011 playoffs. John Madden is a proven, 37 year old veteran, center, who is NOT a "sniper." No Madden isn't the guy you look to pass the puck to when you are setting up that clutch goal, after all last season his shooting percentage was a less than stellar 7.87 in the regular season and a mere 4.17% in the playoffs. In 11 NHL seasons, Madden has scored more than 20 goals only twice. Physically, Madden is listed at 5'11"; 190# - so while he's not a large, physically imposing player; neither is he a "featherweight, or pesky, speedy, little guy of the Brian Gionta type. Tomas Fleischmann is 26 years old and already has a 19 goal and 23 goal season (his last two) on his 5 NHL season resume. Last season he was second among Capitals "regulars" in shooting percentage with a gaudy 19.01% trailing only Mike Knuble (one of the league's best ever "garbage men" who logged a 19.21% shooting percentage on the way to his 29 goal season). Fleischmann's nickname "Flash" is well deserved, he is a speedy, excellent skater with a laser for a wrist shot. In his five NHL seasons so far, "Flash" has played in 260 regular season games during which he has amassed 128 points including 56 goals. That's 0.4923 points per game and 0.2154 goals per game. Last season "Flash's" points and goals per game numbers were: 07391 points per game and 0.3333 goals/game. Over the coarse of the regular season the numbers he put up in the 69 games he ended up tied for 90th in points (51) and tied for 71st in goals (23).

The most notable thing about "Flash" though isn't the fact he was tied at the end of the regular season in the points standings with Marian Hossa, it's that each of the last two seasons, he's done nothing but just get better. In this regard, there is indeed certainly no comparison between he and the 37 year old Madden whose career pinnacle relative to personal achievements was 2000-2001 when he received the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL. Yep it's been nothing but "downhill" for Madden since that season, except of course winning his second Stanley Cup in 2003 and his third Stanley Cup this past June. So, sure there's no comparison between Madden and "Flash". Madden is 37 years old, he'll only make $1M playing for the Minnesota Wild next season. "Flash" is 26 years old, he'll make $2.6M next season. Madden has three (3) Stanley Cup rings, and is a stand-out as a responsible two-way forward, something no team can have enough of going into a long playoff run, and something it wouldn't hurt the Capitals to have more of on their roster, IMO. "Flash" has a Calder Cup (AHL Championship) on his resume and despite being +/- +9 over the course of the entire 2009-2010 regular season, will likely never be considered for the Selke Trophy.

So why would I look over the news and NHL UFA signings upon my return from a lovely couple of days up in Shenandoah National Park and key in on what a great deal I think the Minnesota Wild got when they signed John Madden for a 1 year, $1 million contract this past week? Why would I then compare that to the $2.6M the Washington Capitals signed Fleischmann for earlier in the signing period and right before he would have gone to arbitration? Well simply because I look and see in both talented hockey players. However, in Madden, I see one who could probably have fit on the Capitals and filled a needed, though less heralded role on the third or fourth line for the same or nearly the same salary cap hit anybody who is likely to be in that position will get. While in Flash, I see a guy who is now the 8th highest paid Capital and the fifth highest paid forward on the team; yet I don't see Flash earning that kind of position on HIS team. No he's not irresponsible, defensively and yes he can score, though despite some with a contrary opinion I don't think an Arbitrator's Award decision would have been all that much more than what he will make next season. The truth of the matter is though last season, Flash was the 6th highest goal scorer on the team. He scored just two more goals than the most "efficient" forward on the team - Eric Fehr, despite averaging almost 4 full minutes TOI/game than Fehr and getting "oodles" (that's a technical term) more time on the power play unit.

So what's the bottom line? What's this seemingly aimless ramble through some hockey numbers really mean? Bottom line - to me it's simple - when guys like John Madden and Dominic Moore are signing cap friendly, flexible or short term deals all around for about a $1M per season; that's really the most a team should or needs to pay for solid, proven third and fourth line forwards in the league today. So as a Washington Capitals fan it means that guys like Tomas Fleischmann and Jason Chimera need to step it up right out of the gates and prove they are worth nearly $2M or more a season and they can and will be logging second line minutes. The problem for me, is I don't see it and I think giving Jason Chimera and Tomas Fleischmann even similar minutes, let alone more minutes, of ice time per game than Brooks Laich, Alexander Semin, Eric Fehr, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, or Mike Knuble would be a mistake and make the Capitals a weaker, vice stronger team than they were last season. So to me it sure looks like in "Flash" the Capitals will be paying $2.6M next season for a third or fourth line forward; while in Chimera they will be paying $1.875M for one. I don't have a problem with this as long as they use the majority of currently available salary cap space to go out and get a legitimate, proven second line center, if they aren't going to give Brooks Laich a shot at that job. I've said it before and I'll end my ramble here with it. The number one reason why I don't see Tomas Fleeishmann ever growing into the role of second line center on the Capitals is, while he's not defensively irresponsible, is from what I've seen he's just not that into what the Capitals need from a second line center - two way play. It seems to me that "Flash" wants to be a sniper, and he's often shown that he probably could be, though not here, not now. In DC we already have our "young guns" and two of the four Ovechkin and Semin are two of the best in the world. Flash isn't at that level yet. He either has to re-engineer his game, which likely includes muscling up his 6'-1" frame from 190# to 200-205# and using it to CONSISTENTLY provide net presence, while not sloowing down his skating, and improving his "hockey sense" when setting up plays entering the offensive zone; or he's likely not going to end up being the guy the Capitals need on the second line, at either wing or center. I don't dislike "Flash", I just like what I've seen over the last season from Eric Fehr and over the past three seasons from Brooks Laich more; and I've always like what I've seen from Alexander Semin. (I know others would shake their head at Semin's miscues and "brain farts" but the fact he's one of the 20 most talented forwards in the world today is, while a subject of debate, not all that controversial.)

So bottom line these sorts of deals, we'll see more and more of over the next couple of weeks, do nothing but shine a brighter spotlight and put more pressure on guys like Fleischmann and Chimera.

Is it September yet?


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