Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wild Wednesday Witticisms and Notes ...

Wild Wednesday Witticisms and Notes ...

Well last night the Capitals met the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center for their third game of the pre-season and came away with a 3 - 2 win. As with moat pre-season games numerous key players were not dressed for either side however by all accounts the game was a pretty fun one to watch. New addition D.J. King had a "dust-up" with Shawn Thorton in King's first game as a Capital. King, acquired in July from the St. Louis Blues, wasted little time in making his presence felt. Playing in his first game as a Capital, King dropped his gloves and took on Boston’s Shawn Thornton at 6:59 of the first period. Both men landed a few good blows, and King finished the fight by taking Thornton down to the ice. This is apparently a great thing and the center-point of the game to folks like OFB ... BTW King is wearing number 17, which in addition to having most recently been worn by former Captain Chris Clark, was worn by Chris Simon when he was a Capital - coincidence? Anyway with all this hype, I'm not even sure I should bother talking about the other aspects of the game like the three goals the Capitals scored, etc. But why not, it's sort of my thing, you know...

So even though there was a good hockey fight either because it ended in what could be looked at as a draw or because you know the rules and object of the game haven't changed, the winner was decided by keeping track of who scored the most goals... In that category the Capitals bested the Bruins by having one more goal at the end of regulation than the Bruins had. Scoring for the Capitals were young centers Mathieu Perrault (age 22), and Cody Eakin (age 19), who managed to sandwich a goal by Alexander Semin. Semin's goal was set-up by a good pass from young center Marcus Johansson (turns 20 next week). Also assisting on two of last night's goals was Alex Ovechkin, who saw his first action in a pre-season game last night as well. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth played the entire game for the Capitals while Nolan Schaefer backstopped the Bruins for all three periods. Neuvirth had a respectable SV% of 90.09% on the night. With 30+ guys still on the roster, none of the "bubble guys" are making the decision of who to send down easy for Coach Bruce Boudreau General Manager George McPhee. That's a good thing for the organization but it's unclear what can and will be done to keep so many talented, young players on a trajectory of continued and effective, if not rapid, development as Hockey Players for those that do get sent down to Hershey. Also I know the Capitals are basically a young team and perhaps a more seasoned veteran in the second line center spot would be a good addition both on the ice and in the locker room, but with all the apparent depth of young talent down the middle, does it really make sense to put a guy who's proven to be more effective as a Winger into that spot, even if he did score 23 goals last season? So while others saw last night's line-up as having three guys on the ice/roster who are battling for the third line center spot on the roster, I'm continuing to unrealistically hope it was otherwise.

Anyway, that's .. that's ... THAT'S ALL for today folks!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Quick Hits...

Caps pre-season continues at Verizon tonight against the Bruins ... could be an interesting game...

As of right now it looks like the lineup will be
Chimera-Eakin- Bradley
King-Steckel-B. Gordon

Alzner, Carlson, Green, Nycholat, Poti, Sloan


So from what I could determine even after yesterday's assignments of Francois Bouchard, Sean Collins, Grant McNeill, and Zach Miskovic to Hershey,and the waiving of Brian Willsie and Kyle Greentree presumably so they can be sent to Hershey, the Caps Roster still has 34 players on it as of this AM:

No. Name Pos Ht Wt Born
27 Karl Alzner D 6-2 209 9/24/1988
20 Keith Aucoin C 5-9 187 11/6/1978
19 Nicklas Backstrom C 6-1 210 11/23/1987
83 Jay Beagle C 6-1 208 10/16/1985
10 Matt Bradley RW 6-3 201 6/13/1978
74 John Carlson D 6-2 218 1/10/1990
25 Jason Chimera LW 6-2 216 5/2/1979
50 Cody Eakin C 5-11 187 5/24/1991
4 John Erskine D 6-4 216 6/26/1980
44 Brian Fahey D 6-1 213 3/2/1981
16 Eric Fehr RW 6-4 212 9/7/1985
14 Tomas Fleischmann LW 6-1 190 5/16/1984
63 Andrew Gordon RW 6-0 195 12/13/1985
15 Boyd Gordon C 6-0 201 10/19/1983
52 Mike Green D 6-2 208 10/12/1985
26 Matt Hendricks C 6-0 215 6/17/1981
90 Marcus Johansson C 5-11 189 10/6/1990
61 Andrew Joudrey C 5-11 191 7/15/1984
17 D.J. King LW 6-2 228 6/27/1984
22 Mike Knuble RW 6-3 230 7/4/1972
21 Brooks Laich LW 6-2 210 6/23/1983
46 Patrick McNeill D 6-0 195 3/17/1987
30 Michal Neuvirth G 6-1 197 3/23/1988
23 Lawrence Nycholat D 6-0 197 5/7/1979
8 Alex Ovechkin LW 6-2 220 9/17/1985
85 Mathieu Perreault C 5-9 166 1/5/1988
42 Steve Pinizzotto RW 6-1 200 4/26/1984
3 Tom Poti D 6-3 210 3/22/1977
35 Dany Sabourin G 6-4 200 9/2/1980
55 Jeff Schultz D 6-6 221 2/25/1986
28 Alexander Semin RW 6-2 205 3/3/1984
89 Tyler Sloan D 6-3 205 3/15/1981
39 Dave Steckel C 6-5 222 3/15/1982
1 Semyon Varlamov G 6-1 183 4/27/1988.

Then this came across my twitter feeds from Katie Carrera's tweets: "Keith Aucoin will be placed on waivers today and assigned to Hershey if he is not claimed. #Caps"

By my count that then drops them to 33 so I can't figure out who I'm tracking as still with the Caps that is not given Bruce Boudreau's quote re: why Fleischmann is being scratched tonight since he is "hurting":
"It's preseason, there's no sense [playing when] we've got 31 guys here. If you're hurting a little bit there's no sense playing."

Also the Capitals have signed Matt Hendricks has signed a one-year deal, terms were undisclosed...

Bizarre tidbit of the day: Wade Redden is now a member of the Hartford Wolfpack...

Now back to the Capitals...


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Recap/Thoughts On Last Night's Caps Game and Then Revisit to 2010 - 2011 Roster Thoughts...

Last night the Caps - Preds game in Nashville ended up with a second pre-season win for the Caps, by a score of 2-1. Last night's Caps line-up was:

Bouchard - Backstrom - Knuble,
Laich - Johansson - Fehr,
Hendricks - Aucoin - Beagle,
McNeill - Eakin - Pinizzotto

Schultz - Green

Neuvirth and Sabourin.

Caps center Nicklas Backstrom sported the captain’s “C” in last night’s game. Veteran right wing Mike Knuble and defenseman Mike Green wore the alternate captain’s “A’s.”

For seven (7) of the players (Hendricks, Laich, Johansson, Fehr, Eakin, Erskine, and Fahey) it was their second pre-season game of the year. Not sure what that means if anything. It probably does mean something, but what is means is probably different for each individual player. For 31 year old Lawrence Nycholat, who is on his second "go round" in a Capitals sweater, these games are probably make or break and will determine whether or not he is sent to Hershey or just given his outright release. Since I can't really tell much from listening to the radio, my feelings and thoughts on how he did are only based on his stat line and the reporting of others who were there. Nycholat and 29 year old Brian Fahey led the blue liners in time on the penalty killing unit with 4:17 and 4:57 respectively. From his stats, Nycholat seems to have had a pretty solid evening, but probably not good enough to displace anybody he is behind on the current Caps depth chart.

Given his unremarkable performance in Game 1, Eric Fehr's return to the line-up for Game 2 were probably because the coaching staff felt he could use the TOI and they probably also wanted to see how he'd look spending a little time as a wing on the same line with Laich and Johansson. As for Matt Hendricks, a hat trick at the NHL level, even in pre-season, ought to get you at least one more game in a team's sweater and a serious look. Last season Hendricks skated 56 games for the Avalanche and last game he put everyone here in DC on notice, he wants to continue to play in the NHL. Last night all Hendricks did for an encore apparently was go +1, make 3 hits, take 3 SOG and log 16:51 TOI on 20 shifts. For 19 year old Cody Eakin, another pre-season game in a Caps uniform was probably to try and determine where the Capitals want the 2009 Entry Draft Third Round pick to start the season Hershey, South Carolina, or returning to Swift Current for his final season of eligibility as a Junior. Given his showing last night and against Columbus the prior game, I'm thinking he has a 50/50 shot of it being Hershey. As far as playing two games in a row and what it means for 29 year old journeyman blue liner Brian Fahey, I really don't what it all means, other than Tyler Sloan and even John Erskine have to be feeling some pressure. Fahey apparently played solid hockey last evening and his stat line reads 1 hit, 4 blocked shots in 18:02 TOI including 4:57 on the PK. As far as what it means for Marcus "MoJo" Johansson and Brooks Laich, I think last night was a case of wanting to see what the 2nd line of Laich - Johansson - Fehr could do, and what in specifically both Fehr and MoJo would do with the 2nd line minutes. MoJo got in 18:00 TOI on 20 shifts but from his faceoff statistics - he went 6 for 14 (43%) it seems he might want to consider spending a little time after practice tomarrow with Nicklas Backstrom who went 12 for 16 (75%) and get a few pointers relative to the do's and don'ts of NHL face-offs. From the stats and the post game notes it looks like Hendricks heard Coach Boudreau when he said he would like him to be a little more physical; and Jay Beagle knew he wanted to make a good impression in his first action of this season against another team. In general it appears all the Caps heard the coaching staff and the embraced the idea of being a little more physical. It also seems to me that the fierce competition for the few available spots definately has every one of those guys in that competition playing hard. In the end last night's game was a defensive battle and all the goaltenders played well, though in the end it was the Capitals power play and young gun Mike Green coming up big in that Green was part of both Capitals goals and also was on the penalty killing unit for 4:14 last night, in part because Tom Poti spent 4 minutes in the sin bin.

Also re: the Capitals yesterday - G Braden Holtby and D Patrick Wellar were assigned to Hershey.

So the waiver wire is again open and yesterday we saw two long speculated moves made when the Washington Capitals placed Center Michael Nylander, the NY Rangers placed Defenseman Wade Redden and the Chicago Blackhawks placed Christobel Huet on waivers. In all 43 players were placed on waivers yesterday - the full list is: Krog, Jason (ATL); MacIntyre, Drew (ATL); Mannino, Peter (ATL); Sifers, Jaime (ATL); Ross, Jared (ATL); Siklenka, Mike (ATL); McIver, Nathan (BOS); Reich, Jeremy (BOS); Smith, Wyatt (BOS); Blanchard, Nicolas (CAR); Borer, Casey (CAR); Fitzgerald, Zack (CAR); Chucko, Kris (CGY); Huet, Cristobal (CHI); Brophey, Evan (CHI); Taffe, Jeff (CHI); Mauldin, Greg (COL); Walter, Ben (COL); Van Der Gulik, David (COL); Liffiton, David (COL); Macias, Ray (COL); Grahame, John (COL); Bacashihua, Jason (COL); Gagnon, Aaron (DAL); Morin, Travis (DAL); Wathier, Francis (DAL); Fortunus, Maxime (DAL); Lukowich, Brad (DAL); Wilson, Clay (FLA); Fraser, Jamie (MIN); Dupont, Brodie (NYR); Redden, Wade (NYR); Mink, Graham (STL); Reaves, Ryan (STL); Spina, Dave (STL); Evans, Brennan (STL); Arsene, Dean (STL); Cracknell, Adam (STL); Drazenovic, Nicholas (STL); Oystrick, Nathan (STL); Baumgartner, Nolan (VAN); Zimmerman, Sean (VAN); Nylander, Michael (WSH).

Now way back in May, right after the Caps signed Nicklas Backstrom to a contract extension, I made some predictions about what I thought the Caps would do over the summer and going into this season, how did I do and what do I think will happen over the next couple of days for relative to the Caps roster. First a summary of my prognostications: i) first here's what I said I'd do if I were GMGM and Gabby for an opening night roster in October:
1st line: Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
2nd line: Semin - Laich - Fehr
3rd line: Alexandre Giroux - Morrisonn/Fehr - Chimera
4th line: Steckel - Mathieu Perreault - Bradley
Reserve: Jay Beagle, Quintin Laing, Kyle Wilson
1st pairing: Green - Schultz
2nd pairing: Poti - Carlson
3rd pairing: Corvo - Alzner
Reserve: Milan Jurcina, Tyler Sloan, Patrick McNeill
Jose Theodore or Dan Ellis
Semyon Varlamov
Reserves: Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby.

Obviously I'm not GMGM or Bruce Boudreau and here's the guys and things that "didn't" happen this off season, in an order of my choosing:
1) Jose Theodore - last May I said a) this is what I would do and b) that I doubted that the Caps would re-sign Theodore. I also was on record as saying I thought signing Dan Ellis to a one or two year deal for an average cap hit of $2.5M or less, would be a smart move. I'd just like to point out that Tampa Bay's new GM, Steve Yzermann agreed with me and did just that, so even though Ellis is not playing for the Capitals, I have a feeling that after this season is over, I'll be able to have a solid opinion as to whether or not that was a smart idea. In any case it looks like Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will both be wearing Capitals sweaters on opening night.
2) Joe Corvo - my gut says that Corvo was willing to give Carolina a discount to return to them after the playoffs and that the Capitals couldn't have signed him to the same $4.5M/two year deal. I know that Corvo wasn't the best we've ever seen him while wearing a Capitals Sweater in the playoffs but I'd still think he'd be an upgrade over John Erskine and it appears to me the Capitals have salary cap space that might have made that possible. That said $2.5M of salary caps space is probably too much to spend for a guy you would be putting on the third pair so I'm good with the current group of guys in lieu of/without Corvo.
3) Milan Jurcina - As a UFA "Juice" signed a one year deal for $1M to play for the Islanders this coming season. Last season Jurcina had 48 hits and 37 blocked shots in 44 games played with the Caps and the Blue Jackets. He's a big, physical presence and he has a booming, if not always accurate slapper from the point. During his time with the Capitals, I always felt that the 27 year old Czech still has a lot of upside. I still feel that way and given all things are basically equal, I would rather see the Caps with Jurcina in the lineup right now and 30 year old John Erskine the guy playing elsewhere, especially given the presence of D.J. King in the line up for "grit." I've never been a fan of having a defenseman be the "Enforcer" if you're going to even try and have one.
4) Patrick McNeill: I guess I'm just the eternally optimist and the 23 year old isn't ready for the NHL quite yet. It looks like he'll start the season in Hershey, after all he was resigned as an RFA by the Caps, and I'm still rooting for him to be up here before the season is 1/2 over for a "look see" when the opportunity presents itself.
5) Alexandre Giroux: Okay, I'm just glad someone is giving him a real good look after his past two seasons in the AHL, even if it does mean he has to play in Edmonton. So far he's played in one of the Oilers two pre-season games - the first against Vancouver. He did pick up a double minor (2 minutes for kneeing and 2 for roughing) penalties in that game but he also had 3 SOG, made 4 hits, and had 1 takeaway. As of yesterday he was still in camp and as of Friday's skate he was still paired with Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle; so if he keeps it up, he'll probably start the season in an Oilers sweater, though he needs to stay out of the penalty box if he wants to stay on a top two line which is where you want a scoring forward to be. In any case, with the Capitals failing to move Flash and all the other scoring talent they have, the 29 year old Giroux was redundant here in the Capitals system. Good Luck!
6) Quintin Laing: Look this was just me rooting for a guy who seems like a really good guy and a true salt of the earth guy. Over the prior two seasons there had been several occasions when his wife and son sat behind us and you know how you get a feeling about a family - about how nice and good they are. Well it sure seemed to me that Laing and his family always kept it real. Further it always seems to me when I've watched Ling play in a game, he really, really loves to play the game and competes with an inferno, not just a fire, but an all out raging inferno in his belly. I'm still rooting for him now as I write this short paragraph, so is it any wonder, how and why I could be wrong about this guy, even though he was a healthy scratch more often than he played last season and I knew that back in May when I did my original post?
7) Kyle Wilson: Wilson, a 25 year old Center, who spent all of last season in Hershey, was signed as an UFA by Columbus on July 2nd to a one year deal and is currently in their Training Camp. He played in their first pre-season game against the Atlanta Thrashers and had 2 assists, went +2, blocked a shot and won 71% (10 of 14) of his faceoffs in 26 shifts and 19:35 TOI in that game. He did not play in the Blue Jackets second game against the Capitals but he did play when the Blue Jackets met the Penguins on Friday Evening. In the Blue Jackets contest with the Penguins, Wilson scored a goal and finished the evening +1, he also had 3 SOG, 1 hit, 1 takeaway, and won 55% of his draws going 6 for 11 in the faceoff circle in 15:18 TOI on 20 shifts. After winning two Calder Cups in Hershey this young center is definatly trying to start this season wearing an NHL Sweater, even though it's in Columbus.
8) Bredan Morrison/Eric Belanger: Well as I've already written I'm still not comfortable with the Capitals current choices for this position, but I've already gone on record as explaining where I come down on the whole Eric Belanger episode and situation. As for Brendan Morrison, I can clearly understand why the Capitals let him go, since it seems like he did indeed run out of gas well before the playoffs. I wish B-Mo all the luck in the world in his tryout with Vancouver, a team he has played well for in the past. I'm excited at the longer term prospects here and hope that in the long run MoJo matures as quick as the Capitals other young Swedish Center but I still think that before this season is over, the second line Center will either be Brooks Laich or someone they trade for during the season. However, I'm going to "go out on a limb here" and predict the season starts with Tomas Fleischmann as the Capitals second line pivot.

So with that recap and run down relative to where I obviously got my predictions in May wrong, here's my predicted opening night lineup for the Capitals:

1st line: Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
2nd line: Semin - Fleischmann - Laich
3rd line: Chimera - M. Johansson - Fehr
4th line: Steckel - Beagle - Bradley
Reserve: DJ King; Boyd Gordon; if Boyd Gordon is unavailable then I'm thinking the last roster spot is a battle between Mathieu Perrault and Kieth Aucoin with the coaching staff all wishing that Steve Pinnizotto had a better game last night because of MP85 and Aucoin's relative diminutive stature.

1st pairing: Green - Schultz
2nd pairing: Poti - Carlson
3rd pairing: Alzner - Erskine
Reserve: Tyler Sloan

Semyon Varlamov
Michal Neuvirth
In Hershey: Braden Holtby and Dany Sanbourin.

Well today is an off day for the Capitals before they get back at it at KCI on Monday and they have their first home pre-season game against the Bruins at Verizon on Tuesday ...

Before I sign off, I want to recommend this article by the New York Post's Larry Brooks. I've had no problem pointing to articles by Mr. Brooks that I've felt were poor or silly. So it seems to me that when he writes a piece I think is really good and insightful, I ought to point that out too. This article is a good one, unless you just don't want to read another letter of type about Ilya Kovalchuck's deal. To me I find it ironic that the way the NHL decided to draw the line in the sand on contracts they felt circumvented the letter of the current CBA was to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of the CBA and even the basic idea of any sort of mutual agreement themselves, so I can tolerate the occassional well-written and thought out article on the topic from time to time. That's what I found this article by Brooks to be today.

Okay well it's that time .... you know the time to bring this overly long post to a close.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Early Saturday Morning Musings & Hockey News ...

Well tonight it's time for another Capitals pre-season away game, and once again no television coverage. Instead of the Capitals - Preds game from Nashville, CSN will air the DC United game so at least it's being pre-empted for something that makes sense. Of course I'm sure the MSN airing of the Western Kentucky - South Florida football game will draw a lot more viewers than the Caps game would have too (NOT) so it's totally obvious to me why none of the local Cable guys want to air the Capitals pre-season games. I mean after all it's not like the regular season games have been good business for them...

Caps News Items Today:

Not a thing so far, wonder what time the flight to Nashville leaves, nothing on twitter, nothing in the blogsphere, not a peep or even a tweet yet this AM, I guess I just got up too early.

News from around the league this AM:

From The Sporting News' Nick Kypreos' twitter feed which I found yesterday:

"Nick Boynton had a hearing this afternoon with league and received 1 regular season game suspension over his throat slashing gesture."


"Confirmed NYR Drury out up to 4wks with broken finger suffered during training camp."

Training Camp roster house cleaning is really underway this weekend, today there will be 14 pre-season games and I suspect that by the end of the weekend many teams will be 90+% certain of their rosters. That said there might not be anyplace that is trimming things back as aggressively as the LA Kings did yesterday, shedding 23 players from their training camp. Of course they aren't the only ones, the NJ trimmed 19 players.

I'm not sure but it looks to me like someone hacked in to NHL publicist Kerry McGovern's twitter feed here - either that or she wants to come out of the closet as a total perv ... since 23 hours ago she tweeted: " Starting the day off with some Helmet. #Hardcore Fridays." Either that or she's desperate for followers and traffic....

Well as Porky Pig would often say: "That's ... That's ... That's a..a. all folks!" At least that's all so far today.

Sure wish the Caps were on tonight don't you? Hockey sure looses something on radio for me...


Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Hockey Musings - After Watching My First NHL Network Game of the 2010 - 2011 Season

Last night here in bucolic, sort of, Bristow, VA I watched my first game of the 2010 - 2011 season on NHL Network, if you watched NHL Network last night - you know that would have been the Maple Leafs vs the Flyers, played at John Labbatt Centre in London, Ontario, the home of the OHL's London Knights, Dale Hunter's team. So the game was played in London and technically the Flyers were the home team, though clearly most of the fans present seemed to be rooting for the Maple Leafs. As it was a pre-season game, and the Capitals were not involved I confess to channel surfing at times and not giving the game my full, undivided attention. However, it was interesting and fun to start getting into the whole hockey frenzy, and if nothing else I now clearly know I have only until October 31st to sign up for the NHL Center Ice package and reap the full benefits of the available discount. The feed was the Maple Leafs feed and another thing I'm absolutely positive of is the Maple Leafs broadcast team has a total man-crush on Kris Versteeg. Almost as big a one as the woman in this picture with him in the limo does/did...

The game ended in a tie and then went through overtime and into a shoot-out, it took 10 rounds of the shootout to decide the contest when finally Colby Armstrong of the Leafs got the final shootout score past Flyers' goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. What made the game interesting to me is that a fair number of guys on both sides who will likely be on their opening night rosters played, but it sure seemed like the majority of the ice time went to the prospects and trying to see if they fit on their respective teams and who with. It's worth noting that all four goaltenders played well, IMO. For the Flyers Brian Boucher started the game and went nearly two periods before Bobrovksy came in to finish things up. For the Maple Leafs Jonas "Monster" Gustavsson started and then Toronto Marlies starter James Reimer came in and finished out the game for the Maple Leafs. It's worth noting that the four goaltenders who played in last night's game combined salary cap hit is around $3.35M, just a little more than 1/2 (50%) that of JS Giguere's $6M hit will be. Given the current trends around the league and the fairly rich crop of available goaltending talent in the world today, it sure seems like similar to the residential housing market, it will be a long time before the market for Goaltenders again becomes a "seller's market." Last night's goals during regulation were scored by:

In Caps Nation yesterday the two news items to note seem to be:

A) HBO will have a series featuring the Caps and the Penguins leading up to the Winter Classic"... and
B) Trevor Bruess, Josh Godfrey, Boyd Kane, Johann Kroll, Joel Rechlicz, Dustin Stevenson and Dylan Yeo have been assigned to Hershey, no real shockers there.

In less notable news, Andrew Gordon is now lobbying on line for Marcus Johansson's nickname to be "MoJo". And I was beginning to wonder if Twitter wasn't just a useless time-waster, now I know it's definitely good for somethings...

This Russian interview with C-Bo (Chris Bourque) is something I find a little humorous, what do you think? In six games his ATOI is under 8:00, yep he's getting A LOT more playing experience in the KHL, his decision had everything to do with "taking a step up" and nothing to do with money, sure, that's exactly what I've been thinking since he opted to go to Russia.

Well now it's almost time to start getting pshy'ed to listen to the Caps - Preds game tomorrow night in Nashville. I'm ready to see some live hockey and I just wonder who the lineups will be ... oh wait it won't be on TV...Of course first I have to finish lunch - LOL, as Sheldon would type into his smart phone...


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hockey Musings - Thursday September 23rd, 2010

Well I didn't get a chance to watch or listen to the Caps first pre-season game against the Blue Jackets last evening, but I did devour the information available this morning and have a few thoughts on things...

So before the more expected musings and storey lines out of last night's Capitals pre-season opener in the Buckeye State, one has to acknowledge the "little engine that could/because an ant can't move a rubber tree plant" storey of the day - namely Free agent Matt Hendricks, formerly with the Colorado Avalanche organization, using last night to make a solid case for a roster spot with a hat trick. It might not happen but with just six pre-season games and a couple of weeks before the season begins, he certainly is making a case for why the Capitals organization might at least want to reward him with one of their 50 available contract slots and a place in Hershey, at least. I mean even though it was only a pre-season game he did score three goals in a game where the Blue Jackets put a team on the ice that included all of their top six forwards and two pretty solid goaltenders. For me it's impossible not to latch on to a storey like this - Matt Hendricks wasn't on any Caps Fan's radars until this morning and now he is.

So what else is news/things to like about last night - Semyon Varlamov's reaction to Michal Neuvirth's contract extension announcement yesterday - just 30:09 of perfect performance, nothing more, nothing less - maybe I will go see him at the Capitals Convention...

Braden Holtby's night wasn't too shabby either - giving up just two goals - one to Rick Nash and one to Nikita Filatov on 19 shots on goal over 29:51 after the Capitals have gone up by a score of 3 - 0; especially given that Nash's tally came right after Holtby entered the game and was still basically cold, is nothing to be ashamed about.

In the "battle" for the second line Center roster spot, Tomas "Flash" Fleischmann ensured everyone is fully aware he has picked up the gauntlet and intends to win the duel. Last night Flash scored twice and had a primary assist in 16:17 TOI. Flash played primarily with Alexander Semin on one wing and at least during his scoring events three other players: Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, and Matt Hendricks on the other side. Semin had three assists, was + 2 and led all Caps forwards in TOI with 18:12 last evening - including time on both the Power Play and Penalty Kill units. He did end up with two minor penalties, hopefully he gets the majority of those things, especially minors for "Delay of Game - Puck Over the Glass" out of his system now during the Pre-Season. Also, if he and Flash are going to to play together on the second line, I'm all for this approach to the pre-season until the Chemistry between them is ingrained for to both their "muscle memory's" - however long that takes. At the beginning of last season when Semin had it with B-Mo and then during the winning streak when he had it with Flash, this was a different team than when the second line didn't have that as an anchor.

In the battle for the two or three available roster slots on the Caps amongst the six or so possibilities the winners and the losers last night from the stats perspective appear to shake out as follows. W

- Matt Hendricks: 3 goals, +3, 4 SOG, 1 hit on 19 shifts and 14:47 TOI;
- Marcus Johansonn: 2 assists, +2, 1 takeaway, on 20 shifts/16:00 TOI - his only negative last night was he went 5 for 14/36% in the faceoff circle;
- Andrew Gordon: 1 assist, +2, 4 hits, 2 shots on goal, on 19 shifts and 15:44 TOI - his only negative was he had 1 giveaway.
- Cody Eakin: Anytime you score a goal against a quality goal tender and quality opponents at the NHL level, especially when you are really fighting for a spot on a team's AHL level Affiliate, you can only view that as a very good night.

- Mathieu Perrault: Statistically, it was basically an unremarkable evening for MP85, however, the expectations just seem higher for him in a game like this and that's why I put him on the looser side of last night. Right now when fighter for a roster slot on this talent crowded team, if you're not winning, you are by definition loosing ground in your quest for those few available roster slots. Last night, statistically, Perrault wasn't a winner and nobody reporting on the event noted anything positive to make up for that lack of clear positives. His stat line last night: zero points, -1, 6 for 11 (55%) in the faceoff circle; 1 SOG, 1 takeaway, in 18 shifts and 14:54 TOI - like I said, unremarkable.
- Kyle Greentree: Not much on his stat line for 17 shifts and 12:24, besides with a Prime Number like 43 for a Jersey Number, isn't he destined to find himself playing in the "A" at the start of this season?

To be clear the only definition and difference between winning and losing in the category above is the answer to the question: "Did this player do anything last night to proactively make cutting him/sending him to the minors a harder decision?" The answer choices are digital, either: yes, or any other answer.

Of the blue line corps my take on who had good nights/bad nights - it doesn't look to me like anybody had a bad night nor does it look to me like anybody did anything to move up or down the depth chart.

Interestingly the Caps didn't play any of the "young guns" except Alexander Semin, I think that's a good sign. I already indicated why I would play Semin, as far as the other guys and the other clear opening night roster guys like Mike Knuble, Matt Bradley, etc who didn't play, I'm all for that. The other guys, the guys who did play need the TOI against opposition outside the organization to have a chance to show the staff what they can and will do. I don't think the others need the pre-season time until the last three pre-season games to get their timing, etc. fine tuned.

Last night didn't do much else other than continue to validate just how deep the Capitals organization is currently.

Of course in other Capitals news yesterday the Organization signed contract extensions with Goaltender Michal Neuvirth and Defenseman Tom Poti. If the available information is accurate relative to terms: Poti - 2 years (through the 2012-2013 season with a cap hit of $2.875M/year; Neuvirth - 2 years (through the 2012-2013 season with a cap hit of 1.15M/year); then these seem like smart moves/good signings for the Caps to me. I know some might argue but signing a solid NHL level top 4 D-Man who has been and is likely to play ATOI 20:00/game and play solid special teams for under $3M of Cap Hit seems like a smart thing for a GM to do. Besides, take a look at the pic with this post and recognize that Poti played several playoff games looking like this in 2009 for the Capitals, then tell me the guy doesn't have "grit." As for Neuvirth, here's a guy with nothing left to learn at the AHL level, a proven winner, with solid skills, and nothing but upside - signing him for a cap hit of $1.15M seems like another smart move, even though he only has 22 games of experience at the NHL level of play.

Well what's next for the Caps? Training Camp and the pre-season continues ....


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Well The Pre-Season Opens Tonight In Columbus ...

You heard that right folks. Tonight, the Capitals NHL Pre-season opens in Columbus, OH against the Blue Jackets. I'm still wondering if there's any way to actually watch the game - if there is someone let me know.

In the meantime, here's the Columbus Roster per the Columbus Dispatcher's Blue Jackets Extra yesterday.

The Blue Jackets tentative lineup is:

F1: Nikita Filatov, Derick Brassard, Jake Voracek
F2: R.J. Umberger, Ryan Johansen, Rick Nash
F3: Max Mayorov, Sammy Pahlsson, Chris Clark
F4: Petr Straka, Trevor Frischmon, Jared Boll

D1: Jan Hejda-David Savard
D2: John Moore-Dalton Prout
D3: Fedor Tyutin-Ted Ruth

G1: Steve Mason
G2: Daren Machesney

So interesting notes here ..

The Blue Jackets have a new coach and it looks like Nikita Filatov will get another chance to show what he can do in a new atmosphere/setting.

Chris Clark gets a chance to beat his old team, as does Daen "Cheeser" Machesney.

The Columbus lineup looks more solid then I thought it would, ggod thing its only pre-season and not playoff hockey where we'd have to worry our guys don't "play right" and might get shown up by R.J Umberger....

The Caps tentative lineup is:

Brooks Laich - Tomas Fleischmann - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Eric Fehr
Andrew Gordon - Marcus Johansson - Matt Hendricks
Kyle Greentree - Cody Eakin - Joel Rechlicz

Defense (in no particular order)
John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tyler Sloan, Brian Fahey, John Erskine and Sean Collins

Semyon Varlamov
Braden Holtby

Now that we have a pre-season game against another team maybe we'll get some idea who pucksandbooks was talking about in his post " " or if like I suspect it was either a) total BS, b) a misunderstanding on his part, c) total BS, or d) a parital snippet overheard and misunderstood or e) total ,,, well you get the idea, no need to dwell on the subject any further.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Soooo What's Up in The Hockey World Today?

Soooo ... What's Up in The Hockey World Today?

Perhaps a more accurate headline would be/is "So, what news broke in the NHL world yesterday?" Since I'm working for a living at my "day job" a lot lately I really can't get out and see much first hand - I didn't go to any of the Rookie Camp, I continue to hope to see at least an hour or so of Caps Training Camp, though I'm not at all sure that has much of a chance to happen ... So I cruise the interwebs after I get home in the evening and perhaps at lunch to see what I can find out and use to gather my thoughts about the coming season. As I do, I continue to get more excited about the upcoming season - some of that is inevitable given my usual MO (modus operandi) this time of year, but some is exactly because there are some unknowns when it comes to my favorite professional hockey team - the Washington Capitals.

There's a lot of trepidation amongst the Capital's Faithful, to some degree one might even call it consternation. Yesterday one of, if not my ultimate favorite Caps bloggers - Peerless, posted a couple of thoughts that I felt sort of sum up my own growing consternation with those naysayers as well. If you haven't read his post "Yeah, Well ...@#%$ 'Em" yet, you should. It's a total 180 out from the recent posts at places like "On Frozen Blog." Speaking of OFB, this morning's post there "Market Demand Response". It's a horrible post and frankly it's all just more babble that doesn't make sense but that seems to be supportive of OFB leader pucksandbooks' view that the old tyme hockey game is alive and well in the post season and that's why the Caps haven't been successful in the post season party. I don't agree with his general view and frankly this last post - the text of it, etc. none of which does he attribute to any particular players or even specific enough group of players sounds like total BS to me.

Look I grew up in Philadelphia in the '70's, I went to ice hockey clinics with the "real" Broad Street Bullies. etc. I'm not naive enough to think that some guys don't, at a particular point in their trek up towards their goal of making it in the NHL, adopt a role and persona and try and use that to achieve their dream of playing professional sports. I mean my understanding is that the guy I knew and watched as Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, some would say the original skating perfection of "The Enforcer" did just that. I know I've posted this before, but in addition to his skills with his fists, Schultz was a talented skater and has a nose for the net. However, because of his size he couldn't get noticed as a goal scorer so he began to fight more and the rest was history including a 20 goal season in the NHL. Unlike pucksandbooks, I see a lot of similarities between DJ King and "The Hammer" - though I expect and believe DJ King understands how the game and the rules have changed - unlike the OFB contingent that screams for the return of Olde Tyme Hockey (it ain't gonna happen.) The key here is that when expansion occurred and the original Enforcers like Dave Schultz and Marty McSorley, etc. came into the league, there was a lot of talent in the minors and juniors and these guys could also play hockey, pretty well. I've talked about this before but the original "Broad Street Bullies" - Dave Schultz, Don Saleski, Bob J. Kelly, and Andre Dupont all had a set of solid hockey skills, they weren't just goons. That sort of stuff came later, in the form, of, for example, Nick Fotiu. All that said, the simple facts are that with the Salary Cap at $59.4M, and a situation where a lot of teams have 20+% of their available cap space tied up in two players, no one can afford to spend even a league minimum contract on a player who is nothing else but an enforcer, at least that's been my opinion for some time. Regardless of what you think on this topic, I urge you to go and look at the teams that have been successful in both the regular season AND/OR the playoffs the past several years and point to a team that has a guy on their roster who is basically solely an enforcer. The usual stat characteristics being ATOI/G of less than 9:00; little to no offensive production; and a greater than the rest of the team average number of Penalty Minutes...

Anyway, bottom line on this - I'm tired of the gloom and doom prognostications relative to my favorite team. I'm tired of hearing folks talk bad about a guy who's recently been rated as the #5 best wing in the league by a publication that isn't a group of Caps fans, or even generally European/Russian player friendly. I'm tired about hearing about what Alex Ovechkin did not accomplish, YET, in his career. I'm tired of the seemingly now endless debate about whether or not the Caps have an issue with inexperience in goal. Finally, I'm really tired about the silliness about whether or not Mike Green is good enough on defense and ready to be a part of the core group to lead the team to the next level. I could go on but basically I've just read what I wrote and I'm thinking I'm sounding like Lilli Von Schtupp in "Blazing Saddles" - see here for those who might not understand the reference ...

So here's my prognostications for this upcoming season:

Ovie (2010-2011): Conn Smyth; Hart; Richard; 120+ points; 50+ goals including 5 shorties;

Semin (2010-2011): 40+ goals; +45 - only problem will be his price for next contract ...

Green (2010-2011): Norris Finalist and maybe the third time is the charm?; 25+ goals; +45

Varlamov (2010-2011): #1 Goalie through the playoffs including the Stanley Cup Finals

Neuvirth (2010 - 2011): Traded for the needed 2nd line center - Patrick Sharp when the current experiments there don't pan out.

Holtby (2010 - 2011): Steps in and backs Varly up superbly

That's right no issues in goal for the Caps.

Carlson (2010 - 2011) Steps up and becomes the Caps # 2 blue liner; lays out BOTH Crosby and Malkin with legal, bone crushing appropriate hits during the playoffs....

Knuble (2010 - 2011) Has best season EVER, making the decision to retire following it, really hard and we won't know the answer until July 31st; oh yeah and also scores at least 1 GWG against the Flyers during the regular season and another one against them if the Flyers and the Caps face each other in the playoffs ...

Dave Steckel (2010 - 2011) Has best season ever, becomes THE Capitals 3rd line Center and notches 15+ goals, as well as leading the league in FO % Wins for Face Offs in the Cap's own Zone.

DJ King (2010 - 2011) Makes his own mark on the NHL by playing a role that is a combination agitator (like Matt Cooke and Sean Avery); Enforcer; and actual useful, non-harmful member of the team. Plays 60+ games; ATOI: 10:30+; +/- +15 or better; 10+ goals.

Matt Bradley (2010 - 2011) Has best year of his career improving on his 2009 - 2010 numbers.

Nicklas Backstrom (2010 - 2011) Another 100+ point season for Thor the Super Swede (new nickname - what do you think?) which means he'll be on the box cover of next year's hockey video game...

So me, yes I'm a Homer McFanboy and I figured I'd let it show but like Peerless and Lilli I'm just "friggin' tired" of all the negative waves man.

Finally here's a few general feel good stories from around the league yesterday:

A) Brad Richards donated $500K to a Children's Hospital up in his home province Prince Edward Island in honour of his late cousin and best friend Jamie Reynolds. Now that's a story worth tweeting about and celebrating.

B)A lot of folks are willing to publicly point out their belief that the Columbus Blue Jackets signing Steve Mason to an extension is a good move. Add me to that list by this post.

C) I love this quote from Ovechkin after yesterday's training camp scrimmage between his squad (Group A) against Mike Green's Squad (Group C) which Group A won but where everyone including Ovechkin got a turn at playing Center since Andrew Jourdrey was out. Said Ovie relative to his experience at playing in the middle: "I was surprised when [assistant coach Dean Evason] told me, 'You're going to play in center,' " Ovechkin said. "I was like, 'Okay.' I won one faceoff, so I was happy, but I think I didn't play well in the defensive zone . . . so that was bad." It just shows a continuing maturing attitude, instead of talking about the fun, etc. he focuses on what he needs to improve upon. It just says to me that this guy will strive to continue to improve every aspect of his game, basically forever.

D) The Caps Preseason opens tomorrow in Columbus against the Blue Jackets ... As of right now looks like it's only available on Radio ... why CSN isn't covering it and somehow making it available or the Caps doing so via some simple streaming web feed is silly but hey that's my thoughts and I'm the rabid hockey fan...

E) Over at Japer's Rink they have a bunch of links to pictures from training camp at Kettler... some of the pics are pretty awesome, or at least tasty enough to continue to fuel my excitement.
F) Sports Blog Nation DC Morning Commute discussion: Morning Commute: Last night's game drew an all time low at Nationals park. Can baseball work in D.C.? Seriously... field a competitive team guys and the fans will come, the park and the experience is already pretty awesome.

G) Interesting post about the importance and often overlooked importance of skating ability in Ice Hockey that ties back to some great work by Dan Steinberg re: Brooks Laich.

H) On a sadder note, here's hoping the impossible - that some wealthy philanthropist buys Mark Wells' 1980 Gold Medal and either gives it a) back to him; b) to the HHOF, or C) the USOC for enshrinement in a suitable museum as tribute to one of the greatest moments in US Olympics Histtory.

So that's about it today folks...


Monday, September 20, 2010

Okay So What's All This Twitter Stuff About ...

So I decided to start "following" some other folks on twitter, that of course has now led me to open a twitter account. I haven't figured much about it out at all. I'm still learning how to tweet per say. By that I mean, hey I live an ordinary life so what is worth tweeting about anyway? I expect most of my tweets may well be "forwarding other's tweets" since I always feel there is very little I do that is newsworthy. Of course if anyone reading this understands how all this "tweeting stuff, is supposed to work, and I've got it wrong, then please, please, explain it to me...

In the meantime, I figure it might help me stay current on hockey news in like 144 character bits at a time....

Of course if you'd like to add me to those folks with twitter accounts you're following - I'm markbonaKP82 ....


Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Fall - For Sure ...

Okay, it's time to start blogging on a regular basis again, I know. Unfortunately I've been a might busy with the rest of my life. I mean I had intended on starting to blog regularly again following returning home from our vacation on Labor Day weekend and then I got distracted by a myriad of things I had/have to do. That hasn't slowed but after all, the Capitals are back in camp, I've received my season tickets and the leaves have started to turn in the back yard. Also as all of us Capitals fans know from Eric Belanger's recent interviews, all the kids are back in school too.

Yes it's been that long since I last posted - I basically let the whole Belanger mess go without so much as a comment so I'll catch up here. Just because I haven't been blogging myself doesn't mean I haven't been following the blogsphere, I have. In the blogsphere, the reaction to the whole Belanger mess is very mixed - I mean other than general agreement that it was a mess. Where do I come down on the whole thing? Putting aside the feelings everyone knows I have that were mixed as to whether Belanger is or isn't the right guy to be the pivot between Semin and Laich; and putting aside the question as to whether or not the Caps were or weren't going to pay more for him then he is worth, especially in the current market; I'm an old school guy.

What do I mean when I say I'm an old school guy - just that, I really mourn the days when some one's word really meant something and despite the knowledge that the majority of the time in business you need it in writing, I still honor my handshakes and expect others will until they prove otherwise to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not often totally shocked when someone basically goes back on the word and essentially screws me for deals I haven't gotten in writing - I'm not that naive' anymore - those days are long since gone. However, I do prefer to do business with people who have my outlook which is tied to two things - a) my word is better than a written contract; and b) for a business deal to really work out as best as it can, it has to be a fair, and good deal for all the parties involved. So where do I come out - well when I look at Caps General Manager George McPhee and the Caps organization's behaviour, even if only half the things that have been leaked by Belanger and his agent are true, I'm disappointed - REALLY DISAPPOINTED. They just didn't act honorably. Don't get me wrong, they DID NOTHING outside the rules of the CBA, and I guess/think that Belanger's agent did NOT do his job when after a couple of weeks (no more than 2) he didn't actively start to market his player. In fact he should have done that when no written deal was forthcoming in just a couple of days. Now when I take a look at things from Belanger and his agent's perspective, while I understand why they did what they did, I can't really and don't really agree with it, at all either. Why, you ask? See rule #2 - they had to understand what they had asked for and they believed GMGM and his posse agreed to was NOT a good deal for everyone - not even close. Just days after they had what they thought was a handshake 1 year deal for $1,850,000; a similar player, IMO, Jeff Halpren signed a one year deal in Montreal for $600,000 - that's $1.25M less if you're not good at math, or basically 1/3rd the price that Belanger wanted from the Capitals. Okay, I like Belanger in a Caps uniform for 2010-2011 better than Halpren, but I don't like him in that uniform, that much better - not even close.

So when I look at the "Belanger Incident" I can't fault the Caps Management, it is a business, and the CBA, basically says you're not allowed to be an "old school guy". But you know what, I would not have behaved like either side behaved. If I was Belanger and his agent, while I understand working a negotiating strategy to get the most you can for your wares/services; I've learned over the years, that if you get A LOT more for them once from someone who is astute, that will likely be the last time you get even close to a fair offer from that same "customer" ever again. Maybe since Belanger is currently 32 years old and his career is winding down, he didn't/doesn't care about that thought, but he probably should as he likely has or desires to have another 2 - 4 years of playing career after this season. I really think that had Belanger and his agent been willing to sign a 1 year $1.5M or two year $2.7M deal, he'd have been signed by either the Capitals or some other first choice team of his. Of course, playing in Phoenix for Dave Tippett next season for $750,000 doesn't stink either. I'm not saying that professional athletes don't deserve what they get paid - they must, after all lots of owners seem willing to pay them their salaries; I am saying it doesn't seem like a bad or overly horrible way to make $500+ thousand dollars a year. However, getting to the conclusion of this whole thing, when I look on the other side of the coin - the Caps Management's behaviour, I just cannot come to terms with it, EVEN if only half of what we've seen/heard is true. If they couldn't make the deal happen, it should NOT have been offered in the first place. If they thought they could and then found they could not, as soon as they realized it they should have told Belanger and his agent so. If they never made the offer but somehow Belanger and his agent thought they did, as soon as they (the Caps) realized the mistaken conclusion by Belanger and his agent, they should have said something - publicly. Finally, at this point,, they should be the bigger men, and within the limits of the league rules and the CBA, and with the agreement of the the NHL head office, they should reach out and "make it right." That may not be possible, but they should try - it's the classy thing to do. Finally, if Belanger hasn't figured things out, he ought to fire his new agent and either get another new one or go back to his old one. I say this because right now his (Eric Belanger) behaviour is classy, but his agent's is not - publishing emails between parties that were part and parcel to a negotiation, especially when you only publish those on a selective basis (I assume you are publishing those that a) only support your side of the events, and b) do not expose you to slander or libel charges; vice the complete picture)is decidedly NOT CLASSY. Okay so that's the last thing I'm saying on this matter.

Now on other fronts - last week was rookie camp and the Capitals Rookies beat the Flyers Rookies - it doesn't count in the standings and its certainly not a playoff game, but hey its hockey and it's the Caps beating the Flyers so we probably should be happy about it. I know I am.

Regular training camp opened for the Capitals this weekend, now that means the regular season opener is just around the corner and that is news! All the Capitals got back to town at least a few days early and all are apparently in very good shape for the start of camp. This is a far cry better than last season when we were talking about things such as Flash's blood clots, etc.

Also, at least the majority owner seems to agree with me that it's way to early and both dangerous and stupid to be talking about things such as how meaningless the regular season is, and how you can't wait for the 2011 playoffs before the regular season even opens. Personally, I'm psych'ed about the home opener against the New Jersey Devils. I'll go to one of the three pre-season games but I know we won't start getting the answers to the questions about the Capitals - re: 2nd line center; defense corps; young, inexperienced goaltending - until the regular season starts and then progresses at least 20 games. I also know we won't really see how much the moves New Jersey and Pittsburgh have made this off season will pay off for them either - that's who I see as this year's "Beasts of the East" - though I'm sure the Flyers want to be in that group and there's at least one other team that wants to surprise us.

I'm also excited that it seems to me the rest of the Southeast Division has raised the amount of talent in their lockers, with the possible exception of Florida, so those games should be a lot more interesting and exciting to watch. So now we are getting much closer to "On Any Given Sunday ..." The approach towards parity also seems to be reflected in the average team's payroll against the salary cap where it seems to me that either 19 or 20 of the teams in the league will start the season with payrolls of between $54M and the Cap Max of $59.4M(though right now according to Cap Geek there are 6 teams over the cap).

Yes it is indeed starting to smell a lot like Hockey around these parts.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's September .... It's September.....

It's September .... It's September..... Hey, Rookie Camp is starting today, summer
is almost over, and Hockey Season is almost once again upon us. Last week, I received the hard copies of my Season Tickets, etc. So all that must mean that it's almost time to once again begin the frequent visits to Verizon Center and the occasional visits to KCI to follow the "bestest" professional sports team in the Washington, DC metro area. So what is there to say.

Here's where you can see who will be at Rookie Camp this week and who's coming to Training Camp next week.

Here's the schedule for both ....

So that means it's time for another guess by moi on what the opening night line-up/roster looks like. Here goes:


1st line: Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
2nd line: Semin - Fleischmann - Laich
3rd line: Chimera - Steckel - Fehr
4th line: King - Boyd Gordon - Bradley

Reserves: Andrew Gordon, Mathieu Perrault
"Regular Call-Ups" As Needed: Marcus Johannson; Jay Beagle; Trevor Bruess, Dmitry Krugyshev; Steve Pinnizotto (All of whom will start the regular season with regular line assignments in Hershey.)


1st Pairing: Green - Schultz
2nd Pairing: Poti - Carlson
3rd Pairing: Alzner - Erskine

Reserves: Tyler Sloan; Patrick McNeill
Call Ups If Required: Josh Godfrey: Zach Miscovick; and Sean Collins who along with McNeill will all start the season as regulars in Hershey. That said, if McNeill has a good training camp he might be able to move up this depth chart since there is so little experience there anyway.


#1: Semyon Varlamov
#1A: Michal Neuvrith

Callup as required: Braden Holtby; Dany Sanbourin.

When you look at the Capitals this season objectively here's at least what I conclude:

1) They should win their fourth Southeast Division title in a row; however they need to stop talking about being ready for the post-season, BEFORE the regular season even starts. Tampa Bay has definitely upgraded their team in every facet; Atlanta may actually figure out a way to be better without Ilya Kopvalchuck than with him as they now have some solid young building blocks who will have to come together and elevate their game; Carolina still has some solid talent and could surprise us a few times; Florida still has the best goaltender in the division so even though their offense is questionable, they really don't need much to beat you on many nights. I say this because I really wish everyone would stop talking about the playoffs in September ... there's a long road between here and there and a lot could happen I mean did you pick Montreal vs. Philadelphia in the 2010 Eastern Conference finals this time last year?

2) As loaded as the Capitals are with arguably the best set of forwards in the NHL, there will continue to be valid questions about their defense and goaltender, especially relative to their experience levels until, and possibly beyond June of 2011, unless some moves are made during the regular season to address those items.

3) The lack of moves this of season, while understandable given the realities of what personnel were available at what price, and the Capitals need to continue to intelligently manage their Salary Cap situation, means there will be more pressure than ever on: Semyon Varlamov; Tomas Fleishmann; Jeff Schultz; and all four of the "Young Guns." These folks have all said "keep the team together" and that has been done, but now they have to show all year, from now through June 2011 why that was the correct thing to do. Of course to some degree there is of course pressure on George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau and his staff as well, since we all clearly understand that now (the next 2-3 seasons) is the time when this team (meaning this group of players) needs to step up and make a real no kidding run at the Cup if that's going to happen.

Well other than just being really, really happy to see the NHL start gearing up for the return of Hockey Season, that's all I've got...


Monday, September 6, 2010

So What About That Belanger Guy?

Who Needs A Bonafide Clear Cut Second Line Center Anyway?

Well here we are basically 6 days from the opening of rookie camp and the Washington Capitals still have no clear path to answering the question "Who will be the Second Line Center?" It's truly baffling that a team with so, so much offensive fire power and so many dynamic forwards, some would argue the best group of forwards in the NHL, doesn't have a clear consensus choice that everyone (management, players and fans) all recognize as the Center for their second line, so close to the start of the season. Following the Capitals unceremonious and early exit from the 2010 playoffs after capturing the 2009 - 2010 President's Cup, the buzz around them was the two weaknesses were the lack of a second line center to act as a catalyst for scoring the second half of the season and the inexperience and lack of a bonafide physical, stay at home anchor on defense.

On Saturday I explored the events surrounding UFA Defensemen this past summer and explained my basic agreement with the way that the Capitals management have handled the situation. Today I decided I'd take a look at the UFA market this past summer for Centers to see if I could understand the situation and course of action - or more specifically, lack there of, by the Capitals with regard to the acquisition of a second line Center. First though let's all understand the basic constraints on the Capitals when it comes to picking up another top six forward - that basically being that they really do not have the salary Cap space to pick up another clear cut top six forward this year and ensure they have the required Cap space to keep all four of Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr past next off season as well. postulate that if Fehr continues to develop, mature and stays healthy this season, he's the replacement for Mike Knuble should the 38 year old retire after this season which I think will be a 50/50 bet. Then assuming that Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann all go into the next off season and become Unrestricted Free Agents on July 1, 2011 coming off good years, that would mean that it's entirely conceivable that those three players could warrant offers that would amount to a total salary cap hit of $12 - 14M just in and of themselves. If you add a "bonafide" second line center with a cap hit of $3.5 - $4M, then you have $16M for the Capitals second line, along with the $18.4M for the first line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fehr/Knuble for a total of $34.4M which assuming the salary cap stays relatively stable would be well over 50% for the team's top six forwards alone. That number is not, IMO, sustainable as I just don't see where it leaves enough room for signing a sound and reliable blue line corps as well as the fact that at least one, if not both of the Capitals goaltenders will be due for a reasonable raise from their current $822K cap hits this after this season. So what's all this mean relative to that second line center beyond this season? Well it means that if the Capitals want to try and take long term planning into account, they'll need to sign a second line center who is a bargain and therefore a bit of a gamble. That's basically what they tried to do last season with Brendan Morrison and whether you believe it or not, that almost worked out. For the first half of the season it was working out and then B-Mo just sort of ran out of gas. The Capitals then went out and tried to bring in Eric Belanger at the trade deadline to pick up the pace again and that too, IMO, 'almost" worked out. As you can see by this article by Red Line Station looking at Belanger's Corsi numbers with second liners Semin and Laich, and occasional second liner Fleischmann there is the potential for some positive chemistry there.

Over the course of this summer I've been lobbying for the Caps to go out and try and pick up Patrick Sharp from the Blackhawks and even now a Flieschmann for Sharp trade would still save Chicago $1.3M of salary cap space and be within the available Cap space for Washington. However, unlike the beginning of this off-season Chicago has made a number of moves and is now no longer over the salary cap, at least according to the numbers at The teams with salary Cap issue right now are: Vancouver, Boston, Calgary, Toronto and the New York Rangers. Others at or near (within $1.5M) the Cap include: Detroit, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Montreal. Of those 10 teams, the following players on their rosters might be worth considering as someone the Capitals could/should look at trading for as a second line center:

1) Boston has a pretty solid set of centers in Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron. I think either Marc Savard or Patrice Bergeron would credibly compliment Laich and Semin on the Capital's second line. Since the 3 year old Savard is signed through the age 39 on his current contract while the 25 year old Bergeron is only signed through the end of this season, Bergeron of course is the more attractive of the two and I regard Savard's contract as making him undesirable. Given the Bruins salary cap situation won't be all that much better next season and their anchor - Zdeno Chara will also be a UFA after this season, Bergeron could be a possibility. The Bruins certainly could use the offense that Fleischmann would bring them and the $2.1M Cap space that a Fleischmann for Bergeron deal would bring them would put them within striking distance (just 987K over) of the 2010-2011 salary cap.

2) In Calgary you're looking at either 33 year old Daymond Langkow or 26 year old Matt Stajan. Assuming the Flames aren't crazy they'd be willing to talk about is the past/present - Daymond Langkow vice the future - Matt Stajan. Langkow is under contract for another two years at a Cap hit of $4.5M/season. Stajan is under contract through the end of the 2013-2014 season with a $3.5M cap hit in each of those four seasons. I'd be more than happy to see Stajan in a Caps Sweater as a second line center and given his current contract only runs through age 30 and at $3.5M is indeed affordable and I'd project him as a 20+ goal scorer and a 70+ point player for the Caps as a second line center. However, like I say, I just don't see the Flames making him available for anything the Capitals would be willing to give up since even though Tomas Fleischmann would project as a clear top six forward for them, possibly their first line left winger, with Jerome Iginla and Rene Bourque on the roster already, they'll be looking for a lot moire than an even swap of Flassh for Stajan and I don't see GMGM biting on that, even with the wealth of riches the Caps have in their current pipeline. Again though if I were him I'd probably consider it, since in his current contract and form Stajan would likely fill this role/hole for four+ seasons. Moving over to the more likely offering of the 33 year old Langkow. He's coming off what for him is basically an "off" year - he totaled only 14 goals and 23 assists in 72 games. His numbers aren't really any better than current UFA Eric Belanger and it sure seems like Belanger is likely available for between $2.5 - 3M LESS than Langkow, so I don't think that deal works for the Capitals at all.

3) Detroit's 26 year old Valterri Filppula might be an option, he's signed for another three seasons with a Cap Hit of $3M/season. He's got a ton of upside and he appears to be a guy that Detroit is looking at with an eye towards their future. However, with Datsuyk, Zetterberg, Franzen, and Rafelski likely to be the four guys continuing to serve as the anchors for the franchise in "Hockeytown" up to and beyond the end of the young Finn's contract, a move to DC might not be a bad one for him to make. Of course what do the Capitals have that the Red Wings might want AND that they might be willing to part with? That remains to be seen as it's not something that's intuitively obvious to me. Oh yeah, and Filppula's numbers aren't any better than Belanger's numbers were last season either... though he is indeed younger and seems to have a much better "upside" though he will cost at least $1M/season more.

4)In Pittsburgh, we could consider Jordan Staal. The 21 year old from the prolific hockey band of brothers would indeed make a great pickup for the Capitals. He'd no doubt be a solid pivot between Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich during 5 on 5 situations and he would also be a solid citizen on special teams when those situations arise. His current contract is a Cap Friendly on with a Cap Hit of $4M for each of the next three seasons. The issue here is again what would/could the Capitals offer Ray Shero to get him to part with the promising young Mr. Stall. So while his salary and contract would work, especially if the Capitals included someone of value in the deal like either Fleischmann or Fehr, the issue would be what else they'd need to throw in. The good news here is that with the off season moves by Pittsburgh that included strengthening an already formidable Blue Line Corps, the things that Shero and Coach Dan Blysma would be interested in would likely NOT include any of the Capitals prospects at defense.

Of the others, Vancouver's Ryan Kessler is just too expensive and signed to too long term a deal ($30M over the next 6 years) to make sense for the Capitals as he's not affordable in their current team construct. Toronto really has no one that is likely to help the Capitals offense on a regular basis other than Phil Kessel and I don't think he's going anywhere. As for the Rangers with Olli Jokenen back in Calgary that leaves the first and second line centers as Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky, there's no way the Capitals could or would go for Drury's $7+M cap hiot and there's really no way the Rangers could swap Dubinsky for a higher priced guy like Fleischmann so a deal involving the Caps and Rangers isn't going to happen unless somehow Geln Sather can figure out how to convince George McPhee that a deal that includes Dubinsky and either Michal Rozsival or Wade Redden for Fleischmann and one of the Capitals younger defensive prospects make sense could happen. Since so far in his career McPhee hasn't shown himself to be prone to the total lapses of intelligence that Sather has occasionally exhibited, it doesn't appear that the Rangers hold the key, or really any key for that matter to the Capitals needs. In Ottawa, Mike Fisher is the number 2 pivot, he's signed to another three years at a Cap Hit of $4.2M/season; Fisher would be a good pickup for the Capitals though his salary is almost too much for them to bear, the real issue is that the Senators really aren't likely to make him available now that they lost Matt Cullen to the Minnesota Wild in Free Agency this past summer. As for Philadelphia, I just don't think any of their three top Centers - Mike Richards, Jeff Carter or Danny Briere are are affordable and at numer 4 on the depth chart I have Darroll Powe, who though interesting and a developing player, is clearly not a guy the Capitals would use as a second line center. In Montreal, there is indeed Scott Gomez, along with Tomas Plekanec, two solid centers, both of whom have price tags and contracts that warrant and require first line minutes to justify so thye aren't what the Capitals need. There was Dominic Moore who left this summer and went to Tampa Bay for a two year, $1.1M/year deal that seems fair, but again Moore is a guy whose numbers aren't as good as Eric Belanger's or for that matter Brendan Morrison's numbers this past season were.

So as far as trades go for that second line center, there really aren't any that jump out as obvious and easy for GMGM to make right now. As far as the available UFA's let me say that first off, of the ones already signed the only one that jumps out at me as one the Capitals probably should have looked at and tried to sign Matt Cullen as that needed second line center though on July 1st, with everything else swirling around the league and the Capitals situation with their RFAs that wasn't something that was likely obvious. Ironically, the only other UFA center signed that might have been a good deal for the Capitals as also signed by the WIld - 37 year old John Madden. I'm old school though and I worry about the influence a guy like Madden might have on a young locker room, however that's probably stupid, I mean the guy does have three (3) Stanley Cup Rings and a Selke Trophy so how bad an influence could he be anyway? In any case I can easily see myself content having either of these two guys in Capitals' sweaters under the terms and at the prices the Wild will be paying them.

There were a few others that might have been worth a look but nothing that makes me lick my chops at the prospect of acquiring them, so that leaves us to what is left on the UFA market to look at and discuss. First according to James Mirtle, the Caps and Eric Belanger have already reached a deal, to me that's good news since the way I see it of the available UFA Centers the two best choices are Eric Belanger and Brendan Morrison, given B-Mo didn't, at least as far as I can tell, prove durable enough for a full season and the playoffs playing second line minutes, that leads us to Eric Belanger. Will he be "the guy" for the second line center role? I don't have a clue, but I do know I believe he's a better choice for that spot than the other rumour circulating - Tomas Fleischmann. I won't rehash my thoughts on Flash as seond line center again, though I will say to me assuming the rumour relative to Belanger's resigning are true my preferences in order of desirablity for second line center are:
1) Eric Belanger
2) Brooks Laich
3) David Steckel
4) Mathieu Perrault
5) Another reasonable available UFA including Brendan Morrison or Jeff Halpren
6) Tomas Fleischmann...

So I hope if the Capitals and Belanger are already agreed, as was leaked on 8/13, to giving it another year or two, the announcement will come soon.

Well just one week until rookie camp opens, more and more guys getting back into town this week and next, all good signs that the off season is coming to a close. Despite the three worries I have - the first two being a) the lack of a clear choice for second line center who has chemistry with Laich and Semin; and b) the inexperience on defense and in goal; and my third worry c) the season hasn't started and already folks are talking about how they can't wait to get to the playoffs - remember folks you have to make the playoffs first and while I know everyone thinks the Southeast Division is a cakewalk, you still have to play 82 games and hopefully win the division to get into the playoffs.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Well It's Been 12 More Days And The Capitals Still Don't Have a Clear, Easy To See Choice for 2nd Line Center....

Well let's see in my life since my last post the Company I work for agreed to be acquired by another really cool company; my wife and I went on our first real vacation as "empty nesters", the NHL & NHLPA figured out how to settle things with the whole long term contract issue and the "epic" Ilya Kovalchuck saga, and over the period there were 23+ transactions around the NHL - none of them involving the Washington Capitals... I've been sitting here this summer wondering about a lot of things - a real lot of things - but I try and confine this blog to be about the lighter things and the diversions in my life so I'll continue to confine these public/"aloud" musings to be primarily about hockey - NHL Hockey and the Washington Capitals in particular.

First I got my letter and purchased my two seats for the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh - I'm psych'ed and wingman seemed to be into the idea. However it was hard to tell. The cell phone reception wasn't all that great - he's working on a cable layer off the California coast right now, he'll go back to school for the 5 trimester marathon to graduation on October 31st so he'll be ready for some Hockey in the 'burgh come Christmas break. Personally, I'll be curious to see how our vantage point for the game actually works out. Our regular season tickets are in the corner, lower level and our Winter Classic tickets have a similar perspective though I figure we'll be a lot further away from the actual ice surface and I'm truly wondering if that will be better or worse. Actually what I'm wondering is how cold and windy will it be that day and will I even notice the game or will my attention be spent on avoiding frostbite. All that said, I have absolutely NO INTENTION of missing the game and am very excited about it. I'll wait at least until the season opener to make our hotel reservations though.

So since my last post on August 23rd there have been 23 UFA/RFA signings in the NHL. Like I mentioned in my headline, not a single one of them have been by the Washington Capitals, who apparently continue to believe very strongly in their "build from within" approach. In fact apparently the Capitals believe so strongly in staying the course, they are still without a clear easy to see choice for 2nd line center, and they have not made been able to close any deals/make any moves to improve their defense so far this season. Given Willie Mitchell's visit to KCI before he was signed by the Los Angeles Kings, I don't think that means the Capitals aren't looking or trying to improve the team, far from it. I do think it means the Capitals management doesn't see anything readily available out there that warrants the prices being paid at this juncture. I hope that changes and I think it probably will soon, as there seem to be signs indicating that the prices are dropping, vice rising, as the start of training camp approaches. As regular readers know I though Willie Mitchell was worth a look, though clearly I didn't "like" him as much as I did/do Dan Hamhuis, who as you know signed with Vancouver as with as a UFA earlier this off season. However, I don't think either Mitchell or Hamhuis with a deal in the form of what they signed would have been what the Capitals needed/wanted. Though perhaps in retrospect the Hamhuis deal will be one the Capitals regret trying to make happen. Of course there are really no indications the Capitals ever even though that Hamhuis was somebody they wanted and that's just my speculation/dreaming talking. The subject of Willie Mitchell is easier to address and explain - Willie Mitchell is a 33 year old, 10th year pro, with a an injury history as long as my arm. Signing the 33 year old Mitchell to a two year deal with a $3.5M/year cap hit would likely have accomplished a little bit this season and next, though not much and in the long term would have inhibited/delayed the Capitals from upgrading from Tom Poti at the end of this season. Mind you I'm not starting any sort of campaign to say this should be Tom Poti's last season here in DC, though I will say this, I'll be surprised if the Capitals resign or extend Poti at the end of this season for a Cap Hit that is over $3M/season.

Now let's look at the other nine biggest Cap Hit UFA/RFA signings this off season. Starting with the biggest Cap Hit deal for a defenseman this off season we have - Sergei Gonchar; the cagey Ottawa Senator's management team stole the xx year old "Gonch" away from Pittsburgh for the amazingly low (NOT, IMHO) price of $16.5M for 3 years. At the end of his current deal, the 6'-1", 211" Gonchar will be 39 years old. Like it or not Gonchar's play this past season and post season would seem to indicate that, while he can still munch minutes and quarterback the power play, he has lost at least a step if not a step and a half. Gonchar is good but the deal the Senators signed is IMO a year too long and $500 - $1,000K/year too rich.

The number two, in terms of Cap Hit, off season RFA/UFA blueliner deal went to Paul Martin. Martin is the guy the Penguins picked up to make Gonchar "redundant" as the Brits say. The Penguins signed the 29 year old UFA from St. Paul, MN away from the New Jersey Devils for a $25M/5 year ($5M/year cap hit) deal. Martin is coming off an injury shortened season; he broke his left arm in December and missed 59 games before returning to the roster and playing in the Devils first playoff round loss. While the deal isn't too bad, and Martin knows how to make plays and get the the puck up ice , as his 163 points in 400 NHL regular season games show, he certainly isn't the "stay at home" powerhouse defender that folks pointing to the Capitals blueline corps as their Achilles heel think of as a natural foil to/for Mike Green.

Coming in at number three (3) for defenseman paydays in this off season's Free Agent sweepstakes was Dan Hamhuis who I've already spent a lot of time typing about, both this morning and earlier this off season. Hamhuis could be that stay at home guy and he certainly has size and brings it to the ice when he plays. However, is he the right answer as that foil for Mike Green for the next six years? I don't really know, nor do I think does anyone who handicaps those sorts of thing for a living. I suspect that's why the Capitals Management likely didn't even entertain talking to he and his agent for a deal that was/is longer than 4 or seasons. So that brings us to the number 4 deal on the list - Anton Volchenkov signed a 6 year deal for $25.5M - a $4.25M/year cap hit. According to the rumour mill, Alexander Ovechkin tried to get the 28 year old Muscovite to come to DC and the Caps Management to make it happen. I suspect the reasons such a deal didn't/couldn't happen, were the ripples it would likely have caused. For the Capitals to sign a deal similar to what New Jersey gave Volchenkov, which I feel is a fair deal for all, the ripple would likely have affected at least two other Capitals, if not three. Certain John Erskine would have had to have been be dealt ot put on waivers. It's hard to see the Capitals reaching a solid deal with Jeff Schultz similar to what they signed him for (4 years, $11M) if they had signed Volchenkov to anything like his current 6 years $25.5M contract. Also the ripples would likely have not left the Capitals with room to sign Alexander Semin beyond the end of this season, and other options seem to me to just get uglier. That said, if you think the Caps need a true, mature, ready now "stay at home", physical D-Man, I look at Volchenkov as "Chara - lite" or better. The better being that in three to five years it may be possible for Volchenkov to be nearly as good as either Chara or even Chris Pronger, I mean who knows, after all he has two elbows the same as Pronger... The only issue I see with Volchenkov that must have been why he ended up getting less than Hamhuis is his average games played in each of his 7 seasons, though none of his injuries approach anything like the 52 games that Paul Martin missed last season. Suffice it to say, I look at Volchenkov's current 6 year deal as at the high end of fair but fair. However, with what the Capitals already have in the pipeline, if I were GMGM it's a costly enough deal and it's term is two years longer than I'd like so I too would have passed on it.

The fifth highest cap hit given to sign a blueliner this off season was a 5 year, $20M deal that Pittsburgh gave to 27 year old Zybnek Michalek. The Penguins pick up the rugged Czech defenseman for a $4M/year cap hit. As far as rugged, durable, stay at home defenseman, Michalek might prove to be the best blueliner deal of this off season, in each of the past 5 seasons he's played an average of 78.6 games per season and appeared in all 82 games in three of those seasons for his prior club - Phoenix. This year he proved he is able to amp up his game during the playoffs where he had 11 hits in 7 playoff games for the upstart Coyotes.

The 6th most costly deal for a defenseman this summer so far as given to another Czech - 33 year old Pavel Kubina - by that new Tampa Bay Lightning GM, Stevie "Y". The Lightning signed the 6'-4", 250# veteran away from Division Rival, Atlanta for $7.7M for 2 years ($3.85M/year). Kubina is a solid pickup for the Lightning, but again despite his size, he's not the obvious foil to Mike Green, that those hollering for a strengthening of the defense typically think of. Also at 33 and looking at a two year $3.5M+ deal, he's also not a likely long term answer to replace Tom Poti should the Capitals look to do that at the end of this season.

The number 7 guy on this list is Willie Mitchell who I've already discussed.

Coming in at number 8 we have 23 year old RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson. Hjalmarsson was given an offer sheet for a $14M/4 year deal by the San Jose Sharks which forced the salary cap strapped Chicago Blackhawks to match it. The Blackhawks opted to match the offer and keep the promising young Swedish defender, but they are still dealing with the repercussions and ripples through their roster. Given all the Salary Cap issues in Chicago this off season, one has to wonder if the Chicago front office doesn't now think and hope the now 4th year pro has the potential to match another veteran Swedish defensman who currently Captains one of the Blackhawk's traditional rivals career numbers and accomplishments. In any case as I look at the deal, along with the fact that right now Chicago has over $21M of salary cap space tied up in their blue line, including Bryan Campbell at a cap hit of $7.14M; Duncan Kieth at a Cap Hit of $5.53M, Brent Seabrook with a cap hit of $3.5M and Hjamarsson with his cap hit of $3.5M, I wonder why Chicago matched this offer sheet. I surmise that yes indeed Hjalmarsson is good, but I also conjecture that they wanted to send a message to others licking their chops and looking at the defending Stanley Cup champions roster.... In any case, this is a good deal for the 23 year old Swede though of course now he has to continue to mature and develop on at least the same trajectory he was previously on.

The number 9 richest free agent deal for blue liners this summer has been the 4 year, $13.5M deal that another Swede, Henrik Tallinder, signed with the New Jersey Devils. The 31 year old came to NJ from Buffalo with a $3.375M Cap hit. I look at Tallinder as a slightly younger and bigger version of Tom Poti but once again not the obvious answer as to the guy who would/should be Mike Green's defensive partner 5 on 5; also it's not altogether clear to me that Tallinder at 32 years of age is any better than Poti at 34 years of age and I'm thinking the cost difference will be neglegible.

Finally rounding out this list in the number 10 spot is 26 year old RFA Dan Giradi who was resigned by the New York Rangers to a 4 year, $13.3M deal. Over the last 4 seasons, since joining the Rangers when he came up from the AHL in the 2006 - 2007 regular season Giradi has been a rock for the Blueshirts. In each of the past three seasons he hasn't missed wither a regular season or a playoff game. He has continued to improve and last season he averaged 16.88 minutes TOI/60, behind only Marc Staal who led the team with 17.98 and ahead of Michal Roszival who had 16.80 and who has a cap hit of an even $5.0M (we won't bother to talk about Wade Redden - cap hit $6.5M, 14.52 TOI/60, and owner of one of the biggest albatrosses of current NHL contracts in the league today.)

The Washington Capitals biggest off season deal for a defender this summer, you ask. Well the winner would be one, Jeff "Sarge" Schultz, who inked a 4 year, $11M, $2.75M/ year salary cap hit contract. If this list continued on down, that deal would put the 24 year old, 6'6", 230#, Calgary native in the number 18 slot. Given that Schultz is now a 6th year pro with 4 NHL Seasons under his belt and had a stellar year this past season, his deal was something that he had totally earned and that is well deserved. In fact if you look at the statistics, Jeff Schultz may well end up being the guy that want for Mike Green's defensive partner. Actually, last season made me a believer of Schultz, and I had been down on him the prior three seasons. So while I still wish he'd come back from Western Canada with a little more muscle in his upper body, and look to judiciously use the physical presence that a 6'-6", 230# (hopefully 240#)guy could use, when he decides to plaster say some annoying 5'-11", 200# guy, wearing a hockey sweater with a flightless bird logo on it, against the boards behind a net guarded by either Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby, I'm still taking a wait and see attitude about the Capitals defense this coming season. I think that it is better out of the gates this October, even without any external pickups, than it was last October. No, I'm saving my "fretting time" at least that portion of it I use for the Washington Capitals fretting about the second line center. I'll muse about that tommorrow.

For now I just have one question is it time for Rookie Camp to open yet?