Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Can the Capitals Expect from Mike Green?

 Green's production will be a wildcard for the rest of the year.
As soon as Derek Stepan hit Mike Green last month, everyone inside Verizon Center and everyone watching the broadcast knew it was not good.  Green went right down to the ice, his head in his hands, before rolling over and slowly getting to his feet.  After Steve Eminger had scored on the ensuing turnover caused by the hit, Green skated woozily over to the Capitals bench, thew his helmet, and walked straight down the tunnel.  I groaned.  You probably did too.  And for good reason.  The Capitals signature defenseman, their fan favorite and perennial Norris Trophy candidate, had likely suffered his second concussion in just under three weeks.  After the game, our fears were confirmed when Green was ruled out for the Islanders game the next night.  Then, on Monday, George McPhee made the announcement that Green had indeed suffered another concussion, and was expected to miss several weeks "at a minimum."
Concussions are tricky.  Unless you live under a rock, you know that there is a certain superstar in Pittsburgh who suffered what was thought to be a minor concussion in the Winter Classic, but hasn't played since January 5th.  As a result, some people, such as NBC Sports' Bob Duff, think that Crosby will never be the same again because of how poorly the Penguins managed his concussion (he finished the Winter Classic, played in the Penguins' next game, and flew to Montreal before being put on IR).  Before you start freaking out, please realize I do not think that Mike Green is done as an elite NHL defenseman.  The Capitals did NOT make those same mistakes with Green.  He passed every single baseline test he was administered after being hit in the head by that shot.  He played in the Sharks game, and played the full game without any issues.  He accompanied the Caps on their west coast swing, and despite his "inner-ear trauma," there was never any significant fear that Green would be forced to miss a big chunk of time.  George McPhee even said he could have come back earlier than he did, in the Pittsburgh or Buffalo game.
And yet, here we are, one not-so-aggressive check later, with Green on the sidelines for an extensive period of time.  Green isn't supposed to play until the middle or the end of this month. By that point, new acquisition Dennis Wideman will be acclimated to running the Capitals' power play and playing heavy minutes in all situations (which he was in Florida); in essence, being Mike Green's doppelganger.  When Green does return, that means that there is going to be alot of pressure taken off him because Washington won't be relying on a rookie, John Carlson, to be their best guy on the back end, and Green won't have to be a savior.  So, what can we expect Mike Green to bring when does return to the lineup?
Which brings us back to point A - concussions are tricky. In such an unforgiving sport such as hockey, it is almost impossible to predict when one can occur. What makes Mike Green so great is his ability to skate up ice and enter the rush to create scoring opportunities. Even though his numbers are way down this year, he still generates chances, and I would still take him over most defensemen in the league.  This year, he has even buckled his defensive play up and has been the Capitals' most valuable defenseman not because of his scoring capability, but his defense.  When you have a history of concussions, as Green does, you hesitate.  I've had concussions from playing sports, and you don't do what you used to do with your same abandon, because you're afraid for your head.  As a result, I don't think we will see Mike Green back to his old self when he comes back, even if he is supposedly at "100 percent."
Obviously, Bruce Boudreau is not going to play his star defenseman for only 15 minutes a night, but Green is likely not going to be a game changer upon his return, outside of the mental aspect of the team having their defensive leader back. He definitely could be, working a point on that power play with Wideman, but I don't think so.  Not right away, at least.  It is going to take time for Mike to recover fully, time that may extent into next season, if not longer.  Concussions are a very scary thing, besides being hard to predict, and their wrath can last two weeks just as easily as it can last two years (Brian Pothier, cough).  And if Sid the Kid serves as any model, the Capitals are going to be beyond careful with Green.  As they should be.

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