Welcome!

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!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Opening Night Lineup Predictions


In my latest for RtR, I predict what the opening night lineup for the Caps should be, complete with lines and defensive pairings.  You can read the article here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Line Change

It's been almost two years since I started this blog on a cold, rainy fall night in 2011.  Through it, I have met many people who I now consider friends, peers, and colleagues covering the Capitals and the NHL.  Using this blog as a starting point,  I joined RocktheRed.net a little over a year ago, expanding to more in-depth analysis and news about the Caps.

And now, I will be shutting down this blog.  Original content on this website has taken a hit in the last year because of my work with RtR, and there is no sense in keeping two blogs running when I really only post to one on a consistent basis.  I will continue to link my RtR pieces here for the sake of it, though, and hope to bring you the best coverage I can from that site.

To everyone who helped me move on, thank you.  I never imagined when I started this site that it could grow as much as it did.

Oh, and I'm starting another sports blog called The Hawk's Nest.  Check it out, I would be much obliged.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wojtek Wants to Win in Washington? Wow!


Read my latest for RtR, in which I examine new Capital Wojtek Wolski's career and what he could bring to the Washington lineup as George McPhee attempts to replace Alexander Semin.  You can read the article here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Calle Johansson Named Assistant Coach

The Capitals have named Calle Johansson, the franchise's all time leader in games played, as an assistant coach, the team annoucned Wednesday.  Read more about the hire here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mike Green Signs - A Necessary Risk

Check out my latest for RtR - in which I defend the Mike Green signing as completely necessary despite what many may consider an inflated price and term.  You can read the article here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Development Camp News, Forsberg Signs ELC

As the summer progresses, the Washington Capitals have continued their preparation for the 2012-13 NHL season.  Here are links to some of the news out of Kettler over the last week.

2012's 11th overall pick, Flip Forsberg, has signed his entry level deal with the Capitals.  For details, click here.

Day four of Development Camp, including a scrimmage, was headlined by Russian goaltender Sergei Kostenko.  Read about that and other players here.

Day one of Development Camp made it obvious which Capitals players are closest to making an NHL impact.  Read more about that here.

As always, follow me on Twitter here for all your Capitals needs.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Going Camping

Photo from KG's District
The Capitals' annual summer development camp starts Monday morning at Kettler.  In my latest fro RtR, meet some off the main grid prospects who could make the Caps' future that much brighter.  Read the article by clicking here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Free Agent Folly

Read my latest for RtR - in which I examine George McPhee once again being smart enough to not let the market dictate his overpaying for mediocre players.  Read the article here.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Oates Hired; Trade Marcus Johansson?

Check out my latest two articles for RtR:

Adam Oates is the new head coach of the Capitals.  What does it mean?  Read here.

Should the Capitals trade Marcus Johansson?  Read here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Capitals Go American

Read my latest for RtR - a Saturday column on the Caps' American infusion at the 2012 Draft.  Read the article here.

Capitals Run Pittsburgh


Read my latest for RtR, in which I recap what was an excellent first night for the Capitals at the 2012 Draft.  Read the article here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Report Card: Alex Ovechkin

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games.  The final player to be evaluated is winger Alex Ovechkin, who finished his 7th NHL season, all with the Capitals, on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Coming off the worst statistical season of his career on 2010-11, Ovechkin only got worse in 2011-12.  In 78 games played, Ovechkin complied 38 goals (2nd lowest of his career), 65 points (lowest of career), a minus-eight rating (2nd lowest of career) and took 303 shots (lowest of his career).  In addition, unlike past years, Ovechkin struggled to find any sort of consistency in his game, and his scoring totals were boosted by two big hot streaks at the turn of the New Year and in late March, respectively.  His 65 points still led the team, but if Nicklas Backstrom had been healthy the whole season, they would not have, and it took Ovechkin about a month to catch Backstrom in points after Nicky went down.  Even more concerning was Ovechkin's dropoff in corsi rating, especially because in 2010-11 his corsi was still high despite career low offensive output.  This year, the Russian winger's puck possession level plummeted to -4.78 (from +11) - which was 8th on the team among 13 forwards that played 40 or more games.  Ovechkin also did all of this against relatively weak competition - not only relative to that of his fellow forwards (3rd easiest minutes) but compared to last season. Yikes. Grade: C
Role Play: Following his down year two seasons ago, I was in a majority of people who expected Ovechkin to return to form this past year.  Boy, was I wrong.  Ovechkin never got in to a consistent scoring rhythm, did not even come close to a point per game for the first time in his career, and was awful defensively basically the entire season.  Sure, he had those "oh wow" moments - Chicago comes to mind - and he likely always will, but that is not enough.  For a player with the captaincy of a franchise and the highest annual salary cap hit in the National Hockey League (for another nine years), I expect a lot more than 65 points, little defense, and bad positional play.  Ovechkin's leadership was again called into question by some, as well - and fair or not, I don't think a great captain's leadership would be as questioned as often as Ovechkin's is.  In short: much was expected from "The Great Eight" this year; he failed to deliver. Grade: C-

Monday, June 18, 2012

Report Card: Nicklas Backstrom

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Nicklas Backstrom, who finished his fifth NHL season, all with the Capitals, on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: Marred by a concussion that caused him to miss 40 games between early January and late March, Backstrom's 2011-12 campaign was very good nonetheless.  Playing in 42 games, Backstrom was the only Capital to average more than a point per game and led the team in scoring for more than a month after he was hurt on January 3rd - it took Alex Ovechkin that long to catch him.  All told, the Swedish pivot had 14 goals, 30 assists, 24 penalty minutes, and a minus-four rating.  The bad rating was fueled by the fact that he was both unlucky (PDO of 986, fourth worst among Capitals forwards), and the fact that Capitals goaltenders only had a .900 save percentage when he was on the ice (second worst among forwards).  Backstrom was also one of only five Washington forwards to have a positive corsi rating for puck possession at 3.76, though he did it against very soft minutes. Grade: A-
Role Play: Coming off a very poor (by his standards) 2010-11, Backstrom was the Capitals' best player when he was healthy, producing steadily offensively and playing reliable defense as Washington's only above-average center.  His injury was obviously a huge loss for the Capitals, and with him out of the lineup, the team struggled mightily, but it't not in any way his fault that Rene Bourque decided to behead him.  In short, when he was able to lace them up, Nicky was a monster, which is what I expected - he's too good a player to be as average as he was two seasons ago. Grade: A

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Report Card: Karl Alzner

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Karl Alzner, who finished his fourth NHL season, all with the Capitals, on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: Alzner was a rock virtually all season again for the Capitals, playing in all 82 games for the second consecutive season.  In those 82 games, Alzner set career highs in assists (16) and points (17) while also leading the team in plus minus rating (+17) - this was especially remarkable because he spent most of the season playing his even strength minutes with John Carlson, who had the worst plus minus on the team.  Alzner also played the toughest minutes of any Capital at even strength, and the only two defensemen to allow fewer goals against per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time while playing tougher competition were Ryan McDonagh and Nicklas Lidstrom (per JP).  Because Alzner played such incredibly hard minutes, his corsi was the worst on the team among defensemen.  Nevertheless, Alzner was a rock all year with very few exceptions as he continued to establish himself as one of the NHL's top shutdown defensemen. Grade: A
Role Play: Coming off his breakout first full NHL season, Alzner did not regress, unlike his partner John Carlson, in fact getting better in most respects.  I wrote in this space in September that the Capitals were going to lean in Alzner in all situations, and they did, particularly with a man down, as he led all DC players in shorthanded ice time and averaged over 20 minutes a night.  It is worth noting, however, that all of Alzner's shorthanded ice time came on the 21st ranked penalty kill in the league, which perhaps indicates too much ice for Karl in that regard.  Nevertheless, Alzner had established himself as a minutes-eating, responsible, steady defensive defenseman, and he was that this year, to a T.  He did exactly what he was supposed to and he did it well. Grade: A

Friday, June 15, 2012

Report Card: John Carlson

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman John Carlson, who finished his third NHL season, all with the Capitals, on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: After a superb first full season in the National Hockey League, Carlson fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump this season.  Expected to take a step forward by all, the young American defenseman struggled out of the gate and never really seemed to find his groove, going long stretches without points despite offensive opportunities being made available to him because of Mike Green's long term injury.  Carlson played in 82 games for the second consecutive season, scoring nine goals, 32 points, a -15 rating (tied for worst on the team), and 22 penalty minutes.  In addition, his corsi rating was the second worst among all Capitals defensemen at -5.08.  It is imperative to note, however, that Carlson played the second-toughest minutes among all Washington rearguards at even strength. Grade: B-
Role Play: As noted above, big things were expected from Carlson this season after an excellent first go around in the NHL.  Carlson was penciled in by many for around 40 points, excellent defense, and a two way game that could be rivaled by only Mike Green on the Capitals, if anyone at all.  But Carlson took a step backwards, not only in terms of points, but also in terms of defensive coverage, and his points, when they came, came in spurts and were followed by long bare patches.  He played against the other team's top line almost every night, but he looked lost in his own zone more often than not and seemed to fall apart whenever he was separated from Karl Alzner.  He ate minutes, which is certainly admirable, and his ability to stay healthy should not be understated.  But I wanted more from a player with such sky high potential.  Still, what happened was not totally unexpected, as disappointing as it was for most of the season. Grade: C+

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Report Card: Alexander Semin

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is winger Alexander Semin, who finished his seventh NHL season, all with the Capitals, on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: It was a tale of two seasons for Semin, who was downright terrible by his standards until late December, posting only 14 points through December with a plus-minus rating well in the red and over 30 penalty minutes.  After a two-goal performance against the Rangers on December 28, however, Semin was rather steady and inconsistent, save a five-game pointless stretch between February 28th and March 8.  Overall, Semin played in 77 games, tying his career high, posting 21 goals, 54 points, a plus-nine rating, and 56 penalty minutes.  He was also one of only five Capitals forwards to have a positive corsi rating, at 5.21; he did this, however, against the fifth-easiest competition among those forwards. Grade: B
Role Play: One-year deal or not, a player making $6.7 million (more than Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler, among others) is expected to score more than 21 goals and 54 points in 77 games.  Granted, Semin played very well defensively even when he wasn't putting up points for the most part, but those opening two months were simply ghastly from a player who is as good as Semin is.  Maybe he was hurt, maybe he was distracted, I don't know.  What I do know is that despite that bad first third, Semin helped the Capitals make the playoffs with a two way game that was not appreciated for how good it really was.  But man, that salary and that first two months. Grade: B

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Report Card: Brooks Laich

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Brooks Laich, who finished his ninth NHL season, and ninth with the Capitals, on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: In the first season of a new six-year contract, Laich, like most of the Capitals, experienced a drop off in point production, scoring seven less points this year than last.  He also managed to score his points rather consistently, though he did go through some rather long stretches with little point production in the winter months.  Overall, he had 16 goals, 25 assists, a minus-eight rating, and 24 penalty minutes while playing in all 82 games for the second consecutive season and playing all positions up front.  His puck possession numbers, however, were terrible; he checked in with a -7.49 corsi, the third worst among Caps forwards.  It should be noted, however, that he also faced the toughest competition among those forwards. Grade: B
Role Play: With a $4.5 million cap hit, Brooks Laich is overpaid.  But he is also an incredibly versatile player, and to me, he filled his role admirably for what was expected of him at the beginning of the season.  Playing third line center, second line wing, second line center, and first line center, Laich played tough shutdown minutes at even strength and was also one of the Caps' prime penalty killers.  His point production was modest, but again, similar to his career averages.  And despite his occasional poorly-timed remarks to the media, Laich continued to be a leader on and off the ice and show why he was important for the Caps to keep around...despite his big contract. Grade: B+

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Day

Read my latest column for RtR, where I close the book on the 2011-12 NHL season by talking about the Kings, what they tell us, and waiting. You can read the article here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Report Card: Tomas Vokoun

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who finished his first season with the Capitals but his 14th NHL season overall on this past campaign.

Season Summary: After signing a one year, $1.5 million contract to head to Washington on July 2nd, Vokoun's season got off to a rocky start when Michal Neuvirth was inexplicably chosen over him to start the season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.  Once Vokoun got in the net, he was great, winning his first six starts with Vezina-caliber numbers and helping fuel the Caps' hot start.  His play declined in November and parts of December, but by Christmas, he was keeping the Caps afloat, winning all but two of his starts between December 28th and January 13th.  Vokoun began to struggle with injuries as the season wore on, and only played in four games after February 22nd.  Overall, the veteran had a 25-17-2 record, a 2.51 GAA, .917 save percentage, and four shutouts. Grade: B+
Role Play: Vokoun signed in Washington with the goal of making a long playoff run, he said such when he signed. However, his signing also gave the Capitals the first bona-fide star goaltender they had had since Olie Kolzig's prime.  It had been a long time since the Caps had a true number one guy, and when Vokoun was healthy, he played like that guy - stealing games for the Caps in their anti puck possession system.  He was significantly better than Michal Neuvirth this season, contrary to popular belief, and when he was healthy, he deserved to get the call in goal; this is not a debate.  Vokoun was the reason that the Capitals were able to tread water throughout the winter months, especially through tough patches in the schedule.  Unfortunately, he got hurt before he could prove his worth in the playoffs, but make no mistake: without him, there are no playoffs. Grade: A

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Say No to the Same

Read my latest for RtR, in which I examine why Dean Evason, a current Capitals assistant, would be a poor choice as their next had coach.  You can read the article here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Offseason Evaluation: Dennis Wideman

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Dennis Wideman, who finished his second season with the Capitals, but 7th NHL season overall, on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Wideman got off to a blazing start, recording seven points in his first seven games and 12 in his first 14.  This was a significant surprise to some, who thought that Mike Green would carry the offensive load along rearguards and his success at the beginning was not expected.  After his hot start, however, Wideman was decidedly mediocre and at times poor down the stretch in terms of point production; though he did have some hot stretches, he also had some very long dry spells.  Overall, he played in 82 games, recording 11 goals, 35 assists, a minus-eight rating, and 46 penalty minutes.  At even strength, he was the Caps' fourth-best puck possessor among defensemen with a -1.09 corsi rating; he accomplished this against the third-hardest competition among defensemen.  Grade: B+
Role Play: Because it was expected that Mike Green would be healthy most of the year, not much was expected out of Wideman by many this year.  But when he was given the chances, Wideman was what Wideman has always been: an offensive defenseman with a big shot, puck moving ability, and challenges in his own zone.  His 46 points and negative rating indicated that, and 46 points from someone who started the year on your third defensive pairing is nothing to sneeze at.  Sure, Wideman's salary says that maybe he should be better in his own zone.  But in terms of points from defensemen, Wideman was the Caps' best and most consistent player.  It wasn't pretty, but the numbers speak for themselves for Washington's only all-star (GULP). Grade: B+

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Report Card: Marcus Johansson

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Marcus Johansson, who finished his second NHL season and second with the Capitals on this past campaign.

Season Summary: In his second professional season, Johansson was able to avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump," increasing his point total by 21.  His year got off to a sour start - a bad camp led to him being scratched on opening night - but once he got in the lineup, he produced at a steady offensive pace.  All told, the Swedish pivot played in 80 games, totaling 14 goals, 32 assists, a minus-five rating, and eight penalty minutes.  Despite these solid offensive totals, however, Johansson was terrible at possessing the puck, earning the second-worst even strength corsi rating among forwards at -8.09 while facing middle of the pack competition. Grade: B-
Role Play: After another offseason in which George McPhee failed to address the hole at second line center, Johansson did the best that he could as a 21 year-old in his second pro season, but wasn't what the Caps needed out of that slot.  However, I don't think it's fair to slam JoJo for his inability to do so - because the expectation that he would be able to was unrealistic from the beginning.  Johansson also moved around to wing under Dale Hunter, both playing on the side and in the middle, and looked better as a winger at times, filling that role rather well.  His point totals were not bad for his salary, either.  For a player of his size and experience, I think 48 points is more than acceptable - it's not his fault that he's been forced into incredibly tough situations.  It seems that all people will remember about Johansson is things he was not able to do, but that's not fair.  He was solid for a 21 year old, and he will get better. Grade: B

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Report Card: Jason Chimera

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is winger Jason Chimera, who finished his 11th NHL season and third as a member of the Capitals on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: Chimera started the year very well, posting four goals in his first five games to help the Caps get out to their 7-0 start.  His production slowed down a bit, obviously, but he was rather consistent throughout the entire season and averaged 13 points for every two months.  All told, in 82 games, the 32 (and then 33) year old winger had 20 goals, a career high, and 19 assists to go along with a plus-four rating and 78 penalty minutes.  Chimera was also one of the Caps' best puck possessors, one of only five forwards with a positive corsi rating of 0.83.  Chimera did this against the third-toughest competition of any Capitals forward. Grade: A-
Role Play: Chimera entered the season with low expectations as a third line winger, and he took everyone by surprise by posting the best season of his career my almost any measure.  In a season where the Caps always struggled to get their big name players to come through, it was Chimera who often saved Washington, seemingly scoring game-tying or winning goals at will.  His size, speed, and tenacity on the forecheck were also big parts of the Caps' success, there was no aspect of the game that Chimera continuously struggled with.  He agitated, scored, and played clean with the exception of his ill-advised hit on Adam McQuaid in Boston (though McQuaid did turn in to the hit).  Surpassing expectations the way Chimmer did this year was a big part of DC getting as far as they did. Grade: A

Monday, June 4, 2012

Report Card: Braden Holtby

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is goaltender Braden Holtby, who finished his third professional season in the Capitals' organization on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Holtby struggled down in Hershey bigtime at the beginning of this season, putting up poor numbers through the first half of the year.  When he was called up to DC in February, he was hammered to the tune of five goals on 35 shots against San Jose, but just like last year, his second recall was much more successful.  Pressed in to action because of injuries and poor performances, Holtby collected seven of a possible ten points in the games he started in March and April and helped get the Capitals to the playoffs.  Overall, he finished with a 4-2-1 record, 2.50 goals against average, .922 save percentage, and one shutout in seven games (six starts). Grade: B+
Role Play: In the regular season, Holtby did just about everything you could ask from a rookie.  With the exception of two games, he was more than solid in regular season action and helped Washington pick up critical points in big games down the stretch.  I don't know what else you could want from a guy who entered the season third on the organizational goaltending depth chart.  Though he didn't play many games, his impact was significant when his team needed him - something Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun cannot say. Grade: A

Capitals Trade Tomas Vokoun to Pittsburgh

As confirmed by a team release, the Washington Capitals have traded goaltender Tomas Vokoun to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 7th round pick in the 2012 NHL draft.  Vokoun signed a two year, $4 million contract with the Penguins soon after the trade was announced, as the Penguins added one of the best goalies in the NHL for nothing, much like the Capitals did last season. This is especially nice for Pittsburgh after the atrocious playoff performance of Marc-Andre Fleury.
There are very few positives to draw out of this deal.  Sure, the Capitals got something for a player they were going to lose in free agency anyway, but they still gave him up to their archrival, a team that needed goaltending help and got it in a big way.  Vokoun is not what he used to be, but he still had a .917 save percentage last year and if it was not for him, the Capitals would have been dead and buried by the end of February.  Putting Vokoun behind Marc-Andre Fleury is scary and it makes the Penguins a lot better.  A 7th round pick is something, which is better than nothing, and it certainly seems as though Vokoun was going to sign in Pittsburgh anyway.  However, the fact that the Penguins got a lot better today at the expense of the Capitals is not good, and a 7th round pick does not make it significantly better.


As always, follow me on Twitter here for news and updates.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Report Card: Troy Brouwer

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is winger Troy Brouwer, who finished his sixth NHL season, but his first in Washington, on this past year's campaign.

Season Summary: Acquired at the draft for a first-round pick, Brouwer was one of six Capitals players to suit up for all 82 regular season games.  In those 82 games, Brouwer had 18 goals, 15 assists, a team-worst minus-15 rating, and 61 penalty minutes.  Unfortunately, almost all of Brouwer's point production came in the first part of the season, as he only recorded two goals and six points after January 31st.  Most of this could be blamed on Dale Hunter's offense and puck-possession killing system, however, as Brouwer was converted from a second to a third line role as a result of the new all-defense system and his numbers suffered accordingly.  He was ninth among forwards with a corsi rating of -3.66. Important to note, however, is that he faced the second-toughest even strength competition of any Capitals forward. Grade: B-
Role Play: Brouwer did well no matter where he was asked to play.  As an offensive, top-two line player, he produced steady offensive numbers and was a key player on the forecheck.  As a grinder, Brouwer was also good, playing tough minutes, blocking shots, and being responsible in all three zones.  He's always been hailed as more of an offensive player despite his unspectacular numbers no matter where he has played, but this year, Brouwer proved he could do both.  He was a tad overpaid based on his cap hit, but nothing to get tangled up about.  I was impressed with him in a year in which he was asked to play two exactly opposite roles and did them both well. Grade: B+

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kuznetsov's Reasoning Making Less Sense Than Ever


NEW YORK, NY – Over the last three months, the saga of Washington Capitals megaprospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has gripped the DC fanbase.  With Kuznetsov set to be a free agent at the end of the 2011-12 Kontinental Hockey League season, the hope among many was that the winger would take his talents across the Pacific Ocean to begin his NHL career with the Capitals.  With his dazzling skill set, glowing scouting reports, and dominance of international tournaments, the anticipation was high, and for good reason.

However, in early May, Kuznetsov announced that he planned to stay in Russia playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk for the next two seasons. The decision is not yet 100% official because Kuznetsov has not signed his new deal with Traktor yet, but every indication is that he has made up his mind, and is not coming, at least not next season.  In mid May, Capitals General Manager George McPhee confirmed as such, saying that it “doesn’t look like” the 20 year-old will be under contract in DC next fall.

The reasons given for Kuznetsov’s disappointing decision varied.  The player himself said he was “not ready” to come over and play in the best league in the world, which seems fishy at best considering the way he has torn up the KHL and the World Junior Championships the last two winters.  Most NHL prognosticators place his potential rookie scoring output at around 60 points.

Others say that Kutzetsov wants to stay in Russia because the money that he will be able to earn while playing for Traktor will enable him to do what he wants to do: start a family, having been married last summer.  This, also, seems to have its fishiness. 

There is no doubt that Kuznetsov would be able to make a large sum of money in the KHL, upwards of $5 million a season, and most of it would be tax free.  In the NHL, his maximum entry-level deal would have a value of around $9 million under the current collective bargaining agreement.  That’s not as much as the KHL, but it’s certainly more than enough money to start a family with.


As always, follow me on Twitter here for news and updates from the Stanley Cup Final.

Report Card: Mike Green

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Mike Green, who finished his seventh season in the Capitals organization on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Ouch.  After a red-hot start that saw him post six points in his first seven games, Green got hurt in a game against Detroit on October 22 and would play just three times between that game and February 18th because of a sports hernia that the Capitals finally decided to use surgery to fix.  When he re-entered the lineup, he was a shadow of his former self, posting two points, a goal and an assist, in the final 22 games of the season.  All told, Green played in 32 games, a career low for a full season, putting up three goals, four assists, a plus-five rating, and 12 penalty minutes.  Despite all of this, however, he was the Caps' best puck possessor on the back end by a full four shots per 60 minutes at 4.45; this was also the fourth-best number on the entire roster.  He did this against the fifth-easiest competition among defensemen, but he was also a bit lucky with a PDO of 1024. Grade: C
Role Play: Green's offensive output has now fallen drastically two seasons in a row following back-to-back nominations for the Norris Trophy in 2008-09 and 2009-10.  Make no mistake, injuries have played a big role in that, but for what Green is being paid, and what the team relies on him to do, he has got to be better with tangible results, period.  It didn't help him that he saw little power play time under Dale Hunter (because why wouldn't you want one of the most prolific power play quarterbacks in the NHL over the last four seasons to run your man advantage), but that is not an excuse for two points in 22 games.  Green's defensive game continued to improve, but he's not a defensive defenseman.  He's an offensive one who is expanding his defensive capabilities, and he didn't do the first part of that this year.  He was not up to par this year, coming up short of expectations. Grade: C-

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Report Card: Matt Hendricks

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is forward Matt Hendricks, who finished his third season as a member of the Washington organization, but his ninth professional season overall, on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Hendricks played in 78 games this year, compiling four goals, five assists, a minus-six rating, and 95 penalty minutes.  As can be expected for a defensive forward like him, he went through long scoring droughts, but in general, Hendricks did what he always does: skate hard, hit people hard, be responsible, drop the gloves every once in a while, and chip in with the occasional goal.  Also of note are his ridiculous shootout moves, which helped the Capitals make the playoffs because of winning games in the skills competition.  His puck possession was rather poor at -5.72, but that is to be expected to me when you are a forechecker and shot blocker like Hendricks.  He did all of this while facing the tenth-hardest competition among Capitals forwards. Grade: B-
Role Play: While the roles of the Caps' "young guns" decreased under Dale Hunter, it was the "wagons" like Hendricks who were thrust in to the spotlight as players to lock down games, block shots, and play a hard 18 minutes a night to grind out wins.  Hendricks's role expanded into the latter, and he met the challenge admirably, proving that he can be a viable bottom six forward in the NHL that is more than just a pair of fists; similar to Shawn Thornton.  One thing that was predictable but still disappointing was his decrease in points from 25 to 9, but with the defensive improvement he encountered, it's not fair to pick too many nits. Grade: B

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Report Card: Dmitry Orlov

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who finished his second season in the Washington organization on this past campaign.

Season Summary: After beginning the year in Hershey, Orlov was recalled in late November to try and jump-start a stagnant Washington defensive corps.  He responded well, recording four points in his first nine games and making opposing players respect his huge shot.  Orlov was rather consistent with his offensive production, but hit a wall in the middle of the season before finishing very strong with 7 points in his final 14 games.  He was benched in mid-March for a defensive gaffe in Chicago, but returned in late March and finished the year in skates.  All told, the young Russian played in 60 games with 3 goals, 16 assists, a plus-one rating, and 18 penalty minutes.  His corsi rating of -0.39 was the third-best among all Washington defensemen, but he did it against the weakest competition on the Capitals' roster and some of the weakest competition across the entire NHL for defensemen who suited up in more than 40 games. Grade: B
Role Play: As I mentioned above, Orlov was brought to Washington to be an offensive sparkplug, and he did that just fine, showing why he has been one of the Caps' most highly-touted prospects since he was drafted.  He has his low points, like being torched by Viktor Stalberg in Chicago and losing coverage occasionally, but that's to be expected from someone who, as of this writing, cannot drink the United States (legally, at least).  No one expected Orlov to be a stud this year, and 19 points, a plus rating, and limited mistakes are not something to gripe about for a prospect in his first NHL season. Grade: B+

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Report Card: Michal Neuvirth

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who finished his fourth season in the Washington organization on this past campaign.

Season Summary: Ouch.  After starting opening night against Carolina and picking up a win, Neuvirth got hurt soon after taking warmups and did not play again until late October, at which point he was decidedly poor.  He seemingly turned a corner around Christmas when he was given five straight starts, but in the Caps' first game after the holidays in Buffalo he had the worst start of his career, allowing three goals on six shots in just over 11 minutes.  Down the stretch, Neuvirth improved slightly, but was also very bad for stretches, such as a string in mid-March where he gave up four or more goals in five of seven appearances.  Despite all of this, however, he was in line to start in the playoffs because of an injury to Tomas Vokoun before he himself fell victim to a hip flexor strain on April 5th against the Panthers.  Overall, he was 13-13-5 with a 2.83 GAA, .903 save percentage, and three shutouts in 38 games 30 of which were starts.  Grade: C-
Role Play: As a backup goalie, particularly one as young and good as Neuvirth, your job is to be able to help your team win and not let in soft goals regularly, neither of which Neuvirth was able to do on a regular basis.  There was no consistency, and quite frankly, the only reason his numbers were not worse was because he shut out two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, Toronto and Montreal.  He wasn't able to carry the load at times, which I expected from him.  This was simply Neuvirth never finding his groove and falling victim to a sophomore slump.  The result: a poor season.  This wasn't the coaching staff's fault, either, for playing a better goalie than him (Vokoun) when he was healthy. They didn't "need to give him a chance."  This is the NHL, where as a 24 year old, you earn your playing time.  Mikey didn't.  Grade: C-

Monday, May 28, 2012

Report Card: Jay Beagle

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Jay Beagle, who finished his fifth season in the Washington organization on this past campaign.

Season Summary: The season started and ended on sour notes for Beagle, who sustained a serious concussion in his second game of the year against the Penguins and then broke his foot near the end of DC's postseason run.  Beagle played in 41 regular season games total, recording four goals, an assist, a plus-five rating, and 23 penalty minutes.  However, Beagle made a real name for himself on the defensive side of the puck, establishing himself as a regular under Dale Hunter in mid-February and playing every night from there on in.  Beagle won 57.7% of all the draws he took, remarkable for a player who was playing wing before this season, while being relied upon to play big minutes on the penalty kill and block shots.  Despite these positives, however, Beagle was the fourth-worst puck possessor among Caps forwards with a -6.09 corsi rating, and he put that figure up facing middle of the pack competition - literally.  Beagle's QoC was 8th out of 15 forwards that played in 20 or more games. Grade: B-
Role Play: Beagle entered this year with little to no expectations to become a key player or a regular, but he banged the door down under Dale Hunter and stole the show late in the season as one of Hunter's go to guys in the dying minutes of games as a player who proved he could shut games down.  As I noted above, he won faceoffs at a very high clip and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was one of the most important players in Hunter's system because he was relied upon.  He responded to those minutes not with scoring, but with defense, and when healthy, really impressed me by working his butt off and never quitting on a play. Grade: A-

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Report Card: Mike Knuble

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is right winger Mike Knuble, who finished his third season with the Capitals and his 16th NHL season overall on this past campaign.

Season Summary: To say it was a rough year for Knuble would be an understatement.  The aging power forward saw his streak of 20-goal seasons end at nine, for one, and he scored six goals, his fewest since 1999-2000.  For another, his ice time plummeted, and he played 72 games, his fewest without an injury in more than five years.  Knuble saw himself go from top-line right winger under Bruce Boudreau, to the fourth line under Boudreau, to the fourth line under to Dale Hunter, to the dungeons under Hunter when he was benched late in the season.  In addition to those six goals, Knuble had 12 assists, a -15 rating (tied for worst on the team), and 32 penalty minutes.  His puck possession metrics were not very good, either, checking in with a -11.48 5v5 corsi rating (the worst on the team), though this did happen against the fourth-toughest competition a Capitals forward saw.  It's also important to note that he had the second-worst PDO on the team at 982, so that could have been a reason for his bad scoring output. Grade: C-
Role Play: This is tough, because Knuble's role off the ice as an alternate captain and a Stanley Cup champion is almost as important to what he brings on the ice.  Knuble's salary was pretty outlandish for what he accomplished on the ice, but after the fan base, and I think Knuble to an extent, accepted his checking line role, I actually think old Mike was pretty good and was a good sport about the whole thing.  He was strong on his skates, forechecked well, and crashed the net, hitting the post it seemed a countless number of times.  But he didn't complain and came in to work every day to play his tail off.  Still, his preseason expectations were at least 15 goals, and he didn't get that done or even come close. Grade: C+

Friday, May 25, 2012

Report Card: Joel Ward

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is right winger Joel Ward, who finished the first year of his career with the Capitals, but his fifth NHL season overall this past campaign.

Season Summary: Ward got off to a hot start for a third line winger, posting four goals and seven points in his first 12 games as a Capital.  After that, though, he produced at a far lesser clip offensively, and was bumped between the third and fourth lines regularly before being sent to the press box in late March, where he remained until the final game of the regular season.  Overall, he played in 73 games, recording six goals, 12 assists, a plus-12 rating, and 20 penalty minutes.  Ward was right in the middle of the pack in terms of even strength corsi rating at -2.20 and the competition he faced.  He was also the 2nd luckiest forward on the team, with a PDO of 1027. Grade: C+
Role Play: An overly aggressive signing from the beginning, Ward, like Hamrlik, is a victim of the contract that George McPhee handed him last summer.  He was brought in to be a "playoff performer," with seemingly little regard to his decidedly average career regular season statistics.  However, Ward did play very good defense when he was on the ice, at one point moving through a 19 game stretch towards the end of the season where he was not on the ice for a single goal against of any kind.  You have to give him credit for playing that kind of lockdown D, but at the same time, you expect more from a player making the kind of money that Wardo does. Grade: C-

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Conversation with Jacob Trouba

Check out my latest for Rock the Red, in which I interview top 2012 NHL draft prospect Jacob Trouba about a multitude of topics.  You can read the article here.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Report Card: Roman Hamrlik

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who finished his first NHL season with the Capitals, but his 21st NHL campaign overall, this past year.

Season Summary: Hamrlik got off to a simply wretched start in Capital red, recording one point, a goal, and a -7 rating in his first two months in Washington.  Hamrlik continued to struggle even after that time frame, and was pulled from the lineup in late February, prompting him to ask for a trade at the deadline that obviously did not come to pass.  He returned to the lineup in mid March and played pretty much all night the rest of the way.  Overall, the veteran Czech played in 68 games, recording two goals, 11 assists, a plus-11 rating, and 34 penalty minutes, so after after such a terrible start, he picked it up a lot down the stretch.  He also was second on the team with 149 blocked shots, only four behind team leader John Carlson in 14 fewer games.  He was second on the team among defensemen in even strength corsi rating at 0.26, and he did it against the second-easiest competition among those rearguards. Grade: B-
Role Play: The following defensemen not on entry-level contracts made similar to Roman Hamrlik this season: Kris Letang, Matt Carle, Brent Burns, and Ryan Suter.  Quick, which one is the outlier?  Simply put, though Hamrlik was not a total disaster, particularly after his start, for a player making as much as he is, more is expected.  George McPhee said that he hoped Hamrlik would help the power play, but he didn't play with the man advantage all season.  He blocked shots well and put up a handful of points, but you can get that for a lot less than a $3.5 million cap hit.  Nevertheless, it isn't totally fair to judge Hamrlik based only on his contract, because he was solid if completely unspectacular for a portion of the year. Grade: C

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Report Card: Mathieu Perreault

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Mathieu Perreault, who finished his fifth season in the organization on this campaign.
Season Summary: Beginning with a surprise inclusion to the opening night lineup, Perreault won a spot on the team out of training camp but endured an up and down season.  Perreault played for long stretches in October, November, December, and January, but was also sat down for long periods during that time frame.  He finally stuck in the lineup in February, playing almost every game down the stretch from the first of that month onwards.  Overall, the young Quebecois played in 64 games, compiling 16 goals, 14 assists, a plus-nine rating, and 24 penalty minutes.  He also led the team in even strength corsi rating at 11.54, though he did do it against the second-easiest competition on the team and while getting a bit lucky. Grade: B-
Role Play: As noted earlier, Perreault basically made this team as the thirteenth forward because of his inbetween size and skill; he's not big enough to be a bottom six player but hadn't displayed statistics of a top six player, either. Regardless, he was on the team to fill in for struggling or injured players, and he did so admirably.  No performance was more notable than his hat trick against the Bruins in late January after a suspension to Alex Ovechkin.  I wasn't expecting much from Matty this year because of what I, and many, thought was a size issue.  He proved me wrong, and proved to be a valuable member of this team with some timely, if inconsistent, scoring. Grade: B+
Playoffs: After playing the first four games of the Boston series, Perreault was sat down to accomodate for Mike Knuble's return to the lineup in game five.  In those four games, I thought he played well; though he was held pointless with a -1, he was getting chances and not making poor decisions.  Like Halpern, I was upset to see Keith Aucoin keep getting ice at Perreault's expense.  One thing to note, however, is that his previously team-high corsi rating plummeted to -10.30 in the playoffs -- but to be fair, that was right in the middle of the pack among Capitals forwards in a postseason devoid of puck possession. Grade: C

Future Potential: A restricted free agent, the 24 year-old Perreault is eligible for arbitration this summer because he received a one-year deal this past summer. It seems a lock that George McPhee will extend a qualifying offer to Perreault considering his play this year, which would mean that Washington would retain his rights.  However, according to Renaud Lavoie of RDS, the Canadiens will be interested in Perreault's services this offseason, which would require a trade. Lavoie also noted that many teams called McPhee about Perreault in season, but each time McPhee turned those teams down.  With the Caps in desperate need of a second prime center, Perreault could be part of a package, but unless that scenario comes to pass I think he will be in DC next year and continue to improve; he seems to have turned a corner this season that I look forward on watching him improve upon. Grade: B+


The next report card will feature defenseman Roman Hamrlik.


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Monday, May 21, 2012

Report Card: Jeff Halpern

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is center Jeff Halpern, who played his first season in seven years but his fifth overall with the Capitals this campaign.

Season Summary: Halpern played in 69 games this year for the Capitals, tallying four goals, 12 assists, a -1 rating, and 24 penalty minutes.  His corsi rating was -0.65, the fifth best on the team among forwards at even strength, and he did it against the fourth toughest competition among Washington attackers.  Most importantly for Halpern, however, he won faceoffs at a 58.4% clip, which led the team by a significant margin and was 7th in the NHL among players that took 300 or more draws.  He played pretty much every night until the late stages of the year, at which he point was clearly frustrated with his performance and the way he was being deployed.  69 games isn't shabby, but for a guy like Halpern, he expected more, and he said so in his end of year media availability. Grade: B-
Role Play: Halpern was brought on to this team to do exactly what he did - provide a stable, reliable defensive player in the bottom six that can win faceoffs, kill penalties, and provide a little bit of offensive pop.  Halpern did all of those things very well, and, as far as we know, was steady in the locker room the way you would expect a former captain to be steady in the locker room.  When McPhee signed him, he knew exactly what he was getting, and Halpern was just that.  He had a right to be frustrated with his playing time down the stretch, without a doubt. Grade: B+
Read the rest of this article here.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Report Card: Jeff Schultz

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is defenseman Jeff Schultz, who finished his seventh and most turbulent year with the organization this past season.

Season Summary: As noted above, Schultz endured the most tumultuous season of his NHL career during this campaign.  Sarge started out the season where he belonged, in the lineup, and performed well for the most part.  After Dale Hunter was hired as coach, Schultz played less and less in December before being benched in favor of John Erskine for the entire month of January despite being substantially better than him.  After February 1st, however, Schultz played almost every night until being sat down in late March; he played in 52 games total, his lowest by far in a full NHL season.  He posted a goal, five assists, and a -2 rating to go along with 12 penalty minutes; he also had a -4.94 corsi rating at even strength, the fourth-worst among the eight defensemen that played in more than 20 games.  He did all of this, however, while facing the fourth-hardest even strength competition among those eight defensemen. Grade: C
Role Play: Jeff Schultz came into this season as the sixth defenseman, and he played that role.  What you want from the sixth best defenseman on your roster is someone who doesn't mess up every time he is on the ice, is defensively responsible, and can block shots.  Contrary to popular belief, Schultz can do all of those things, as evidenced by his statistics and the fact that he blocked 58 shots. No one expects Schultz to be the best defenseman on the ice, but as a complementary player, he did well.  Good thing, too, because that's what Schultz is. Grade: B
Read the rest of this article here.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Report Card: Cody Eakin

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is forward Cody Eakin, who finished his first professional season this year with the Capitals and their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Season Summary: As many expected he would in his first season out of major junior in the Western Hockey League, Eakin split his time between Washington and Hershey throughout the season.  Eakin was called up a month into the season and played pretty much every night for a month before his lineup time dwindled in late December.  It picked up again in mid January, but Eakin only played in one game after February 1st, and it was as an injury replacement. Overall, the young center played in 30 games, recording four goals, eight points, a plus-two rating, four penalty minutes, and 31 shots on goal.  Eakin's corsi rating was -1.12, not good, but not terrible either, compared to some of the other numbers on this team this season. Grade: C
Role Play: Eakin was called up to be a spark, and during his first month in the Washington lineup, he was just that, recording two goals and five points in November.  But after that, he really cooled off, being relied more upon a checking role that he struggled in.  Overall, however, I would say that for a third round pick playing his first professional season, Eakin was pretty darned good considering all of the circumstances.  I didn't expect him to do much at all, and though I feel as though I was in the minority here, he didn't disappoint me. Grade: B
Read the rest of this article here.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Report Card: John Erskine

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. Next up is rough and tumble defenseman John Erskine, who completed his sixth, and most frustrating, season in the Capitals organization this year.

Season Summary: During this campaign, Erskine suffered through by far the most turbulent season in a Capitals uniform.  After being injured at the start of the year, he was in and out of the lineup for a prolonged period before finally being yanked for basically the remainder of the regular season in early February. Overall, Erskine posted zero goals, two assists, a plus-three rating, and 51 penalty minutes in 28 games, the second fewest he has ever played at the NHL level.  Erskine also had the sixth-best even strength corsi rating among Capitals defensemen (-5.07) who played more than 20 games, and he did it against the second-easiest competition on the team. Grade: C-
Role Play: John Erskine is a guy who is on your team to hit people and clear out the front of the net.  He's not offensively gifted, he's not a shot blocker.  He's a low-end sixth defenseman/healthy scratch.  That's what he was this year.  When Erskine was in the lineup, he was physical, he was mean, and he was tough.  He cleared people out in front of the net and he hit people.  But that's what is expected of him, and it's not particularly valuable to this team, or any team, really. Nevertheless, he did what many people pegged him for heading in to this season, which was, quite frankly, not much. Grade: C+
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Report Card: Keith Aucoin

As the 2011-12 season has come to a close, the time has come to evaluate what it meant for the Capitals, both as a team and as individuals.  As such, as the summer progresses, I will be writing a report card, or individual evaluation, for each player who played in 9 (~10%) of the team's games, or 4 playoff games. First up is career minor leaguer Keith Aucoin, who worked hard to earn a spot on the roster and carve out his niche under Dale Hunter.

Season Summary: Aucoin played in 27 games this year, recording three goals, eight assists, and a plus-four rating after being recalled from Hershey of the AHL for good in early February. He didn't record a single penalty minute, and took 21 shots on net while playing a mainly fourth line role.  Also of note is that he compiled an even strength corsi rating of 10.48, the second highest among all Washington forwards that played more than 25 games.  This year was a great experience for Aucoin, as he played the second most games he ever had at the NHL level, and also welcomed a child in to the world; I think that's what's most important, the experience.  Grade: C+
Role Play: Aucoin was called up by Dale Hunter in early February because of the torrid pace he was on for AHL Hershey; he had a ridiculous 70 points in 43 games when he got the call to the show.  Hunter and McPhee called him up to provide an offensive spark, I presume, for the fourth line, as that's where he played most of his minutes.  The 11 points he produced were probably more than anyone expected, but at the same time, Aucoin was never a consistent presence and often made the lineup at the expense of Mike Knuble or Mathieu Perreault for some reason.  Grade: B-
Read the rest of this article here.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's In a Coach?



Following the Capitals’ loss in game seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals last Saturday, the thoughts of many people immediately turned to Washington head coach Dale Hunter.  Would he be back?  Would he choose to come back, or would General Manager George McPhee make the decision for him?
Monday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, we all found out.  McPhee announced at his end-of-season media availability that Hunter would, in fact, not be back as the head coach of the Capitals, deciding instead to return home to London, Ontario.  And that was that.
With Hunter’s departure, however, the Capitals don’t have a coach.  They need one, the sooner the better.  To set the stage for the appointment of the next coach, I’ve prepared a list of job requirements, or qualities, that I’d like to see in the next Washington bench boss.

The ability to fix Alex Ovechkin: As we all know, Capitals winger and captain Alex Ovechkin is a shell of his former self.  Ovechkin’s point output plummeted to 65 this year, down from 85 the previous season and 109 the season before that.  His corsi rating has also taken a nosedive, and it was the 7th best out of the 11 forwards who played 50 or more games for the Capitals this year – against the second easiest competition on the team.  Goal scoring, since the lockout, has gone down, as have power play opportunities.  But the Capitals, and probably their success, are tied to Ovechkin because of his contract and his status as one of the faces of the NHL.  In all likelihood, he isn’t going anywhere, and no NHL team, particularly one that is as heavily invested in one as the Caps are in Ovechkin, can win when it’s star player isn’t doing what he’s supposed to.  This is a big problem, and “team play” or not, getting Ovechkin on track is an important, and difficult, task.

As always, follow me on Twitter here for news and updates.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Moving On


Monday was a rainy day in Arlington, Virginia.

As light rain pattered across the giant glass window that serves as the entrance to Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Vice President and General Manager George McPhee strode around the corner and towards the throng of reporters waiting for him.

“Good morning,” McPhee said.  “Thank you for coming.”

“I imagine the first question will be about Dale Hunter.  This morning, Dale and I met at about 10 o’clock, and he let me know that he will not be able to return as the coach.  He’s going to head back to London.  I guess we’re all fathers and sons and husbands first before anything else, and if we have our priorities right in this life, then family comes first.  And Dale, he needs to go home.”

And just like that, it was over.

Dale Hunter’s reign as the head coach of the Washington Capitals was over after 169 days, 37 wins, and 37 losses.  It was over in less than a season.

But it’s over.  And that was the right call.  For club and for coach.

Dale Hunter did a tremendous job as the head coach of this team.  There is no doubt that he came in and changed the culture of the Capitals by holding everybody accountable for their play.  They were annoying, tough, and stubborn.  They were like Dale Hunter as a player.

"He had this club playing the way he played,” said McPhee.  “Home or road, winning or losing, healthy or hurt.  He had this team playing hard."

He got this team, his team, to buy in to his system.  And he put together a nice little run, winning seven playoff games and knocking off the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins before falling to the Rangers in seven games.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

Lots more to come from Kettler over the next few days.  As always, follow me on Twitter here for news and updates.

Dale Hunter Resigns as Capitals Head Coach

The Washington Capitals announced Monday morning that head coach Dale Hunter will not return to the team to coach next season.  Hunter resigned on Monday after a meeting with Caps GM George McPhee and after speaking with his family about whether or not to return.  The OHL team that Hunter owns and used to coach, the London Knights, are in the Memorial Cup tournament, and Hunter will go back and watch from a suite.  "I'm a fan," he said.
"Im going home," said Hunter.  "To the team, to the farm.  To my family."

Lots more to come from Kettler over the next few days.  As always, follow me on Twitter here for news and updates.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lots to Come on Monday

Monday afternoon in Arlington, the Capitals will hold their end-of-year media availability following their loss to the Rangers in game seven on Saturday night. Make sure you follow along by following me on Twitter here for all of your news, as I will be at KCI.