Sunday, June 5, 2011

Off-Season...Where to Start and What Should Change

So here we go with my first official Caps blog post. I'll do a formal introduction in the near future but for now I've decided to go with something I've been putting off for a while...

Once again the Capitals ended their post-season quest early. A lack of sticking to the system coupled with injuries, always the injuries, brought the season to a sudden stop and an off-season of questions to a new beginning.

The first question was: Who is to blame for the team's performance in the playoffs?

Many of the writers, bloggers, TV personalities and other "experts" said Boudreau had to go. WRONG! He's the one thing that is right for this team because his players respect him and listen to him the problem is he doesn't hold them accountable enough when they break away from what makes them successful.

Another question was: Which Caps stay and which Caps go?

Let's start with the free agents.

Brooks Laich: He's a glue guy. He can do so much, he's a fan favorite, and if he'd be willing to be more of a voice rather than a quiet team leader he'd be the perfect candidate for being the team's captain (I chose him when Clark was traded). He won't come cheap unless he passes on millions and gives the home team a nice discount. Verdict: STAYS!

Jason Arnott: If he's willing to come back for around the minimum I think he's worth having. Arnott played well enough and was a leader in the locker room and is someone that Ovie can learn a thing or two from. The team also needs a solid Center and Arnott's probably about as solid as they'll come based on the free agent crop unless they can manage to nab someone in a trade. Verdict: Toss-Up....but again STAYS (if cheap) otherwise MP85 gets a longer sip.

Scott Hannan: Hannan isn't a point producer he's a shut down Defenseman. At times Hannan seemed to get beat easily and other times he showed exactly why the team traded Fleischmann for him and he fit perfectly with the new style that was adopted after the trade. The problem isn't so much that Hannan will cost too much money to keep or that age may soon be catching up to him, its that the team has a ton of defensemen with some rising stars set to come up in the coming years. Verdict: Adios!

Matt Bradley: Matt Bradley doesn't do anything particularly well and is a player that is replaceable but he's also a grinder. He digs deep and gives that extra effort. Perfect guy to have on your checking line and he'll occasionally mix in a fight once in a while or stand up for his teammates. Brads is loved by the fans but the Caps could use more production from his spot and there are a ton of guys in Hershey or are more than ready for an opportunity in Washington. Verdict: A painful Adios!

Boyd Gordon: Ah probably my least favorite Cap..well except for the next guy on my list. It seemed for years that every time I looked at the line-up Gordo was injured and when he didn't play he just agitated me, which was a shame because I'd have preferred he agitated the opposing team's players. Gordo surprised me this year with his play especially after the trade of Steckel (oh how I wish it was Gordo gone over Stecks in that deal). Being an unrestricted free agent the Caps only have a chance to match an offer to Gordo if he allows them to do so. I prefer they don't. I know he can win faceoffs, which is something our Centers have trouble with but I'm still bitter he's here and #39 is not so....Verdict: Adios!

Michael Nylander: Okay he's honestly only on here because of how I started my post about Gordon. Its a shame the way Nylander got hurt and the severity of the injury he sustained but lets face it, he's the reason Chris Bourque didn't make the team two years ago, got claimed by PISSburgh, and now is playing in Russia. Verdict: Good riddance now that the walk to the Electric Chair

Marco Sturm: Sturm isn't even a shell of his former self. He doesn't fit with the other Caps players, he's been more of a top 2 line talent that would now only be around for depth and would usually be a healthy scratch. Caps don't need older guys they just need hard workers and while Sturm might be that he doesn't fit the 3rd or 4th lines of this team. Verdict: Adios!

Sean Collins: Ummm...yeah next Verdict: Adios

Karl Alzner: Caps fans have been waiting for the Carlzner marriage to come to DC and it finally came this year and the young kids came through better than expected. Alzner is a restricted free agent and could be what Scott Hannan has been in the past. He won't be an offensive juggernaut but we don't need him to be. Carlson brings the offense while Alzner brings a little extra D. Alzner is a huge part of this team's future. Verdict: STAYS long term!

Semyon Varlamov: This is the toughest choice for me as a Caps fan. Varly, when healthy, can be spectacular but the problem is he's rarely healthy. He won over the hearts of Caps fans a few years ago when he kept outplaying Jose Theodore and played strong in the playoffs as a rookie netminder but in a town of "What Have You Done For Me Lately" Semyon lost his job to Neuvy and was outplayed by Braden Holtby, in some eyes, so that he's seen as #3 on the goaltending depth chart. Varly is a RFA though so the Caps can match any offer, or he could go back to Russia. I think if the right deal comes along you have to think long and hard about a sign-and-trade with a Western Conference team. If, and its a big one, his groin/knee issues are behind him Varly will be a good goalie somewhere but he also seems to be a goalie that scrambles and gets lucky more often than not when he makes those big highlight reel saves. Verdict: Sign-and-trade for more parts.

Trade Options:

Mike Green: 2010-11 was a terrible year for Mike Green. He wasn't scoring like we were accustomed to, he dealt with at least 2 concussions and a variety of hits to the head and once he was finally healthy he took a puck to the face. Its a damn shame that the year Greenie starts playing defense like the fans have been screaming he needed to do he blocks two pucks with his if only they can teach him to use other parts of his body. Mike has a wicked hard shot and its been discussed for years that maybe he'd be better served as a forward than a D-man and I think this is the year to try it out. What could it hurt? If all of our defenseman come back healthy we're going to have an abundance so why not move him up to an area where we continuously have to go down to Hershey? As a forward Green won't be expected to block as many shots like he had/needed to this year and it adds some versatility to the line-up in that he can switch back to defenseman if an injury occurs in the line-up, if the experiment fails or in late game situations when the Caps are down. Verdict: Stays and plays a new position

Alexander Semin: There isn't a more frustrating player than Sasha. He's officially the Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde of the Washington Capitals. He scores in spurts or against certain teams and then disappears for a while. He' my reasoning for why certain players should always have 1 year contracts, they tend to always show up and play better when working for a new deal (see Jose Theodore the year before he comes to DC and his last year in DC, or Larry Hughes before coming to the Wizards and his last year with them). I love Sasha even though I'll be screaming at him when sitting in Section 409 or in front of my TV to stop lollygagging on the ice, or to play it instead of waiting for it to come to him and then skating across the ice for a change or to stop trying to be too damn fancy with the puck. Verdict: While I made no case to keep him, I say STAYS...if only because I need to rock my "I Got An Erection for Ovechkin While Screamin' For Semin" shirt at the phonebooth next year

Eric Fehr: I'm not a big fan of Eric's so I could take him or leave him. He was having a slow year, as were most Caps, when David Steckel decided to go play brick wall and dislocate for Eric's shoulder. I can only invision him as a 20-25 goal 20 assist, no more than 50 point scorer. Verdict: I'd personally trade him in favor of Green and Chris Bourque...but if he stays he probably ends up on IR more than the ice

Jeff Schultz: Sarge has never been one of my favorites, especially after he fell and bruised his ego in the playoffs a few years back and missed the remainder of the playoffs. Verdict: Stays til Orlov can play

Players Up/Down/Over/In
I won't lie I'm no expert on the salary cap situation or which players can or can't play with the team this year so if some I name can't play this year we need to find a stop gap until they we go

1st Line

2nd Line

3rd Line
Chris Bourque (Fehr or Galiev)/Arnott (Perreault or Eakin)/Laich

4th Line
Hendricks/Beagle (Perreault)/Chimera

Defensive 1

Defensive 2

Defensive 3
Lumberjack aka Erskine/some free...I'm thinking Hejda or Babchuk


I also would not be surprised to see the Caps take flyers on two former Caps in Jeff Halpern and Tomas Fleischmann

Were these all the questions? No. Do I have the right answers? Doubtful. I do believe the Caps window with their current group is closing but I also don't believe a major shake-up is necessary. I don't get paid to make the personnel decisions but I surely pay enough in tickets and merchandise to feel I can be openly critical of the team and I will. More often than not common sense will give way to my personal feelings but I'm just looking to have fun with this blog.

Till next time...Rock the Red

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