Man its been a rough few months to be a Capitals fan. I'll admit I overestimated how well we'd play this year and I did fear the Panthers would be good, not first place this late good but I don't think they expected that either.
With the NHL trade deadline approaching, a Capitals team that has displayed very little offense the past few weeks, and a playoff seed getting farther and farther away out of reach the team may finally have to look into doing a major overhaul. For 4 years I've said that last year would probably be the team's best shot at winning the Cup unless they somehow figured out how to keep their core group together as they entered their primes. Miraculously the team managed to do just that and I thought well the window has been left opened two more years.
Turns out the latch didn't hold and the window has fallen hard and cracked. First their is the coach, Boudreau, who listened to what everyone told him to do when coaching instead of doing what made him and the team successful. That appeared to lead to a sub-par performance on the ice and the exile of said coach off the ice. Boudreau wasn't unemployed long as the lowly Anaheim Ducks hired him and he's brought that team within striking distance of the playoffs. While the Caps are only 4-6 points out of being a 3rd seed or 8th seed and the Ducks are around 6-8 points out (all to the best of my knowledge without looking them up on my slow computer) the Ducks are trending upwards and gaining confidence while the Caps are trending downwards and losing players to injury.
Mike Green is in his second game back since a groin injury knocked him out earlier in the year and eventually required surgery. Nicky Backstrom has been out for almost two months since taking an intentional elbow to the jaw and could be out the season. Ovechkin is missing tonight's game with an undisclosed lower-body injury and Brooks Laich is dealing with a lingering knee injury.
That said it may be time for the Caps to give up on the season and tap into that potent minor league club they have. There are quite a few players that the Caps should look to deal, no matter how difficult it may be to say goodbye so that we can start fresh next year.
First we must start in goal. Tomas Vokoun has had his struggles and been pulled in two straight games after sub-par performances. Seeing as he's on a one-year deal the Caps could flip him to another team for some parts or picks in the future. Plus he's irritated me with how much he gives his teammates, mainly, D hell on the ice when the opposition scores. Breakdowns happen but if you want them to keep helping you shut up and stop the damn puck. Trading Vokoun also allows the team to put Michal Neuvirth back as the starting goalie that he expected to be when the team traded Varlamov. The team must decide if this kid is the future while also knowing they have Braden Holtby waiting in Hershey.
Now we have to look at the forwards:
Backstrom - Get back soon buddy. Untouchable both because of who he is and his injury.
Laich is staying! New contract and should be the team's Captain as he has been the voice of the team and true leader on and off the ice. Also if his knee injury is still bothering him they should just shelf him and call someone up (more later).
Ovie is staying, though I'm sure some fans wouldn't mind seeing him be gone with the way he's regressed. Ovie seemed to be getting back into the player we had been used to but has since slowed up again.
Brouwer is staying, I like what I have seen in him this year and think he's a good guy to have on the team. Mojo is staying, but probably would have been flipped if the team was buyers. They have to figure out how to build his confidence back up
MP85 is staying. The Keystone Light guy does his thing when he really gets a chance to play. While an upgrade would probably be fine he's a good 3rd/4th line wing.
Joelle - He's probably unmovable right now and honestly hasn't really been a blip on the radar the past few months. Kinda wish we had signed Bergenheim instead of him, like I wanted to do in the off-season.
Hendricks - Unmovable! Seriously if it wasn't bad enough that he hasn't been scoring like he did last year how about that even his fighting has been a bit unbearable to watch as he goes in to defend his teammates honor only to get pummeled.
Halpern - I think he could be shopped but that if he wants to stay they team will keep him here if only because he's going to want to go out as a Cap once his contract is done, in my opinion at least.
Knuble - I said a few weeks ago when he was benched he was gone. The team has since come out and said they have no intention of trading him. Knubes got royally screwed by both coaches this year unfortunately and has struggled all season. I'd prefer to see him accept a trade if only to see him have one last Cup run. If he doesn't want one then keep him and see if he'll be more of a mentor.
Sasha Fierce - Based on what some teams are getting in return for marginal players the team would be wise to test the waters on what Semin could bring. I'll hate to see him go and he's been the best point production Cap the past 10 games but he's got the most value too thanks to his one-year deal and insane skill and scoring ability. Best thing the team can do is trade him for either future help or a solid vet that we could use the next year or two and maybe try to bring him back as a free agent during the off-season. Toughest thing right now is Rick Nash and Jeff Carter are both being shopped. The good is Semin has the better contract, the bad is he could be a rental while the others are under team control longer...I wouldn't mind Nash a Cap though.
Chimera - The team's first half MVP has been a bit of a no-show the past two months it seems. He's fast and gritty and for that alone he needs to be kept around.
Aucoin/Beagle - They're here for the long haul. The team can't get much of anything for them and I doubt many teams would look to acquire them.
So if we do end up moving some of these wings and don't get anybody back that is necessarily ready to go I will plead once again for the Caps to call up Chris Bourque! Unless its a salary cap issue or the fear of losing him on waivers or of taking too much offense away from Hershey I see no reason as to why he can't be called back up. Eakin might be worth the call up too. The kid seemed a little overmatched in the pros but he's gonna learn and as long as the rally balloon gets brought out every game we should see a bunch of scoring. There was also talks of trading Eakin if we were buyers but that seems a bit unrealistic to me
On Defense the Caps have a few options but I'm not sure how much I'd like to see changed. The Caps D has struggled a bit but did well early after we brought in Johnson to coach the D.
Hamrlik - BYE!!! He's benched tonight, there is talk of him being shopped and maybe if we can eat some salary it will happen. He's shown his age and he's been my least favorite defenseman on the ice, note I said on the ice.
Greenie - Because of his injury history Green is a HUGE risk. When healthy this team clicks but when he's out boy have they struggled. Thanks to the injury Green's asking price should be lower than it would have been had he stayed healthy. Hopefully the Caps can keep him and sign him to a one year deal that is incentive laden and then can decide next year on whether to invest long term or flip him for more parts.
Wideman - There is talk that the free-agent to be could be shipped out by Monday. Wideman has been our best player all season, maybe second to Backstrom. As the team's All-Star rep and an offensive force he's good to have. He can play both ways but has been a liability defensively at times. His offense outweighs that for me though. I guess the Caps have to decide is he worth keeping around long term or is he willing to stay. If they think he'll leave and they'll get nothing for him he could be moved.
Schultz - I figured the Caps would move him after Bruce got canned but instead the slow-footed one just sat in the press box taking over the role of DJ King. He's played more of late and I still can't stand him. When on the ice he's my second least favorite Cap..and also when he's benched :P
Carlzner - Yes the guys have struggled this year and been on the ice for a lot of goals against but there is no way you break up these two in any fashion. Both players I'd like to see be lifelong Caps.
Erskine - Another guy that is under the DNP-CD statline, I really like the Lumberjack and the team should keep him...he may be slow but he fights better than Hendricks, even if he shouldn't because of concussion issues.
Orlov - Has not been the offensive dynamo I expected but I think that will come. He's been the most consistent defenseman it has seemed and he's a huge part of the team's future.
I still think the team's D is the one thing the team doesn't need to tweak too much they just need better instruction.
As for the rest of the organization...Hunter has not been the right guy and I've been less than impressed. He doesn't seem to show passion on the bench or get the team motivated. He's the opposite of how I remember him as a player and definitely the opposite of Bruce on the bench. I seriously doubt he'll get an extension and the team will be looking for a new coach next year...and maybe that's part of the team's issues. You have a coach on a one-year deal and if he's a bit of a lame duck coach then that could be part of the reason for lacking of urgency, that or the team is just used to things coming to them and that isn't happening this year.
GMGM is lucky that Leonsis is loyal (aka doesn't know shit about sports or the management aspect of it). While GMGM hasn't been terrible and has rebuilt the team what is on the ice this year is all on him. He's got some great looking prospects in the minors waiting to come up but the Caps, their fans, and the owner want to WIN NOW and the sand is quickly running out of the top of McPhee's hour glass.