A sooper-dooper special exclusive insider look at this year's opening night roster . . .
Olaf Kolzig – popular nickname: “Olie the Goalie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Kolzy-Wolzy.”
Kolzig is a big goaltender who promises to lead the league this season in size and broken sticks. A long-time favorite of Caps fans who lovingly call him such things as, “Slowlaf Moldzig,” “Slow-lie the Goalie,” and “Mr. Five-hole,” he is primed for a return to greatness . . . unfortunately, that is likely to be with another club as he is frequently mentioned as prime trade bait . . . and I wish George would knock that off. Projected finish . . . 21-40-5, 3.11, .904, househunting in Vancouver by March.
Maxime Ouellet – popular nickname: “Mad Max” . . . sooper cool nickname: “McPhee’s Folly.”
Ouellet was the prize in the Adam Oates trade a few years back, which is sort of like saying the decoder ring is the prize for getting to the bottom of the box of Cracker Jack . . . nice, but ultimately, now useful is it? I think we’re going to find out. Projected finish: 5-14-2, 3.22, .898, inspiring people to ask, “what ever happened to Bill Ranford?”
Brent Johnson – popular nickname: “Brenner” . . . sooper cool nickname: “who the $#@& is that?”
Johnson was picked up (scraped up?) on waivers on cut down day, begging the question, “gee, can he play defense, because THAT’S WHAT WE $@&ING NEED!!!!” He played some quality minutes in St. Louis, once actually winning 34 games in a season for the Blues. He won’t win 34 games with the Caps unless he’s here until, oh . . . 2008.
Brendan Witt – popular nickname: “Witter” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Schwab” (it’s a trading thing)
Witt has played 568 games in the NHL. The rest of the defense might not have 568 minutes. He’s the dean, the gray beard, the old man, the nagging pain the $#@& who wants a trade. Fans think he’ll bring back a high draft pick in trade. If he brings back a “555” deal from Dominos, Caps fans should color themselves lucky. Projected finish: 1-10-11, -134 (no, that’s not a misprint . . . he’ll get a lot of ice time, and the Caps, well . . . suck).
Steve Eminger – popular nickname: “Emmer” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Stever”
Eminger is often compared to the Caps’ renowned two-way defenseman Calle Johansson. Some fans balk at the notion. But hey, it beats comparing him to Darren Veitch. Projected finish: 8-18-26, -a gazillion.
Shaone Morrisonn – popular nickname: “Shoney” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Stuckey”
Morrrrisssonnonnn came over in trade from the Boston Bruins. He’s a lanky sort (hockeyspeak for “better put on some weight, kid, or you’ll get killed out there) who can skate (hockeyspeak for “will not make open ice hits that are to be confused with Scott Stevens”) and has a high upside (hockeyspeak for “please let this work out”). Projected finish: early April.
Mathieu Biron – popular nickname: “Matty” . . .sooper cool nickname: “Bironey!” (he said in his best Japanese accent)
This guy was once a first round draft pick . . . then he was part of deals that brought in return such players as Ziggy Palffy, Bryan Smolinski, and Adrian Aucoin . . . then he was picked up on waivers . . . later traded for someone named Petr Tenkrat (who sounds like a minor character on a Cartoon Network show) . . . then the Caps got him as a UFA. This is not generally thought of as an upward career path . . . and he’s projected as a top-four defenseman for this team . . . mmmm-kay. Projected finish: Hershey.
Jamie Heward – popular nickname: “Huey” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Geezer”
He’ll be the oldest defenseman on the opening night roster (34) . . . in Detroit, he’d be a “prospect.” Here’s the deal . . . he hasn’t played in an NHL game since the 2001-2002 season. He’s here to help teach the youngsters how to play defense and survive in the NHL . . . this despite parts of six seasons in the NHL and 239 games. If he succeeds, he oughtta get tenure at Harvard. Projected finish: 6-12-18, -24
Bryan Muir – popular nickname: “Muirie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Travelocity”
Last year, during the lockout, he played for Blues Espoo and MoDo . . . I think this is in the Forest Moon Endor League. Before that, he played for Los Angeles, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Chicago, New Jersey, and Edmonton. This is his seventh team in his ninth season. Airlines refuse to grant this guy frequent flyer miles. Projected finish: somewhere else.
Nolan Yonkman – popular nickname: “Yonkie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Injured Reserve”
Injuries of note . . . knee, knee, face, arm, and a few bones that medical researchers have yet to actually name. He’s even a carrier (read: Michael Nylander). Success this year will be measured in “consecutive minutes in a vertical position.” Projected finish: Sibley Hospital
Ivan Majesky – popular nickname: “Magic” . . . sooper cool nickname: “who?”
He is described at tsn.ca as, “Has great size. Moves the puck swiftly out of danger. Doesn't get rattled in the defensive zone and always displays a refreshing attitude on the ice.” That attitude comes in handy, because he “owns a very limited offensive arsenal. Needs to avoid serious injury, especially to his fragile knees.” Maybe he does shadow animal acts in the locker room during intermissions? Projected finish: we’ve already been there, kids.
Alexander Ovechkin – popular nickname: “Ovey” . . . sooper cool nickname: “George’s last hope”
The number one, the franchise, the ne plus ultra (go look it up). Consensus pick to be a franchise player, an elite set up man, a feared goal scorer, and early candidate for canonization to replace St. Jude as the patron saint of desperate cases (Caps fan version). He can’t possibly end up being an “Alexandre Volchkov” . . . for one thing, he spells “Alexander” right. Projected finish: ahead of Sidney Crosby in the Calder voting.
Matt Bradley – popular nickname: “Matty . . . no, not that one, the other one” . . . sooper cool nickname: none…what can you possible do with “Matt Bradley?”
Another in a long line of former Penguins making their way to Washington. When folks here are asked if they’ve seen him play, they respond, “no, but I was wondering what he was doing after he left the Senate.” This is a company town. Projected finish: sitting in section 202 on most game nights.
Andrew Cassels – popular nickname: “Casser” . . . sooper cool nickname: “the guy who passes to Ovechkin”
Fun Andy Cassels fact . . . he once played in Hartford . . . with Bobby Holik. Trouble is, he also played in Hartford with Mark Hunter, and Hunter’s been out of the NHL since the Korean War. Seasoned? . . . or just old? Projected finish: leading the team in AARP mailings.
Chris Clark – popular nickname: “Clarkie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Oh C . . . CC Rider”
CC brings Stanley Cup finals experience to the club, which will come in handy, oh . . . about 2010. To his credit, he seems like a stand up guy, which really comes in handy, because a lot of Caps are going to be spending a lot of time on their keisters this year. He starts the year on IR . . . not the most promising harbingers of success this year. Projected finish: making life hard for Vinny Lecavalier in the season finale.
Ben Clymer – popular nickname: “Clymer-er” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Rings”
If he serves no other purpose this year, he should bring his ring to the rink every day and remind folks what they’re there for. Peerless off-subject thought: why is it when I sound out his last name, it sounds like he should be a recurring character on “The Addams Family?” Projected finish: helping Clark make Vinny wish he was golfing in the finale.
Jeff Friesen – popular nickname: “Freezer” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Freezy-Weezy-P00peneezy”
Part of a salary dump in New Jersey, and if it’s one thing they know about in Jersey, it’s dumps (bada-bing!). Friesen is said to skate really, really fast. Wasn’t fast enough to get away from the guy who said, “Jeff, Lou wants to see you,” was he? This is, for Friesen, what they call a “walk year” . . . the year before free agency. Players usually put up big numbers in that situation. Of course, for players on this club whose names don’t end in “vechkin,” a big year would be double-digits in goals. Projected finish: praying he’s traded back to New Jersey for that conditional pick the Caps gave up to get him.
Boyd Gordon – popular nickname: “Gordo” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Boydo”
Another of the legendary 2002 draft class, five of the first rounders from which reside in the Caps system. Unfortunately, he’s the second of only two that made the opening night roster. The Peerless will bet that there aren’t five Caps fans who realize he actually made the squad. Projected finish: hopefully, making people forget Steve Konowalchuk.
Jeff Halpern – popular nickname: “Halpie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Oh Captain, My Captain”
The local boy makes good hero, now the captain. What did he do in a past life to get that sort of punishment? He’s already taking one for the team, moving to right wing (not exactly an Alex Rodriguez moving from shortstop to third base for the Yankees, but still . . .). Among players who finished with the club, he led the team in scoring last year. I don’t think there is a Caps fan who hopes he repeats, because that will mean Ovechkin was spirited away by aliens. Projected finish: giving the same effort in the last game of the year as in the first.
Stephen Peat – popular nickname: “Peatie” . . . sooper cool nickname: uh . . . there isn’t one . . . honest . . . I’d never presume . . .
OK . . . he was once the 32nd overall pick as a defenseman . . . he was converted to wing . . . he had some nasty injuries coming up . . . he only had a total of 41 games of experience in the minors to polish his game and learn a new position. Surely, he’s not just the designated pugilist, is he? Is there really a harder job in team sports than that? Projected finish: hopefully, somewhere other than serving five minutes in the penalty box.
Matt Pettinger – popular nickname: “Petter” . . . sooper cool nickname: “double runners”
Sometimes, the young fellow just seems to have a devil of a time staying up on his skates. But he’s always in motion, hitting anything that moves (The Peerless wishes he’d train his talents on Slapshot, but that’s just me). He seems to be a bit of the forgotten fellow in the Caps rebuild. Might not be a bad thing to be kind of out of sight this year. Projected finish: hitting someone, falling down, getting up, and going after them to hit ‘em again.
Brian Sutherby – popular nickname: “Suts” . . . sooper cool nickname: “you’re still here?”
Doesn’t it seem like he’s been with this club since Yvon Labre was here? And still, he’s only 23. His trouble is he’s had his groin pulled more often than salt water taffy. The Future Captain thing and the “next Michael Peca” seem to have faded. Hey, let’s just have a whole season of a Brian Sutherby, hockey player, eh? Projected finish: in the starting lineup in the finale (he said, crossing his fingers).
Petr Sykora – popular nickname: “Syk” . . . sooper cool nickname: “visa”
Well, what? Three years in the making? Botched faxes, delayed visas, miscommunications . . . and he’s finally here. Why, oh why, do I see “Petr Sykora” and read, “Jiri Dopita?” or (when The Peerless has been drinking) “Viktor Navorski?” Projected finish: baggage claim
Brian Willsie – popular nickname: "Willsie . . . ie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “The Amazing Hulk” (ok, I made that up)
Whenever I see Willsie, I’m of a mind of the kid who used to stay after class clapping erasers . . . an earnest, diligent sort. Except he has a little better offensive upside. On this club, that makes him a Hart Trophy finalist. Projected finish: a few goals, a few assists, a couple o’ penalties . . . what would be a nights work for a, say . . . Mark Messier (once upon a time).
Dainius Zubrus – popular nickname: “Zubie” . . . sooper cool nickname: “Zubie Doo-Wop She-Bang”
The focus of what surely is the most talked about, analyzed, poured-over trade in Caps history. Less has been written about World War II than about the Zubrus-Linden for Zednik-Bulis trade. At issue is the eternal question . . . is THIS . . . finally, absolutely, positively, we-really-mean-it-this-time, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-get-cross-checked the year Zubrus breaks out and fulfills his potential and scores 25-30 goals? . . . no, it’s not. Projected finish: more goals off body parts than off sticks.
So there you have it . . . the player-by-player breakdown for this year’s roster. It makes me think happy thoughts . . . only about 130 days to spring training.
Just remember, we kid because we love . . . good luck, boys.
-- The Peerless