Thursday, February 21, 2008

Your number for the day...


No, that's not the number of games played by Chris Chelios in his career -- that would actually be 1,604. But you'd be getting warm as to its significance.

That is the number of games of combined experience held by Chris Clark, Brian Pothier, and Michael Nylander. These three players -- all on the shelf at the moment -- might very well have played their last games of the season for the Caps.

That is a lot of talent, experience, and depth the Caps are deprived of when they could use it most, as the season heads into the last 20-game stretch.

Think of that number, and compare it to last night's lineup, one in which five of the 18 skaters have 100 or fewer games of experience under their belts. If you look at the top five scorers on the club and account for Viktor Kozlov's 810 games of experience, the other four average less than two full seasons of play among them. Alex Ovechkin is the "grizzled vet" of that bunch with 224 games played.

With all the success the Caps have enjoyed over the past three months, it is also a fact that this team is very green. While several of the kids -- Mike Green, David Steckel, Tomas Fleischmann, for example -- have gone through this at the AHL level, this is their first taste of a tight playoff race at this level. We've never had to go through it, but we're guessing it's not quite the same.

There isn't any substitute for experience but experience, and the kids are getting that "trial by fire" training in front of our eyes. It means that as a team, the Caps will have to turn things up a couple of notches over the next six weeks, but whether they are sucessful in the end in getting to the playoffs, they will be a better team for what they are going through right now.


JP said...

Whether it's grit, leadership and some goal-scoring, playmaking (particularly on the PP) or blueline minutes in all situations, the loss of what these three bring to the table can't be understated. A team can only ride on adrenaline (and one player's shoulders) for so long.

Joella said...

Agreed, of course. Of course! However, is this reason enough for GMGM to trade away some of the future for a rent-a-gent? So we can try to make the post-season this year?

Or do we mark this down as YET ANOTHER learning experience for the youngsters and look to next season?

The Peerless said...

I think rentals are the most overrated personnel decisions in professional sport, save for signing high end free agents.

I'd be shocked to the point of anger if the Caps traded for a rental this year. For what? A rental when it is the last piece of the puzzle might be rationalized, but to get from tenth to eighth place?...for what is as likely as not to be a one-and-done even if they get in?

No, not this year.

CP said...

I disagree. This team needs more experience, and if a rental can help them squeeze into the playoffs, ANY BIT of playoff experience good or bad is valualble in the long run.

Do you really want these guys to end the season disapointed and sent packing early again?

Lots of young guys on this team and they need to start gaining valuable playoff experience the sooner the better... so next year, it's not just the same old pathetic mindset of "let's just make the playoffs" and see what happens.

Set your goals higher and higher each season. But you have to start somewhere. So being a 7th or 8th seed by virtue of a rental is fine by me. As long as the team gets that valuable experience, whether they advance past the 1st round or not, it will help for next season as well..

But that's just my opinion.

joella said...

I dunno, I dunno!!! I tend to agree with Peerless. Dumping some of the future for a one-round-and-yer-out week and a half of playoff "experience" doesn't seem quite worth it. Let this run up to the end of the season be their pressure cooker time and let it rest until next year.

b.orr4 said...

This lack of playoff experience was most evident in the game against Carolina. The Canes knew what was at stake and came out from the opening faceoff and dictated the style of the play, while the young Caps mainly reacted. That also happened in the game against Atlanta and last night against the Isles. Until they start becoming proactive and not reactive, I think the Caps will have a hard time staying in the race. And you're right, if results go the wrong way, the Caps could find themselves out of the playoff race by Monday morning. This is where the coaching staff is going to have to really earn their money.

One aside, isn't it kind of deflating when two of your most veteran players, Kolzig and Johnson, have allowed goals from behind the net in the last three games?

CP said...

But joella, what if that rental proves to be more valuable and gets you further past than jus the first round.

The best way to learn how to play in the playoffs is to be in the playoffs. If they miss it this year, then next year if they do make playoffs, they'll have no experience too look back on and to improve on.

D.C One Timer said...

It all depends on the deal. If it's not a huge sacrifice, to get this team into the playoffs would be huge. Having this emotional run end a little short would be hard for all the players (and fans) to chew on all summer long. The Flyers deal, I would do. A 3rd round pick for a proven vet defenseman. A Eminger or even Pettinger for a proven d-man? I would.

b.orr4 said...

The Caps have a ton of good prospects already in the system ready to move up to the big team and they have four draft choices in the first two rounds. I would have absolutely no problem with dealing one of those second round choices for a centerman entering his UFA year who can play on the second line.

dmg said...

I'm with joella and Peerless - giving up any significant portion of the future just to get in to the playoffs would be a bad hockey move. Generally when teams do that it's either that they're desperately trying to pander to the fan base or a GM is trying to save his bacon and subsequently moves are made that are not really in the best interests of the club for the long term.

I think it's the case the Capitals are in desperate need of a playmaker (preferably a center). At the beginning of the year Nylander was the guy creating plays for the team and they weren't producing all that much. Then Backstrom stepped it up and the Caps scored a pretty good number of goals. Now that Nylander is out, the team is having trouble producing again.

But who's going to be available? Right now at least 25 teams have a realistic chance at making it into the playoffs; it's going to be a sellers market for sure. The big guns are going to go for absurd prices and so will the top six forwards - remember all it takes is one desperate GM (a la Don Waddell last season) to drive the price of a player way up.

The only legitimate top six player who I can think of off the top of my head who the Caps might be able to pick up is Michael Ryder, but I think the consensus is that Gainey wants to hold him and deal him as part of a deal for a marquee player (Marleau, Hossa, Jokinen, etc).

that the price for forwards is just going to be too high and given that the Capitals aren't that one missing piece away from making a strong play for the Cup it'd be a mistake to give up anything other than a draft pick or a player who doesn't seem to be in their plans (Eminger, maybe Pettinger). Plus between Fehr, Perringer and Laich I still have faith someone will be able to put up good enough numbers to be a top six guy for the rest of this season.

The guy I'd really like the Caps to go after is Nick Schultz. The Caps need a good stay-at-home type since Jurcina is inconsistent, Erskine can't skate and Schultz is now hurt (and still developing). I say the Caps leave their forwards as is, trade a player and a pick for a good defensive defenseman and take their chances down the stretch.

dmg said...

Hmm...I'm not sure what happened with that post, but the next to last paragraph/section should have the words "I think" before it.

cp said...


dmg said...

...wouldn't I have to be hired first?