Sunday, April 27, 2008

The 2007-2008 season, by the "tens" -- Centers: Michael Nylander


Next in our long, slow cool-down from the season…


Michael Nylander:




Theme: “Incomplete”


Michael Nylander was arguably the prize of the off-season free agency acquisitions for the Capitals, coming to the club in – if not a shroud – then at least a light wrap of controversy. It was a story that took just about an entire season to play out. As for Nylander’s production for the Caps, in the end he might have been missed in New York more than he was productive for the Caps.

That was a product of injury – a shoulder injury that Nylander played with for at least six weeks finally put him on the shelf for good in mid-January. It is entirely likely that the injury affected Nylander at the offensive end – he took only 12 shots in the last ten games of his season (although he did score four goals on that small number of shots). And, it seems certain that it affected his ability to compete in the defensive zone. Nylander was a minus player in each of the ten-game splits of his abbreviated season, but he was -12 of his -19 for the year in the last 20 games. His -19 represented a career-worst in that statistic.

The injury came just as it seemed Nylander was starting to mesh with his new teammates. In the first ten games of the year, he managed only one multi-point game. In the second ten he had four. He had two more during his third ten-game stretch, when he appears to have suffered his injury.

If there is something that one can take from the 40 games Nylander played, it is consistency, even in the face of injury. Points, penalty minutes, power play goals. Even in faceoff he held his own as best he could – winning at least 50 percent of the draws he took 21 times (no more than six in any ten-game split, no fewer than four). Even playing in 40 games, he stood fifth in total draws taken for the year.

That Nylander battled as long as he did with such an injury is testimony to his tenacity as a player – he still managed four multi-point games in his last ten-game stretch. But in a way, it might have served to accelerate the development of Nicklas Backstrom, who was the clear number one center when Nylander’s season ended.

Nylander will be coming into next season – well, maybe – as the number two center. He might be coming into the season ahead of where he was last year, with a lot of new teammate’s tendencies to learn, but he still might need a fair part of the early season to get into a groove. The Caps were starting to see that just as he sustained his injury. The Caps were 25-10-3 after Nylander’s season ended, suggesting that adding him next fall could be a little like a free agency addition.

However, the Capitals will, it would seem, have decisions to make with respect to re-signing Sergei Fedorov for next season. That could influence Nylander’s role on the club and whether he would be dangled as trade bait. That is a mind exercise for a different day. As for this season, Nylander’s had to be graded “incomplete.”


photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

11 comments:

Kenny B. said...

I my mind, Nylander is a significant improvement over Feds. I would not consider them inter-exchangeable. My vote: keep and treasure Nyles. Offer 'Fine Wine' Feds a part-time supporting role, with salary to match. See what Feds decides to do.

The keystone is Huet. Without him all this is might be moot.

exwhaler said...

I agree. 39 points with one arm in a half-season is not something to sneeze at. He and Semin showed instant chemistry in training camp before Semin and then Nyls got injured.

Federov did prove his value to this team, both as a mentor and player. But Nylander isn't going to play below the second line (nor should he) and the Capitals do not have a suitable replacement in the system. Federov will be back only for a year, maybe two.

Has Federov ever played wing?

exwhaler said...

I agree. 39 points with one arm in a half-season is not something to sneeze at. He and Semin showed instant chemistry in training camp before Semin and then Nyls got injured.

Federov did prove his value to this team, both as a mentor and player. But Nylander isn't going to play below the second line (nor should he) and the Capitals do not have a suitable replacement in the system. Federov will be back only for a year, maybe two.

Has Federov ever played wing?

JP said...

Fedorov has played left wing at times, but not (to my knowledge) on the right side.

I agree that the roles Nyls and Fedorov would play on this team next year are completely different, so I don't think it's an "either/or," and I don't for a second buy the "Nyls as trade bait" rumors.

The Peerless said...

I don't see how the dynamics of the situation argue for Fedorov coming back. I don't think he'd be happy with third line minutes, and I don't think the Caps would be inclined to pay him top six money to be a third line forward (or insurance for injury), which might be what it would take to keep him.

And, Fedorov gives the Caps one, possibly two years. If Nylander was to be moved to accommodate Fedorov, the Caps would be in a nasty situation a couple of years down the road, absent other deals. The Caps simply don't have depth at that position among their prospects to be able to groom someone from within to take the second line spot in two years, assuming Federov would play only one more year.

I suspect we're going to be back to where we started last year, although how the roles play out will be interesting to watch -- does Backstrom go back to centering Ovechkin?...or does he center Semin, which had some success in the playoffs?

JP said...

I agree completely - Nylander has to be here and likely for the length of his deal due to that lack of playmaking depth on the immediate horizon.

Independent of that, if Fedorov comes back, it's on the Caps' terms and I'm not sure Fedorov's a guy willing, at this point, to do anything on anything but his own terms (nor should he, really).

The wildcard, however, could be Clark. While Clark and Fedorov play different positions, they both are probably best suited to third line duty, can play on either of the top two lines for a stretch if needed, both kill penalties, both can play on the top power play (though in different positions, obviously), and both offer a lot in terms of leadership. By no means am I saying they're interchangeable, but if the team has a real bad feeling about Clark's health going forward, I think a Fedorov return is somewhat more likely.

Mike said...

I think nylander has a No trade clause in his contract. I remember seeing it somewhere. He isn't going anywhere though. I think McPhee wants to see what he can do when healthy.

The Peerless said...

The difficulty the Caps have is financial. Based on figures at nhlnumbers.com, the Caps are committed to $38.487 million in salary. That does not include payments due to Chris Bourque or Ben Clymer. It also doesn't include any estimates for new salary obligations for:

Mike Green
Eric Fehr
Brooks Laich
Boyd Gordon
Shaone Morrisonn
Steve Eminger

...all of whom are RFA's, or Cristobal Huet and/or Olaf Kolzig, who are UFA's. It doesn't include a Karl Alzner or a Francois Bouchard (the latter of whom was signed to a three-year entry deal)

If you go out another year, it gets more complicated. Kozlov comes off the books, but the Caps still need a first line right wing. Is that Eric Fehr? Francois Bouchard? Is it a resigned Kozlov?

Even if Fedorov was to sign at half price ($3.04 million), it probably isn't a bargain for this club, not if the "budget" cap is the salary midpoint, which could be $48 million or so.

Alan Roberta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dmg said...

Another big issue for the Caps is Pothier - if he does end up having to retire that's 2.5 million off the books and off the cap.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

Personally I hope we find a way to keep them both since I'm a greedy little piggy....