Theme: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”
Coming into the 2007-2008 season, Mike Green had 92 games of NHL experience under his belt over two seasons, and he was 3-12-15, -18, in the process. One might have expected him to be a full-time NHL defenseman, but entering his second full year, and still being only to turn 22 in the first week of the season, one might not have expected him to be more than a second or third pair defenseman as he continued to learn the ropes.
And as the year started, that’s what he was. In the first 21 games of the year, Green averaged a shade under 19 minutes a game. Only twice did he log more than 20 minutes of ice time. And while he showed a glimmer of offense (3-4-7, which works out to a 12-16-28 pace over 82 games), he was stuck down on the depth chart.
The coaching change that took place on Thanksgiving had quite an effect on Green. He scored goals in each of his first two games after the change behind the bench, and took off from there, going 15-34-49 over his last 61 games. And, he averaged more than 25 minutes a game. Only twice did he log less than 20 minutes a game, and those were his first two games playing under new coach Bruce Boudreau. In fact, nine times in those last 61 games he logged in excess of 30 minutes of ice time. The ten-game splits end up looking like this…
Green had two especially productive stretches in those last 61 games. In a 19-game stretch from December 8th through January 19st, Green scored at better than a point-a-game pace: 9-12-21. Not coincidentally, the Caps were 12-4-3, raising their record from 9-17-2 to 21-21-5, the first time the Caps were at .500 since October 24th.
The second stretch came to close the season. Over the last 12 games, Green was 1-12-13, +9. That last figure – plus-9 – was twice as good as any he posted in any ten-game split of the year (plus-4 over the third set of ten-games he played). And, of course, the Caps finished 11-1-0 to capture the Southeast Division crown.
Overall, breaking his season into the “Hanlon” and Boudreau” segments, Green registered points in only five of the first 21 games – the “Hanlon” segment. He scored points in 32 of the 61 games he played under Bourdreau. And, while he had only two multi-point games in the first 21, he had 14 in his last 61.
There is a subtle clutch aspect to Green’s performance this year. Of his 18-38-56 points line this year, he was 9-15-24 when the Caps were tied in games. That included a 3-2-5 line in overtime games.
On the flip side, it bears noting that among the 175 defensemen playing more than 50 games in the NHL last season, only seven registered less shorthanded ice time per game than did Green (20 seconds).
Green might end up getting a very large offer from another team, which the Caps appear likely to match, unless the offer would push him well into the top-ten paid defenseman category (last year, that would have been the “Rob Blake” threshold -- $6 million/year). It will make next week more than a little interesting, but the season Mike Green had is what makes it so.