Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Washington Capitals 2013-2014 Previews -- Defensemen: Mike Green

Mike Green 

Theme:  "Give a man health and a course to steer, and he'll never stop to trouble about whether he's happy or not.”
-- George Bernard Shaw

“I think it’s time to become a dangerous player again.” Thus spoke Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green last week.  The “again” reference reflects the fact that Green was the most dangerous offensive force from the blue line in the NHL until a series of injuries limited him to 116 of 212 regular season games over the past three seasons.  Before that, Green played in 225 of 246 regular season games and composed a 68-137-205 scoring line (a 25-50-75 average per 82 games) from 2007-2008 through 2009-2010.

Last season, Green came back…sort of.  In January 2012 Green underwent sports hernia surgery to “eliminate the unknown” with respect to his recurring groin problems.  Green returned in February of the 2011-2012 season but did not record a goal in his last 22 regular season games (0-1-1).  He had two in 14 playoff games that season (2-2-4), but was clearly not all the way back.

An off season to recuperate in full was supposed to solve the remaining problems, but even with the delayed start to the 2012-2013 season, Green missed 13 of the Caps’ first 29 games with a “lower body injury.”  He dressed for the last 19 games of the season for Washington, going 10-9-19.  He was a terror on the power play, going 4-7-11 on the man advantage over those last 19 games.  The four power play goals (his total for the season) would have put him in the top 50 defensemen in total goals scored, a feat made more impressive by the fact that he did it in only those 19 games to end the season.

As it was, Green ended the 2012-2013 season leading all defensemen in total goals – 12, a total that represented a 28-goal pace per 82 games.  He had a 43-goal pace over those last 19 games, which brought memories of 2008-2009 (31 goals in 68 games) to mind among Caps fans.  That is the line of a dangerous player.

Fearless’ Take…

As valuable and productive as Alex Ovechkin was last season, getting Green back to good health in the last 19 games last season was the push the Caps needed.  The Caps were 7-0-1 in games in which Green scored at least one goal (he had two against Carolina and Boston, both wins).  The Caps were 11-1-1 in games in which he recorded at least one point.

And before you think Green fattened up against the Southeast Division, he was 5-3-8 in 14 games against teams in the division, 7-11-18 in 21 games against teams outside the Southeast.

Even with all the games Green missed over the past three seasons, no defenseman has more goals scored than Green since the 2007-2008 season, and he is the active leader in points (second to retired Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom).  Zdeno Chara is second among active defensemen in points to Green, but he has played in 104 more regular season games over that span of time than Green.

Cheerless’ Take…

For what it’s worth, Mike Green was tied for 34th among defensemen in even strength points last season.  He had only four even strength assists.  That was a neighborhood that included T.J. Brennan, Eric Gryba, and Simon Depres.

Maybe it was related, but among 210 defensemen playing at least 20 games last season, Green was 125th in Corsi/on-ice at 5-on-5.  And his Corsi/on-ice relative to Corsi/off-ice was 134th among that group.  What it meant was that his goals-for/on-ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranked only 133rd among those 210 defensemen, and his plus-minus/60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranked 136th.

The Big Question… Is Mike Green healthy, or his he “healthy?”

It is September.  Mike Green has not played a regular season game yet.  He is healthy… fresh as a daisy (figuratively speaking).  So are dozens of other players at this time of year.  But the question is still out on whether he is “healthy,” as in “can he sustain himself to play in 70 or more games?”

This is an important question to settle as the season unfolds for this reason.  When Mike Green plays, the Caps win more often than not.  In the three years covering the 2007-2008 through 2009-2010 season the Caps won 133 of 225 games played by Green (50.2 percent).  These were his most durable years.  In the last three seasons the Caps won 66 of the 116 games he played (56.9 percent).  Even in less frequent appearances, Green’s presence coincided with success.

More to the point, over the last six seasons the Caps have won 73.1 percent of all the regular season games in which Green has registered at least one point.  How many games Green dresses for this season is going to go a long way to answering the question of whether this team can reach the playoffs under their new divisional alignment.  Not that this should be any news to Caps fans.

In the end…

Last season was Green’s second best of his career on a goals-per-game basis.  He registered his third highest points-per-game.  And even with his injury problems over the past three years, here is something to consider.  Green played 116 games over that span, average 0.20 goals per game and 0.49 points per game.  How other many defensemen played in at least that many games and had those averages or better for goals and points?  Three – Dustin Byfuglien, Erik Karlsson, and Shea Weber.  If not clearly the best offensive defenseman he was over that 2007-2008 through 2009-2010 period, he is part of a short list of such defensemen even now.

This is what makes the upcoming season so tantalizing.  If he has put his injury plague behind him, Green is not so far removed from being one of, if not the most prolific point producers from the blue line in the NHL.  If he was to play in 70 games and produce as he did the last three seasons, he would finish with a scoring line of 14-20-34.  If, however, he was to return to that level of production he enjoyed from 2007-2008 through 2009-2010, a 70-game season would mean a scoring line of 21-43-64.  We suspect his production will fall between those boundaries.  It would still make him plenty dangerous.

Projection: 72 games, 17-32-49, plus-4

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images North America

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good reading. But projected MG52 numbers seems too low for me. If he will play in 70+ games he will get those numbers probably in PP only. I'm looking somewhere to 20+ goals and 60-70 points for the whole season.