Thursday, July 31, 2008

On this day in Caps history

1991: The Caps traded Robin Bawa to Vancouver for cash.

Bawa saw North America on the NHL plan, starting his journey by signing with the Caps in May 1987. He saw his only action for Washington in the 1989-1990 season, logging five games (1-0-1, -3, six PIMs) before being shipped to the Baltimore Skipjacks farm club.

On this date, he was sent to Vancouver for cash, but played only two games for the Canucks in the 1990-1991 season (0-0-0, even, no PIMs) before being sent to San Jose for Rick Lessard on December 15, 1992. Before that, however, he did appear in one playoff game (0-0-0, even, no PIMs)

In San Jose, Bawa played 42 games in the 1992-1993 season (5-0-5, -25, 47 PIMs) in his only season with the parent club.

Anaheim claimed him in the 1993 expansion draft. He played 12 games for Anaheim the following season (0-1-1, -3, 7 PIMs), but was signed away by Dallas as a free agent the following season. He never played for the Stars, but did continue playing with a variety of clubs in the IHL until a serious concussion suffered on April 14, 1999 (playing with the Fort Wayne Komets) led to his retirement.

In all, between Bawa's start in pro hockey and its conclusion (both with the Fort Wayne Komets), he played in 61 NHL regular season games for four franchises, 159 games in the AHL (for Baltimore and Hamilton), and 540 games in the IHL (for Fort Wayne, Milwaukee, Kansas City, San Diego, and Kalamazoo).

Bawa, a native of Duncan, British Columbia, was the first person of Indian descent to play in the NHL.

On this day in Caps history...

Three Years Ago Yesterday...A Great Day in Caps History

Well...maybe. It depends on your perspective. On July 30, 2005, a fellow with nothing but a keyboard, a passion, and a song in his heart (or maybe gas) decided to start a blog on the Caps.

Here is its first ever entry into the blogosphere.

It isn't much.

We started this as the next step from the game day sketches we used to post on The Official. An example... (you'll note it's fiction -- Mike Grier scores on a breakaway).

It's been a lot of fun (and no, we're not done yet), and we have a lot of people to thank, most notably our readers and fellow blogging wizards. They keep us honest with the facts and challenge us with their opinions (including The Boss, who apparently checks in from time to time). We have to thank the Caps, for giving us a lot to work with over the past three years -- the trials, the tribulations, the triumphs.

We don't pretend to be deep, and we don't pretend to be a journalist (we don't even pretend to be "we"'s just The Peerless here). We just write as a fan -- frustrated from time to time, happy occasionally, looking for something to do at 3 a.m. when last night's pepperoni and double cheese is exacting revenge.

We hope you'll keep reading us, as well as our fellow wizards, who you will find over there on the right. Given the lack of coverage the Caps get (although bless Tarik and Katie at the Post, and Corey and Tim at the Times, and others on the local beat for doing a great job in a tough place to cover hockey), those blogs over there are some of the best info you'll find on all things Caps.

Thanks, everyone.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What have I done?!

You might have heard of a certain contest underway...the "Puck Daddy Art Contest," to be exact. The theme is, "Gary Bettman -- Portraits in Heroism." The object of the exercise is to "depict Gary Bettman in a moment of true valor and heroism."

A tall order, indeed.

Well, we couldn't help ourselves. We sent in a few (one of which has been posted). And here they are, for what it's worth (your self respect, Peerless?)...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mirtle, Mo, and Milan...An Arbitration Intersection

James Mirtle authored a report in today's Globe and Mail that delved into the mysterious and, it turns out, contentious world of salary arbitration. In the body of the report, there was this narrative of interest to Caps fans...
In the Morrisonn case, the Capitals were seeking a salary of $1.1-million in arbitration and used six other young defencemen as comparables: Milan Jurcina, Josh Gorges, Lukas Krajicek, Mark Stuart, Garnet Exelby and Mike Komisarek.

On behalf of the player, the National Hockey League Players' Association asked for $2.8-million and used Trevor Daley, Tim Gleason, Fedor Tyutin, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Komisarek as comparisons.

Note that the club used the comparable of Milan Jurcina. The careful reader might note that this season is Jurcina's last under his current contract ($881,250 cap hit; $912,500 salary). Does this mean that the negotiations start at a foor of $1.975 million (Morrisonn's new deal)? The club views them as "comparable," although the arbitrator argued that the appropriate compensation for Morrisonn should be higher. Could make for an interesting situation next summer...if Jurcina is still here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ah, he'd probably have done it anyway

Ken Campbell over at The Hockey News has an article up about Bruce Boudreau and his taking a trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Not to sight-see, mind you, but rather...
" put 48 hockey players through their paces in something called the Hockey Resume Free Agent Camp in Niagara Falls, Ont. Now, the Hockey Resume Free Agent Camp and, let’s say, the first round of the NHL draft should not be confused. Hockey Resume is a company that tries to find jobs in the minor leagues, often the low minors, for players who don’t have contracts."

Campbell notes that Boudreau is saving a few bucks -- Boudreau himself said that "I’m basically doing it so my son doesn’t have to pay...I said I’d help out with a practice and give their camp some validity if my son could attend for free."

But we wonder, given his history, if it just wasn't an excuse to get some hockey teaching in.

And they're done...well, not

Shaone Morrisonn signed a one-year contract today for $1,975,000. That is the last of the major signings for the club for the summer, it would appear, and solidifies what would be the roster for the 2008-2009 season.

Well, not exactly. The deal leaves the club over the salary cap insofar as the likely parent roster is concerned:

What it means is that the club is either going to be having Brian Pothier and/or Chris Clark on the shelf, or the Caps are going to be trading off someone.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The "Outstanding Six" -- Can the Caps Join the Party?

As we understand the workings of “The Plan” as it applies to the Washington Capitals, it includes three pieces – the same three pieces any other team might use, albeit in ways not employed by all teams (cough…”Lightning”) – draft, trades, and free agents.

The draft is the core of the exercise. You draft well, you draft deep, you draft the players around whom you want to build your team. They are “The Core.” For the Capitals, that would include Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin, for starters (you may quibble on the margins for additional players).

Trades and free agents are similar in that you’re acquiring components from other “brands.” Trades are generally cheaper than comparably skilled free agents (salary-wise), who can be obtained to fill any number of roles (scorer, checking forward, defensive defenseman) and can be high-end skill players or tightly defined role players. They are the “mortar” to be used around the “bricks” of the core that was drafted.

In focusing on the draft as the core of the enterprise, the object is not just to be competitive, but to sustain a competitive level of play. Some teams (cough…”Lightning”) appear to want to write checks to buy competitiveness in the short term, but in looking at the longer term prospects for such a team, they are iffy. They will have salary issues, and the league has a history of teams failing to achieve the expected level of success through the “acquisition” route (particularly with respect to free agents).

We took a look at each of the six divisions since the 1990-1991 season and selected one team from each that enjoyed some lean times before achieving success. There are some patterns to be found in them.

Atlantic Division – New Jersey Devils

"They're putting a Mickey-Mouse operation on the ice. It's ruining hockey."

-- Wayne Gretzky, after the Oilers clubbed the Devils 13-4, November 19, 1983.

And so they were – a “Mickey Mouse operation,” that is. Although they would reach the playoffs in five of the next ten seasons, they would not so much as reach 90 points in doing it. Their high water mark was 87 points reached in both the 1991-1992 and 1992-1993 seasons. In those two seasons, though, there was something brewing. They had a couple of mid-20-something forwards in Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer, a 20-year old rookie (in the second of those seasons) in Bill Guerin, a mid-20’s defenseman of some skill by the name of “Stevens” (in his first two years in New Jersey), another defenseman in the early stages of his career by the name of “Niedermayer,” and a goalie who played only four games in that 1991-1992 season, but who would play a lot more later – Martin Brodeur.

In 1993-1994, the Devils took a big leap. They went 47-25-12, their 106 points being a 19-point improvement on the previous year – and went all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. The Devils won it all the following year, with a club that had added a young Bobby Holik (obtained from Hartford), a young Brian Rolston, and veterans Neal Broten (from Minnesota) and Bob Carpenter (from Washington).

Since then, the Devils have averaged 102 points per season and have finished with less than 95 only once. They have been able to sustain their success through the personnel skills of GM Lou Lamoriello, who has plugged holes and changed parts adroitly. If there has been a “core” (as we defined it) for the Devils over the past dozen seasons since they first won a Stanley Cup, it might include Patrik Elias (drafted in 1994), Brodeur (drafted in 1990), Scott Niedermayer (drafted in 1991, left after the 2003-2004 season), and Sergei Brylin (drafted in 1992). Added to that later, there might be included such players as John Madden (undrafted free agent who has been with the club since 1998), Jay Pandolfo (drafted in 1993, still with the club), Brian Rafalski (another undrafted free agent who was with the Devils from 1999-2000 through 2007-2007), and Scott Gomez (drafted in 1998 and left after the 2006-2007 season).

The Devils managed to pick up in trade or via free agency a number of players to fill roles for shorter periods of time – an Alexander Mogilny or a Joe Nieuwendyk, a Viktor Kozlov or a Richard Matvichuk, for example, to play a year or two at a time.

The Devils might not announce a “build from within” philosophy, but they have employed one of sorts, with an eye toward filling the missing pieces via trade or free agency. Of course, it helps to have that Lamoriello guy in the front office, too.

Northeast Division – Ottawa Senators

Once upon a time, this team was bad. No…really, really bad. Ten wins and 24 points bad…in an 84-game season in 1992-1993 (the Caps had an 8-67-5 season…21 points in 80 games in 1973-1974). As late as 1996-1997, they were only a 77-point team, although they did make the playoffs in that year.

The following year – 1997-1998 – one could now see the good team they would become, even if they had only 83 points in that year. They made the playoffs (losing to Washington in the second round), and did it with a youthful core – Daniel Alfredsson (drafted in 1994, still with the club), Wade Redden (drafted by the Islanders in 1995, but never playing a game in that organization), Chris Phillips (drafted in 1996), Magnus Arvedson (drafted in 1997).

After the Senators dipped their toes into the water in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons, they would reel off nine seasons over which they averaged 103 points a year and never achieved fewer than 94 points in any of them. They did it largely with that core (Arvedson left the Senators after the 2002-2003 season), but managed to add a Marian Hossa (drafted in 1997), a Martin Havlat (drafted in 1999, left after the 2005-2006 season), a Jason Spezza (drafted in 2001), a Chris Neil (drafted in 1998), a Mike Fisher (drafted in 1998), and an Anton Volchenkov (drafted in 2000).

To that, the Senators added their own pieces of the puzzle from other organizations…a Vaclav Varada, a Zdeno Chara, a Todd White, or a Dany Heatley.

Ottawa has been more dependent (or successful, if you prefer) than most clubs, even the Devils, with respect to the draft. But it has allowed them to build and keep a core group of players. They haven’t had to dip into trades or free agency a lot, but they have engaged in the practice with some success. However, it hasn’t allowed them to get that franchise goalie that they always seem to lack (ok, they had Dominik Hasek for a year).

Southeast Division – Tampa Bay Lightning

The history of teams in this division since Y2K won’t make the histories of NHL legendary teams. Tampa Bay is probably the best of the lot over the past half-dozen years, and their tale is instructive.

In their first ten seasons, the Lightning peeked above the 75-point level only once (88 points in 1995-1996, when they made their only playoff appearance in their first decade). But between 2001-2002 and 2002-2003, when they leaped from 69 to 93 points, the light went on. That 2001-2002 team had its own core of precocious home-grown under-25 kids – Brad Richards (drafted in 1998), Pavel Kubina (drafted in 1996), and Vincent Lecavalier (drafted in 1998). They’d already added players such as Fredrik Modin (from Toronto), Vaclav Prospal (from Florida), Dave Andreychuk (from Buffalo), and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (from Phoenix after he spent an entire year in the IHL in a contract dispute), and would add defenseman Dan Boyle (from Florida) midway through that 2001-2002 season. Martin St. Louis had already come over from Calgary in 2000-2001.

By the following season, they could make use of veterans added to their young core and make the leap to 93 points. A year after that they dipped into the veteran pool once more, adding Cory Stillman (from St. Louis) and Darryl Sydor (from Columbus). The pieces were sufficiently positioned to earn the Lightning a Stanley Cup.

The Lightning were not able to sustain their success as had New Jersey or Ottawa, in part because of contract deals that paid Lecavalier, Richards, and St. Louis handsomely, but left the club with little else to fill out a competitive roster. The house came crashing down last year when the Lightning sank to 71 points and 30th place in the league. But for four years, at least, the Lightning averaged 96 points and were a formidable squad, largely a product of the home-grown Lecavalier and Richards, and the pieces they added later (most notably Boyle, Prospal, and Khabibulin).

Central Division – Detroit Red Wings

These days, the defending Stanley Cup champion is looked at as the platinum standard for talent and management in the NHL. Such has not always been the case. In 1990-1991, the Wings were a 76-point team that ended a 17-year period in which they exceeded 80 points just once.

However, that 1990-1991 team had two home-grown players who would be essential to the Red Wings’ ascent to the highest tier of teams through the rest of the 1990’s and beyond – Steve Yzerman (drafted in 1983, but still only 25 years old that season) and Sergei Fedorov (drafted in 1989). They were the leading scorers on that team, with 108 and 79 points, respectively.

The following year, the Wings added two more players essential to their core – Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov on the blue line – both of whom were drafted in 1989 (that 1989 draft ranks as one of the great ones in terms of nailing the amateur evaluations for the Wings – five players played at least 630 NHL games, and Konstantinov certainly would have played far in excess of that had his career not been cut short after an auto accident). The Wings also added Vyacheslav Kozlov (drafted in 1990) for a cup of coffee with the club that year, and he would be a large player in future Wings’ success down the road.

For the Wings, the core was in place so that when it came to 1996-1997 (the year they would win their first Stanley Cup in 42 years), they could add a Brendan Shanhan (from Hartford early that season), Tomas Sandstrom (from Pittsburgh later that year), and Larry Murphy (from Toronto late in the year). It made for a formidable group and cemented the Wings as a perennial contender.

They would add pieces to their core in years to follow – a Tomas Holmstron (drafted in 1994), a Pavel Datsyuk (drafted in 1998), a Henrik Zetterberg (drafted in 1999). But they also would add players intelligently from other organizations to supplement that core – a Chris Chelios (from Chicago in 1998-1999), a Brett Hull (from Dallas in 2001-2002), Luc Robitaille (from Los Angeles, also in 2001-2002), a Robert Lang (from Washington in 2003-2004). It has made Detroit the embodiment of the phrase, “we don’t rebuild, we reload.”

Northwest Division – Colorado Avalanche

Maybe it’s the snow. It snows in Quebec; it snows in Denver. But while the Quebec Nordiques suffered some truly miserable seasons – in their last nine seasons in Canada, the Nordiques cleared 80 points just once -- they were rejuvenated in Denver, even though the seeds of success had already been planted.

That last team in Quebec in the 1994-1995 season included Joe Sakic up front (drafted in 1987) and Adam Foote on the blue line (drafted in 1989). There was Peter Forsberg (drafted by Philadelphia, but having never played a game in that organization, he being part of the consolation prize to Quebec when Eric Lindros was traded after declaring he would never play for the club that drafted him – Quebec). There was Adam Deadmarsh (drafted in 1993).

The following year, the now “Colorado Avalanche” were in a position to compete as the young guys had another year of experience. It didn’t hurt that there was a goaltender in Montreal with a festering relationship with his coach, one that would explode when he was left in to watch nine pucks fly by him before being pulled in a 12-1 loss in December 1995. Patrick Roy, who declared while leaving the bench in that game that he had played his last game in Montreal, became an Avalanche three days later.

But Roy, while the pivotal addition to the Avalanche from outside, wasn’t the only one to contribute. Mike Keane, who went with Roy to the Avalanche, was an important role player. Sandis Ozolinsh was added (from San Jose).

More players that would represent a core group were coming through the Colorado pipeline – Milan Hejduk (drafted in 1994), Chris Drury (also drafted in 1994), Alex Tanguay (drafted in 1998). But the Avalanche would add pieces to this puzzle as well that would culminate in a championship in 2001 – Rob Blake and Steve Reinprecht (from Los Angeles), and Ray Bourque (obtained in 1999-2000 from Boston).

Colorado has continued the theme, adding players fro within such as John-Michael Liles (drafted in 2000), Wojtek Wolski (drafted in 2004), and Paul Stastny (drafted in 2005). They’ve also added players from the outside to complement them, such as Ian Laperriere (from Los Angeles), Andrew Brunette (from Minnesota), and Ryan Smyth (from the Islanders).

The Avalanche has built and rebuilt a core, around which they have added veterans (for the most part) to keep themselves competitive.

Pacific Division – Dallas Stars

In their previous incarnation as the Minnesota North Stars, this franchise limped along on a path of mediocrity over their last decade in Minnesota, never better than 88 points, never worse than 51. The term “also ran” fit pretty well. But the last team in Minnesota had a glimmer of hope attached it in a couple of youngsters just cutting their teeth – 20-year old Derian Hatcher (drafted in 1990) and 22-year old Mike Modano (drafted in 1988). Modano would celebrate the move to Dallas the following year with a 50-goal season (still his career high) in leading the Stars (just “Stars”) to a 97-point season.

Trouble is, they hadn’t really “arrived” yet. They struggled for the next two seasons (with 42 points in the abbreviated 1994-1995 season, and 66 points the year after). But they were adding important pieces from within – Jamie Langenbrunner (drafted in 1993) and Jere Lehtinen (drafted in 1992), of greatest importance.

The Stars then also started to add other pieces, too, like Darryl Sydor (from Los Angeles) and Joe Nieuwendyk (from Calgary).

Adding a new coach – Ken Hitchcock – allowed the parts to work well as a whole, as the Stars improved by 38 points from 1995-1996 (66 points) to 1996-1997 (104 points). It started an 11-year (and counting) streak in which the Stars have averaged 104 points a season and have been below 97 points only once.

Dallas has not been quite as dependent on a “core,” perhaps, as the other teams mentioned here, but they have added assets from within over the years – Marty Turco (drafted in 1994), Brenden Morrow (drafted in 1997), Steve Ott (drafted in 2000), Jussi Jokinen (drafted in 2001), and Antti Miettinen (drafted in 2000).

Dallas has been successful in adding players – Philippe Boucher (from Los Angeles in 2002), Jason Arnott (from New Jersey in 2001, through 2006), Bill Guerin (from Boston in 2002, though 2006), and Stu Barnes (from Buffalo in 2002), for example.

All of these teams are perennial contenders. In the 60 seasons of hockey comprising the last ten seasons for each team, they have a combined 52 playoff teams (of the eight non-playoff teams, Tampa Bay has six of them). Five of the teams have won a total of eight Stanley Cups. The other – Ottawa – has appeared in a final.

There is the “Original Six,” and there is the “Outstanding Six” described here. It is the level of sustained competitiveness to which the Capitals aspire and are building a club for the long run. What one sees here is the outline of a pattern. A core of players is drafted, developed, and brought to the parent club. It is only after that when serious additions from outside are made, and generally to complement – not to replace – the roles that the core players occupy.

It is interesting to note as well that the big leap these clubs took in points that started them on the road to sustained competitiveness was often accompanied by a coaching change – Jacques Lemaire in New Jersey (when the Devils improved from 87 to 106 points from the 1992-1993 to the 1993-1994 season), John Tortorella (when Tampa Bay made a 34-point jump after two seasons under him), Bryan Murray (a 28 point leap in his first two years in Detroit), Ken Hitchcock (38 points in his first year in Dallas), Marc Crawford (a 28-point jump over his first two seasons with the Nordiques/Avalanche). There might be a “chicken and the egg” issue here – perhaps the ingredients were in place for the coach, perhaps the coach was needed to get the maximum from the ingredients – but there seems is a pattern in how these clubs got to where they are.

This has implications for the Capitals, who look to be a team wanting to operate in the same fashion. A core was built – Ovechkin, Green, Backstrom, and Semin. It is a group that struggled – not so much with their own play, but under the burdens of a team that did not enjoy much success in recent years. To this group, parts were added – Viktor Kozlov, Tom Poti, Michael Nylander. Other parts of what might constitute a growing core were added as well – Jeff Schultz, Tomas Fleischmann. Others might yet be on the way -- an Eric Fehr or a Karl Alzner. A coaching change was made, perhaps not heralded as salvation at the time, but ultimately a very successful one. As that success built upon itself, more pieces were added – Sergei Fedorov, Matt Cooke, Cristobal Huet – to fill distinct roles.

More success followed, and although the Caps could not manage to improve upon a first-round playoff appearance, they have the look of the Lightning of 2003 (without, one hopes, the contract problems), the Stars of 1997, or – be still our beating hearts – the Red Wings of 1992. All were teams on the rise with Stanley Cups in their futures; in the case of the Lightning and the Stars, the very near future – each won the Cup within two years after their first big leap in standings points.

This could, as they say, be the start of something big.


This is not a “Bill Veeck” moment in sports marketing. For you young folk out there, Bill Veeck was perhaps the greatest genius in the history of marketing a sports franchise. The man behind the exploding scoreboard, names on the backs of jerseys, fan appreciation nights (he was the first to employ all of these) is a legend in baseball for his imaginative approach to marketing his teams.

Enter the AHL's Iowa Chops (formerly, “Stars”). Having recently changed their team name, colors, and mascot to ‘illustrate Iowa’s agricultural heritage while also playing into the definition of ‘chops’, having nerve, resilience and staying power,” the Chops have turned down another road…

…signing Brett Favre.

That’s right, Chops’ President Steve Nitzel announced that the team “contacted and will be sending a contract to Brett Favre’s agent…in hopes that the quarterback will consider signing with the Iowa Chops.”

We don’t know if Favre can skate or if he knows a hockey puck from a cement truck. Perhaps having once played for a club whose history is rooted in the meat packing industry (hence the name, “Packers”), Favre is a natural fit for a team with a porcine theme.

Perhaps Favre, who is the all-time NFL leader in pass attempts (8,758, for those who are interested) will make people forget Sidney Crosby as the best passer in professional hockey.

He has the NFL record for most consecutive games with touchdown passes (47), more than twice as long as the NHL record for consecutive games with an assist (23, Wayne Gretzky).

Then again, this seems like one of those “what the $#@&” moments…Favre – born in Gulfport, Mississippi, and who played most of his legendary career in Wisconsin, has no obvious tie to Iowa, hockey, or pigs for that matter (excuse me, “vicious boars,” according to the press release announcing the name change).

Since Favre has spent his athletic life hunched over behind a center, the Chops might think about someone to play that position, too…

…we hear Mats Sundin is still unsigned.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


So...the Edmonton Oilers will be represented in the Rexall Edmonton Indy, with their logo on the number 06 car of the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team entry in the race.

We that hockey has been introduced to open-wheel racing, are we going to see some "body checking" in the race?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Rebuild...Reloaded

Long-time readers of this space will remember an entry we made in January 2007 on “The Rebuild…Revisited." Well, it’s fair to take a look back at that and ask, did any of the grades change? Let’s take a look in "The Rebuild...Reloaded."

Steve Konowalchuk – traded to Colorado for Bates Battaglia and the rights to Jonas Johansson, October 22, 2003.

Both players obtained for Konowalchuk are long departed from the organization. Battaglia, who played his only season with the Caps in 2003-2004, is with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL (the farm club of the Maple Leafs). Johansson, who played one NHL game in his career (in 2005-2006, for the Caps) is out of the NHL. He played for HV71 Jonkoping in the SEL last year.

There really isn’t a way to put a dress on this pig and make it a prom queen. The trade yielded nothing.

Original Grade: F
Revised Grade: F (can we give an F-minus, Peerless?)

Robert Lang – traded to Detroit for Tomas Fleischmann and a 1st round draft pick in 2004 (defenseman Mike Green) and a 4th round pick in 2006 (forward Luke Lynes), February 27, 2004.

Since being traded away in 2004, Lang has put up respectable numbers for Detroit and Chicago. In 235 games, he is 61-112-173, +40, with 11 game-winning goals. That works out to 21-39-60, +14, with 4 GWG per 82 games. Green, on the other hand, has emerged as perhaps the best under-25 offensive defenseman in the game. Fleischmann clearly has skill – he demonstrated as much in his time with the Hershey Bears (52-62-114, +20, in 102 games with the Bears, plus 16-37-53, +16, in 39 playoff games there). But he has not yet translated that to success at the NHL level on a consistent basis. 10-20-30, -7 was not a bad season for him, although it was disappointing in a way, given his starting the year on the top line (and, he’s still only 24 years old). He does – and perhaps is expected – to take another step up this year. Lynes played for the Stockton (ECHL) Thunder for two games last year after completing his season with Brampton in Canadian juniors. We was re-signed by the Thunder for the 2008-2009 season.

Lang is a dependable veteran, but the operative word there is “veteran” (he will be 38 in December), and Lang was not in the long-term picture for this team. If you’re looking for a late-30’s veteran center, the Caps are better off with Sergei Fedorov. In the meantime, the Caps have a defenseman who could be worthy of Norris consideration before too long. Fleischmann remains a work in progress for whom the upcoming season could be pivotal for his career.

Original Grade: B
Revised Grade: A

Sergei Gonchar – traded to Boston for Shaone Morrisonn and 1st (defenseman Jeff Schultz) and 2nd (center Mikail Yunkov) round draft picks in 2004, March 3, 2004

Gonchar, as most folks know, ended up in Pittsburgh, where he signed on a five-year deal for $25 million. During that first year in Pittsburgh, he was wearing that contract like an anchor chained to his waist. But he has improved in each of the last two seasons with the Penguins and this year was mentioned as a potential Norris Trophy finalist. You’d have to go back to the 1999-2000 season (with the Caps) to find a better plus-minus than his +13 last season.

Morrisonn has become as close to a shut-down defenseman as the Caps have on the parent roster. He continually draws the assignments of facing the top offensive performers among opponents. And if you consider the time he spent paired with Mike Green (and JP has, over at Japers’ Rink), there is his added value in letting Green do what he does. Schultz is something of an enigma…not for his play (although he doesn’t necessarily play to his size), but for the reaction he evokes in fans. In both Hershey and now, in Washington, he has inspired criticism of his style, which tends more to the positional than the physical. But, facts are facts, too. Last season – his first full season in the NHL – Schultz was 3rd on the club among defensemen in scoring, fourth in average ice time (discounting Brian Pothier, who played only 38 games), and led all Caps defensemen in plus-minus. Despite the barbs cast his way about his style, he emerged as a solid second-pair blueliner for the Caps. Given his age and experience, it would seem he is likely only to improve.

Yunkov played last year in Russia with Spartak (Moscow), where he was 4-6-10, -1 in 57 games and 1-0-1, +1 in five playoff games.

Gonchar is, if not an elite defenseman, than as close as an offensive-minded player at his position is. However, the Caps have in return two young, defensive defensemen who could be fixtures on the club for a decade or more.

Original Grade: B
Revised Grade: A

Jaromir Jagr – traded to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter, January 23, 2004 (Caps also liable for a substantial share of remaining value of Jagr’s contract)

Jagr has been involved in perhaps the most inconsequential deals for an elite player in the history of professional sport. Pittsburgh traded Jagr to Washington (with Frantisek Kucera) for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Russ Lupaschuk, none of whom made a ripple in the NHL, with Beech hanging by a thread as far as any future NHL career goes (the others are gone).

Then, after two-plus indifferent seasons in Washington, he was peddled to the Rangers for Anson Carter, who played two-plus seasons for four different teams (including the Caps), then ended up playing for Lugano this year in Europe. Carter was traded to Los Angeles six weeks after the Caps got him from New York. Jared Aulin came in return, and he is out of professional hockey.

This is another one that’s hard to pretty up. The best one can say of it is, “at least Jagr’s gone.”

Original Grade: D-
Revised Grade: D- (the only thing saving this from being an “F” was the karma that led to the Caps drafting Alex Ovechkin later that year)

Peter Bondra – traded to Ottawa for Brooks Laich and a 2nd round draft pick in 2005 (parlayed with another pick via trade with Colorado into the 27th overall pick – defenseman Joe Finley), February 18, 2004

After leaving Washington, Bondra finished up his career with Ottawa and Atlanta, going 31-36-67, even, in 120 games. It was an unfortunate end phase of a career that saw his goal production decline from 45 goals in 2000-2001 to 39, 30, 26, 21, and ultimately five in 37 games in his last year in Atlanta.

The return for Bondra looked modest at the time – a 20-year old, former sixth-round draft pick who had precisely one game of NHL experience. Fast forward to last season, and Brooks Laich has achieved something of a cult status, at least among Caps fans. Laich had career highs in goals, assists, and points in going 21-16-37. He was third on the team in goals, and tied for third in power play and game-winning goals. This despite being 16th on the club in average ice time and ninth among forwards.

This is one of those trades that gives truth to the phrase, “you have to wait a few years to see if it was worth it.” Laich has emerged – well, at least last season (mindful as we are of the possible Matt Pettinger analogies) – as a very efficient player. His versatility in being able to play any forward position adds to his value.

Original Grade: C-
Revised grade: B+

Mike Grier – traded to Buffalo for Jakub Klepis, March 9, 2004

Mike Grier, for whom Caps fans’ lasting memory is likely that of a player who couldn’t finish a play against an empty net, remains a decent pro (now with San Jose).

Klepis, on the other hand, is one of those players folks will likely remember as “disappointing.” A former first-round pick (16th overall in 2002), he had the skating and playmaking ability – or so it seemed – to be a scoring line center. But is 66 games with the Caps, he managed only four goals and 14 points, never able to stick with the parent roster for a full season. He played 19 games at Hershey last year, then returned to the Czech Republic to play for Slavia Praha HC.

Grier was a consistent source of frustration to Caps fans (perhaps to management as well) with his inability to finish plays – shorthanded breakaways were betting certainties to end poorly. But he was, and remains, a flesh and blood contributor to a very good hockey team. The Caps ended up with squadoosh in this deal.

Original Grade: C
Revised Grade: F

Michael Nylander – traded to Boston for a 2nd round draft pick in 2006 (Francois Bouchard) and future considerations (a 4th round pick in 2005 – defenseman Patrick McNeill), March 4, 2004.

What a difference 18 months make. Nylander is now with the Caps, and Bouchard and McNeill remain in the Caps’ system. Bouchard gives evidence of being a potential scoring line winger (although he took a step back – numbers-wise – last year at Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL). McNeill split time between South Carolina (ECHL) and Hershey (AHL).

Nylander, in returning to the Caps, was something of a mystery last year. He started poorly, then was injured, tried to play through it, was ineffective doing so (at least in terms of defense and faceoffs), then was shelved for good after 40 games.

For the Caps, it’s all good, one supposes, since all of the principals in this deal are with the club. But all of them are unfinished pieces in this puzzle.

Original Grade: Incomplete
Revised Grade: Incomplete

Brendan Witt – traded to Nashville for Kris Beech and a 1st round draft pick in 2006 (goaltender Semen Varlamov), March 9, 2006

Witt went to Nashville, then to Long Island where he is now as close to a cornerstone defenseman as the Islanders have. Given the Islanders’ finish last year (79 points, 13th in the East), you can draw your own conclusions about how strong that cornerstone is. This is not to say Witt is a bad defenseman – he’s not. But he is, at this point in his career (33 years old) perhaps more a second-pair type than a first-pair shut-down defenseman.

As for the return, it’s all in what Varlamov becomes. While he seems to be on a path to the NHL (he looked much, much better in the recent Caps development camp than he did in a similar setting last summer), nothing is guaranteed, especially with goaltenders. Everything depends on Varlamov, because if you look up the term, “well traveled,” in the dictionary…well, by God, there’s Kris Beech’s picture! Consider the first time Beech played for Washington and was traded to Pittsburgh in the Jaromir Jagr deal. He went to Nashville, Washington (again), Columbus, Vancouver, Washington (yet again), then Pittsburgh (he’ll probably start next season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). All since July 2001.

Original Grade: Incomplete
Revised Grade: Incomplete

So, to reiterate . . . the Caps moved:

Steve Konowalchuk
Robert Lang
Sergei Gonchar
Jaromir Jagr
Peter Bondra
Mike Grier
Michael Nylander
Brendan Witt

…and received in return:

Jonas Johansson
Tomas Fleischmann
Mike Green
Luke Lynes
Shaone Morrisonn
Jeff Schultz
Mikail Yunkov
Brooks Laich
Joe Finley
Jakub Klepis
Francois Bouchard
Patrick McNeill
Kris Beech
Semen Varlamov

…and nothing for Jaromir Jagr

As the trades have “ripened,” so to speak, they have ended up for the most part better than what they looked like 18 months ago. That is what prospect development does. Mike Green, Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, and Brooks Laich are important elements of the current Capitals squad. Tomas Fleischmann might reach that status yet. Varlamov could get there in another 2-3 years. Ditto for Bouchard.

What has transpired over the past 18 months is a caution to fans – don’t look at a trade on the day of the trade, especially when veterans-for-picks/prospects is involved. It pays to take a look in the rear-view mirror once some time has passed to see just what you have from those deals.

Dave Fay Memorial Classic II

Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed didn’t exchange as many head shots in their combined “Rocky” movies as did the teams of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Free State of Maryland did last night in the second Dave Fay Memorial Hockey Game. When the smoke cleared, the Commonwealth survived the Free State, in a shootout (!) – 12-11 – in a game reminiscent of those offensive donnybrooks of the 1980’s (goaltenders…you’re on your own).

But the real winners were the fans treated to some summer hockey and the fight against cancer, for which the game was played and the accompanying silent auction was held. We don’t know how much was raised at the end of the evening, but based on what the bids were on some of the memorabilia (among them, a signed Nicklas Backstrom jersey, a signed Caps team jersey, and a signed 2008 Western Conference all star jersey), it looked to be a successful night in that regard.

As for the game, Virginia scored on its first shot seconds into the contest, but Maryland roared back with three unanswered goals. Knocked to the canvas, the Virginians threw five straight haymakers – the last with less than two seconds in the opening period – to take a 6-3 lead.

Maryland opened the second in a frenzy, scoring a five-spot of their own to take an 8-6 lead. From there, it was a back and forth affair. Virginia and Maryland each scored a goal in the final two minutes of regulation to knot the score at 11.

The shootout – a five rounder, as opposed to the NHL’s three-round format – was won by Virginia, 2-1, to give the Commonwealth the privilege of wearing Lord Brown’s Boot for the next year.

As for the three stars of the game, they would have to go to Rob Keaton, Ben Wilson, and Gavin Toner – the three gentlemen who founded “Put Cancer on Ice.” If there was a “first star,” though, it would have to be Gavin “Sidney” Toner, who was credited with a number of assists when he, from accounts, wasn’t on the ice. There is a Penguin contract waiting for you, sir.

When it was all said and done, it was handshakes and head-rubs all around, and a portrait of both teams with the “Boot,”…a cool evening, indeed, on a sultry summer night.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Take that Detroit!..Miller signs with Buffalo

That sound you might have heard early this afternoon was the collective groan of fans of Red Wings Nation, which might have been expecting a native son to return home.

But Ryan Miller has re-signed with the Buffalo Sabres...five years, $6.25 million per.

Unless Jimmy Howard is really something, the Wings might be having goaltender issues in the not too distant future.

As for the Sabres, they finally get to hold on to a potential free agent. It doesn't make up for the losses of Daniel Briere, or Chris Drury, or Brian Campbell...or maybe even Dainius Zubrus. But it's something for Sabres fans to breathe easier about.

Notes on the Schedule

Here's a look at some things of note in the 2008-2009 schedule for the Capitals...

The Caps play the Thrashers in the season opener on October 10th, then play non-divisional opponents in their next ten games. They return to divisional play on November 6th, hosting Carolina.

Meanwhile, at the end of the season, the Caps finish the season with four divisional games (the last three on the road), and ten of their last 13 against teams in the Southeast. If there is a divisional dog-fight for the top spot or a top-eight Conference spot, those last 13 games will loom large.

The Caps have 13 back-to-back contests that break down as follows:

Home/Home: 1
Home/Away: 5
Away/Home: 2
Away/Away: 5

October: 1
November: 3
December: 2
January: 3
Jan/Feb: 1
February: 1
Feb/Mar: 1
March: 1
April: 0

Home-and-home games:

New Jersey (Nov. 14 (H)/Nov. 15 (A))
Atlanta (Apr. 5 (H)/Apr. 7 (A))

Three games in four nights:

October 10-13 (at ATL, CHI, VAN)
November 12-15 (at CAR, at NJD, NJD)
November 19-22 (at ANA, at LAK, at SJS)
November 26-29 (ATL, MTL, at CBJ)
December 4-7 (NYI, at TOR, at CAR)
January 17-20 (BOS, at NYI, at OTT)
January 31-February 3 (DET, OTT, at NJD)
February 28-March 3 (at BOS, FLA, CAR)
March 14-17 (CAR, at ATL, at FLA)

Home Games by Day of Week…

Monday: 2
Tuesday: 6
Wednesday: 4
Thursday: 7
Friday: 8
Saturday: 8
Sunday: 6

Total games by month:

October: 9 (4H/5A)
November: 15 (6H/9A)
December: 14 (7H/7A)
January: 12 (7H/5A)
February: 13 (8H/5A)
March: 13 (6H/7A)
April: 6 (3H/3A)

Longest stretch away from Verizon Center (days): 14 (Jan.17-31)

Longest home stand: 5 games, Feb. 18-26 (MTL, COL, PIT, PHL, ATL)

Longest road trip: 5 games, twice – Nov. 15-24 (NJD, ANA, LAK, SJS, MIN) and Mar. 16-24 (ATL, FLA, TBL, CAR, TOR)

Longest stretch of consecutive divisional games: 5 – Mar. 14-21 (CAR, at ATL, at FLA, at TBL, at CAR)

Month with fewest divisional games: October (1), January (1)

Month with most divisional games: March (8)

Other home highlights:

October…Cristobal Huet and the Blackhawks in the home opener on October 11th.

November…Olaf Kolzig makes his first appearance in an opponent’s sweater on November 10th

December…Ottawa visits on December 12th. The Caps won all four meetings last year against the Senators.

January…The Flyers will make their first appearance at Verizon Center since defeating the Caps in overtime of game 7 in the first round of the 2008 playoffs on January 6th…Stanley Cup champion Detroit visits on January 31st.

February…The Penguins make their first of two Verizon Center appearances on February 22nd, a Sunday afternoon affair.

March…The Penguins’ second visit to Washington is on March 8th, also in a Sunday matinee.

April…Buffalo will try to make Verizon Center HSBC-South once more, on April 3rd.

Last year, it was getting to that playoff threshold of 92 points (you remember that thermometer we had...). This year...

100 points, or bust!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What is this?

A newly-designed ball-peen hammer?

A proctological implement?

Something Madame Zelda uses to tell your fortune?

The next NASA Mars probe?

Pierre McGuire?, but close

No, it is something that ESPN will give to

<--- this guy as NHL player of the year instead of

this guy ---->

...go figure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Put Cancer on Ice...This Saturday

A reminder to all you Caps fans looking for a hockey fix in this summer heat...

Put Cancer on Ice is holding their second annual Dave Fay Memorial Hockey Game and Auction at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday, July 19th, at 8:30pm. The details are in the flyer below (click for more information).

The struggle between the squads representing the Great Commonwealth of Virginia and the Free State of Maryland to possess the cherished "Lord Brown's Boot" -- emblematic of hockey superiority in the National Capital Region -- will be every bit as spirited and hard-fought as any game you're going to see. Add to that a silent auction and an appearance by some Capitals' alumni, and it promises to be a special evening.

It is a great cause and a fine event sponsored by a great bunch of folks. As someone who attended last year's event, believe won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nolan Out on Long Island

Newsday reports that the New York Islanders and head coach Ted Nolan have parted ways. The decision was described as "mutual" on the part of Nolan and Islanders general manager Garth Snow.

Apparently, the decision is the result of the dreaded "philosophical differences." Snow was of a mind to develop youth; Nolan disagreed with this approach, according to the Newsday report.

Nolan leaves the Islanders with a curious symmetry in his coaching career:

We don't suspect Nolan is going to have to wait ten years for his next NHL coaching position, but given the nature of the rift between Nolan and Snow, the kind of team Nolan might inherit could be a consideration that narrows his options. He guided a largely veteran, overachieving group to a 40-win season in 2006-2007. Last year though, as the club was trying to work younger players into the lineup (such as: Bruno Gervais, Blake Comeau, and Jeff Tambellini), success was harder to come by, as might be expected from a team trying to retool.

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

The Denver Post is reporting that Colorado forward Peter Forsberg, if he intends to play in the NHL this year, won't be doing so until about Christmas...
"After consulting with more doctors about his troubled right foot in his native Sweden, Forsberg was told he would need several months of rehabilitation if he wanted to have hope of playing again, a source close to the Avs star said."
The Detroit Free Press has the scoop, as it were, on Kamryn Draper. She is the newborn daughter of Red Wing forward Kris Draper. She had her own moment with the Stanley Cup...

"A week after we won it, I had my newborn daughter in there, and she pooped in the Cup...That was something. We had a pretty good laugh. "I still drank out of it that night, so no worries."

The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) took a look at the endorsement potential of young NHLers, including Alex Ovechkin, and likes what it a point:
“'Ovechkin certainly has enthusiasm and personality as his greatest assets,' said Bob Stellick, president of Stellick Marketing Communications Inc., Toronto, a firm specializing in hockey and other sports. 'With the Capitals having some success this year, it has certainly helped his profile. However, his English skills and the fact that Washington is not a major U.S. market team — like New York, Chicago, L.A. or Boston — doesn’t help.'"
On the other hand, Anthony Fisher, senior vice president of marketing for Pro Hockey Life (which is handling exclusive distribution rights to Ovechkin's street wear clothing line in its first year) says...

“Alex’s marketability has the unique capability to transcend team loyalties. If you are a fan of hockey, you are a fan of Ovechkin — period.”
Akim Aliu, who was something of a curiosity in the 2007 entry draft, thought to be a risky pick, might be seeing time with the Chicago Blackhawks this year, if a report in the Chicago Tribune is true. Of Aliu's development camp performance, Hawks GM Dale Tallon said this...

"Akim is really, really impressive. His skating, his puck handling, his intensity, his physicality—all of those things have improved a lot. He's really close."
And, if you are a Ranger fan, be very very afraid. In the New York Times hockey blog, "Slap Shot," there was this...
"According to [Ranger prospect Alexei] Cherepanov’s Russian agent, Sergei Paremuzov, the Rangers’ No. 1 draft choice in 2007 will be staying with Avangard Omsk this year, his second with the high-ranking Siberian club. And although Paremuzov says that Cherepanov wants to play in the NHL, he also says that the 19-year-old will benefit from another year with the Hawks, where he will learn from the newly signed ex-Ranger Jaromir Jagr."
Uh...learn what, exactly?

Rest in Peace, Ms. Riley

Olive Riley was, by many accounts, the world's oldest blogger. Ms. Riley passed away on Saturday at a nursing home in New South Wales, Australia. She was 108 and was still carrying a tune.

And how did you spend YOUR summer?

Getting your degree?

Well, that's what Alex Ovechkin did...check out the video at Alex Ovetjkin (sorry, I can't provide a translation from Russian).

We've got spirit, how 'bout you?!

We’ve got spirit, yes we do!

Well, we will…in the fall. The Capitals announced that they are establishing a “Spirit Squad” and “are seeking energetic, outgoing people who love the game of hockey and want to perform in front of sold-out crowds at Verizon Center!” The exclamation point is theirs. So is the bit about performing in front of sold out crowds…does that mean we don’t see them every night?

But this being July, and the draft and most of the choice pickings of free agents now in our rear-view mirror, calendar-wise, this issue (and only in Washington could this rise to the level of being an “issue") is hot on The Official and in the local blogosphere. While The Peerless is officially indifferent to the whole idea of cheerleaders, spirit squads, or crazy crews – male, female, or other mammal – he is obligated, as an unofficial member of the Washington Capitals Blogging League, to write something about this.

But he really doesn’t want to, so he’s going to turn it over to the boys and girls of The McLaughlin Group, who can bloviate with the best of them when it comes to issues no one outside the beltway cares about…

John McLaughlin…”Issue 1…’Spirit Squad’…good idea or deranged brain cramp?…Mor-TAHN MotherZuckerman…”

Morton Zuckerman…”John, I think…”

J-Mac...”WRONG!...You don’t think on this show, that’s my job…Eleanor Such a Bore Clift…”

Eleanor Clift…”John, you’re always…”


Pat Buchanan…”You certainly are, John…”

J-Mac…”very droll, Pat…the correct answer is, ‘inspired diversion’…Issue 2…’Women only, or coed?’ Patty Melt Buchanan…”

Pat…”John, there are just some roles that are meant only for women, and…”

J-Mac…”WRONG!...there are just some roles that are meant only for gorgeous women …Eleanor…”

Eleanor…”John, you are such a chauvinist dinosaur…”

J-Mac...”WRONG!...I’m an endangered ignoramus!...Issue 3…’professionally designed long-sleeved shirts and pants’ or ‘midriff-baring tops and short skirts?’…Mort…”

Mort…”I’m going to need to go to the gym if I’m going to wear midriff-baring tops, John…”

J-Mac...”WRONG!...No amount of time in the gym can help you with that…Pat…”

Pat…”I’m going to have to shave my legs to wear those short skirts…”


Eleanor…”thank heavens…”

J-Mac…”The correct answer is…’parkas and leggings’…Issue 4…"On a scale of 0 to 10--with 0 representing zero possibility and 10 representing metaphysical certitude--what is the chance of this stunt ‘enhancing the game experience?’ Sporty Morty on the Back Forty…”


J-Mac…”WRONG!...Eleanor Won’t Get No More…


J-Mac…WRONG!...Patrick Thick as a Brick...


J-Mac…”WRONG!...The answer is Jose Theodore’s career save percentage…point nine-oh-nine…Predictions, Mort…”

Mort…”By August 1st, this issue will be overtaken by discussion of whether the Caps will have an alternate jersey with their fruit bat logo.”

J-Mac…”Eleanor (and it’s a ‘weagle,’ Mort)…”

Eleanor…”Caps fans will quickly move on from this tempest in a short skirt and delve into discussions of more important issues, like whether the price of the chicken tenders basket will surpass the $10 mark in another sign of rampant inflation.”

J-Mac…”The chicken tenders will NOT pass the $10 mark, but the nachos will be replaced with veggie snack chips in an effort to provide healthier fare…Pat…”

Pat…”Commissioner Gary Bettman will issue a decree requiring every team to employ scantily-clad females in an effort to secure a TV deal with HBO, with games to be shown after midnight, right after that show in a taxicab…”

J-Mac…”The Peerless will swear off late night pepperoni and double cheese pizzas, but will soon fall off the wagon, claiming that they are a necessary inspiration for his blogging…bye-BYE!”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vinnie Signs

Well, Caps fans, Vincent Lecavalier will be a Tampa Bay Lightning for life, unless one assumes life begins at 40.

Lecavalier agreed to terms yesterday that will pay him $85 million over 11 years, extending to the eve of his 40th birthday in the 2019-2020 season.

The deal is interesting for in the way it is weighted. The payouts look like this…

As the TSN article notes, there is benefit to Lecavalier in that if he chooses to retire in the latter stages of the deal, he will have collected most of the value of the contract. In a way, this deal resembles the signing bonus/salary deals of the NFL, where elite players’ contracts are generally heavily front loaded by the guaranteed signing bonus. The player gets his money (well, in that first year of the deal, anyway), and the club has some flexibility on the back end to move or cut the player.

What flexibility exists for the Lightning in this deal probably depends more on the continued growth of the league. It is possible that the structure of the deal would give the Lightning the ability to add assets (if they are competitive) or to use Lecavalier as a trading asset (if they are not, to assemble draft picks/prospects). If the salary cap grows by three percent per year over the course of the deal – and yes, the cap has risen more rapidly in the years since the lockout – his cap hit would be less than ten percent of the cap in the 2019-2020 season (about what Wade Redden’s hit will be in the last year of his deal with the Rangers in 2013-2014, or Kimmo Timonen’s deal with the Flyers in 2012-2013), and the cash outlay would be attractive.

The flip side of this is that mega deals of the sort signed by Lecavalier and Alex Ovechkin depend on precisely that continued growth in the league and its revenues. That is the risk the clubs take. If one is bullish on the long-term prospects of the NHL, these deals are bargains over their lives. But if that optimism ends up ill-placed…

On balance, though, this deal looks a lot better for the Lightning than any other deal they’ve made so far in this off season. And it seems to be the latest example of a trend in mega deals…those signed by the likes of Lecavalier, Ovechkin, Mike Richards (12 years with the Flyers), and even Rick DiPietro (15 years with the Islanders). Draft the cornerstone, and keep them. Compare that to the kind of deal the Capitals signed with Jaromir Jagr (seven years, $77 million, with an option). In retrospect, that one had the look of buying someone else’s treasure. With this quartet, they are part of the family from the start.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

SRO at KCI...Development Camp Closes

It was standing room only at Kettler Capitals Iceplex today as the 2008 development camp came to a close. In addition to the usual amusements – street hockey and moon bounce for the kids, music, and the club’s equipment sale – there was the week-ending scrimmage of Capital hopefuls.

(click on the images for larger versions)

The game itself was competitive, although the fact that these are kids who have not played with one another for long made things choppy and lacking in flow from time to time. Some youngsters did stand out though…

Simeon Varlamov – wearing the white colors today – looked a good deal sharper than we remember seeing him last year. Much quicker and much better at anticipating plays. He had many more chances to fend off than did his counterpart – Michal Neuvirth. He earned the round of applause he skated off to mid-way through the second period.

Oscar Osala had a difficult time keeping his footing. Maybe it was a skate problem, but he spent a lot of time picking himself up off the KCI surface. But pick himself up he did, not quitting on plays.

Francois Bouchard had a difficult time of his own, it seemed, for two periods (looking as if he just wasn’t quite in sync), but he was in the middle of things at the end of the contest and in the extra time/shootout. His spin-o-rama shootout move was rather…interesting.

The Blue squad had the best of things early, but it was the White squad that had the advantage in the end. And the physical edge to the play picked up as the minutes were winding down.

We’re rooting for Stefan Della Rovere to make this team some time down the road. He was quite the bundle of energy and grit out there. Even in an environment where one might not see quite the level or intensity of hitting one would see in real games, he was out there plugging away making his presence felt.

It really was amazing to see a crowd as large as this in the middle of July for hockey. Not only were the stands filled, but in the balcony the crowd was several deep along the railing, and the lobby and common areas of KCI were active, as well.

To all the participants and to the Caps…congratulations on a great camp. It was quite entertaining and a signal that things continue to look promising for this organization.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lest we forget

As the minutes tick away on this July 11th, let us give pause to remember what happened on this date seven years ago...

And now...Phase III: Arbitration

We had the draft, then we had the opening of the free-agent signing period. Well, today Boyd Gordon re-signed on a one-year deal at $725,000. That leaves only Shaone Morrisonn among the restricteds. His arbitration is scheduled for July 24th .

And what comes after that?...Well, Phase IV of tweaking personnel is going to be an interesting set of "ifs." If Brian Pothier and/or Chris Clark are not ready (Pothier's availability seems unlikely to the point of "will he retire?"...Clark appears iffy for the start of the year), then the Caps look to have $51.4 million in cap room tied up in 20 roster spots, not including Morrisonn. Five of those spots would be defensemen, meaning there could be room for a Karl Alzner, a Sami Lepisto (who, oddly enough, is not included among either the parent roster or prospects on the official, we do not suspect a conspiracy), or a trade.

13 spots would be occupied by forwards, which doesn't make for any sense of urgency, but could create an opportunity for someone in this week's development camp.

The Caps will continue to be an interesting team to watch as we move forward in the "off" season.

In 35 years...

...can Caps fans remember a time with as much unabashed optimism as this over the team and its direction? Could Caps fans think of these quotes as being uttered about their team?...

“Alex Ovechkin just called me to say we have a great group of guys. We like to have fun, win and work hard. When he said that, I knew I made the right choice."

-- Jose Theodore, upon being a Cap for barely an hour.

"When I saw things weren't progressing with Cristobal [Huet], I knew there was going to be an opening. So I didn't want to sign too quickly in Denver. This was my first choice."

-- Theodore

"I'm so excited to be back you don't even know. I love our team. I love where we're headed."

-- Brooks Laich, after signing his new contract

"Yeah, me and Bruce [Boudreau] have been through quite a bit in the last three years. He wins coach of the year this season and he's only there for three-quarters of the season. It goes to show how good of a coach he is. I didn't want to leave Bruce."

-- Mike Green, on returning to the Caps

"…Our fans can smell it. They suffered for several years, but they know we can be good for a long time. They know our players and have watched them grow up and play better and better. Now the rest of the hockey world knows it."

-- Ted Leonsis

“Sergei Fedorov, who was an unrestricted free agent and thus able to sell his services to the highest bidder, opted to play for the Washington Capitals next season on a comparatively modest one-year, $4-million contract rather than play for higher pay in Russia…Instead, Fedorov will stay in the NHL for at least one more year so he can play with fellow Russians Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov on a young, but emerging Capitals team.”

-- Eric Duhatschek, Globe and Mail, writing about choices Russian players are making

...thanks to TheGreatOneCSC The Official for turning the light on over my head about this.