There is a lot of talk in Caps Nation these days over whether or not a shakeup is needed on the roster to shake off the spell of early playoff round failures that have beset the Caps the past four years. Much of the talk centers on whether it is a good idea to trade defenseman Mike Green.
It is hard to come to a clear answer to the question, “deal or no deal?” Some point to his age (he will turn 26 early in the 2011-2012 season) and position, and wonder if there is still an untapped level of performance for a player who mans a position that usually requires a longer lead time to maturity. Others point to his early-career production and conclude that he has peaked in his offensive production, that he will skate along the path of others before him – a drop in production followed by some increase later, but not to the heights of his early years – making a long term, high-dollar contract of limited value, thus suggesting that trading him now is the best bet for the Caps.
Well, the Caps themselves have been down a similar road before. An “offensive,” puck-moving defenseman accused of having some issues in his own end, who might not be as physical a defensive presence as fans might like, who had some playoff performance issues.
Yeah, we’ve been here before. So let’s take a look at two Caps – one former, one present. Player A spent parts of six seasons with Washington early in his career (he was not drafted by Washington), playing 453 regular season games between the ages of 22 and 27. Player B (who is Mike Green), has spent parts of six seasons with the Caps, playing in 366 regular season games between the ages of 20 and 25. Let’s compare their numbers in the regular season (data courtesy of hockey-reference.com):
Spooky, isn’t it? Well, it gets better when you compare the playoff performance of these two players over that same relative span:
We will stipulate to all the questions about this kind of comparison – players of different eras, different styles played in those eras, comparing a current player to only one other player, even different contract circumstances (Green will be a restricted free agent after next season; Player A played before the onset of broad free agency rights).
But the age and productivity of the two players are reasonably similar, the big difference being the concern over Green’s durability (he missed 54 games over the past three regular seasons). Still, we do not see the matter of trading Green as a slam dunk in favor of the proposition. And his playing a position that is a virtual requirement for post-season success (solid-top-four defensemen being almost a prerequisite these days) leads us to believe that, all other things equal, keeping Green is the way to go. Of course, the matter of the next contract past next season will weigh heavily in any decision, and that has to be a factor. A Mike Green at a $5.2 million cap hit is one thing. A Mike Green at a $6.5 million cap hit is another matter.
Still, we think the comparison useful, if only to point out the perils of letting a player go – especially at this position – too early. For you see, “Player B” is indeed Mike Green.
“Player A” is Larry Murphy…yes, that Larry Murphy, the one "whooped" out of town, who went on to play with four Stanley Cup winners and who has a bust in the Hall of Fame.
Whoop at your peril.