Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The H Team"

The Pause continues, and it continues to provide us an opportunity to take a look back at the Washington Capitals’ “All Alphabet Team” we posted in 2014.  Today, we are up to the “All-H Team.”  Back in 2014, that "All-H Team" was:  

LW: Dennis Hextall (1978-1980)
C: Dale Hunter (1987-1999)
RW: Ken Houston (1982-1983)
D: Kevin Hatcher (1985-1994)
D: Phil Housley (1996-1998)
G: Braden Holtby (2010-present)

This is the second of the original All-Alphabet Teams whose five skaters pre-date the 2004-2005 lockout year (All-D Team was the other).  As a group, the five skaters of the original team were a diverse lot.  There was the journeyman at the end of a career in which he played for six teams over 12 seasons, his season and change in Washington being his last NHL stop (Hextall).  There was the feisty forward who has already become a legend of sorts in Quebec, who came to Washington (we won’t talk about the draft pick going to Quebec being used to draft Joe Sakic), eventually ascended to the team captaincy, and had a career worthy of having his number retired (Hunter).  There was the player who spent barely a full season in Washington, but who stayed long enough to post a career high in goals for a season (Houston, who had 25 goals in 1982-1983).  There was the defenseman who, by the time his career ended with the Caps after the 1993-1994 season, was the career leader among Caps defenseman at that time in goals (149), power play goals (50), game-winning goals (24), and had – still has, in fact – the single season team record for goals by a defenseman (Hatcher, who had 34 goals in 1992-1993).  There was the defenseman signed as a free agent on the back-half/bounce around the league portion of a hall of fame career (the Caps were the sixth of eight teams for which he would play) who showed glimpses of his earlier glory but could not push the Caps to a title in their first Stanley Cup final appearance (Housley).

Given this group and its diversity, not to mention its somewhat uneven performance, there might be an opportunity for a replacement or two on the All-H Team roster of skaters.  We can dispose of the matter of defensemen right away.  There has been one defenseman who dressed for the Caps whose last name start with the letter “H” since the original team was published in 2014 – Jack Hillen.  His tenure in Washington actually straddles that publication, having arrived in 2012-2013 as a free agent from Nashville and playing for the Caps into the 2014-2015 season, during which he was traded to Carolina.  His five points in 35 games (all assists) for the Caps in that 2014-2015 season do not merit replacing either Hatcher or Housley.

At forward, we might consider if either Carl Hagelin or Garnet Hathaway are worthy replacements for either Dennis Hextall or Ken Houston.  Hagelin is a particularly interesting case.  He has the reputation of being more of a defensive player, very adept in penalty killing, but he has been “sneaky” productive for the Caps in his 78 games with the club, going 11-25-36, almost a half-point per game scoring pace.  And, five of his 11 goals for the club have been either game-winners (three) or shorthanded (two, neither of which was a game-winner).  In the matter of the left wingers, it is not really a close call between Hextall (3-10-13 in 41 games with the Caps) and Hagelin.  Hextall takes a seat in favor of Hagelin.

On the other wing, it is a closer call, but not particularly close.  Hathaway has been the player as advertised when he was signed as a free agent by the Caps last summer – a decent two-way player who plays with an edge.  Nine goals and 16 points, to go along with 79 penalty minutes in 66 games attests to that.  On the other hand, Ken Houston had 25 goals and 39 points in 75 games with the Caps and had 97 penalty minutes of his own in those 75 games.  It is not a landslide decision, but we would be inclined for the moment to keep Houston on the All-H Team roster.

In goal, circumstances make the decision even easier.  There is no goaltender having dressed for the Caps whose last name starts with “H” since the roster was published in 2014 other than Braden Holtby.  His before and after numbers using that 2014 roster publication as a baseline are similar.  His 60-31-8/2.60/.919 record, with 11 shutouts, merited his selection on the original roster.  His 222-91-38/2.52/.915 record, with 24 shutouts, not to mention a Stanley Cup, supports keeping him there, the absence of possible replacements notwithstanding.

The 2014 version of the “All-H Team” is an odd mix of a group.  A defenseman might be the best offensive player (Hatcher), and the best defender of the revised group might be a forward (Hagelin).  It is a team that can get under the skin of opponents (Hunter, and even Hatcher, who had 999 penalty minutes as a Cap) and has considerable experience, even if most of it among some players came before arriving in Washington (Houston, Housley).  And, it is anchored by arguably the best goalie in team history (Holtby).  In many respects, this team resembles a lot of teams the early competitive years of the franchise – a decent offensive punch and hard to play against.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The G Team"

We have taken a look back at the Teams “A” through “F” on our look back at the Washington Capitals’ “All Alphabet Team,” and if we remember our A-B-C’s, that brings us to the letter “G.”

Back in 2014, our "All-G Team" was:  
  • LW: Stan Gilbertson (1974-1976)
  • C: Bengt-Åke Gustafsson (1979-1986; 1987-1988)
  • RW: Mike Gartner (1979-1989)
  • D: Sergei Gonchar (1995-2004)
  • D: Mike Green (2005-2015)
  • G: Philipp Grubauer (2013-2018)

If there were some unremarkable teams among the A-F squads, the “All-G Team” published in 2014 does not suffer that problem.  The “All-G Team” includes some of the highest ranked players across statistical categories in team history:
  • Mike Gartner: goals (third/397), points (fourth/ 789), power play goals (third/98), shorthanded goals (T-fifth/12), game-winning goals (third/54), shots on goal (third/2841)
  • Bengt-Åke Gustafsson: goals (seventh/196), points (seventh/554), shorthanded goals (T-second/17), game-winning goals (fifth/33)
  • Sergei Gonchar (among defensemen): goals (second/144), points (fifth/416), power play goals (first/53), game-winning goals (fourth/19), shooting percentage (second/8.9; minimum: 100 shots)
  • Mike Green (among defensemen): goals (T-third/113), points (sixth/360), power play goals (second/52), overtime goals (first/8), game-winning goals (third/20), shooting percentage (fourth/8.3; minimum: 100 shots)

Compare these four players with those whose last names begin with the letter “G” playing for the Caps since the 2014 team was published:
  • Stan Galiev (RW)
  • Shane Gersich (LW)
  • Tim Gleason (D)
  • Curtis Glencross (LW)
  • Tyler Graovac (C)
  • Radko Gudas (D)

None of these players will replace any of the four listed above.  But what of Stan Gilbertson at left wing?  Would Shane Gersich or Curtis Glencross be suitable replacements?

Gilbertson was a reasonably productive player in 56 games over two seasons with the Caps, posting a scoring line of 24-21-45 for a couple of historically bad teams.  Not only would neither Gersich nor Glencross have merit as a replacement, the six players listed above having dressed since the summer of 2014 have combined for a scoring line of 7-22-29 in 132 games.  The skaters from the 2014 “All-G Team” would remain intact.

In goal, Philipp Grubauer was selected to the “All-G Team” in 2014 despite having appeared in only 19 games with the Caps at the time and a record of 6-6-5 (two no-decisions), 2.48, .924.  Since the summer of 2014, he is the only one of five goalies dressing for the Caps whose name includes a “G,” let alone being the only one whose last name starts with that letter.  More to the point, Grubauer only strengthened his hold on the position on the “All-G Team,” going 37-25-6, 2.24, .923, with six shutouts in 82 games.  By the time he left the club after the 2017-2018 season for Colorado, he was top-ten in team history in wins by a goalie (tenth/43), goals against average (first/2.29; minimum: 1,000 minutes), save percentage (first/.923; minimum: 1,000 minutes), and shutouts (T-eighth/6).

The 2014 version of the “All-G Team” is a formidable group.  The five skaters combined for 873 goals and 2,164 points in 2,672 man-games in the regular season and had 47 goals with 137 points in 201 man-games in the postseason with the Caps.  Philipp Grubauer was – and remains – one of the most effective goaltenders in Caps history when one remembers he played in barely 100 games for the club (101).  It is a squad that will remain intact, at least for now.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Washington Capitals: What If This Day In Caps History Didn't Happen Like This Day In Caps History -- April 23rd

From time to time a fan will wonder, what if things unfolded differently?  For Caps fans it has been a through-line spanning the history of the franchise.  Well, at least until 2018.  Until the Caps won the Stanley Cup in 2018 their history was one long conveyor belt of disappointment, frustration, and despair in the postseason.  But where did it start for the Caps?  We will argue here that it started on April 23, 1986.

Few Caps fans will recall by this time that when the sun came up on April 23, 1986, the Caps had already swept the New York Islanders, 3-0, in a best-of-five opening round series, and they held a 2-1 lead in games over the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division finals, outscoring the Rangers, 14-4 in Games 2 and 3 after dropping Game 1 in overtime.  But there was an ominous aspect to the 6-3 Game 3 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, one that might have been a warning of what was to come. 

In that Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, the Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Bobby Carpenter and Mike Gartner.  Barely four minutes into the second period, the Caps were up 4-0, courtesy of Carpenter’s second goal of the game and a strike by John Barrett.  But in the third period, the Caps got sloppy, taking six penalties, including a major penalty to Alan Haworth for slashing, and the Rangers posted a pair of power play goals.  The Caps answered each of them with goals of their own, Barrett getting his second of the game and Haworth potting one before the Rangers closed the scoring on a Pierre Larouche goal with just over two minutes left in the game.  The Caps skated off with a 6-3 win, taking a 2-1 lead in games and technically not trailing for so much as a single second of the series, their loss coming on an overtime goal by the Rangers in Game 1. 

But back to that ominous part of Game 3.  Caps goalie Pete Peeters said that during the game he was struck by a quarter thrown from the stands.  The Caps won the game, but was that an omen?  An unlucky coin?

OK, we might be stretching things a bit, but when the teams took the ice for Game 4 on that fateful night of April 23, 1986, it was the Rangers scoring first – a power play goal by Wilf Paiement in the seventh minute of the game – to take their first lead in regulation time in the series.  When the Caps answered with three goals in a span of six minutes before the end of the first period, Paiement’s goal might have looked like a speed bump for the Caps on their way to a dominating Game 4 win and a 3-1 series lead.

But then, things took a turn. Less than five minutes into the second period, rookie Mike Ridley scored for the Rangers to cut the Caps’ lead to one.  Less than four minutes later, Tomas Sandstrom scored his first goal of the series to tie the game at 3-3.  Bobby Gould restored a measure of order for the Caps, scoring with 1:01 left in the second period to put the Caps back on top. 

When Greg Smith scored a shorthanded goal for Washington 7:45 into the third period, it looked as if the Caps had dodged a bullet – or a quarter.  However, Willie Huber scored on the power play just 24 seconds after Smith’s goal, and it was then a case of the Caps trying to preserve a one goal lead on enemy ice over the last dozen minutes of the game.

They didn’t.  Bob Brooke scored with 2:35 left in regulation to tie the game.  The player earning the primary assist?  Brian MacLellan.  The Brian MacLellan who scored the overtime winner for the Rangers in Game 1.  Yes…that Brian MacLellan.

And so, the teams went to overtime.  There, just 2:40 into the extra frame, Brooke scored his second of the game in what must have seemed at the time a fluke, but what would become over the years to come something very “Caps.”  Taking advantage of a Caps turnover, he shot the puck off the skate of Greg Smith and between Peeters’ pads, and the Rangers had their second overtime win of the series, 6-5. 

So there we were, the Caps and Rangers tied at two games apiece despite the Rangers holding a lead in the series for just 28 seconds in regulation.  New York had two wins secured in overtime after overcoming two-goal deficits in each game, twice in Game 4.

Things went south for the Caps after that.  They went out to another two-goal lead less than four minutes into the contest on home ice in Game 5, but the Rangers roared back with four unanswered goals to win, 4-2 (MacLellan had the primary assist on the game-winning goal in this game, too), and force an elimination game for the Caps in New York in Game 6.  The Blueshirts got out to a two-goal lead of their own in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden, but the Caps could do no better than halve that lead, dropping a 2-1 decision and the series to the Rangers. 

For the Caps, who finished with 50 wins for the first time in franchise history and 29 standings points ahead of the Rangers in the regular season, and who outscored the Rangers, 14-4 in Games 2 and 3 after losing in overtime in Game 1, it was a bitter pill to swallow, ending a season that might have been their best chance at a Stanley Cup until the Alex Ovechkin years.

It makes one wonder…what if that puck off the stick of Bob Brooke had not hit that skate on Greg Smith’s foot and found the back of the net in overtime of Game 4 on April 23, 1986?  Would the Caps have avoided years of disappointment and despair, of flukes and failures?  Or was it just the begining of a long arc of history in which a little known forward playing in his first and only year with the New York Rangers who figured so prominently in the Rangers’ decisive goals of the series would someday lead the Caps from the front office to their first Stanley Cup win?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The F Team"

Looking back at the “All-Alphabet Team” for the Washington Capitals as part of our Peerless Playback during the Pause is now up to the letter “F.” Are there players that merit replacement?  Are we good with the original 2014 lineup?  Let’s take a look.

Back in 2014, our "All-F Team" was: 

    LW: Tomas Fleischmann (2005-2010)
    C: Sergei Fedorov (2008-2009)
    RW: Lou Franceschetti (1981-1989)
    D: Chris Felix (1988-1990)
    D: Jean-Francois Fortin (2002-2003)
    G: Frederic Cassivi* (2005-2007)

Coming up with an “All-F Team” is no easy feat.  There have been only 19 skaters in team history whose last name begins with the letter “F.”  It is a group of skaters that includes two Ferraro’s (twin brothers Chris and Peter) and two Forbes (Colin and Dave).  It includes two of the longest last names in Caps history (Lou Franceschetti and Tomas Fleischmann) and one of the shortest (Rico Fata).  It includes a Hall of Famer, albeit past his prime (Sergei Fedorov), and five players who dressed for fewer than five games with the Caps (the aforementioned Ferraro’s, Alex Forsyth, Larry Fullan, and Owen Fussey).

The group we chose in 2014, listed above, combined for 786 games with the Caps, posting 111 goals and 296 points.  It suggests that there would be room for replacement.  However, this is another letter of the alphabet that suffers from a lack of new options.  Only two skaters since the original roster was published in 2014 with a last name beginning with the letter “F” have skated for the Caps. 

One – defenseman Martin Fehervary – has only six games of experience in the NHL.  At some point, he could be a replacement, but we will hold off on that.  It is the other skater, though, who merits consideration as a replacement.  Eric Fehr might have been a better choice at right wing on the 2014 squad than Lou Franceschetti.  Through the 2013-2014 season he had more goals (70 to 36) and more points (144 to 94), although he did play more games (379 to 327).  The difference might be that Fehr, a former first round pick famously (among a number of Caps fans) taken one spot ahead of Ryan Getzlaf in the 2003 Entry Draft, was something of an underachiever whose career suffered a number of setbacks due to injury.  On the other hand Franceschetti, a former fifth-round draft pick by the Caps, was an overachieving fan favorite with a feisty streak.  Since 2014, Fehr added 19 goals and 33 points in 75 games, and we lean toward including him as the lone replacement among the skaters on “All-Team F.”

In goal, the Caps have never had a player dress for the club whose last name begins with “F,” hence the inclusion of Frederic Cassivi and his asterisk, the only goalie in Caps history whose first name begins with that letter.  Having dressed for only five games with the club, and doing so without having won a game, a replacement would seem certain.  Well, except for the fact that in the years since the 2014 All-F Team was published, there have been no “F” goalies.  The best we can do is another asterisk – Pheonix Copley.  In his lone season with the club, in 2018-2019, Copley appeared in 27 games and posted a 16-7-3, 2.90, .905 record with one shutout.  He becomes the new goaltender on our “All-Team F.”

It goes to show that with a bit of ingenuity and a willingness to stretch the rules in the name of pronunciation, we can still cobble together teams by the letters.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Washington Capitals: What If This Day In Caps History Didn't Happen Like This Day In Caps History -- April 17th

A few years back, we spent some of the off-season looking back at days in Caps history and wondering what might happen if things did not happen as they happened.  In the midst of our current pause, we return to a look back on this date in 2018 and wonder, “what if April 17, 2018 didn’t happen like this day happened in Caps history?”

Fans know the drill.  The Caps fell behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, two games to none, dropping both games of the opening round playoff series of 2018 on home ice.  The prospects of a series win became much more daunting with the teams heading to Columbus for Games 3 and 4.  Caps fans might remember that the team never trailed in Game 3, but they did let two one-goal leads slip away, and the game went to overtime.  The happy memory there is that Lars Eller scored from the doorstep in the second overtime:

The rest is history.  But there was a moment in the first overtime largely overlooked (at the 4:50 mark of this video):

Columbus had already hit three posts in this game without the benefit of the puck caroming into the net, the last of which came on a drive by Artemi Panarin with just 1:14 left in regulation (the Caps did not record a missed shot for having hit iron in this game).  Had Panarin’s shot caromed in, it almost certainly would have been the game-winning goal.  But the operative word there, what with 74 seconds still left to play in regulation, is “almost.”

The “certain” part almost came on a Columbus power play with less than four minutes left in the first overtime.  Blue Jacket defenseman Seth Jones fed the puck to Cam Atkinson at the top of the right wing circle.  Atkinson used both Lars Eller and Brooks Orpik as screens for a wrist shot that beat goalie Braden Holtby over his glove.  However, the puck hit the post near the crossbar and ricocheted into the corner.  It was the fourth and last miss charged to hitting iron for the Blue Jackets in this game.

Whether it was a momentum changer or not, the ice started tilting toward the Columbus goal after that miss.  Over the last 12:30 of the game – the remaining 3:30 of the first overtime and the 9:00 that passed until the Eller game-winner, the Caps out-shot the Blue Jackets, 8-4, only one of the Blue Jackets’ shots coming from closer than 35 feet from the net.  The Capitals never looked back, winning the last three games of the series, trailing for a total of only 3:14 over those three games, and going 16-6 on their way to the Stanley Cup after losing the first two games to Columbus.

But what if that shot from Atkinson with 3:30 left in the first overtime caromed in, instead of bouncing off the post into the corner?  While the Caps dominated after winning that Game 3 to win the series in six games, overcoming a 0-3 deficit in games is a rare occurrence.  Only four times did a team facing such a deficit ever sweep the last four games and won the series, and only once -- in 1942 when the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings – did a team go 0-3 after losing Games 1 and 2 at home before winning the series.

One could say (ok, we would say) that it was all but a betting certainty that had that Atkinson poster gone in, it would have been a grim off-season for the Caps.  For the 13th time in 13 tries since going to the Stanley Cup final in 1998, the Caps would have bowed out in the first round.  And while this first round exit would not be the utter shocker that the 2010 first round exit against Montreal was after posting a franchise record 121 points in the regular season, it would have been the seventh time in those 13 instances that the Caps went out in the opening round.

It would seem likely that the Caps would still have parted ways with players who dressed in that opening series that included Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, and Philipp Grubauer.  The Caps re-signed  Lars Eller in February 2018 to a five-year/$17.5 million deal, locking up an important piece, and they seem likely to have secured John Carlson (who could still be considered a “core” player) at something resembling the eight-year/$64 million deal he signed in June 2018.  It seems likely that that Tom Wilson, who was showing consistent year-to-year improvement, would have warranted re-signing after his contract expired at the end of the 2017-2018 season as well.

But there might have been other players on the margin that the Caps would not have brought back.  The club did unload the last year of Brooks Orpik’s contract (a $5.5 million cap hit) in a trade with Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche but brought him back on a one-year/$1.0 million deal (plus incentives) when the Avs bought out the last year of his contract.  The same sequence of events might not have unfolded had the Caps suffered an early exit, but one could still see the Caps looking to offload that big a cap hit, especially when the club continued its record of disappointment with him in the lineup.

Would the Caps have brought back free agent Devante Smith-Pelly on a one-year deal with a $350,000 raise?  Or would they have opened up that slot for a younger player, perhaps giving Travis Boyd a longer look?

Even Michal Kempny, whose star grew brighter as the 2018 postseason wore on, might have been a casualty of an early exit.  He was on a one-year deal when he was traded by Chicago to the Caps late in the 2017-2018 campaign, and he was a modest 2-1-3, plus-1, in 22 games to wrap up the regular season and didn’t have a point in any of the first three games against Columbus in the opening round of the playoffs.  Instead of re-signing with the Caps in June 2018 for four years and $10 million, the team might have looked at that short stint with less favorable eyes.

And, of course, there would have been the matter of the head coach, Barry Trotz.  A first round exit, perhaps in a particularly abrupt manner, could have meant a change behind the bench to replace a coach who would have failed to reach the conference final in each of his 11 trips to the postseason with Nashville and Washington.

The point is not that every personnel move that could be made would have been made to remodel the team (rebuild is too strong a word).  But had the Capitals lost that first round series to Columbus, perhaps in a sweep, one could not dismiss the prospect that sweeping changes would have been made for what had become a perennial disappointment as a team. 

All for a puck going one way and not another after hitting a post in overtime.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The E Team"

We have finished our look back and letters A-D on our refashioned “All-Alphabet Team,” which brings us to the letter “E.”

Back in 2014, our "All-E Team" was:
  • LW: Mike Eagles (1995-2000)
  • C: Rolf Edberg (1978-1981)
  • RW: Pat Elynuik (1993-1993)
  • D: Steve Eminger (2002-2008)
  • D: John Erskine (2006-2014)
  • G: Sebastien Charpentier* (2002-2004)

The “All-E Team” is an interesting one, if in an odd way.  When compiled in 2014 it was one that did not have a particularly deep resume, either individually or collectively.  Only John Erskine among the five skaters appeared in more than 300 games as a Capital (350), only Rolf Edberg posted more than 25 goals as a Cap (45), and Edberg was the only one to record more than 100 points (103).  Steve Eminger was the only one among the five to have been drafted by the Caps (12th overall in 2002); Eminger and Pat Elynuik eighth-overall by Winnipeg in 1986) were the only first-round draft picks.  As a group, the five skaters combined for fewer than 100 goals (99) and fewer than 300 points (289) in almost 1,100 games (1,096).

If we are looking at replacements for “All-E Team” since the original was published in 2014, we have few options.  Well, one.  The only skater since 2014 to take the ice for the Caps whose last name starts with the letter “E” is current center Lars Eller.  It hardly seems surprising that so few options for replacement exist, since there are only six skaters (including Eller) to have dressed for the Caps in the history of the franchise:
  • Mike Eagles
  • Rolf Edberg
  • Lars Eller
  • Pat Elynuik
  • Bryan Erickson
  • John Erskine

That Eller would replace Edberg at center on the “All-E Team” is a no-brainer.  That would be true solely on the basis of Eller’s 2018 postseason.  You will recall that in 24 games, he was 7-11-18, plus-6.  He had a league-leading three game-winning goals, including the double overtime game-winner against Columbus in Game 3 of the opening round to save the Cap’s season, and then the game-winning, series-clinching, Cup-clinching goal against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the 2018 Stanley Cup final.

However, Eller has been moving up the rankings among centers in team history in a number of regular season statistical categories.  For example, his 312 games as a Capital rank 18th all-time among centers in team history, and had the current season not paused, he almost certainly would have jumped past Guy Charron (320 games) into 17th place.  With 59 goals as a Cap, Eller ranks 18th among centers in team history and might have passed Joe Juneau (62) for 17th place by season’s end.  His 138 points ran 20th among centers in team history, five behind Robert Lang in 19th place and six behind Gerry Meehan in 18th place.  Only 12 centers in team history have more shorthanded points than Eller (six).

In goal, we do have to make a change that reflects an error we made when making the original selections in 2014.  At the time, we noted that Sebastien Charpentier, the man with the asterisk, was selected by virtue of his having more “E’s” in his name than any other goalie.  Well, that is not true.  That distinction belongs to Pete Peeters, who wins the “E” count, five to four.  And Peeters makes a better case on the merits.  He is tied with Jim Carey for seventh place in games played by a Capitals goaltender (139), is tied with Carey for fifth place in wins (70) in team history, is 11th in team history in goals against average (3.06; minimum: 50 games), and is 12th in save percentage (.886, perhaps more a product of the period in which he played, one that featured more offense generally).  He is tied with Michal Neuvirth for sixth place in shutouts in team history (seven), and only three goalies in Caps history have posted more points than Peeters (six).

All-E Team might not be among the more renowned of the All-Alphabet Teams, but they have had their moments.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The D Team"

Continuing with our look back at the “All Alphabet Teams” for the Washington Capitals, we are up to the letter “D.”

Back in 2014, our "All-D Team" was:

  • LW: Gaetan Duchesne (1981-1987)
  • C: Nicolas Deschamps (2013-2014)
  • RW: John Druce (1988-1992)
  • D: Jason Doig (2002-2004)
  • D: Doug Mohns* (1974-1975)
  • G: Byron Dafoe (1992-1995)

If “All-C Team” was among the most accomplished, “All-D Team” is more uneven.  One might see this as an opportunity to re-think the original 2014 version of the roster.  At left wing, the issue is not that Gaetan Duchesne, one of the best defensive forwards in Caps history, is irreplaceable, it is that there are so few candidates to replace him from the 2014-present period.  That is a population of none.  Duchesne’s place is safe.

At center, Nicolas Deschamps and Doug Doull were the only players whose last name started with the letter “D” who dressed for the Caps over the 1974-2014 period.  It was not a large pool of players from which to pick.  The pool of players since 2014 at the position is even smaller – Nic Dowd.  But that is sufficient to advocate a change at the center spot.  Deschamps played only three games with the Caps (one more than Doull), recording no points and posting a minus-1 rating.  Dowd, on the other hand, has logged 120 games with the Caps, going 120 games with Washington, going 15-22-37, plus-21, and recording an impressive 50.7 faceoff winning percentage and 214 credited hits, while averaging 2:03 in penalty killing ice time per game in those 120 games.

On the right side John Druce, who had one of the most surprising and memorable postseasons in Caps history in 1990 (his 14 goals in the 1990 postseason stood as a team record until Alex Ovechkin broke it with 15 goals in 2018),  was picked for the “All-D Team” in the original 2014 posting.  He remains there for the same reason Gaetan Duchesne remains on the left side.  Since 2014 the Caps have had no right wingers whose last name starts with the letter “D.”

On defense, “All-D Team” also suffers from a lack of choices.  Jason Doig was the only defenseman in the 1974-2014 period whose last name started with the letter “D.”  That is why you find that asterisk next to Doug Mohns’ name, having to find a defenseman whose first name started with “D.”  Although Mohns was the very first captain in franchise history in 1974-1975 (his last NHL season), he might have to take a seat.  Christian Djoos and Brenden Dillon have played for the Caps since the 2014 team was published, and it is Djoos who merits consideration as a replacement for Mohns.  In 110 games with the Caps, Djoos went 4-20-24, plus-23; and he was 0-1-1, plus-2, in 25 playoff games, including 22 games in the Caps’ 2018 Stanley Cup run.

In goal, Byron Dafoe gets to keep his spot, despite his having played only three games as a Capital (0-2-0, with one no decision), the Caps having had no goalies dress since 2014 whose last name starts with the letter “D.”

This new “All-D Team,” with two replacements – Dowd for Deschamps and Djoos for Mohns – is a more experienced, more productive group, but it would not be remembered as one of the best of the All-Alphabet Teams.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The C Team"

We are up to our third installment looking back at the "All-Alphabet Team" for the Washington Capitals.  And, being the third installment, that means we are up to the letter "C."

For the record, our "All-C Team" was:
  • LW: Geoff Courtnall (1988-1990)
  • C: Bobby Carpenter (1981-1987, 1992-1993)
  • RW: Dave Christian (1983-1989)
  • D: Sylvain Cote (1991-1998, 2000-2002)
  • D: John Carlson (2009-present)
  • G: Jim Carey (1995-1997)

This team, Jim Carey’s playoff woes and too-soon career implosion notwithstanding, is among the stronger teams in the “All Alphabet” series, especially on offense.  Courtnall had 77 goals in two seasons with the Caps.  Bobby “The Can’t Miss Kid” Carpenter had 145 goals in four seasons with the Caps before his 22nd birthday before he tailed off and was eventually shipped off to the New York Rangers.  Dave Christian averaged more than 30 goals per season in his six full seasons with the Caps.  Sylvain Cote is seventh in team history among defensemen in games played and eighth in points.  John Carlson is already the all-time points leader among defensemen in Caps history and whose career plus-92 trails only Rod Langway (plus-116) at the position.  In goal, Jim Carey finished second for in Calder Trophy voting as a rookie and was a Vezina Trophy finalist in both of his two full seasons in Washington, winning it in 1996.

Among skaters, Courtnall would seem in be in a position to fend off any challenges among left wingers who played for the Caps since the original “All-C Team” was published in 2014.  Only Jason Chimera (82-115-197, minus-2 in 490 games) would appear to pose even the faintest of challenges.  Neither Paul Carey nor Sean Collins pose much threat to unseating Bobby Carpenter from his place at center.  Meanwhile, Brett Connolly (52-44-96, plus-27, in 217 games with the Caps) would be most likely among right wingers to pose a challenge to Dave Christian, but he would fall short.

On defense, the pair of Taylor Chorney and Connor Carrick would pose no reasonable challenge to Sylvain Cote and John Carlson.  In goal, Pheonix Copley has far too few games and too thin a resume to challenge Carey.   

The "All-C Team" would seem to remain intact from when the series was first published in 2014 and would be a formidable group, were it ever to have played on the ice.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The B Team"

Next up in our look back at series we posted on the history of the Washington Capitals, we take a look at the next installment of the "All-Alphabet Team," that being the one starting with the letter "B."

For the record, our "All-B Team" was:
  • LW: Craig Berube (1993-1999, 2000-2001)
  • C: Nicklas Backstrom (2007-present)
  • RW: Peter Bondra (1990-2004)
  • D: Timo Blomqvist (1981-1985)
  • D: Pierre Bouchard (1978-1982)
  • G: Don Beaupre (1988-1995)

Would any of these players be replaced since this post appeared in July 2014? It would be hard to think Nicklas Backstrom would be replaced, and even Peter Bondra for that matter.  And on defense, only Madison Bowey in the post-2014 period would qualify as a replacement.  Not that Timo Blomqvist (223 games, 4-51-55, plus-27, 264 penalty minutes as a Capital) or Pierre Bouchard (106 games, 8-16-24, minus-28, 54 penalty minutes) had especially noteworthy careers in Washington.  But Bowey played only 84 games with the Caps, going 1-17-18, even, with 62 penalty minutes.  Call it a matter of debate.

However, would Andre Burakovsky (2014-2019) replace Craig Berube on the left side?  Berube was 26-38-64, minus-32, with 1220 penalty minutes in 419 regular season games and 1-0-1, minus-5, with 90 penalty minutes in 38 postseason games in two tours with the Caps, while Burakovsky was 62-83-145, plus-34, with 77 penalty minutes in 328 regular season games and 9-9-18, plus-5, with 12 penalty minutes in 56 playoff games for Washington.

Don Beaupre probably keeps his spot as the goalie on “Team B,” since there were no goalies with a last name starting with “B” playing for the Caps since 2014.  But perhaps there was a Capital goalie from yesteryear you think might be better suited to tend goal.  Something to think about as we “pause.”