Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Blessing in Disguise?

This is not where I put on my world famous and patented rose-colored glasses and tell everybody that everything will be ok since Olie Kolzig is out for three weeks and Brent Johnson is now the starting goaltender. (At least as far as this season is concerned anyway...)

Yeah, there have been many occasions where a team's play has improved when a star player goes down to injury. Johnny is no stranger to starting duty and Kolzig used a similar situation (Bill Ranford getting injured) to take over the #1 goaltender duties and lead the team into the Stanley Cup finals in 1997-1998.

However, Mike Vogel was saying at the Caps Fan Club meeting last Saturday that we'll need about 40 wins in order to make the playoffs. The Caps so far have 23 wins and there are 25 games remaining. However, that leaves a very small margin of error. The Caps are going to have to win 17 of the remaining 25 games in order to reach that 40 win goal. While it is a possibility, it isn't bloody likely, even if Kolzig hadn't gotten hurt.

So why is Olie's injury a blessing in disguise?

Well, first of all, with all due respect to Brent Johnson, talk about making the playoffs will all but cease. Hopefully in addition to the team rallying behind Johnny, they'll also "loosen up" instead of worrying about losing more playoff positioning. Secondly, the Caps now know that they are going to be sellers at the trade deadline on February 27th which will allow them to continue to get the pieces they need for the future through trades. It will also allow them to give guys like Eric Fehr and Jeff "Sergeant" Schultz more NHL icetime which means more NHL experience which means that their development at the NHL level accelerates (without of course having the pressure of getting the team into the playoffs).

Personally, I think when John Erskine Bowles and Bryan Muir heal they should be left on IR. Muir certainly isn't a part of this team's long term plans and Erskine Bowles should only be used to give a guy like Mike Green a break/wake up call. (Can you imagine what his sophomore slump will look like?)

Finally "tanking" (in the fine tradition of the Penguin scum) will drop the Caps into another Top 5 draft pick. Currently we're 23rd and would have to win the lottery in order to get a Top 5 pick. For all the bluff and bluster he takes, George McPhee has done a better job in recent years with his draft picks. Though the last time the Caps had five years of top five picks it was 1978-1982. The Caps took, Ryan Walter, Mike Gartner, Darren Veitch, Bob Carpenter, and Scott Stevens respectively. Four of those five players were either key parts or were traded for players who were key parts in the great teams the Caps had in the mid to late 1980's. So far the Caps have only had two Top 5 picks in the last three years (the 2005 Draft "Lottery" was a bleepin' joke) and could certainly benefit from getting one, maybe two more Top 5 picks. Of course, one of those Top 5 picks was #1 overall in 2004 with A.O. and last year's #4 pick Nicklas Backstrom who, if the accounts are to be believed, is another star player in the making. Adding a third player (hopefully a defenseman, but beggars can't be choosers) of that caliber certainly will not hurt this team in the long run.

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