Monday, April 09, 2007

2006-2007 Season Wrap Up: Part I Defensemen and Goaltenders

Yep, yours truly is obnoxious enough to hand out grades to players in the guise of looking back on this season. So without further adieu...

Steve Eminger C-, Emphatic defenses aside, Emmy only gets a passing grade because of his youth and the injuries he sustained through the year which, once again, served to limit his continuing development. While he is still young, he is quickly coming to a cross-roads in his career. He needs to improve next year or he will become a great candidate for a change of scenery. The Caps are certainly going to retain his rights this offseason but I would not be at all surprised or disappointed to see him traded in a package that lands a impact player at a position where the Caps need help.

John Erskine-Bowles C-, Yes I bash Erskine-Bowles relentlessly but let's consider a few things here. First of all, he only played 29 games this season so his damage was limited. Secondly, he's proven he can be an effective seventh defenseman playing games in spot duty when needed. It is the long stretches of play where his game struggles. Finally I have a problem with giving a failing grade to a player who provides exactly what he is capable off. While the clowns of Darwin's Waiting Room thinks this guy is the key to a Cup Finalist, I never did and he performed about as well as you can expect him to which is all you can ask for out of a player.

Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green D+, Another young guy who really struggled in his rookie season. I am dreading what his sophomore slump will look like. While I certainly do not advocate cutting this guy loose already, I do think we should be able to expect a defenseman to actually play defense. The fact that he had the by far the lowest amount of Penalty Killing time on the team among regular defensemen shows you just how little confidence the coaching staff has in his defensive play. He showed a few flashes of being the Power Play QB we desperately need but is a long way from filling that role. He could be another player who ends up benefiting greatly from a change of scenery.

Brent Johnson C-, As Johnny goes so does the Caps. When the Caps were playing well at the start of the season, so was Johnny. When the Caps went into their slide, so did Johnny. His early play this year along with last year's strong finish convinced the Caps to give him a contract extension so he'll be around for a few more years. While, I'd like to see him become a little more consistent in net, I am greatly disappointed that when he was given a chance to become the starter that he fell flat on his face and his grade suffers as a result.

Milan "Jerky" Jurcina B+, Absolute steal for the Caps. His good games far outnumbered his bad games and he quickly took a spot on the top defensive pairing getting to play against the opponents top players and did a fantastic job. So why a B+? Well, he's still young and still prone to the ugly turnover which means he can get better. Here's a prime example of a player needing a change of scenery to reach his full potential. The fact that the Caps got him for so cheap only adds to his value.

Olie Kolzig B-, While the pre-lockout days of 5-holzig are gone, Olie is showing signs of wearing down. While the grades of both goaltenders take into account the youth and inexperience directly in front of them, Kolzig still gave up questionable goals and in some instances, was not the team's best penalty killer. I was worried at the start of the season that Kolzig would go down to injury and he did exactly that. What is even more scary is how this team seems to be unable to win unless Kolzig is in net. That needs to change because he won't be there forever.

Shaone Morrrissonnn B-, Some think he too could be our next Power Play QB but didn't show any flashes of that this year. Maybe it was because he was on the top defensive pairing all season and held his own against the best our opponents threw at us by focusing more on defense. His chemistry with Jurcina was instantly noticeable and his game improved from there. Another young guy who simply needs more polish.

Bryan Muir D-, Another depth defenseman that the Caps will not be inviting back to the team next year. He thankfully spent most of the season injured and ended up playing fewer games this season than Erskine-Bowles did for this team. That's the only reason why he didn't get an F.

Brian Pothier B-, I feel kind of bad for Pothier. Most players who switch teams as UFAs tend to have "off" seasons right after they cash in on their contract year. However, Potheir's numbers are respectable compared to last year considering that he spent a good portion of the season playing on the top pairing where he doesn't belong and that he was playing on a team that didn't have the offensive firepower of his previous team. Pothier had some ugly turnovers and is probably about as good as he is ever going to be. That being said, he has earned a spot on this team going forward but should not be played above the second pairing if it can be helped at all.

Jeff "Sergeant" Schultz B, Rookie callup when all the injuries hit and earned the icetime he got after everybody got healthy. Here is an example of different players maturing and developing at different rates. The experience he'll get in the AHL Playoffs with Hershey should help and should also be the last regular minor league games he plays. He's still young but this guy looks to be a keeper.

As I group I would give these guys a collective D+/C-. I don't expect these players to be world beaters and shutdown every player who skates against them. We knew going in that more experience would be needed for these guys and they showed exactly that. What is disappointing and considerably drags the grade down is that this collection of defensemen (especially those advertised as "puck moving") had huge issues getting the puck cleanly out of their zone. All too often their breakout passes missed and they looked completely incapable of completing a pass to a forward. Furthermore while they were defensively responsible for the most part, they fumbled too many passes back to them on the point and couldn't keep pucks in the offensive zone. How much of that is inexperience I don't know but it must be improved upon if the Caps are going to improve next year.



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