Monday, April 09, 2007

2006-2007 Season Wrap Up: Part II Forwards

Some were saying that the Caps have their forward lines set but they're still working on the defense...

Kris Beech F-, I'd give him a lower grade if I could but I can't. Here's a guy who was given every chance to succeed and just simply didn't do it. Beech had a chance to ring up 20-25 goals and finish with somewhere around 50-60 points but instead he posted career highs of 18 assists and 26 points. By being surrounded by the talent that he was, his Dimitri Kristich syndrome was clearly exposed. Had he played as well as he is capable of, the Caps probably would have still missed the playoffs, but they certainly would have finished better than they did. Am I blaming the entire season on Beech? No, but when you consider just how much pressure there is on the front office to replace this guy before next season, you realize he was a bigger problem than he has been given credit for. Instead of dumping on Steve Eminger, Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green, and other young players giving an honest effort, we should be bashing this guy into oblivion.

Matt "Omar" Bradley D+, If anybody is interested in knowing why the Caps aren't interested in giving players a long term contract should look directly at Omar. Kicking off a new two year contract, Omar's production fell after a rather good season last year. Omar is a spare part mucker and grinder type of which the Caps have plenty of. He's under contract and will be back but I doubt we'll give him another two year deal. He could be an attractive deadline deal for a contending team next year looking for depth.

Mr. Donald Brashear B+, Simply put he's here to provide "protection" and give the Neanderthal set a thrill. The fact that he can actually play the game is a bonus but his lack of speed prevents him from being anything more than he is. Give him credit, he knows his role and he goes out every night and does it with a consistent effort which is more than you can say for some players on this team.

Captain Chris Clark A, Mr. Sunshine wanted somebody else to lead this team but Clark proved that last year's 20 goals and 19 assists wasn't a fluke or a career year. Clark topped all of those numbers playing in fewer games this year and lead this team by example very well. Here's another player who could end up being very attractive at the deadline next year. Caps captains very rarely finish their careers in D.C.

Ben "What a"Clymer C-, Moved up, down, and all around; Clymer also fought the injury bug all season which hurt his game. While some look to Clymer's numbers and declare him a bust, he brings the experience of winning a Stanley Cup to the locker room. While the Caps are a long way from making the playoffs, Clark and Clymer will play big roles in getting this team to the playoffs and keeping them there.

Eric Fehr B-, Another rookie callup during the injury crisis and played well enough to keep his spot on the team until he himself got injured. Hopefully he'll be able to play in the AHL playoffs for Hershey but those clamoring for a right wing acquisition this summer should not count this guy out. We may already have the solution for that problem if we are patient enough.

Tomas Fleischmann C+, Quintessential odd man out. The Caps have their left wingers set so he'll have to move to another position in order to contribute full time. He seemed to find his game and chemistry with some of the other skill guys late in the season. However, he could end up being part of a package deal to get a player we need.

Boyd Gordon A-, Another favorite whipping boy who actually showed he could play in his first full NHL season. While his offensive numbers aren't impressive, his +10 rating stands out not because it lead the team by far but because he skated on the third line for most season which means he faced the opposition's top scoring line every night. Those who advocate his disposal are fools.

Brooks Laich B+, If I had to throw somebody else in a package to fill a need, I would choose Laich over Gordon any day but that doesn't mean that Laich is that much worse than Gordon is. Here's another guy who very well could end up being victimised by a numbers crunch. In his favor he did show that he could hold his own centering one of the top lines a La Jeff Halpern. But like Halpern he is not suited to that role and should only be used as a stopgap measure.

Jakub "and sons" Klepis D+, Another player who was given multiple chances and finally seemed to figure it out at the end. I don't like his long-term potential with this franchise but at least he finally got away from taking lazy penalties after his most recent callup. That should hopefully increase his trade value.

Jiri Novotny INCOMPLETE, I don't feel right assigning a grade to him after only 18 games but his almost invisible performance for the Caps makes the Zubrus trade look even worse. To his credit, Novotny did should some chemistry with fellow Czechs Fleischmann and Klepis and I would like to see more of what they can do together. However, we many not have enough room for that experiment.

A.O. A-, So this is what a sophomore slump looks like? Here's an example of a guy trying to make the players around him better but the players around him can't be helped for the most part. The league adjusted to him and he had trouble adjusting back but should he be surrounded with more talent, there will be hardly anything that can contain him. A.O. still blows the defensive zone too quickly but some of that can be forgiven because of the offensive numbers he produces. However, he will have to learn the proper way to play defense if he wants this team to win a Cup.

Matt "Princess" Pettinger C+/B-, After last year's breakout performance it would be very easy to think Princess was a failure this season. However, he posted numbers not too far off what he did last year. Injuries limited him greatly this season and he too, like a number of guys, could end up in a numbers crunch depending upon what the team does in the offseason. His contract however doesn't make it likely.

Alexander Semin B, Ah yes, the prodigal son returned and was just about the same as he was before he left. Here's a bonafide NHL Superstar if he can only get his head screwed on right because this kid is that scary kind of good. While Klepis got demoted for his continually taking stupid penalties, Semin was just as guilty but produced more in the offensive end. Mr. Brashear was the only forward with more penalty minutes than Semin. Semin had 12 more than Sutherby, his closest competitor in that field. Semin's grade is thusly reduced because of the stupid penalties that he continually took. His offensive does counter that some but as time goes on, he MUST cut down on the penalties and show more willingness to cover in his own zone. However considering what an enigma the guy is, we just don't know if that is going to happen.

Brian Sutherby C+, Another player who came off of a career year and struggled. Injuries took their toll on him as well but his play was underwhelming when he was healthy. Of the guys who could be floated as trade bait next season, he would be the youngest of the forwards.

Overall I would give the forward ranks a C/C+ for this season. While the defensemen had huge issues getting the puck out of their zone and to the forwards, the forwards all too often left them stranded on an island. This group also did not pass between each other very well and rarely if ever looked to their pointmen for help in the offensive zone. Most of these guys are muckers and grinders with a very few of them being supremely talented. The defense needs some veteran leadership and a boatload of polish. The forward ranks needs a talent infusion. While Nicklas Backstrom is projected to do exactly that next season, he won't be enough by himself.

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