Saturday, June 05, 2010

2009-2010 Caps Season Wrap-Up Part I I Defense and Goaltending

FYI, a skater has to be on the NHL roster for half the regular season or 3 playoff games to qualify for this review.  We're going to review all three goaltenders though.

Joe Scorvo: C,  A deadline pick up who has already been told not to expect an offer from the Caps and won't be back next season.  We're not surprised that he isn't being retained but we are disappointed by the decision.  He could have been a quarterback on a second Power Play unit but was hardly ever given the chance.  But at the end of the day, the Caps have a log jam on the blueline and a guy without a contract for next season is the easiest one to get rid of.

John "Coach's Pet" Erskine-Bowles: C-, If the deadline deals made by General Manager George McPhee did anything positive, it meant we didn't have to watch the Coach's Pet in the playoffs.  Though to be fair, with plenty of health scratches this season and a much reduced role, Erskine-Bowles really shouldn't have that moniker anymore.  He's got a contract for next season at $1.25 million and could be a candidate for a buyout, but we're not counting on it.

Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green: B+,  One of two whipping boys for the Caps defense who is actually better than most people think, both in his all-round play and defensive capabilities.  He's not a stud in his own zone and we doubt that he'll ever be, but he has two problems that need to be addressed pronto.  #1, He tries to do too much in his own zone.  That more than anything else gets him into trouble.  If he stays within himself he's more than capable of getting the job done.  It is when he tries to make the big play or steps out of his character that he gets into trouble in his own zone.  #2.  He simply doesn't handle pressure very well.  It's clear that the criticism from the stands, press, and various brass gets to him and so he goes out and tries even harder to prove them all wrong.  If he wants to improve and prove all of his detractors wrong, he needs to relax and let things come to him rather than trying to create everything on his own.

Shaone Morrrissonnn: C,  Well, for a guy playing on a one-year deal hoping to hit the UFA jackpot, he came up short.  We can easily see the Caps letting him go if any kind of bidding war for his services start but we don't think that's going to happen so the Caps aren't likely to move towards giving him an offer until after July 1st.  His numbers this year were average for him and quite frankly, there is much about him that stands out.  If the Caps can get an upgrade anywhere, he would be a guy left out in the cold.

Tom Poti: C+,  We're beginning to understand why the New York fans hate this guy so much.  For a guy with a reputation of being a smooth puck handler, Poti commits some of the ugliest turnovers you have ever seen.  Yet Poti is considered one of the better players the Caps have in the defensive zone.  But as the season wore on he made some huge and costly gaffes and then took a puck in the eye in Game 6 which ended his season.  Poti will be next season's Brian Pothier, a veteran player at the end of his contract that McPhee dangles and trades at the deadline for additional depth.  While his $3.5 million cap figure could make that harder than it was with Pothier and his $2.5 million, Poti likely has just one more season left in Washington.

Jeff "Sergeant" Schultz: A,  The most favored whipping boy of Caps fans, Sarge finally started to put it all together this season.  You don't lead the entire NHL in +/- by accident folks.  Does Sarge need to work on his defensive game?  Yes.  Does he need to get better with the puck on his stick?  Yes.  Should he hit a little more?  Yes, but that's never been his style so don't expect him to turn into the next Scott Stevens.  Lost in all the complaining about Schultz is his young age.  Folks, he's just 24 years old.  If he was Erskine-Bowles' age, 29, we could understand the complaints, but Sarge is still developing and doing a decent job of learning on the fly in the NHL.  The Caps would have loved to give him more time in the AHL but things just didn't work out that way.  He's an RFA and should be back unless he can figure out a way to get a huge offer sheet or an  arbitration jackpot.  This is a guy we'd like to see on our blueline for a long time to come.

Tyler Sloan: C-,  The poor man's Erskine-Bowles, he saw limited action during the season and in attempts to get him some ice time and maybe expand his role, Bruce Boudreau tried him as a forward.  That experiment didn't last long either.  He was inexplicably given a two-year extension during the season but not much of a raise with that extension so he only occupies a roster spot.  However, that two-year extension may be what keeps him as the 7th defenseman ahead of Erskine-Bowles in 2010-2011.

"A Real American Hero" John Carlson: A-, He's just 20 years old.  The Caps wanted him to spend the entire season in Hershey and gradually work his way into the NHL in 2010-2011.  However, Carlson's play in Hershey and Washington just wouldn't let that happen.  We will throw down the gauntlet right now and say that the 2010-2011 season is going to be tough on this kid as he should start the season in Washington.  However, this kid is good and will steadily improve and should be an anchor on our blueline for years to come.

Karl "Malden" Alzner: INCOMPLETE,  He doesn't fit the criterion for making the rundown here but we would be remiss if we didn't mention his season which was a disappointment.  He was supposed to start the season in the NHL but salary cap issues and the fact that he could be sent to the AHL without having to clear waivers conspired against him.  Then once he was called up, he didn't show much more than what he did last year and with the team on a roll all throughout the regular season, it was tough for him to find a spot in the lineup and as a result he ended up back in Hershey.  He also got passed by Carlson on the depth chart and prospect rankings during this season.  However he should start the season in Washington next year, but once again, finding him a place will be difficult if he doesn't show any improvement.

Jose "Alvin, Simon," Theodore: A-, You really have to feel for this guy not only on a personal level but on a professional level since he arrived in Washington.  For a goaltender who posted 30 wins in the regular season for the fourth time in his career (and second consecutive season in Washington) he had an amazingly short leash from Boudreau.  He also earned those 30 wins in just 47 appearances, 10 games less than he appeared in last year when he won 32 games and the fewest appearances in his four 30 win seasons.  Yet his time in the Washington net is done unless he's willing to take a massive paycut at age 32.  We don't think he will or should.  Some will point to his playoff performance this year but he had just two games and probably the worst matchup for him, his hometown team and the one he broke into the league with opposing him.  We happen to think that had the Caps played anybody else in the first round, Theodore would have been ok.  We wish him nothing but the best going forward and hope he finds a team that will appreciate him.

Semyon "The Saviour" Varlamov: INCOMPLETE,  Clearly Boudreau's favored goaltender, he was getting plenty of time to get into form when his entire season was derailed with a knee injury that kept him on the shelf for two months.  When any player misses the amount of time that The Saviour did, it ruins their entire season.  However Boudreau gave him all the time in the world to get his game back on track after returning from the injury at the expense of a hot Theodore.  Varlamov played well in the playoffs, but not well enough and just never got back into the groove that he was on before he got hurt in December.  The concern with The Saviour is his fragility.  He's a very good goaltender and at age 22, a really good chance to be a great goaltender for a long time.  But he has to stay healthy in order for that to happen and if he can't do that, the Caps have to have somebody else on standby to take over.  Luckily the goaltending prospect pool for the Caps is deep right now.

Michal "Bebe" Neuvirth: B-,  The Caps play up Neuvirth's abilities to be on par with Varlamov, when as it stands right now, that isn't exactly the case.  However, Neuvirth showed in his limited action this season that he can get the job done on the NHL level.  And quite frankly, with Varlmov's injury issues, we're not too concerned with turning the starting job over to him should The Saviour end up missing another two month stretch of the season.  He's another youngster in goal so the Caps should have him around for a long time.  As a matter of fact, we wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him eventually take the #1 goaltender job in D.C. should Boudreau give him the chance.

Overall, the Defense this year gets a C- from us this year.  The overall numbers ranked middle-of-road compared to the rest of the league and there were not nearly as bad as many made them out to be.  They were often overshadowed and often rescued by an offense that went berserk in the regular season so they didn't have to be that good.  However, the biggest problem with the defense was the Penalty Killing which stunk to high heaven all season long.  The unit finished 25th overall in the NHL but was near the bottom all season and under 80% the entire way.   If the Caps can improve the penalty killing, it will go a long way to changing the minds of people who think that the Caps have huge issues in a goal and along the blueline.



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