Tuesday, July 20, 2010

All Good Things...

If one believes the time stamps on these posts (and in the beginning, we didn't quite know how to manipulate them) it was exactly four years ago at this time we published our first post kicking off this adventure.  Call us sentimental but we can't think of a more perfect date and time to bring things to a close after four years and 1,428 postings.

Yep, that's right, we're calling it a quits here.  Why?  Well, if it hasn't too obvious, we just don't have the time or the temperament anymore to run this thing the way we feel we should.

When we started this blog four years ago, we didn't have much responsibility, especially at our day job, and needed something to help fill-in the time and direct our energy.  Four years later we have actual responsibility in our career and not only do we want to keep it that way, we want more.  So something had to give and while we did consider the idea of turning this into a group effort or maybe possibly petitioning to be a contributor to another group effort; we've demonstrated many times and in many forums that we just don't play well with others.  Therefore it is time for us to hang it up.

And is there any sadness in this decision?  No, not really.  We're proud of what we've done here.  Chronicling the insanity of Larry Brooks, taking stands against Ultimate Fighting on Ice along with blogger access to press boxes, and insulting Yinzers and Canadian Diving Team Captain, Secondary Assist Lowblow Cindy Crosby at every opportunity.  Oh, and laughing at the denizens of Darwin's Waiting Room and their old daycare provider too was always a hoot.  Furthermore, with the 15,487,920,325 (and counting) active Caps blogs out there, we feel that the field is well covered.  Besides, we've seen the site traffic numbers, we know we won't be missed.

The one thing that does disappoint us is that after chronicling this team during the lean years when the team stunk to the high heavens and was really tough to watch; we're now getting out when the team is really, really good and a Stanley Cup is on the way.  But that's just our lot in life and we can only play the hand that we're dealt.  In some ways, we think we'll get to enjoy the Cup more because we well just be a fan and not somebody trying to divine some larger meaning in all of it to share with the rest of the world.

We'd like to thank all the folks who took the time to stop on by on anything that even remotely resembles a regular basis and all the other folks out there who threw links our way over the years, even if they were eventually deleted.  We also would be very remiss if we didn't throw a shoutout of Thanks to Eric McErlain whom we've never met in any fashion yet gave us link after link on his Venerable Off Wing Opinion early on and helped us to build a following.  We'd also like to Thank Steinbog for reaching out to us in the early days of this blog and for continuing to put up with us.  If you want our opinion of where to look now with the extra five minutes of your time, spend it on Peerless Prognosticator, outside of TEB he's the only one we make a point to read on a regular basis mostly because he's kept his senses, remembered what a blog is supposed to be all about, and doesn't take himself or his craft way too seriously.  

So that's it folks, it's been fun.  We'll let Google decide when to take this thing down, and if you want to know what we really think about things as they come along in the future, check out our Facebook profile.  It shouldn't be too hard to find.  We accept any and all friend requests over there and when the mood moves us, we'll post our pithy thoughts over there.  Farewell, so long, Godspeed, Alpha Michael Foxtrot, and all that jazz.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, we did activate the comments this morning on purpose because we were closing this thing down.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Smorgasbord 7-11

  • Well, well, well...  It looks as if the last time we spoke about the Albert Haynesworth situation, we spoke too soon...  (So what else is new???)  For a guy who had the cards on his side, he played them about as poorly as anybody ever could.  To reiterate, had Hanyesworth shown up for training camp in the best shape of his life, he would have put Mike Shanahan in a no-win situation.  Instead Haynesworth decided to skip the mandatory part of the off-season workouts and demand a trade at the same time.  The biggest sign that Haynesworth has conceded the high ground here?  The unloading on him by just about everybody not only in the Redskins organization but in pro football.  The funny part is though, while the Redskins are certainly justified in their feelings towards Haynesworth, it dramatically lowers his value in any trade they try to make, though it is very debatable how much trade value he ever had in the first place.  Either way, Haynesworth has played this situation about as poorly as he could and if he were smart, not only would he show up for training camp in the best shape of his life, but he would also refuse to speak to the press upon arriving and until he leaves the Redskins.  But based on past performance, we don't think that will happen here.
  • And speaking of hard feelings, we give kudos to Cleveland Cavaliers Owner Tom Gilbert for basically saying what should have been said about the whole LeBron James Free Agency search.  We don't think his championship guarantee is smart but we do agree that James' narcissistic actions were repulsive.  However, James was not alone in this entire affair.  The Worldwide Leader in Schlock is just a culpable in building this guy up and covering his every move in free agency, even when he wasn't doing anything to say nothing about devoting an entire evening to him.  Sadly however, we think that this is just the beginning for this type of thing.  These kinds of "announcements" and "recruiting trips" are common for High School Athletes choosing which college they will play for and attend.  Some tried to use the fact that James never went to college and was never really recruited by colleges as a high schooler to equivocate his actions now as a pro.  We aren't buying it because the next time something like this comes around, it will be considered a part of the business and few will bat an eyelash at it.
  • And effective this past Friday, the University of Maryland was relieved of Deborah Yow as it Director of Athletics.  While Debbie's contributions to the Athletic Department cannot be dismissed or disputed, it was clear last year that when she lost her second major power play against one of her high-profile employees in a year that she was on her way out.  The failure to oust Gary Williams and Ralph Friedgen tarnish an outstanding run at UMD for Debbie who has now returned home to North Carolina to take over the N.C. State Wolfpack Athletic Department.  Debbie's legacy would have been cemented had she stepped down "looking for other challenges" after the Women's Basketball Team won the NCAA Title in 2006.  However she hung on too long and is heading down to tobacco road with her tail between her legs.  At least she doesn't need to invest in a new wardrobe.
  • Well the Free Agent Frenzy in the NHL came and went and some ugly contracts were handed out.  The Caps stayed largely on the sidelines because there was no reason to hand out three-four year contracts that got a bunch of hearts in a twitter but rarely, if ever, accomplish anything.  However, we do wonder why after the failure of the Michael Nylander and Brendan Morrrissonn contracts why many Caps fans automatically declare the 2010-2011 a complete and utter failure because the Caps haven't signed a free agent of note.  Just to recap, last season the Caps won the Southeast Division by 38 points, that is six more points than the rest of the Division Champions combined.  The Caps were first in the East by 18 points and the President's Trophy by 10 points.  What this means is that there isn't much for this team to improve upon.  And when you consider that the vast majority of free agents are rejects from other teams that nobody was willing to trade for, we really shake our heads at all the complaining.  Was Marion Hossa and his one goal and three assists the reason why the Blackhawks won the Cup (he was a -4 in the last two games BTW)?  With the Hershey Bears winning their third Calder Cup in the last four years, it is certainly time for some of the prospects down there to come to the NHL and show what they can do in the big leagues.  A bevy of free agents will only get in the way of that happening.
  • And we'll dip into the old news file to comment on the Caps revoking Season Ticket Privileges to those who don't know how to act in public, especially when a camera is turned on them.  If there was a way we could "dislike" a Facebook Group we would on this one over and over.  Sorry but it does not matter how long somebody has been a fan, how much $$$$$ they spend for tickets, or how "diehard" of a fan they are; you have to conduct yourself in an appropriate manner or you run the risk of being told to stay away.  We were just six years old when we went to our first professional sporting event and with the atmosphere at pro sporting events these days, we would be wary of taking a twelve year old to one.  Too many fans take Homer Simpson's credo as gospel and think that the sporting event exists for them to have an avenue to perform their antics.  Some are benign, some are bizarre, but too many are out of line and detract from the event that many people are going to see.  The "moral equivalence" game attempted by some comparing Bruce Boudreau's rant and lack of public rebuke from the Caps is laughable on its face.  If we really need to explain the difference between a paid employee of an organization and a paying customer, then you won't be persuaded by anything we have to say anyway.  Finally the fact that Steinbog has never posted the full explanation, tells us that the Caps have wisely clammed up about this situation. We only hope that this is the start of cleaning up the environment at Caps games and hope some other franchises follow their lead.
  • And from the "unfinished business" file we clearly touched a nerve in Darwin's Waiting Room back in April when we called it like it was back in April when the Caps temporarily shut down their message boards.  We feel as though Ms. Bumper deserved a reply and for whatever reason, the (Com)Post censors wouldn't let us post our reply on the thread.  Because we know one of the goons in Darwin's Waiting Room chronicles every single thing we write, we know that this will reply will be seen.  (BTW dude, you need a wife...er... life)  Well Bumper I’ll give you not only the courtesy of a reply but the last word.  As a matter of fact, I won’t even bother to read your response, should you have one, but I will keep this short so that you and the rest of your playgroup can understand. First of all,  I’m sure you can understand my floccinaucinihilipilification about how your boards were conveniently ready to go when the original boards went into meltdown because of the temper tantrums on all sides that took place.  But does that really change anything that I said about the genesis of your boards?  If the Caps hadn’t had enough of the activity you and your kind were conducting over there, would your boards be as operational as they are today?  We both know the answer. BTW, you’ll never get the pleasure of rejecting me for membership mostly because I don’t care to sink into your depths.  However I do find it find highly comical that you continue to blast the Caps for what they did last summer but have a pinned post “Please Stop Messing Up My Boards With Your Douchebaggery” all across your allegedly superior forums.  It's not as easy to run one of those as you thought huh?  Oh, and I see the porn has been moved behind a lock and key.  So much for all that glorious freedom you all were looking for huh?  And considering the streak of 50+ sellouts with 18,277 in attendance each time, just how in the world is a measly 826 members “most”????  Especially when that 826 includes people who need to cross multiple time zones to attend a game at the Phone Booth.  Clearly you have no understanding of the definition of a word that doesn’t even appear on the SAT’s but please keep up the always attractive elitist attitude.  Finally it goes without saying that I am not the only one who takes a very dim view of your place.  Just because you allow “adult” language, “adult” pictures and all the emoticons you can fit into one post doesn’t make you more “mature” or even better than anybody else.  Congratulations on your faster loading times.  I’m sure “most” of the 826 really do care the rest of us couldn't care less.
  • With a ten game homestand heading into the All-Star break, the Nats had a chance to build some momentum but instead stumbled to a 5-5 record on the run and are now 11 games under .500.  We have to admit, we were a bit surprised by the selection of Matt Capps to the NL All-Star team.  Count us among those who think Stephen Strasburg didn't belong on the team but what about Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman? Either would have been a much stronger choice to represent the Nats because the Nats must have a player on the team.  And even if Strasburg, Dunn, and/or Zimmerman were on the All-Star team, we aren't watching the thing anyway and we doubt that there are many Nats fans who will watch the All-Star game because Matt Capps is in it.
  • And luckily for soccer fans, the World Cup Final today featured a goal in the dying minutes of overtime giving Spain a 1-0 win over the Netherlands and avoiding yet another World Cup title decided by a Penalty Kick Shootout.  Had today's final gone to PK's, it once again would have been a setback for soccer in the U.S.  As for the U.S. team, we certainly can't blame goalkeeper Tim Howard for the U.S.'s disappointing loss in the second round but we do question whether or not he came up with any huge, game turning saves.  We can't think of one and had he been able to come up with any, the U.S. may have had a different fate in South Africa.
  • This week, the Nats are off until Friday when they open up a ten game road trip with a three-game series in Florida against the Marlins.  D.C. United hosts Seattle on Thursday night and the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday.
  • As always, please send all comments, criticisms, corrections, questions, suggestions, and the proper use of lentils in salads to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Smorgasbord 6-13

  • Well, if there's big news we need to catch up on, it is the Redskins going out and acquiring Donovan McNabb for a pair of draft picks, including this year's second round pick.  Put us in the unimpressed camp for a number of reasons.  We've always thought that McNabb was slightly overrated as quarterback.  He was able to dominate a down NFC East when the NFC as a whole was underwhelming.  But while Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan set about to rebuild the offensive line, Trent Williams is a nice start but unproven and only 1/5 of the solution,  it doesn't matter who is playing quarterback for the Redskins because they won't have the proper protection from the offensive line.  Jason Campbell was unfairly scapegoated though he won't get a chance to prove that out in the even bigger zoo in Oakland so we just have to watch McNabb getting driven into the ground in order to prove the point.  Furthermore, even if McNabb is as good as advertised and able to overcome his bad offensive line, it doesn't change the fact that the Redskins are going to run a 3-4 defense with 4-3 personnel.  Good coaches adapt their systems to their talent, not their talent to the system and that also says nothing of the broken-down retreads in the backfield with McNabb.  Our official prediction, the Redskins will be lucky to finish 8-8 this season and anything better than that is wildly exceeding our expectations.
  • And speaking of wildly exceeding expectations, how about this Steven Strasburg kid?  He certainly lived up to the hype on Tuesday night, a game we missed because real life intervened (and no, we're not complaining), and despite struggling with a crummy pitcher's mound today in Cleveland, is off to a 2-0 start in the Majors.  So while the Nats themselves continue to exceed expectations, hovering around .500 despite a June Swoon, the question becomes, how much will the Nats rely upon Strasburg for the rest of the season?  In an attempt to prevent injury and guard against burnout, everybody knows that he has a strict limit on the number of innings he is going to pitch this season so should the Nats end up contending for a playoff spot, he is not likely to be available to get the team over the hump.  That more than anything else is why we think the idea of the Nats being buyers at the trade deadline is foolish.  But at least we once again have a baseball team worth watching.
  • No we didn't forget about Albert Haynesworth in the first bullet.  We just liked the exceeding expectations segue too much to pass it up.  But as for Haynesworth, we agree that if you're going to pay somebody that amount of $$$$$ the least he can do is show up for the season in shape.  However, if you're going to call team activities, "optional" then you cannot require that everybody takes part in them.  Furthermore, we reject the notion that just because a guy is the highest paid player on the team, that he must be some sort of leader.  Giving a guy $$$$$ doesn't make him a leader, it is his actions and, most importantly, his personality that gets people to follow him.  But we digress, the ball is firmly in Haynesworth's court now.  He MUST show up for training camp in the best shape of his life.  If he doesn't then he's as good as gone.  If he does, he presents a difficult dilemma for Shanahan in that Haynesworth showing up in fantastic shape without attending the mandatory optional workouts would undercut Shanahan's authority who is a noted taskmaster.  But if Haynesworth shows up in shape and dominates, Shanahan has to cut off his own nose to spite his face to maintain his authority.  That's the real dilemma to watch for here.
  • And once again the World Cup is upon us and in international soccer, more so than hockey, it really does come down to goaltending.  There was no bigger example of that than yesterday as Tim Howard made a number of timely and big saves for the United States as Robert Green came up with the biggest gaffe ever at that level in a 1-1 tie.  We don't think Green was or will be given enough credit for rebounding from his miscue to come up with a huge save on Jozy Altidore in the second half to preserve the single point for the Brits.  But for the U.S., Tim Howard is going to be the key going forward for the United States as England's domination showed that the U.S. is still not at the level of the world powers.  Howard will have to overcome his rib injury and play as well if not better than Brad Freidel did eight years ago for the U.S. to make any noise in South Africa.
  • While we're not going to comment on Tiger Wood's "extra curricular activities," we find it a little ridiculous the amount of criticism that he's taking for bowing out of tournaments early because of injury.  Do people really need to have to them explained the difference between playing hurt when a major championship is on the line and when they're far behind in a run-of-the-mill tournament with no chance of ever catching up?  This is a prime example of the problem with a 24/7 sports news cycle.
  • Ok, we'll admit we had a terrible year this year in picking the Stanley Cup Playoffs but once the finals were set we thought that Chicago would win the Cup in either four or five games.  Again, it shows what we knew this year that it took six games.  But for the Caps fans gnashing their teeth over "being passed" by a team that rebuilt after the Caps, know that the criminal salary cap mismanagement made this a real "do or die" year for the Blackhawks and that it is just about back to the drawing board for them.  As for the Flyers, we happen to think that a series this close is probably the worst thing for them.  They will now think like we did in 1998 that they're close, they just need a little push to get them over the hump.  However, remember that the Flyers beat a New Jersey team that has been bounced in the first round for three years in a row now.  They then beat a Bruins team that authored one of the greatest chokes of all-time.  Finally, the Flyers faced a Montreal team who's magic had run out.  The Flyers aren't close folks and a goaltender won't solve their problems.
  • With the NCAA Conferences once again realigning themselves, we find it interesting to say the least that the Big "Ten" is interested in Maryland.  While we don't think that Maryland would be a good fit in the Big "Ten", or the SEC which has popped up recently,  for a number of reasons, it would be in Maryland's best interest to make the move if one was offered.  First of all, there is little doubt to us that this current run of realignment will leave the ACC in a diminished state, even if the ACC doesn't lose any schools.  If the Big "Ten" is willing to share their TV revenue with Maryland, then Maryland needs to accept the gift because they would never see that kind of $$$$$ staying the in ACC.  Like it or not, college athletics is now driven by $$$$$ (why else would the NCAA expand the Men's Basketball tournament?) and for a school like Maryland, which has had issues balancing their budgets, they should get in on the cash grab anyway they can.
  • Ok this week, the Nats continue inter-league play when they visit the Detroit Tigers for three games starting Tuesday night.  They're back home at Nats Ark on Friday for a three game set against the Chicago White Sox with two of the three games on national TV.  D.C. United will play what amounts to a road game at RFK when they host the El Salvadorian National Team in a charity fundraiser match on Saturday evening.
  • As always folks, please send all comments, criticisms, corrections, questions, suggestions, and ways to use bologna in sandwiches to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

2009-2010 Caps Season Wrap-Up Part III The Forward Ranks

All right, let's keep the train rolling...

Nicklas Backstrom: A+, He shattered his career highs in points and goals this season.  Ok it was only his third NHL season but he established himself as a top level player in the NHL and handled things much better in the playoffs this season than he had in his first two.  His Game 2 Hat Trick was a testament to that.  The pressure is really on Backstrom now because he's now locked up for the next ten years and will be expected to perform at this level if not higher for all ten of them.

Eric Belanger: C+,  The one deadline day acquisition that the Caps will at least attempt to keep.  He had a hard time fitting in with the Caps after the trade primarily because he kept bouncing between the second and third lines but given his style of play, could be the center for a true third line checking unit should he stay in D.C.  His arrival also helped to improve the Penalty Killing a little bit.

Matt "Omar" Bradley: B+,  A career year for the 31 year old fourth liner who set career high marks in goals, assists, and points this season, besting his previous totals which all came in his rookie season.  His ice time diminished after the trade deadline as the Caps picked up players much more willing to go to the front of the net than Omar is.  He has one more year left on his contract and plenty of players in Hershey behind him on the depth chart making this upcoming season huge for him.  He may not finish it here in D.C. if he doesn't build on the numbers he put this past season.

Jason Chimera: C+, Acquired in late December for the former team Captain Chris Clark along with Milan Jurcina, Chimera had trouble adjusting to Bruce Boudreau's style of play.  However he did eventually catch on and could be a useful checking line winger because he just doesn't have a goal scoring touch.

Eric Fehr: B-, No other player is abused by Boudreau as much as Fehr.  He posted career highs across the board this season despite constantly being yanked, sat down, and scratched for his defensive miscues.  Fehr also got on the scoreboard in the playoffs this year, scoring three goals and an assist in the seven games after just scoring one goal in his previous 14 playoff appearances.  Which of course means he'll be a healthy scratch for opening night...  Fehr is an RFA and expect the Caps to make a move to protect his rights.  If Fehr is smart he'll elect arbitration to force the Caps to keep him or move him.  Either way, we hope he can continue to show his improvement as we think he'll be needed on the top lines at some point in the next couple of years.  At age 24, he's nowhere near tapped out on his potential.

Tomas Fleischmann: C-, Fleischmann is easily the second biggest enigma on the team.  Here's a guy whom Boudreau absolutely loves and is only 26 years old.  He set career marks for goals, assists, points, and even finished as a plus player for the first time in his career this season.  Yet when the chips are down and the pressure is on, he's nowhere to be found.  3 goals, 2 assists, and 5 points in 22 playoff games are a testament to that and even Boudreau had finally seen enough, scratching Fleischmann for Game 7.  Fleischmann had just one assist in this year's playoffs and it came in Game 2.  In an attempt to finally get him going, he was tried at center on the 2nd line but that experiment failed miserably after a promising start.  Simply put, there's really nowhere this guy fits on this team. He posted some nice career numbers this year which should help him as an RFA but the Caps need to look into trading him now while he's got a high value and a somewhat reasonable salary going forward.  He's great from November through February but the Caps really need somebody who can get it done in April, May, and June and Fleischmann can't.

Boyd Gordon: INCOMPLETE,  Gordon's season was derailed by a bad back that he kept re-injuring.  He never got into the flow of this season.  A lost year for the guy who does well on the fourth line and Penalty Killing unit.  At age 26 he's young and as an RFA the Caps really don't have to worry about losing him to another team right now.

Mike Knuble: B+,  Brought in to camp out in front of the net to tip in shots and score off of rebounds, Knuble put up some fantastic numbers this season skating on the top line at age 37.  He's got another year left on his contract and he could improve upon those numbers if he was placed on the top Power Play unit.  He had only two goals in the playoffs though and one was shorthanded which was disappointing with all the shots the Caps were generating in the series.  And because of his age, he won't be around much longer which begs the question, who is going to eventually take his place on the top line?

Brooks "and Dunn" Laich: B,  Stop us if you've heard this before, but career highs for this guy too this season.  Brooks found himself a home on the second line this season and maybe in a couple of years he could inherit Knuble's spot on the top line because he remains willing to go to the front of the net.  After all, that's where he plays on the Power Play.  His fortunes however rise and fall because of his linemates and not the other way around.  Laich scored two goals in the playoffs including the lone tally in Game 7.  However it is his tire-changing episode after the game that most people are going to remember.

Brendan Morrrissonn: C+,  Brought in on a one-year deal to center the second line and revive his career, Morrrissonn gets mixed marks at doing both.  There were parts of this season where he looked great and there were parts of the season where he looked awful.  The deadline deals created a glut that did him no favors either but by that point his star was clearly fading in Boudreau's mind.  The concern that cropped up during the season that his play could price him out of the Caps plans going forward was dashed (they tried Fleischmann in that role for crying out loud) and now the question that the Caps face is do they want to bring him back to center the second line again?  Probably not but we'll see because he could be the best option out there right now for the Caps.

Captain A.O.: A-, He once again set a career high, in assists, this season and after being named team Captain; found a way to raise the level of his game.  However a couple of injuries and suspensions took their toll on him as he came up short on the Ross and Richard Trophies.  Furthermore, we happen to think that the suspensions will be used against him in the voting for the Hart and Pearson/Lindsay trophies as well completely shutting him out on hardware for the 2009-2010 season (unless you want to count the President's Trophy).  Captain A.O. also led the team in points in the playoffs after a slow start to Game 1.  Our advice to him going forward, is to first of all, ignore the critics who are likely to back down now that the Olympics are well within the rear view mirror.  Secondly rediscover his joy in playing the game.  That more than anything else is what has made him what he is today and endears him to fans.  Trust us, the NHL pays a bigger price by branding him a thug and suspending him all the time than he does by playing hard.  He's the best player in the league and it is because he plays the game so hard.  If he stops doing that, he stops doing what makes him special.

Alexander "Slappy" Semin: B+,  Ok folks, we need this explained to us here because we just don't get it.  Slappy sets career highs for goals and points this season.  He had the second fewest PIM's of his career, scored shorthanded for the first time in his career (twice!), and was a point-per-game producer in his first two trips to the playoffs.  Yet because of a 2 assist effort in the first round this season and zero goals on 44 shots in 7 games, you want to run him out of town?  That's just over six shots on goal per game in the first round folks.  Slappy averaged just under 4 shots on goal per game in the regular season and he still has 24 points in 28 playoff games which is more than respectable.  He agree, he's an enigma who is great when he is on and is as bad as anybody when he doesn't care.  But you cannot blame his lack of goal scoring in the first round on a lack of effort or him just not caring enough.  And don't forget, it was Slappy that broke up a shorthanded breakaway in Game 5 and did so without taking a penalty negating the Caps Power Play.  If your wishes are granted and Slappy is dealt, who replaces his scoring on the second line?  We know Fleischmann can't handle the load and Boudreau would have to be fired in order to give Fehr a shot who certainly can't score at the clip Slappy does.  Slappy took a gamble and signed a one year contract so the Caps can't get him to sign another extension until January 1st, 2011.  His next contract however could go down to the wire before getting done.

David "Bolt Cutter" Steckel: D+, Ah, finally a forward who didn't set career highs this season.  Ok, his +4 was a career high but nothing to write home about.  After his excellent play in the playoffs last year, we were really disappointed that he didn't build on that this season and once the roster got loaded up at the deadline, his ice time really dwindled and he was a non-factor in the playoffs this year.  He's a faceoff specialist which earned him a three year extension which starts with the upcoming season.  He could be on the way out though if he doesn't develop the other parts of his game with all the talent sitting in Hershey.

Scott Walker Texas Ranger: B-,  Another deadline pickup who technically doesn't qualify but we'd thought we'd grade him too.  He was brought in for depth and that's what he provided and maybe a little extra leadership in the lockerroom.  We would have liked to seen more of him in the playoffs because he's a player willing to get in front of the net and get dirty.  The Caps though have already decided to let him go and not bring him back for the 2010-2011 season and at age 35, he doesn't have much NHL time left anyway.

When you look at the gaudy offensive stats you have to grade it out at an A+ but when the offense came up dry in the playoffs, you just have to scratch your head.  The Power Play unit operated at 25.2% in the regular season and went 1 for 33 in the first round for just 3%.  For the record that isn't the worst of the first round, the Buffaslugs went 0-19.  However leading the league in goals by 45 and Power Plays in by 3.4% and 11 goals doesn't mean everything is perfect and the offense doesn't need any tweaking.  First of all, Bruce Boudreau has to develop, deploy, and trust a second Power Play unit.  His top Power Play unit gets way too much of the man advantage and the second unit just doesn't get enough time to generate anything.  Secondly, yes we still need a second line center.  That's on General Manager George McPhee's list.  Some fans think that "Mighy Mouse" Mathieu Perreault could fill that role but we're not convinced.  Finally, while the job of the forwards is to score goals, they also have defensive responsibilities too.  Too many forwards were blowing assignments and the zone leaving the blueline exposed this past season.  That has to change if the Caps want to improve upon this season.


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.


2009-2010 Caps Season Wrap-Up Part I

Well, the Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways...  As disappointed as we were with the Caps untimely demise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, it turned out for us, and maybe the Caps too, to be a blessing in disguise.  With everything that has gone on in our personal and professional lives since Game 7, we have a hard time wondering just how in the world we would have been able to keep up if the Caps had advanced further and further into this year's playoffs.  And the time way has given us a chance for a little less emotional perspective on the season which is always good.

#1.  If we learned nothing else about this team, it is that it peaked too soon this season.  That and nobody in their right mind could predict what happened in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season.  The top 3 seeds all went out in the first round and seeds 7 and 8 faced off for the Conference Finals.  That does not happen very often , so not only were the Caps not alone in the unmet expectations department, it was just a fluky playoff year.  Maybe next year the Caps won't try to push so much out of the regular season.

#2.  Bruce Boudreau is going to have to change his style.  No we're not calling for a switch to the trap and a totally defensive oriented mindset.  However the run-and-gun style he's installed is detracting from the defensive system he is trying to use.  Maybe it is that maturity factor creeping in again, after all the oldest of the core players is just 26 years old.  But Boudreau also has to stop playing favorites among certain players and punishing others when they have bad games/mistakes.  The first round disaster was not Boudreau's fault alone but he bares a fair amount of responsibility with the way he manages the lineup.

#3. George McPhee's to-do list has grown.  Part of Bourdeau's lineup issues stems from the fact that he's doing the best he can with what he has.  The Caps have a superb top line, a second line that would be the top line on half of the teams in the NHL (in spite of the lack of a true second-line center)  one that you could designate as 1-B.  A third line that plays more like a second line and one of the better fourth lines in the NHL.  But what this season and playoffs exposed was the lack of a true third-line checking unit.  In addition to finding a center for the second line and a top-drawer, physical, stay-at-home-defenseman;  McPhee needs to give Boudreau the proper tools to build a third line checking unit.  This is something that the Caps have lacked since the Halpern-Konowalchuk-Dahlen unit was broken up.

Overall, there are still bright days ahead for this franchise.  Yes, tweaks need to be made but a total and complete overhaul is not needed.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

For The Record...

San Jose in six.

Montreal in seven.

We're working on a Smorgasbord that we hope to have up later today.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Game 7 Caps vs. Canadiens 4-28-2010 Wrap Up

The Local Yokels:

(Com)Post: upended, no shock, back in the lineup, just how good, all kinds of questionsExaminerCaps.com.

The Neutral Observers:

NHL.com: Recap, spoiler, not happy, yet another bad call, moves paid offAP WireCanadian PressTSN.caCBC.caESPN.com.

The Other Side:

Montreal Gazette: Penguin Scum next, playoff hockey, four wins, paid the priceCanadiens.com.

Final Thoughts:

We'll do our usual season-ending things in the coming days and weeks but we do want to note to Tracee Hamilton that Captain A.O. was complaining of fatigue and often skips the optional skates because of the intensity in which he plays with whenever he's on the ice whether it is a game or a practice.  The team has often held him back for his own good.  As for some of the other players who didn't get the job done in the first round, "truth day" will give us more insight as to what went wrong in Round I.  But we want to say right now that San Jose East this is not.  While there are reasons to worry going forward, there are also reasons to be optimistic and we'll get into those reasons why later.

Finally, since the NHL isn't taking a day off before starting the second round; Penguin Scum in six, Boston in six, Detroit in six, and Chicago in seven.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Game 7 Caps vs. Canadiens 4-28-2010 Post-Mortem

Well, at least we still have their baseball team...

We can't say were all that surprised right now.  We don't know what it is but there's just something about this franchise.  If it isn't a hose job or a freak injury or a bad bounce or who knows what else, then this franchise just can't seem to get out of its own way.  How else do you explain the blown playoff leads and the 2-7 record in Game 7, 2-6 at home?  We knew the shoe was eventually going to drop on us, it always does.   But congratulations folks, we're not only the first #1 seed to blow a 3-1 lead to a #8 seed but we gave Jacques Martin his first win ever in a Game 7.

The seed for the loss tonight was first planted back in late January-early February when the Caps went on that magical 14 game winning streak.  Simply put, this team peaked way too soon folks.  Remember all those lists of NHL teams with long winning streaks during the regular season?  The most recent team to win the Cup was the Islanders from back in the 1980's.  That wasn't a good sign for us as we racked up the wins that pulled us away in the Eastern Conference and President's Trophy race.  That seed was then given a good fertilizing when it was Montreal who broke the 14 game winning streak.  Interesting isn't how the team who put an end to our epic winning streak put an end to our season?  Coincidence?  We think not.

While the series was formally lost tonight, it was really lost last Friday when the Caps blew Game 5.  The Caps, as usual in this series, fell behind 2-0 before starting to score.  Despite cutting the deficit in half early in the second period, it was with about 5-6 minutes left that the Caps seemed to pull up.  They realized that in order to win Game 5, they'd likely have to play Overtime for the fourth straight game at home and seventh time in the last ten home contests going back into the regular season.  So the Caps figured, "hey, we've got two more chances, lets save it."  Instead they gave Montreal life and the confidence that they could pull off the upset that they did.

And here's the thing about tonight that mystifies us.  Of the Game 7's the Caps have played, this was by far their best performance.  Even better than the 2 wins.  That's not say that there were no mistakes made tonight.  Mike "BEAM ME UP" Green takes a stupid penalty in the first period that leads to Montreal's first goal after the Caps had been dominating the first period.  Green then decided to play the man instead of the puck late in the third and the Caps end up down 2-0 for the fourth time in the series as a result.  The Caps for the most part stopped hitting after the first period too and we don't know why.

Silly us too thinking that because the Caps are now considered a "marquee team" that they would be given a little assistance onto the Second Round.  Not once in this series did the Caps have to deal with either Bill McCreary or Paul Devorski.  But we're glad to see that two years since Game 7 against the Flyers that the league is trying to do something about goaltender interference.

But before we wrap this up let's give credit to Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens.  Halak played another great game tonight and the team in front of him blocked almost as many shots, 41, as the Caps got on goal, 42.  Montreal had blocked 26 shots heading into the third period.  You do the math folks.  However, we won't be the least bit surprised if the Penguin Scum shred him for 6 goals on 10 shots on Friday night.  That's just how it is for the Washington Capitals.

Finally we know this is mostly wishful thinking, but we hope we don't have to hear from players, coaches, General Managers, and Owners about how disappointed they are.  About how upset that they are that "the season ended way too soon."  About how "we haven't achieved our goals and won't rest until we do."  About how "we can't wait for next season."  We've heard that two years in a row now and probably will hear it for a third.  But until something is actually done about it, it is just empty talk.

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Game 7 Caps vs. Canadiens 4-28-2010 Preview

Series A: Washington Capitals (57-31; 121 points; 1st Southeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 1st Overall) vs. Montreal Canadiens (42-46; 88 points; 4th Northeast Division, 8th Eastern Conference, 19th Overall):
Caps Playoff Game #7, Home Playoff Game #4, NHL Playoff Game #117

Verizon Center, Washington, D.C. 7:07 pm. Washington TV: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Radio: WJFK 106.7-FM. Montreal TV: None. Radio: CJAD 880-AM.  U.S. National TV: Versus.  Canadian National TV: TSN, RDS (French).

Tonight the Caps once again host Game 7 of a playoff series.  This will be the 9th Game 7 in team history and the Caps have hosted all but 1 of them.  However, the Caps have only won 2 of the previous 8 single elimination playoff games in franchise history with the two wins coming on home ice.

What The Natives Are Saying:

(Com)Post: now the injuries hit, trying to avoid the WhammyExaminerCaps.com.

Neutral Views:

NHL.com: Preview, under pressure, lineup change, longer than expectedAP WireCanadian PressESPN.com.

Open Source Intelligence:

Montreal Gazette:  on a roll, what to do?  Canadiens.com: 5 Keys, down to one.

What Do We Expect Tonight:

Well folks for the Caps to avoid elimination yet again there are a few things that they need to do; first of all, whoever Bruce Boudreau goes with in goal tonight is going to have to come out on top of their game from the start.  The Caps can't fall behind even 1-0 lettalone 2-0 less than 10 minutes into the game like they have in Games 2, 5, and 6.  As a matter of fact with Halak stopping just about everything right now, Semyon "The Saviour" Varlamov or Jose "Alvin, Simon," Theodore are probably going to have to pitch a shutout for the Caps tonight.  Secondly, the Caps need to put the glove on Mike Cammelleri.  With the exception of Game 4, when he's scored a goal, the Canadiens have won.  So stop him from scoring goals and the Caps can win.  The Caps also need to get back to pounding the Canadiens all over the ice.  They did that in Games 1-4 and built a 3-1 lead but stopped doing that in Games 5 and 6 and are 0-2.  Get the puck in deep and get the forecheckers into the corners quickly and Montreal will turn the puck over.  When it comes to Halak however, the Caps need to go for quality over quantity.  Shots from beyond the faceoff circles especially need screens and the guys who are setting screens need to fight for the rebounds that come out.  And when the puck isn't shot from distance, the Caps need to crash the crease and work the puck to the front of the net.  Finally, let's admit something here, the Caps are one of the NHL's marquee teams.  Aside from some of the worst acting you've ever seen, there's a reason why Montreal was finally whistled an unheard of three times in Game 6 for diving after flopping around all series.  When the Caps are handed Power Plays tonight, they MUST take advantage of them.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the Caps have to score right away and on every Power Play chance, but they must use the Power Play to get their offense going.  The NHL needs the Caps in the second round and Hades, the third round to face the Penguin Scum because the NBC's contract is up next year.  Will this all come to pass, we have our doubts because we've been down this road before and there's just something about this franchise.

Caps Nut Official Prediction:

Caps 1
Canadiens 3
Winner by Gomez
(3-3 in the playoffs, 50-40 on the season with two perfect games)

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