Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 Trade Deadline Recap and Analysis: Did the Caps do Enough?

The NHL Trade Deadline came and went a few hours ago, with the Caps standing pat after making a couple of moves in the days prior.

In case you don't know what trades the Caps made:
1. Washington: Tim Gleason (D)
    Carolina: Jack Hillen (D) + 2015 4th
2. Washington: Curtis Glencross (F)
    Calgary: 2015 2nd + 2015 3rd

The Caps also sent Aaron Volpatti and Cameron Schilling to Hershey, and did the same for Andre Burakovsky in a paper transaction for him to be eligible for the AHL playoffs. Even if Bura does not play in Hershey, which he likely will until he is recalled one final time, he probably will be scratched next game. Here is how the forwards should look next game:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Johansson
Glencross-Kuznetsov-Brouwer
Chimera-Fehr-Ward
Laich-Beagle-Wilson
Latta

Once Bura comes back, I predict the forwards will be as so:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Burakovsky
Johansson-Kuznetsov-Brouwer
Glencross-Fehr-Ward
Laich-Beagle-Wilson

There's still a lot than can be changed in the forwards thanks to the dearth of true top-line talent and a plethora of bottom-6/grinder players in the system. The Caps entered the trade deadline searching for either a first-line Right Wing or a second-line Center. They got neither, but one has to be reasonably pleased with the Caps' approach this year. There weren't many legitimate 1st liners available, so a significant overpayment would be needed to pry away a Jordan Eberle or JVR or even a Patrick Sharp. The center position was similarly shallow, with Antoine Vermette the premiere talent at the position. He cost a pretty penny at a first-rounder and a prospect, and when compared to Evgeny Kuznetsov, our current 2C, he is likely not worth the price:
Evgeny Kuznetsov HERO
Antoine Vermette HERO
As you can see, Vermette is just a slight upgrade, if any, despite having much more ice time, although he was on a team much worse than the Caps. He still definitely wasn't worth a first rounder in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.

The only trade made on offense was to bring in Curtis Glencross from Calgary. Glencross has fallen hard this year as compared to the years past, with just 28 points in 53 games this year after 24 in 38 last year. However, his underlying stats are relatively solid for a middle-6 winger despite the fact that he played on the third-worst Corsi and Fenwick team in Calgary this year:
Curtis Glencross HERO
Glencross should bring veteran experience to the left-side of the Caps lineup as well as better scoring depth for the playoffs. For second and third round picks, there may have been a better option on the market, but with all of the overpayments this year at the deadline, this was a great pickup for the Caps.

The upgrade on defense was also a good deal for the Caps, with Tim Gleason taking Jack Hillen's spot:
Tim Gleason HERO

Jack Hillen HERO
At first glance, Gleason looks like a much worse option than Hillen. However, much of this can be chalked up to Gleason's increased ice time as compared to Hillen (16:39 vs. 12.22). In fact, all of the stat comparisons in the HERO chart can be attributed to ice time. If you look at Corsi, Fenwick, and PDO without accommodations for ice time:

Player        TOI/GP             Corsi               Fenwick                PDO
Jack Hillen 12.22 -40 -32 1011
Tim Gleason 16.39 -32 -29 954

Despite playing more minutes on a team with only a marginally better Corsi and Fenwick than the Caps, Gleason actually had better Corsi and Fenwick scores than Hillen. Additionally, Gleason had a much, much lower PDO (shooting percentage + save percentage while on ice), signifying that his numbers are bound to bounce back whereas Hillen is undoubtedly going to regress. In fact, in Carolina's last game (Hillen's debut, a win) Hillen had a PDO of just 948. 

Even the eye test supports that Gleason is better suited on the Caps D than Hillen. Gleason is a stay-at-home defenseman, a steady presence who will allow Mike Green to jump up into the play when he feels like. Hillen wasn't suited for that job and may have been holding Green back. Gleason looked solid against Toronto yesterday, much better than Hillen has for a while.

Overall, the D-corps is one of the deepest the Caps have had since OV joined the team in 2005. With Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov progressing on their return from injury there is depth beyond Gleason which will serve well for the Caps come playoff time.

In the end, this was a solid trade deadline for the Caps. By bolstering their depth on both offense and defense, the Caps have primed themselves for a deep playoff run without mortgaging the future like teams such as Chicago and the New York Rangers did. With increased secondary scoring, more spectacular play from OV, Backstrom and Holtby, and a solid defensive unit, the Caps look ready to embark on their first playoff run since 2013.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2015 Trade Deadline Preview: Too late to the Party?

youthconnectmag.com


I was all set to do a long trade deadline preview for the Caps, but in the last two days the Caps have made two trades to address, or at least attempt to address, the holes in the lineup. In case you missed them:
1. Washington: Tim Gleason (D)
    Carolina: Jack Hillen (D) + 2015 4th
2. Washington: Curtis Glencross (F)
    Calgary: 2015 2nd + 2015 3rd

Washington's biggest holes entering the deadline were at 1RW and 2C. Instead, so far management have upgraded our 6D, even though there is a better upgrade named Nate Schmidt playing in Hershey, and added a middle-6 winger who could potentially help out the struggling 2nd and 3rd lines.

As it stands now, here are the potential Caps lines, with Andre Burakovsky likely going to Hershey for a bit:
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Johansson
Glencross-Kuznetsov-Brouwer
Laich-Fehr-Ward
Chimera-Beagle/Latta-Wilson
Orpik-Carlson
Alzner-Niskanen
Gleason-Green
Holtby
Peters

Barring any more trades, the Caps still haven't done anything to address the black hole that is Troy Brouwer on the second line. His Fenwick (Unblocked Shot Attempts) is second worst on the team, better only than Jason Chimera, who has drawn the majority of Caps fans' ire this year. His Corsi (Total Shot Attempts) is also better only than Chimera among Caps forwards. At this point, Brouwer really should not be playing Top-6 minutes.

One solution would be to bump Brouwer down to Line 3 or 4 and either put Wilson or Burakovsky on the second line. This would allow Glencross to take Brouwer's second line role, since Glencross has been better than Brouwer on a poorer team (see HERO charts at ownthepuck.blogspot.ca -- I'm not able to screenshot right now for some reason).

Optimally, without any more trades, here's how I'd like to see the Caps' forward lines look:
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Burakovsky
Glencross-Kuznetsov-Wilson
Laich/Brouwer-Fehr-Ward
Chimera-Beagle/Latta-Brouwer/Laich

Still, the team would be better off with a proven 1st line winger who can fill in capably for at least two years, by which time the next wave of prospects such as Jakub Vrana and Riley Barber should be ready for the big time. Patrick Sharp would've been perfect for that role, but he will not be traded.

There really aren't any more big name 1st line wingers available, which means the Caps will have to get creative to address that problem.

The best option would be James Van Riemsdyk of Toronto. Unfortunately, he would likely require a king's ransom. If something like this would work:

Washington: James Van Riemsdyk (F)
Toronto: 2015 1st, Jakub Vrana (F), Phillip Grubauer (G), Troy Brouwer (F) OR Tom Wilson (F), Jason Chimera (F, cap dump)

I would strongly consider this trade. Yes, we'd lose three, or possibly four, very good assets, but we have to spend big to get good assets, especially from a rebuilding team like Toronto. If this goes through, the Caps' forward lines would be:
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Van Riemsdyk
Burakovsky-Kuznetsov-Johansson
Glencross-Fehr-Ward
Laich-Beagle/Latta-Wilson/Brouwer

This would be one of the deepest forward ranks in the East, one capable of carrying the Caps to a long playoff run. Add in a strong, balanced D-corps and one of the best goaltenders in the league, and the Caps could certainly make it, to the very least, the conference finals.

That trade is obviously a pipe dream, but the Caps would be one of the most balanced teams in the league for a few years, right in the prime of OV and Backstrom, whose window is closing quickly.

Now, I'm not necessarily advertising for that Van Riemsdyk trade, which would truly mean the Caps are all-in this year, but if the Caps are committed to bringing in a first-line RW, this would be a great deal.

Most likely, however, I think the Caps will stand pat after already bringing in Glencross and Gleason. Either way, we can only hope that the Caps will get back on track for the playoff push and beyond.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

OV Semifinal #2: #2 Loss to Pittsburgh vs. #3 Sweep by Tampa Bay

We've reached the last first-round match in the WMICPH contest. Today, the 2009 7-game loss to Pittsburgh takes on the stunning sweep by the 5th-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011.

Without further ado, let's get started.

Importance:
The Caps-Pens series was a classic from the start. This classic battle between two classic rivals with a classic Game 7 and (unfortunately) the classic finish of the Caps losing. After winning the series, the Pens went on to win the Stanley Cup. The upsetting thing is, the Caps could have taken the Pens. They were up 2-0. The ECF against Carolina would have been pretty easy, and then it would have come down to Detroit. There is no guarantee that the Caps would have won the SCF, but at least the Pens wouldn't have.
The 2011 Caps was one of the most balanced in recent memory. It was a good team (the Eastern Conference 1st-seed) and they had steamrolled the Rangers in 5 games in the first round. If this team had won, they would be playing the not-as-tough team in Boston, and would have gone on to a good matchup against Vancouver. Again, there is no guarantee the Caps would be Cup champs, but they almost certainly would have been finalists.
Advantage: Push

Impact:
Impact is pretty tough to measure, given that these are pretty recent, but the TBL loss has had a greater impact. The franchise facelift continued, as the Caps completed a change to an ultra-defensive style when Dale Hunter took over as head coach. The Pens series just gave more incentive to win, but obviously that hasn't happened.
Advantage: Sweep

Shock Factor:
The Caps could have been out in Game 6 against the Pens, and the two teams were considered evenly matched, so there was not a lot of shock when the Pens won.
The TBL loss was shocking because minus Stamkos, the Bolts were an aging team which was not supposed to challenge the Eastern Conference favorites. Instead, the Bolts destroyed the Caps.
Advantage: Sweep

Grudge/Hate Factor:
This is sort of hard, but not really.
Advantage: Loss to Pittsburgh

In the end, I'll choose the first upset of this draw, and I'm gonna go with the Sweep by Tampa Bay. The impact and shock factor caused by this loss will send it to the second round, where it will take on the loss to Montreal. See you then!