Sunday, June 30, 2013

A New Future for the Washington Capitals

A few weeks ago, I did a pre-draft look at how the Caps could look in the next few years, once their prospects had matured and gained starting roles.

Now I take a post-draft look. The Caps may not have done as good a job as they could have addressing their biggest needs (2nd-line center, defenseman), but they have certainly improved their depth. That being said, once again barring any stunning trades, injuries, and assuming players will come up, here is how the Caps could look around 2015, 2016.

Galiev/Burakovsky-(Insert 2nd-line center here)-Brouwer
Possibilities: Brooks Laich, Martin Erat, Zach Sanford

Possibilities: Cameron Schilling

There are a few things that jump out for this. The top line looks solid. If nobody does any tinkering, that will be an incredibly dangerous line (I mean seriously, this could rival any line in the league right now). The second line is a question mark. First-round pick Andre Burakovsky has good upside, but he could be a late bloomer, and it is too early to tell if he will be a top-6 forward. Stan Galiev is the other LW who will be fighting for a spot, and it will be tough to see who deserves the 2nd-line spot more. That center spot is the biggest wild card. Do the caps re-sign Mike Ribeiro? Do they sign/trade for a solid center? Or do they turn to later draft picks which are hard to call right now? That is one spot which is extremely tough to call. The bottom two lines look fairly solid, although free agency, trades, and drafts could change this.

The D is more straightforward. Everyone except for Bowey have proven that they will be good professionals, and could help backstop a solid blue line for the Caps. Kundratek and Alzner will provide a steady D-line presence so their offensive-minded partners can join the attack. Madison Bowey, though could be a tough call. He is a good, physical defenseman who also has a high hockey IQ. He could be the biggest draft pick from 2013.

Still, this will be a talented team if the core is kept the same. They just need to fill some gaps, and this could be a real contender.

Musings on this Beautiful Draft Day

Washington-area teams have had bad experiences with drafts. From the Wizards drafting Kwame Brown, the Redskins taking Heath Shuler and Desmond Howard, and the Caps taking players like Alexander Volchkov (who?), drafts have begun some of the darkest periods in area-team history.

However, there have been some good drafts as well. That fabled 1981 Redskins draft, which was instrumental in their 3 Super Bowl run, is perhaps the most famous, and drafting RGIII and Alfred Morris were great picks. Recently, the Caps, Nats, and Wizards have drafted solid, young, players (the Caps' 2004 draft is obviously the most famous, while the Nats have taken Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, and the Wizards John Wall, Bradley Beal, and now Otto Porter).

The last few years have had mixed drafts for the Washington Capitals. Bleacher Report compiled a list of what happened to our 2010 Draft Picks (and hopefully our first pick from that year will join DC soon). In 2011, we traded our first-round pick to Chicago for Troy Brouwer (turned out pretty well, no?). Last year, our two first-rounders were Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson. Wilson had an admirable debut in the playoffs, while Forsberg was sent to Nashville for Martin Erat and prospect Michael Latta, and Caps fans were left to wonder what good would come out of sending one of the top prospects away.

But that aside, this year the Caps have the 23rd overall draft pick. Looking at 5 different mock drafts, here are who the Caps are supposedly taking:
Kimelman ( Zach Natasiuk (RW)
Morreale ( Anthony Mantha (RW)
Hoffner ( Nikita Zadorov (D)
SBNation (Japer's Rink): J.T. Compher (C)
Peerless: Kerby Rychel (LW)

The Caps don't really need right/left wings. We need a solid D-man. Carlson, Alzner, and Green are mainstays on this team, but one has to wonder if Olesky, Hillen, and Erskine have much longer (Schultz and Poti are long gone). Even with Dmitri Orlov, Tomas Kundratek, and possibly Cameron Schilling, the Caps need a good shutdown D-man (because Green, Orlov, and Carlson are all very offensive-minded). 

Unfortunately, chances are slim that good defensemen will fall to the 23rd spot. So the best course of action for McPhee would be to get a higher pick. Send the 23rd pick, Jeff Schultz, and maybe a later round pick to a team such as Columbus that will be looking for a D-man, and with the 14th pick, take Zadorov, who is a physical, shutdown D-man, who is kind of a mix of John Erskine's and Jeff Schultz's best qualities.

If, however, the Caps keep that 23rd pick, good choices would be Chris Bigras, a hard worker who is also physical and a very smart player, or if the Caps wanted to take an offensive guy, Mantha, Natasiuk, and Ryan Hartman, who is like a smaller version of Tom Wilson.

Still, if I were GMGM, I'm looking at either trading into a better spot, or going after Chris Bigras.

UPDATE: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they are willing to trade their first round picks. GMGM has to go all in for this (well not all in, but you know what I mean) and try to move up, but right now it looks like Boston is trying to get back in to Round 1. Trading up could land the Caps Nikita Zadorov, who is probably the best fit for the Caps blue line.

UPDATE: Well, there was no trade, unfortunately, and Nikita Zadorov was taken by Buffalo two places later. Still, Bigras was available, so I don't know why the Caps took a LW. Still, welcome Andre  Burakovsky, and good luck here in Washington.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Matchup 2: #2 Easter Epic vs. #3 Blowing a 3-1 lead to Pittsburgh (in '92)

The second matchup in this epic contest commences, as the Easter Epic takes on the Caps blowing their 3-1 series lead to Pittsburgh in 1992.

The Caps blew a 3-1 lead twice, but the one most longtime fans remember is the '92 version, because it was the second playoff installment between these two new rivals, and it quickly began their hatred between each other. It will be tough to decide between this and the Easter Epic, but that's what I'm here for!

So... let's begin.

The Easter Epic was a Game 7, which automatically makes it uber-important. Plus, it was an OT game, where the next goal equals next round.
The 3-1 lead was important, not in a very tangible aspect, but in a mental aspect. Without that, chances are we may never have been able to have this beautiful rivalry with Pittsburgh. Still, the Epic was more important physically, and that should give it an edge.
Advantage: Easter Epic

This is a lot closer than importance. For the Epic, the biggest impact was that the Caps were first known as playoff chokers, which is not really the impact you go for.
The Blown Lead's impact is a lot easier to recognize, as that lead truly began this amazing rivalry with the Penguins. That is more than enough of an impact for me.
Advantage: Blown 3-1

Shock Factor:
This is also really close. For the Epic, this was stunning because the Caps had thoroughly dominated the game, outshooting the Islanders 75-57. Isles goalie Kelly Hrudley had been sensational throughout, and considering the SOG, the Caps should have won easy.
Blowing a 3-1 lead is always stunning, and doing so when you have home ice against the defending champs (a team you would love to beat) makes it even more shocking. This is very, very close.
Advantage: Push

Grudge/Hate Factor:
This would have been an easy call if the Easter Epic was not against the Islanders. The Caps have played the Isles six times in the playoffs, and lost 5. They've played the Pens eight times and lost 7. I feel there is too much history on both sides to give this one decisively.
Advantage: Push

I didn't think one up. I didn't know it would be necessary.

But in the end, I guess I'm going to go with the Easter Epic. The main reason for this? They had beaten the Isles the year before. They had dominated the game. They were supposed to win. And, they now had a reputation as chokers. This was an extremely tough call, but because of all these reasons listed, as well as the awesome name it has in hockey lore, the Easter Epic will take on the 4OT loss to Pittsburgh in the semifinals.

Coming up next, the first round matches in the OV era. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Matchup 1: #1 4OT loss vs. #4 Esa Tikkanen's miss

Starting the matches in the Pre-OV era, first is the 1 vs. 4; the grueling 4OT loss to Pittsburgh in Game 4 in 1996 and the missed empty net shot by Esa Tikkanen. I'll be comparing them on different aspects, and declare a winner (loser?) at the end.

So let's begin!

The 4OT was in Game 4, a win in which would have given the Caps a 3-1 lead in the series, which the much improved Caps team may not have blown this time.
Tikkanen missed the shot in Game 2, a win in which would have tied up the series at 1 game each going back to Capital Centre. However, it's hard to know that the Caps would have won that series anyways. Still, it was the Stanley Cup.
Advantage: Push

This sort of goes along with importance, but is a little bit different. Like I said earlier, a 4OT win would have given the Caps a 3-1 series lead which they probably wouldn't have given up.
Tikkanen's shot may not have changed the impact of the series, considering that the Caps were not even supposed to have made it there, let alone give the Red Wings a run for their money.
Advantage: 4OT

Shock Factor:
The Caps had a 2-1 lead after the second period. Mario Lemieux had been ejected. Joe Juneau had a penalty shot. In OT. This loss was an absolute stunner.
With Tikkanen's shot, eh. A Caps win would have been a huge shock, but the loss was not really. The ending was surprising, but the tying goal was scored with almost 5 minutes left.
Advantage: 4OT

Grudge/Hate Factor:
I don't even need to analyze this.
Advantage: 4OT

For me, the winner is the 4OT loss to Pittsburgh. Tikkanen missing was stunning and deeply upsetting, but considering the impact, improbability, and hate between the teams involved, the 4OT loss was worse to Caps fans than Tikkanen missing the shot. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Re-Introducing The Worst Playoff Moment in Caps History

When I just started this blog, I began this contest, but never finished it. Now, however, I'm bringing it back, and it will be done, I tell you! In case you've forgotten, here are the brackets.

Pre-OV Era:
1. Caps lose to Pens in 4OT
4. Esa Tikkanen misses the empty net

2. Easter Epic
3. Blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Penguins

OV Era:
1. Upset by Montreal
4. Game 5 loss to NYR (2012)

2. 7 game loss to Pittsburgh
3. Swept by Tampa Bay

So stay tuned to get round by round analysis to decide which moment was the worst.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Players in Each Position- Right Wings

I conclude this five part series with the best right wings in the NHL.

Believe it or not, this is actually one of the deepest position in the league. All-stars and trophy-winners galore are in this position. So let's get started!

Honorable Mentions:
Tyler Seguin- The young Boston Bruin not named Tuuka Rask is very dangerous, as he proved last year in the Caps-B's series. He is part of a group of rising right wings who could become stars.
Jordan Eberle- He hasn't really gotten much press on the East Coast, but he has been a weapon for a hapless Edmonton Oilers team. He is really close to the Top 10 in my opinion.
Jakub Voracek- Acquired in one of the Columbus trades, Voracek had a breakout year for Philly last year, and could be a real threat with Claude Giroux on the top line.
Jarome Iginla- He is still dangerous, but he is also old, and plays for a team where everybody is a star.
Jaromir Jagr- Even two years ago, he would be in the Top 10, but as a 41 year old with Boston, he is more of just an added threat than a sensational scorer.

10. Rick Nash- It's hard to put Nash up here above the Honorables, but there is no argument that he is a superstar. He was fantastic for Columbus before being traded, and despite the bad press, had a good 2013 season.
9. James Neal- On a second line with Evgeni Malkin and (now) Jarome Iginla, Neal has flourished with Pittsburgh after years as a solid point-producer with Dallas. He could be higher, but I don't want to put him higher.
8. Phil Kessel- Kessel and Neal are very similar, save for one thing; Kessel is the Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri had a breakout year last year, and Dion Phaneuf is a bruising defenseman, but Kessel is still the biggest threat on the Leafs, and if Toronto builds around him, he could be even better.
7. Teemu Selanne- The ageless Selanne is one of the greatest players of all time, and continues to put up solid numbers with Anaheim. He has not been scoring as much as he did in his earlier years, but he is still a superstar.
6. Martin St. Louis- Another golden oldie on this list, St. Louis is 38 but has come off of one of the best years of his career. He won the Art Ross trophy for leading point-scorer, and although he does not have much hockey left, he will continue to be a key cog in a Bolts team with Steven Stamkos.
5. Marian Hossa- One of two star right wing Blackhawks, Hossa is the player that everybody loves to hate. But the fact is, he is one of the hardest workers in the league, and when he's on his game, he is as dangerous as anybody in this league.
4. Corey Perry- By far, he is Anaheim's biggest weapon. Perry is an absolutely scary player to go up against, as he, like the rest of the top four, can change the scope of the game by himself. He is a former Hart Trophy winner, and a few more could be on the way.
3. Ilya Kovalchuck- He is Russian, expensive, and plays for New Jersey; the perfect recipe for every hockey fan to hate. Despite this,  he is one of the best players in the league. He has had injury scares which keep him from being higher up, but don't forget that he took Atlanta to the playoffs. Atlanta.
2. Patrick Kane- He is arrogant, inconsistent, and really annoying to everybody outside of Chicago, but he is mega-talented, and when he is on a hot streak (like he has been in these playoffs), he is virtually impossible to stop. But those inconsistencies keep him from #1, which goes to...
1. Alex Ovechkin- Well, who did you think I would put in here?

So what do you think? Put your thoughts/rankings in the comments. Thanks for reading this series, and stay tuned for more analysis!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Players in Each Position- Centers

Welcome to the second to last part of these rankings. Today I'll be looking at perhaps the deepest position in hockey; the centers.

Honorable Mentions:
Eric Staal- Staal just missed the Top 10, losing out to Anze Kopitar and Henrik Zetterberg. All three are good players and leaders, but Zetterberg and Kopitar are a bit better, I feel.
Nicklas Backstrom- He is sensational when he is with Alex Ovechkin, but that dependence on one player is not enough for a Top 10 center.
Claude Giroux- He had a good year a few years back, but had a bit of a slump last year. He is still one of the best young centers in the league.

10. Anze Kopitar- Kopitar may be one of the most underrated centers in the league. He is one of few offensive weapons of a very defense-dependent LA Kings team, and is a good leader too, despite not being a captain.
9. Henrik Zetterberg- Zetterberg was given a tough job; replace Nick Lidstrom as the captain of one of the best franchises in history. He performed admirably, and although his center skills are overshadowed by teammate Pavel Datsyuk, he is a good two-way forward as well.
8. Joe Thornton- He is no longer the well known man he was, but he has quietly continued being one of the best centers in the league. When he was given the captaincy a couple of years back, he took the responsibility and has done very well.
7. Henrik Sedin- His brother Daniel was ranked second among left wings, but I doubt he'd be anywhere without Henrik. Henrik is to Daniel what Nick Backstrom is to Alex Ovechkin, except Henrik is more important to their mutual success. He'd be higher if center was not so deep.
6. Pavel Datsyuk- When I started these rankings, I talked about how it annoys me when people say Datsyuk is better than OV. That being said, he is still one of the premiere centers in the league, and he is an absolute magician with the puck, not to mention one of the best two-way players in the league.
5. John Tavares- Tavares had a breakout year last year, and with captain Mark Streit gone, he will probably assume more leadership. This kid has so much talent he could be poised for a few scoring titles and awards before he retires.
4. Jonathan Toews- Toews is one of my favorite players in the league. He does it all, pass, score, play D, etc. He is also a great leader. Long story short, he is the sort of player anybody would want on his team.
3. Evgeni Malkin- He is overshadowed by Sidney Crosby, but not really. Perhaps the second best Russian in the league today (behind a certain Moscow native), Malkin has a penchant for scoring goals in every way possible. He is like a dangerous combination of Datsyuk and Tavares.
2. Steven Stamkos- Stammer has been playing his heart out for a miserable Tampa Bay team. He won the 'Rocket' Richard last year, and was second in goals this year. Alas, it hasn't been enough, as the Lightning have missed out on the playoffs both years, but there is no denying this kid's talent.
1. Sidney Crosby- I'm not gonna say anything.

So what do you think? Put your thoughts/rankings in the comments, and come back tomorrow for the final rankings: the Right Wings.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Players in Each Positions- Left Wings

Welcome to part three of the rankings. Today, I'm doing the Left Wings.

Before I start, let me just say that Alex Ovechkin is NOT considered a LW. He has made the change to Right Wing, so he will be appearing in that ranking, not this one. That being said, let's get started:

Honorable Mentions:
Milan Lucic- Eh. Don't particularly like this guy, and he's not exactly a huge point-producer. He's very physical, sure, but that shouldn't be enough to get him in the Top 10.
Dustin Brown- The Kings captain is not my favorite player, but he's pretty clutch and is important to a Kings team that needs all the offense it can get.
Evander Kane/Andrew Ladd- The two Winnipeg Jets had good years last year when they lost the race to the Caps for the Southeast Division, and they certainly have great potential. Plus, Kane is a great fighter.
Jiri Tlusty- Just losing out to teammate Jeff Skinner for the 10th spot, Tlusty had a great year last year, but missed out because of an older age and I'd say less potential.

10. Jeff Skinner- Skinner is probably the best young player on a dangerous Carolina Hurricanes team. If he learns to control his temper, he could develop into one of the best in the league.
9. Marian Gaborik- Gaborik had a great year a few years ago, and has been quietly dangerous over the last few years. He received no love from former coach John Tortorella, but could rebound with Columbus.
8. Patrik Elias- He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest players in Devils team history. He holds nearly every offensive record in franchise history, and if he didn't also play center, he would be higher up.
7. Bobby Ryan- Ryan has been overshadowed by Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but the Team USA star is a consistent 30-goal scorer and 50-point getter. He was key for Perry's surprise Hart two years ago.
6. Chris Kunitz- Kunitz had a good year last year, and has been pretty consistent in years prior. He isn't higher because he gets a lot of goals thanks to good passing from Sidney Crosby.
5. Patrick Marleau- Marleau has become much better since being stripped of his captaincy a few years ago, and has become a consistent 30, 40-goal getter.
4. Patrick Sharp- Sharp gets a lot of help being on the same team as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but the fact remains that he is an All-Star and one of the best Wingers in the league.
3. Thomas Vanek- The Buffalo Sabres lack consistent offense, but they get a lot of help from Vanek. He is a hard worker and started last year on fire. He may have been higher had he not hit injury troubles.
2. Daniel Sedin- He and his brother create the most fearful consistent tandem this side of OV-Backstrom. Daniel is perhaps the most consistent left wing (who is still a left wing) in the league.
1. Zach Parise- Parise takes the top spot for his hard work and great two-way game. He is probably the best two-way winger in a game where there are not many two-way wingers, and he is a consistent threat. He received a lot of flack for going to Minnesota, but he is still one of the best in the game.

So what do you think? Put your thoughts/rankings in the comments and come back tomorrow for the tope 10 centers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Players in Each Position- Defensemen

Yesterday I ranked the top goaltenders in the NHL. Today I take a look at the defensemen.

Defensemen have one of the most thankless jobs in the league. Unless they score a lot, they don't get much recognition. More often you see them beguiled for a poor defensive effort. Still, there are those that thrive under the pressure. Here are the top 10 defensemen in the league.

Honorable Mentions:
Niklas Kronwall- He's been asked to step up for Niklas Lidstrom, which is hard. He has done good, but has not lived up to the bar Lidstrom has set, which very few can do, really.
Andrei Markov- Even at 34, he is one of the premiere defensemen in the league. He finished tied for third among defensemen in goals with 10, only behind Mike Green and PK Subban.
Dustin Byflugien- He is very good offensively, but is terrible defensively. He would probably excel as a winger, but plays D to so he can be out more. He needs to learn better D if he wants to crack the top 10.

10. Drew Doughty- The Caps fan base was stunned when Mike Green was snubbed for Doughty for the Canadian Olympic team. I'm still skeptical, but Doughty has certainly thrived in LA and is a good D man.
9. PK Subban- There are two reasons Subban is not higher on this list: youth and game. He is still young, and he plays an offensive-minded game which has been exploited. But he is still a great player who will probably thrive in this league.
8. Ryan Suter- He received a lot of flack for going for the big contract in Minnesota, but he actually played well there. He is capable of playing big minutes and is one of the best shutdown D men in the league.
7. Mike Green- Green is awesome. He was a back to back Vezina finalist a few years ago, and experienced a resurgence this year, leading the league in goals despite playing 7 fewer games than Subban, who was second. If he continues to stay in form and avoid injury, he could see a Norris soon.
6. Alex Pietrangelo- A vastly underrated D man last year, he has begun to excel as the number one defenseman in St. Louis. Like Suter, he eats big minutes and uses his physical attributes to help lead one of the most defensive teams in the league.
5. Kris Letang- Like him or not, Letang can do it all. He can score, play good D, and so on. What keeps from being higher, however, is that he can't do both at the same time. He can score a lot but play bad D, or play good D while going on a slump. But he is a defenseman you would want on your team.
4. Duncan Keith- Keith is the best defenseman on a team that desperately needs good defensemen. We've seen the how the Bruins have exploited the Blackhawks so far this series, and without Keith, the Hawks would have probably lost Game 4 10-5. Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, and Niklas Hjalmarsson are good, but without the former Norris winner, the Blackhawks would be dead.
3. Shea Weber- Weber is an extremely physical player who scares the wits out of most players in the league. He is definitely an elite franchise defenseman. What keeps him at 3rd, though, is that the two players above him have Norris trophies, and are more consistent than him.
2. Erik Karlsson- Karlsson is the only offensive defenseman I feel comfortable placing this high. He won the Norris last year and has excelled in Ottawa. Although he is known for his offense, his defensive skills are vastly underrated, and but for the ACL tear, he may have had a shot at the top spot, which goes to...
1. Zdeno Chara- There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best defenseman in the league. Boston is one of the best defensive teams in the league, and Chara is their leader. He is like a more dominant, more consistent version of Shea Weber, and this is more than worthy of a top spot.

So what do you think? Put your thoughts/rankings in the comments, and come back tomorrow for Left Wings (which do NOT include Alex Ovechkin, by the way).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Players in Each Position- Goaltenders

I've said earlier that I love rankings. However, you can't compare people easily when they play different games. If they're completely different sports, just look at where they've gotten their team and where they can go. But if it's one sport (hockey, for instance), it's not that easy. Which is why my blood boils when people say Pavel Datsyuk is better than Alex Ovechkin.

So starts a series where I'll rank the top 10 active players in each position, starting with the goaltenders.

Honorable Mentions:
Corey Crawford- He had a good year this year, but he has been very inconsistent in the past.
Cory Schneider- Until he can prove he can hold his own as a starter, this talented young guy will just miss.
Pekka Rinne- He has been good before, but one wonders if he can do better. He was pretty bad last
Brian Elliot- He was good last year, but has not been very great before.
Marc-Andre Fleury- He has struggled with inconsistency, but he is still a good player.

10. Braden Holtby- There may be a little bit of bias here, but he is still one of the best young goalies in the league.
9. Evgeni Nabokov- He was good with the Sharks, took a few years off, then was good with the Islanders last year. If he plays to his potential, he could be moving up.
8. Jimmy Howard- He had tough shoes to fill when he had to take over for Chris Osgood, and did a fine job. He reminded everybody how dangerous he could be in the playoffs.
7.Anti Niemi- 'Nemo' had a great year in 2013 and was good for the Blackhawks before then. He has always been overshadowed, unfortunately, but was a finalist for the Vezina this year.
6. Jonathan Quick- The Kings goaltender has probably turned into the USA's best (sorry Ryan Miller). He was a bit underwhelming to start the year, but from the magic puck to the Cinderella run, he is still one of the best in the business.
5. Tuuka Rask- He has been amazing this year, and if the Bruins win the Cup he will almost definitely win the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. He had tough shoes to fill after Tim Thomas, but he has been fantastic.
4. Sergei Bobrovsky- The Vezina champion is a great example of why Paul Holmgren, the Flyers GM, should be canned. Send to the Blackhawks to allow Ilya Bryzgalov to be the starter, Bob did sensational last year to almost get Columbus to the playoffs. The Caps will have their work cut out for them when they have him in their division next year.
3. Craig Anderson- He probably would have been a Vezina candidate, if not winner, had he not been injured. He was not at his best in the destruction by Pittsburgh, but was fantastic in the regular season and against Montreal.
2. Martin Brodeur- The greatest goaltender of all time, by far, is still one of the best in the league. He only misses out on the top spot because of age, and because he may not be able to go on for much longer.
1. Henrik Lundqvist- All Caps fans have to agree with this. Lundqvist has single-handedly beaten the Caps the last two years, and has been a Vezina candidate both of those years, including winning in 2011-2012.

So what do you think? Put your rankings in the comments, and come back tomorrow for the best defensemen. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Worst Case Scenario for the Caps

Yesterday, I talked about the best case for the Caps. However, no best case is complete without its worst case, which puts everything into the context of how much worse it can be. It's like the yin to the best case's yang, the bread to its butter. And with that, I present the Worst Case Scenario for the 2013-2014 Washington Capitals.

Like yesterday, let's start with forwards. Here are the bad things that could happen:
1. Marcus Johansson would refuse to sign, or demand an exorbitant amount of money, leading to the Caps being forced to lose him. That means we would definitely need Mike Ribeiro, who would be very expensive.
2. Because of Marcus's departure, the Caps re-sign Matt Hendricks, and Brooks Laich has to be bumped up to the top line. The Caps lose a lot of depth and money.
So basically, the worst-case scenario would be keeping the same lineup while losing a lot of money to Ribeiro and Hendricks. We would probably blow up our salary cap over this.

These are the potential offensive lines:

On to the defense.
1. Because of the lack of money, the Caps can't re-sign Karl Alzner, because nobody takes Jeff Schultz, and Tom Poti also walks due to the lack of funding in DC.
2. The Caps would have to call up Dmitri Orlov, Tomas Kundratek, or Cameron Schilling, and because this is worst-case, let's go with Schilling.

Here are the potential D lines:

Needless to say, this would not be an improvement. We would not only have pretty much the same offensive lineup as last year, the defense would lose a huge component with Alzner forced to walk.

There are huge differences between best-case and worst-case, as you can see. Although neither are very probable, let's hope the Caps can get a good balance, preferably leaning to the better case.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Best Case Scenario for the Caps

About a week ago, I posted about the future of the Washington Capitals. However, that was about the distant future for the Caps. How about the near future? As in next year?

A lot could change depending on the free agents and trading, but here is what I feel is the best case scenario (all monetary stats via CapGeek).

The Caps currently have $5,658,483 of cap space.

Let's start with the offense. First off, the Caps need to solidify their first line. Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin are under contract for a while, so we don't need to worry about them. However, there are many possibilities for that third spot. We also need to solidify our second line (Center, mostly) and get more offense/grit for the third and fourth line. We could:
1. Re-sign Marcus Johansson. He currently makes 900K per year, so a good deal would be maybe 4 years, 6-8 million. Actually, we should do that no matter what.
2. Via Bleacher Report, Viktor Stalberg could be a good fit for the Caps, so the Caps could trade away under-performing players such as Jason Chimera, who will have a contract year soon. A good deal could be Jason Chimera and a 3-5 round pick/prospect for Stalberg. Of course, he would probably be a 2nd/3rd liner. He could possibly signed for a 4 year, 5-6 million contract.
3. For that second line center, Mike Ribeiro would be a good fit, but if he is too expensive, it may be a good idea to send him to Toronto for Nazem Kadri, who is an inexpensive weapon. If this works, we could sign him to a 4 year, 4-5 million contract.
4. Matt Hendricks is awesome, but he may be the odd one out here. He may find himself in a trade, or just being dropped. The Caps have some good weapons as it is.

With that, here are the offensive lines for next year:

Now on to the D. The Caps D is pretty good, but it can still be improved. More than anything, we need grit. We also need to get rid of players such as Poti and Schultz, as well as re-sign players.
1. Signing Karl Alzner has to be the top priority for the Caps. They should sign him to a contract, such as perhaps a 5 year, 10-12 million. Hopefully, he'll be OK with this.
2. Tom Poti and Jeff Schultz have to go. However, we'll need a good D-man. Somebody like Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers. He was fantastic against the Caps and would fit right in with the team. Trading Poti, Schultz, and a pick(s?)/prospect will probably be enough to pry him out of the hands of the Rangers, especially since they have other people to lock up. We could potentially give him  a 5 year, 10 million contract as well.

Here are the possible D pairs:

By doing this, we'd be trading/releasing 13.2 million bucks and be spending 8.5 million, for about 10 million left in cap space. We could even spend more on players who want more. I'm not saying this will happen, but if it does, the Caps will have a pretty good roster going in to the new year.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Athletes in DC

I love rankings. They're awesome ways to compare people without really insulting anyone, unless they're unusually touchy.

I also love DC sports. It's true the Caps are my favorite team, and they're the team I follow the most, and follow the closest, but I'm waiting for the day the Redskins, Nationals, or Wizards will win a championship. I cried with the city when the Nats blew that lead last year and cringed with the city when RG3 tore his ACL in January. I love DC sports.

DC has some of the best talent in the USA, and here is my ranking:

Honorable Mentions:
Gio Gonzalez- He had a sensational last year, but a subpar start to the year leaves him out of the Top 10.
Braden Holtby- He was fantastic last year, but lack of experience keeps him out for now.
Bradley Beal- He's the second best player on the Wizards, but he could make this list soon.
Ryan Zimmerman- I love the guy, but he's leaving me hanging on what he can do. He's a tough cut, though.

10. Brian Orakpo- Injury troubles have kept him out of many games, but he's been stellar when he's played.
9. Mike Green- He's one of the best players on the Caps, but injury and inconsistency keep him from being higher.
8. Stephen Strasburg- There was a lot of hype, and he's still our ace, although he's underperformed this year.
7. John Wall- The Wizards' troubles aside, he has still been very good for a bad team.
6. Jordan Zimmerman- He's been our ace this year and was great last year despite being overshadowed by Gio and Strasburg.
5. Alfred Morris- He was a stud last year, finishing second in the league in yards and was a finalist for Rookie of the Year. He'll be a great starting Running Back.
4. Nicklas Backstrom- Not sure if he should be this high, but he has a lot of experience, and the sky is the limit when he's with OV.
3. Bryce Harper- Harper is amazing. He's my favorite National, and but for injuries, he may have been higher.
2. RG3- He was sensational last year, and but for him, the Skins would have been in the cellar last year. Injuries and inexperience keep him from the top spot, which goes to...
1. Alex Ovechkin- Who else do you expect here? All he needs to solidify his Hall of Fame status is a Stanley Cup. And hopefully that will be coming soon.

What do you think? Put your thoughts/ rankings in the comments. 


Congratulations to Alex Ovechkin for winning his third Hart Trophy for Most Valuable Player. He was in Russia at the time of the ceremony, so he was not able to be there live to accept the award, but he gave his acceptance speech via webcam.

Here are the other winners...

My Pick: Sidney Crosby
Winner: Sidney Crosby
Can't argue with this, unfortunately.

My Pick: Sergei Bobrovsky
Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky
Bob rules.

My Pick: Ryan Suter
Winner: PK Subban
If we're going by stats, then yeah, Subban should win. But if we're going with best defensive defenseman, this is Suter all the way.

My Pick: Jonathan Huberdeau
Winner: Jonathan Huberdeau
This kid has a real bright future ahead of him.

OV now has three each of Hart, Lindsay, and 'Rocket' Richard. But he's still waiting on that big one...

Lord Stanley's Cup.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

LEAK: Alex Ovechkin Has Won the Hart Trophy

According to TSN's Insider Trading, Alex Ovechkin has won the 2013 Hart Trophy for league MVP.

To make sure, tune in to NBCSN at 7 ET to watch the rest of the awards. Other awards were announced yesterday, with:

My Pick: Daniel Alfredsson
Winner: Daniel Alfredsson
Good choice, voters.

My Pick: Paul McLean
Winner: Paul McLean
Paul deserved this more than anybody else (btw, Adam Oates was 8th place in voting).

My Pick: Matt Moulson
Winner: Martin St. Louis
Congrats, Mart. You're really a class act.

My Pick: Patrice Bergeron
Winner: Jonathan Toews
Toews had to win something.

My Pick: Josh Harding
Winner: Josh Harding
Nobody else deserved this more than him.

My Pick: Marc Bergevin
Winner: Ray Shero
I'm not buying it. I'm just not buying it.

Those were the major awards released yesterday. To see my other predictions, go here. If, in fact, Ovechkin did win the Hart, here is why I think he did.

Insider Trading also leaked that PK Subban took the Norris Trophy for best defenseman and Jonathan Huberdeau won the Calder for Best Rookie.

This would be OV's third Hart Trophy to go along with his third 'Rocket' Richard Trophy for leading goal-scorer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The People Have Voted...

A week ago, I graded the Washington Capitals and gave three great candidates for 'valedictorian.' Well, the results of the poll are in, and I quite agree, that this year's valedictorian is:

Alex Ovechkin.

If you want to see all the reasons I chose him, you can go back and see that post as well as the one about why he will win the Hart trophy, but in a nutshell...

  • He won the Richard Trophy for top goal scorer despite 'struggling' the first half of the year
  • He all but carried the Caps to a division crown and playoff berth
  • He is a finalist for the Hart trophy for league MVP
  • He finished third in the league in points

Braden Holtby and Steven Oleksy also did fantastic, but Ovechkin really deserves it this year.

Now let's just get a Stanley Cup to go along with it, OK?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Previewing the Stanley Cup Final

And then there were two.

The Boston Bruins will meet the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final in an Original 6 matchup which may be the best finals meeting in a while.

So who will win? So far this year, I am at 10/14, my only mistakes being Anaheim over Detroit, Washington over NYR, NYR over Boston, and Pittsburgh over Boston (man, I've really underestimated Boston). But who will win Chicago vs. Boston? Let's see.

If you don't remember, I choose this by doing head to head battles in Offense, Defense, Goaltending, Special Teams, and Miscellaneous (stuff like home-ice). Let's get started, shall we?

Offense: Chicago. Boston got it done against Pittsburgh, and David Krejci was fantastic, but I don't know if it will last. This is really close, but Kane, Toews et al. is still more formidable than Krejci and Bergeron.
Defense: Boston. They completely shut down the high-power Pittsburgh offense, and can do the same to Chicago. Torrey Krug, Zdeno Chara, and the rest of the D has been spectacular. The Blackhawks D has also been good, but even with Duncan Keith back and Brent Seabrook doing well, they are not as good as the Bruins.
Goaltending: Boston. Tuuka Rask is a Conn Smythe contender. Corey Crawford has kept the Hawks in games. This is not even close.
Special Teams: Chicago. The Hawks PK has been surprisingly stellar, while Boston's has been underwhelming. Boston did well against Pitt, but overall are still not that great. Both teams have atrocious power plays. This is close, but Chicago has the #1 playoff PK, so I'm going with them.
Prediction: Chicago in 7. This is close, and I don't want to underestimate Boston again. But the truth of the matter is, this Hawks team has beaten Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick; they can beat Tuuka Rask. Their D has been much improved and will be ready for the surprising Bruins attack. This will be a very good series, but I'm gonna go with Chicago to win for the second time in four years.

Pride & Prejudice (& Pierre)- Unfair Bias in the NHL

One of my first posts talked about how comparing Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby is stupid. That being said, there are still those in the hockey world who decide they must compare the two brightest stars in the league (looking at you Mike; and you too, Pierre). There are people who say Ovechkin will not be as good as Crosby until he wins the Stanley Cup (he, not the team), who'll say that OV "should be ashamed of himself," (again, that's you, Mike) and those who will fawn on Sidney Crosby while naming all of his Pee Wee league teammates and what they're doing now (Pierre).

Ovechkin was in a 2.5 year 'slump,' where he 'only' had 85 and 65 points (and 32 and 38 goals), which automatically made him way overpaid. Combine that with yearly playoff disappointments and the OV and the Caps were washed up.

Ovechkin and Crosby have now been in the league for 8 years; Crosby has a cup, OV does not. There. Plain and simple. Crosby has a better point per game than OV. That's true too. But so what?

Peerless wrote an article earlier this off-season about how OV is criticized a lot. He did not compare him to Crosby, but instead to Evgeni Malkin. Despite nearly identical statistics, Malkin never gets criticized. Never. The closest I came to finding a scathing article of him was in a 2008 Sports Illustrated where it talked about him not showing up to talk to the media after losing to the Red Wings. Malkin, Crosby, and the rest of the Penguins get lots of love from the league, and therefore from the fans as well.

This year, though, the same year Mike Milbury started spazzing out about Ovechkin's lack of commitment, the same year OV turned his year around and led the Caps to a surprise playoff berth, the same year the Pens built up the Eastern Conference All Star team (minus Alex Ovechkin), and the same year virtually everyone had written off OV and the Caps and anointed the Pens Stanley Cup Champs and Crosby the best player in the world (or ever), the Boston Bruins stunned the world (and made my day) by sweeping the Penguins. And what have people said about Crosby, Malkin, and the Pens?

Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

The Penguins have more cups than the Caps. What can just OV do about that? Hockey is a team sport; if your goalie has a bad day, if you break your foot trying to block a shot, if your team takes 6 penalties, there is not much you, as one person can do.

And let's be honest: both the Caps and Pens have made the playoffs every year since 2008 (the Pens also made it in 2007). The Pens have the only cup, back in 2009. They have also had playoff disappointments every year since then. Albeit, they have made in past the second round (once), they still have not lived up to previous expectations.

Both Crosby and Ovechkin had outstanding regular seasons followed by playoff disappointments, but only OV got the blame and was criticized. The media has to stop railing on OV because it's fun to do. At the very least, if you rail on one, rail on the other.

Unfortunately, though, it doesn't look like this will change. At least until the Caps win the cup. And when they do, OV will finally be able to prove his doubters wrong.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

BEST GIF EVER!! (Or For Now...)

Props to max-peck via RMNB.

When Being Wrong is a Good Thing

AP Images
"You learn from failures. From successes? Not so much."
-Meet the Robinsons

People are wrong about something every day, whether about the traffic on the Beltway, the weather, the weird guy behind you who turns out to be famous, or about how the Heat are going to sweep the Spurs, etc.

That being said, sometimes, being wrong is a blessing in disguise, or at least is as/more helpful than being correct. Here are some examples.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." (Charles Duell- 1901) Duell, the former commissioner of the US Patent Office, said this at the turn of the 20th century. Obviously, he was wrong. Since then, we have seen airplanes, TV's, iPhones, and XBox 360s. Duell was wrong, but thank goodness he was.

"Nothing important happened today." (King George III- July 4, 1776). On July 4th, King George III said this; the same day the USA declared its independence from England. He was wrong. The USA won the war, England lost an important part of the New World, and now America is one of the most powerful countries in the world. King George being wrong was a good thing for everyone, except maybe him.

The world was wrong on February 22, 1980, when the USA stunned the Soviet Union in the Winter Olympics. Words can't really do this justice, so watch it for yourself...

I was wrong when I said the Pittsburgh Penguins would beat the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. And I have never been so smug. I've been happier, but I've never been so smug.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Future of Your Washington Capitals

As more and more Capitals leave this year, I got to thinking, with the trade of Filip Forsberg last year, how does the future of the Caps look?

Assuming no big trades (and that Evgeny Kuznetsov decides to play), here are my projected line combinations.

Kuznetsov-Nick Backstrom-Ovechkin
Laich-Mike Ribeiro-Troy Brouwer
Stan Galiev-Matt Perreault-Tom Wilson
Joel Ward-Jay Beagle-Riley Barber
Scratched/Possibilities: Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks, Nicholas Deschamps, Michael Latta

Green-Karl Alzner
John Carlson-Dmitri Orlov
Tomas Kundratek-Cameron Schilling
Scratched/Possibilities: Steven Oleksy, Jack Hillen, John Erskine

The Caps have built up a good minor league system, with players that can be helpful in the future. Players like Kuznetsov, Stan Galiev, Riley Barber, Tomas Kundratek and Cameron Schillings have great upside and can be very helpful to the Caps eventually.

How does this lineup compare, though, to the lineup from the 2009-10 season, the Caps team that had the best chance to win a cup? Let's see:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Mike Knuble
Alex Semin-Laich-Fehr
Chimera-Brendan Morrison-Scott Walker
Tomas Fleischmann-David Steckel-Matt Bradley
Scratched/Possibilities: Quintin Laing, Alexander Giroux, Eric Belanger, Boyd Gordon

Shaone Morrisonn-Schultz
Scratched/Possibilities: Tom Poti, Tyler Sloan, Milan Jurcina

Personally, I feel the offense will be a little bit worse, and the defense will be better (when Jeff Schultz is playing, even on the third line, you're in pretty bad shape). Still, Kuznetsov could make up for the firepower lost when Alex Semin left, and players like Dmitri Orlov and Tomas Kundratek bring youth and stability to the D line. I actually believe this future team will be the best since than that 2009-10 season.

Of course, you could always have the sick lines on the ancient NHL video game you have where you can do any trade easily:

Ilya Kovalchuck-Jordan Staal-Laich
Fleischmann-Sergei Fedorov-Brendan Morrison
Alex Tanguay-Steckel-Knuble

Green-Brent Seabrook
Dennis Wideman-Shaone Morrisonn

Well, we can't win at everything.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why Washington DC has the Most Maligned Fan Base in the USA

Playoff disappointments had become a norm for the Washington Capitals entering the 2013 season. This year, however, we almost experienced something different: NO playoffs. This would have stunned this DC fan base which has become used to their team at least making the playoffs, before being disappointed.

Well, it's good if playoff disappointments are the worst occurrences in this area sports-wise, right? Um, No.

Let me broaden out from just the Caps. Since the first Super Bowl, the Washington Redskins have played 47 seasons (I'm not counting the pre-Super Bowl era). The Washington Wizards moved to Washington from Baltimore in 1973; they have 40 seasons. The Caps inaugural year was 1974. They have played 38 seasons (obviously, 2004-2005 does not count). And the Washington Nationals have been here since 2005; 8 full years. The four major sports teams in this area have played a combined 133 seasons. How many championships does DC have?


Washington DC has just four championships since 1966, when the Super Bowl era began. Three of them are by the Redskins (all of them coming within a 10-year span). The other one is by the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) in 1978. All four championships came within 15 years of each other. None have come in the last 21 years, now.

Four out of 133 is not good. This is barely over a 3% win percentage; in other words, a DC sports team wins a championship once about every 33 seasons, or 8-9 years taking all four teams into account. Of course, this is misleading, because all of these came within a 15 year span or 45 years taking all teams into account (the Nationals were not born yet). This translates to winning once every 11 seasons, or three years now with four teams in this area. The difference between 8-9 years and three years is huge.

Still, however, we should be winning every 10 years at least, right? Yet, DC has not had a winner in over 20 years. An area that used to see a winner every three years or so has been dropped down to cheering for the Baltimore Ravens to win their second Super Bowl in 12 years.

What does this mean, though? DC at least has a winning history. What about places like Kansas City who only have two major championships?

KC has two major sports teams: the Chiefs (football) and Royals (baseball). The Chiefs have 47 seasons and one championship. The Royals have been around for 43 years and also have one championship. They have two championships in 90 seasons. Based on the calculations above, KC should get a championship every 22 years; it has been 28. Meanwhile, DC should get a championship every 8 years; it has been 21. Six years off versus 13 years off? That is a huge difference.

However, why compare ourselves to cities with fewer championships? If DC is a sports city, let's compare ourselves to a big sports city: NYC.

NYC has seven major sports teams. Combined, they have 447 seasons. Also combined, they have 44 championships. This goes to nearly a championship every year and a half. Their last championship, oddly enough, came about a year and a half ago thanks to the New York Giants.

New York City and Washington DC are two different cities. When there are more sports teams, it will be easier to win more championships. And yes, 27 of the 44 championships came thanks to the New York Yankees. But still, DC has four sports teams. Other cities like that? Boston, which like New York has a big frequency of championships. Miami (if you count the Florida Panthers), who have been successful thanks to the Heat and Dolphins. Cities with 5? Los Angeles, which has had great success as well. Chicago, who despite having the Cubs, win frequently. And, for obvious reasons, I'm not even mentioning Pittsburgh and their three teams.

Washington DC will not become a sports city with the next championship win, but it will be a big start. Until then, however, we DC fans will have to cheer for DC United and their four championships (although they're terrible now) or the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis, who despite being founded in 2008, have three championship wins.

But please, Caps, Nats, Skins, or Wizards, win one for us, OK?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

End Of Season Grades: 2013 Version

Once the season starts, I'll be grading the Caps at each quarter of the season, then the postseason whenever it ends. They'll be graded by section, with one 'top performer' in each section as well as a valedictorian for the season. So without further ado...

Here are the grades for the 2013 edition of the Washington Capitals.

Grade: C (73%)
I sort of grade on a curve; whoever is smack dab in the middle gets a 75%. The Caps were 18th in the league in goals against this year, placing them just under the median (15th-16th). This placement is a little bit misleading, as the Caps goaltenders had some bad games at the beginning, but expectations were high for Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, and they did not really live up to expectations. Holtby did well in the playoffs (except for the 5-0 loss in Game 7), but it is not enough to get them above the pack.
Top Performer: Braden Holtby
Well, duh. Holtby had a fantastic second half of the year and good playoffs. On top of that, when you play in 75% of the games and your team makes the playoffs, you have to be given some credit.

Grade: B (83%)
The best stat for the D is 5-on-5 goals for/against. The Caps were 10th in the league with 1.07, well above the median of 1.02-1.03. Of course, the D had some under performers this year (Jeff Schultz, Roman Hamrlik before he was released), but overall, when you still have a top 10 5-on-5 F/A, your D has done well offensively and defensively.
Top Performer: Steven Oleksy
Oleksy is probably not who you'd think of as the top performer on a D corps which includes John Carlson, Mike Green, and Karl Alzner, but Oleksy played some fantastic hockey this year. He brought much needed grit and energy to an injury-plagued D and was able to rack up respectable numbers as well. Not only did he help out offensively, he was also willing to drop the gloves when asked. Oleksy worked the hardest on the D this year, and that's good enough for me (besides, don't forget that pass in Game 1).

Grade: A (94%)
The Caps forwards did not start out all that well, but they ended 4th in the league in goals for, only behind Pittsburgh, Chicago and Tampa Bay. After a (excruciatingly) slow start, this group ended with 3.04 goals per game, tied with Montreal. Much of these came in the stretch run of the year, when goals are harder to come by, and therefore more important. In the playoffs, they fell apart a bit, but in the end of the regular season, the top two lines produced, the bottom two lines did a little bit of everything, and all-in-all there was a great effort. This was probably the best group on this team.
Top Performer: Alex Ovechkin
When you can lead your team in goals and points after 'vanishing' for the first half of the year, you deserve to be the top performer. When you can lead the league in goals and finish top 3 in points, well, you're not just the best player, on your unit, or maybe even your team; you are one of the best players in the league.

So who is the valedictorian? Vote on the poll to the side of the page. I'll combine the fan consensus and my vote and tell you all in a week.

Until then,

Monday, June 3, 2013

Previewing the NHL Awards

Continuing with broadening out of the Caps zone for a while, here are my predictions for the NHL Award winners later this month.

A few posts ago, I talked about why Alex Ovechkin should win the Hart trophy for MVP. Here are the rest of the awards.

Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators)
Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
To be honest, Brown really should not even be in this discussion. He is not even the biggest leader on his team (Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, and Anze Kopitar come to mind). He is a great man of charity, but that does not mean he is a great leader. This should come down to Alfie and Toews. I would pick Daniel Alfredsson. Even though he is 40 years old now, he led a Senators squad decimated by injury and was their leader both on and off the ice. Toews was great too, but Alfie did more.

Bruce Boudreau (Anaheim Ducks)
Paul MacLean (Ottawa Senators)
Joel Queneville (Chicago Blackhawks)
This should come down to two people: Boudreau and MacLean. Queneville led the Blackhawks to an incredible 24 game point streak to start the season, but the other two led their teams to the playoffs despite terrible odds. I would choose Paul MacLean. Boudreau led the team from last year's basement to the Pacific Division championship. Along with that, MacLean, like Caps coach Adam Oates, only got a week of training camp to get to know them, and then led the Sens through the injuries. MacLean should be the choice for this.

Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
Matt Moulson (New York Islanders)
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
This is really tough. All of these guys are known for their great sportsmanship. I'm going to go out on a limb here and choose Matt Moulson. He had only two penalties and four penalty minutes the entire season, the least for anyone who played a full season. On top of that, he was a finalist last year. This is a tough call, but I would vote for Moulson.

Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)
This is also hard to decide. All three of these guys had outstanding season offensively and defensively. I would put this between Bergeron and Toews, if only because Datsyuk has already won three of these. I would choose Patrice Bergeron. He had more than 2 minutes of short-handed ice time per game for one of the best penalty-killing squads in the league. I feel kind of bad for Toews (I've picked against him twice now), but I would cast my vote for Bergeron.

Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Josh Harding (Minnesota Wild)
Adam McQuaid (Boston Bruins)
This calls for a sentimental vote, in which case this is between Harding and McQuaid. Crosby battled back from injuries, but that is nothing compared to fighting through multiple sclerosis or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. I would choose Josh Harding. The illness left him without energy and caused him blurred vision, making it extremely hard to play at all, let alone play goaltender. Yet, he had a fantastic series against the President's Trophy winner Chicago Blackhawks. McQuaid displayed great perseverance as well, but for me, Harding is the man.

Marc Bergevin (Montreal Canadiens)
Bob Murray (Anaheim Ducks)
Ray Shero (Pittsburgh Penguins)
GM of the year is always tough to choose. Bergevin and Murray brought teams that were in the basement last year to division championships this year, while Shero helped build the Miami Heat of the NHL. I would choose Marc Bergevin. I don't think buying the Easter Conference All-Star Team (minus Alex Ovechkin) is worth GM of the year. Murray and Bergevin both did similar things this year, but Bergevin's coach had less time to work with the team than Murray's. Bergevin would be my choice for this award.

Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
I have to be fair... I have to be fair...
There really should not be any argument here. Unfortunately, this has to go to Sidney Crosby. When you can finish third in points despite missing a quarter of the season, you deserve to win this award. Ovechkin scored a lot of goals and did fantastic the second half of the season, while St. Louis won the Art Ross for most points, but Crosby has to be the choice here.

Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Anti Niemi (San Jose Sharks)
This would be hard to decide save for one factor; this is only for the regular season. Because of this, Sergei Bobrovsky is the far and away choice for this. Lundqvist was good as usual, especially in the playoffs (as we Caps fans would know), as was Niemi. But the Jackets just missed the playoffs, and wouldn't have even been in that situation had it not been for Bob. He was stellar, especially in the stretch run, and would probably be in the Hart conversation had the Jackets made the playoffs. This is the award I am most certain about the outcome.

Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins)
P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens)
Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)
This is tough to call, if only because I didn't watch them that closely (I mean seriously, who follows defensemen who are not on their favorite or fantasy teams?). I would choose Ryan Suter because he skated incredible minutes. What he did in Game 1 of the playoff series is stuck in my head. In a game that lasted about 76 minutes, he skated over 41 minutes. He played more than half of the game, and continued skating big minutes, including over 32 minutes in a 62 minute Game 3. Albeit playoffs are not supposed to be considered for this, he was one of the best defensive defensemen this year, and also contributed offensively with 32 points in the regular season. Subban and Letang did well, but Suter is my guy.

Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens)
Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers)
Brandon Saad (Chicago Blackhawks)
How can you not like Jonathan Huberdeau? Despite playing for the worst team in the NHL, he tied for the league lead in points among rookies with 31 (Nail Yakupov of Edmonton was the other) and was third in goals and assists. If Yakupov was nominated, this would be harder to decide, and I would probably go with him. Gallagher and Saad both had good years, but Hoobey-dooby-doo deserves this award.

These are my choices. Over the next week, I'll be moving back towards the Caps, but for now, let's just enjoy the Penguins getting destroyed by the Bruins.