Friday, August 30, 2013

Where George McPhee Gets the Potato Treatment

The Toronto Maple Leafs SB Nation team Pension Plan Puppets did an article earlier in the summer seeing how their GM (Dave Nonis) would have done vs. a potato as a GM.

The potato won. But how would he fare against our beloved GMGM? Let's see.

The rules: the potato cannot sign UFA's and must resign RFA's at twice the previous value. Buyouts are not allowed either, but bought-out players can be signed.

The UFA's:

  • Mike Ribeiro
  • Tom Poti
  • Matt Hendricks
The RFA's:
  • Karl Alzner
  • Marcus Johansson
Ribeiro, Poti, and Hendricks all would have walked (like they did), and none of the high-profile minor leaguers would have been signed. The Caps were pretty quiet on the UFA front. Basically, the bottom line is no Tyson Strachan (no....)

On the RFA front, Alzner is re-signed for $2,570,000 and Johansson is re-signed for $1,800,000. That leaves Mr. Potato $1,715,000 to sign somebody else (remember, we still have Jeff Schultz for 1M). Unfortunately, Mikhail Grabovski says no thanks to that, and the Caps instead sign Nazem Kadri for $1,715,000, leaving nothing in the bank (this is assuming the Leafs don't sign him, which they haven't yet).

Here is GMGM's final roster:
Johansson(assuming re-signed)-Backstrom-Ovechkin

Here is the potato's final roster:

The bottom line is, while Caps fans may be disgruntled with GMGM, he still did better than Mr. Potato here. Not only did he sign a player with arguably more talent than Kadri, he will still probably have a few hundred thousand dollars left once Johansson is re-signed to potentially do some more stuff for the Caps. All in all, GMGM is better than a potato.

It's Washington Capitals Day on

Have fun.
  • 30 IN 30: CAPITALS

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Always Make Sure You Have Internet Access During Your Vacation

When I planned this vacation, I assumed that nothing major would happen during this time.

Boy, was I wrong. Imagine my shock when I got online at last and the first thing I saw was no less than ten updates that "The Capitals Have Signed Mikhail Grabovski."

Not only was this the last thing I was expecting GMGM to do, he decided to do it during the one week I couldn't find out.

The moral of this story? Always make sure you have Internet access when you're on vacation.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ranking the Caps' Top 10 Prospects

The Caps have built their current team almost exclusively on draft picks. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green, arguably the three biggest studs on this team, were all first-round draft picks.

While the Caps may not have any prospects on Ovechkin's level, Hockey Prospectus ranks the Caps minor-league system as the 11th best in the NHL, and the best hockey prospect not currently in the NHL is arguably in the Capitals organization. That being said, here is a list of Washington's Top 10.

*Note: Hockey's Future lists Tomas Kundratek as a prospect, but I didn't include him because he has seen lots of playing time in the NHL last year. He'd definitely be Top 5 if I included him.

10. Michael Latta- The dark horse in the infamous Filip Forsberg trade, Latta is a tough center who could be a good depth player for the Caps.
9. Connor Carrick- Arguably one of the better defensive prospects in the Washington organization, Carrick is a potential replacement once players like John Erskine, Tom Poti, Jack Hillen etc. have left.
8. Zach Sanford- Sanford is still a few years away from the NHL, but he is a versatile forward who could be a good third/fourth liner.
7. Madison Bowey- The Caps needed a defenseman in the draft, and they delivered with Bowey, a tough shutdown blue-liner who could end up with the big squad in just two years.
6. Riley Barber- An underclassman in college, Barber is a few years away from the big-time, but once he's there, he will be able to fill the void left by aging players such as Martin Erat and Jason Chimera.
5. Andre Burakovsky- A dangerous forward with a very dangerous shot, Burakovsky could be the answer to the gap left by Alexander Semin.
4. Phillip Grubauer- The top goaltending prospect on the team, Grubauer impressed in a few stints in the NHL last year, and could be seeing a job with the big squad soon.
3. Stan Galiev- He had a down year last year, but is still extremely talented, an exceptionally good passer, and would be a good 3rd-line forward.
2. Tom Wilson- Impressed in the playoffs with his physical play, Wilson brings a much-needed dose of toughness into the team, and could make the team this year itself.
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov- Believed by most to be the best prospect in the world, when Kuznetsov comes to DC after his KHL contract expires next year, he and Ovechkin could make one of the most lethal combinations in the world.

What do you think? Who else should be included in this? Who would you take out? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The 2013 Caps Circle List

Introducing another very official matter from the brains at Caps Circle, the list.

Ominous, no? This is basically just a ranking of the Top 10 players in the game. Kind of like TSN's Top 50, except this may actually make sense.

Let's jump right into it:

Honorable Mentions

  • Patrick Kane: After a few years where he was underwhelming, he stormed back into the Top 10 discussion with a stellar regular season and playoffs which helped Chicago capture the Stanley Cup.
  • Erik Karlsson: He made a stunning recovery from the gruesome injury he suffered against Pittsburgh, but wasn't 100% in the playoffs, as the Pens showed. He is still one of the best defensemen in the game, but the injury and uncertainty about defensive ability keeps him out of the Top 10. 
  • Taylor Hall: May very well be on his way to becoming the best left wing in the league now, with Alex Ovechkin making the transition to right wing. Greatly overshadowed last year by Chris Kunitz (and apparently Ovechkin- see 2013 All-Star Teams), Hall finished 9th in the league in scoring last year.
  • Claude Giroux: One of the toughest cuts, Giroux did not play up to his potential last year, and the freak golf accident which is going to threaten his training dropped him from the Top 10.
  • Phil Kessel: This guy always has a knack for getting criticism, but he was instrumental last year in taking Toronto to the playoffs.
  • Eric Staal: Perhaps the most underrated player in the league, Staal is one of the most dangerous players in the NHL, and playing with a revamped team next year may help his cause.
  • Jonathan Quick: He had a down year last year, but is still one of the best goaltenders in the league, mostly because of how dangerous he becomes in the playoffs.
The 2013 Caps Circle Top 10

10. Shea Weber
Call him a dirty player, but Weber is one of the top shutdown defensemen in the league. When paired with Ryan Suter, they made one of the most formidable defensive pairings in the league, and next year, when he is paired with first round draft pick Seth Jones? Watch out NHL. Add to this his rocket slap shot, and Weber, like him or hate him, is one of the best defensemen in the league today, and one of the best players going into next year.

9. John Tavares
He had his breakout year last year, almost single-handedly leading the New York Islanders to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Despite having limited offensive weapons surrounding him (Brad Boyes, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo), he was among the top goal-scorers in the league, and was named a Hart Trophy finalist, an award many people think he should have won. This coming year, the Isles will continue to improve, and when highly-regarded prospect Ryan Strome comes in, you will have a tandem to rival all tandems in the league.

8. Pavel Datsyuk
Datsyuk is one of the hardest-working players in the league. There is a reason he is a perennial Selke Award finalist/winner, as he may be the best defensive forward of our generation. He is also perhaps the most skilled player in the league, as his many flash goals show. He also has playmaking ability which can rival those of almost anybody's in the league. Add to that he is a capable center, and Datsyuk is without a doubt one of the best players in the league.

7. Zdeno Chara
Chara is the best defenseman in the league. There. I said it. He is probably the toughest defenseman in the league to go up against, as his height and sheer brute force, combined with an uncanny speed and knack for knowing what is going to happen next, make a virtually impenetrable wall for forwards to go through. Add some good offensive talent to that as well, and Chara is definitely one of the best players in the league and the best defenseman in the league.

6. Jonathan Toews
Toews is perhaps the least known best known player in the league. Chicago fans regularly cite Eastern Conference bias when talking about why Toews is not usually in the discussion for Top 5. Well, now he is in the discussion, after several stellar years and a fantastic playoff performance culminating in being named a 2nd Team All Star, but just misses out on the Top 5. He is still one of the best centers in the game, definitely Top 5 there, and we could just be seeing him improve as Patrick Kane begins to bounce back.

5. Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist has established himself as the best goalie in the NHL right now. He won the Vezina two years ago and was a finalist last year, and has become well known for his big saves, great reflexes, and overall outstanding athletic ability. Caps fans know him as the man who has stolen two series from the Caps in the past two playoffs, especially this last year, where he didn't give up a goal for the last 120 minutes of play in the series. Without him, the Rangers would be absolutely dead right now, but King Henrik has single-handedly turned the Blueshirts into contenders and is the best goaltender in the game today.

4. Evgeni Malkin
He signed a monster contract extension with the Pens, and for good reason: he is one of the most dangerous players in the league. He can pass, shoot, dangle; he is like a more dangerous version of Pavel Datsyuk. If he wasn't playing on the best team in the league, he may have been higher, but there is still no arguing his impact on the team and on the league as the second-best Russian in the league right now.

3. Steven Stamkos
Many people think he is the most dangerous scorer in the league (of course, those of us in DC know that is false). Whether he is or not, there is a reason Stammer has the most goals over the last 5 years than anybody in the NHL. His 60 goal season last year was just the second in the league since 1996, when Jaromir Jagr scored 62. Plus, when Jonathan Drouin comes up, the St. Louis-Stamkos-Drouin line will be insanely scary. Stamkos is pretty much the only person right now saving Tampa Bay from the league basement. Well, that and Calgary.

2. Alex Ovechkin
May the argument start again: who is the best player in the world? Right now, it's not the Great 8, but considering how he does in the next few years, he could be. Ovechkin had monster bounce-back year last year, winning his 3rd Hart Trophy for MVP and his 4th Maurice Richard Trophy for goals scored. Reunited at last with Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin could well be on his way to the best years of his career, and when Evgeny Kuznetsov joins the Caps later this year or next year, the Caps will just have too many options, making Ovechkin and the Caps all the more dangerous.

1. Sidney Crosby
Well who did you expect? Crosby is currently the best player in the world, and is playing on the most dangerous team in the world. There is no telling how this will change with Ovechkin's resurgence, but right now, there is unfortunately no contest. 

So here is the 2013 List. What do you think? Put your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Official Caps Circle 2013-14 Prediction

The worst month in the hockey calendar, August, is upon us. So, here is the first annual prediction for next year, including best games, record, etc.

In case you haven't heard (in which case I would be very disappointed), the Caps are in the all new Patrick Division Division D Metropolitan Division which also includes Carolina, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, both New York teams, and New Jersey. So, let's begin.

Games To Watch:

  • Capitals @ Blackhawks (October 1): The Caps travel to Chicago to take on the defending Stanley Cup champions on opening night.
  • Capitals vs. Rangers (October 16): The Blueshirts make their first trip to DC since that disastrous Game 7 last year.
  • Capitals vs. Penguins (November 20): These two arch-rivals have their first meeting as Metropolitan Division rivals.
  • Capitals @ Rangers (January 19): I hesitated putting two Rangers games on here, but considering that this game is nationally televised, it's hard to dispute.
  • Capitals vs. Red Wings (February 2): The annual Capitals Super Bowl Sunday matinee is against the Red Wings, the first Detroit visit to Washington as Eastern Conference members.
  • Capitals vs. Flyers (March 2): These two rivals take on each other in DC on national television.
Predicted Record: 45-30-7, 97 points. The Caps won't have it easy in this division, and their record will look a lot like it was in 2007-08, when the Caps returned to the playoffs (43-31-8). Still, this will be enough to get into the playoffs.

Predicted Metropolitan Division Standings:
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins: They are playing in pretty much the same division, and have one heck of a team.
  2. New York Rangers: It is hard to say how much the new coach will help them, but this team is still very good.
  3. Washington Capitals: The Caps have a good team, and although they are playing in a hard division, Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and Mike Green are back, and this team could have Evgeny Kuznetsov coming in 2014. If that happens, watch out Metropolitan Division.
  4. New York Islanders: The Isles have a young team which will threaten the Caps and the rest of the division. They will make the playoffs again. 
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Once again, the Jackets will work hard, and may make the playoffs this year, although will get at best 8th seed. Everything depends on Sergey Bobrovsky, obviously.
  6. Philadelphia Flyers: They don't have Ilya Bryzgalov anymore, but they don't have Danny Briere either. Vinny Lecavalier will help a bit, but I don't see them making the playoffs this year.
  7. Carolina Hurricanes: They were overrated last year, and they haven't done much to improve over the offseason.
  8. New Jersey Devils: These guys are dead. No Ilya Kovalchuk, no David Clarkson, an old Patrik Elias. Maybe Cory Schneider will save them, but I don't see them any higher than 7th, and certainly not making the playoffs.
Predicted Eastern Conference Playoff Seeding:
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. Boston Bruins
  3. New York Rangers
  4. Ottawa Senators
  5. Washington Capitals
  6. Montreal Canadiens
  7. Detroit Red Wings
  8. New York Islanders
Both divisions are stacked, but the Atlantic is a bit tougher to predict. I had a tough time leaving Toronto out of the playoffs, but I don't see them beating Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, and Detroit. They may, and I'll be the first to apologize if they do, but right now, I'd say this makes the most sense.

Predicted Western Conference Playoff Seeding:
  1. Chicago Blackhawks
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. St. Louis Blues
  4. San Jose Sharks
  5. Nashville Predators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. Vancouver Canucks
  8. Minnesota Wild
That final playoff spot will come down to a 3-team race between Minnesota, Edmonton, and Winnipeg (maybe Dallas too), and for the second straight year, Minnesota will take that prize... just to take on Chicago in the first round. Needless to say, the West is much easier than the East, but whatever.

Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions:
Nah, it's too early. Right now I'd say Boston vs. Anaheim (don't ask), but I don't want to say anything right now.

So there you go. What do you think will happen? Tell me in the comments, and stay tuned during this horrible month.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Matchup 6: #1 Montreal Meltdown vs. #3 Shocked by the Lightning

The second semifinal match in the WMICPH contest is underway, as the infamous 2010 Montreal Meltdown takes on the little less infamous sweep in 2011 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The winner of this will take on the 4OT loss to Pittsburgh in the finals.

Let's jump right into it.

Both of these teams, 2010 and 2011, were ranked number one in the Eastern Conference, and represented what were probably this franchise's best opportunities to reach the SCF. I'd say that the Lightning loss was a bit more important based on the fact that it was in the second round, and it was after the Caps had changed their team identity, and this second point probably led to Bruce Boudreau's dismissal in 2012.
Advantage: Lightning Shocker

The impact sort of goes along with importance, but Montreal has evened the playing field a little in this one. The impact of the Meltdown was the franchise facelift that saw the team switch directions into a defensive style and led to Alex Ovechkin's two-year slump. Still, the impact of the Lightning series was huge as well, and it is hard to choose one over the other.
Advantage: Push

Shock Factor:
This is not even close. While Tampa was not supposed to win, they dominated the entire series, whereas Montreal won as an 8th seed after being down 3-1 in the series. Again, not even close.
Advantage: Montreal Meltdown

Grudge/Hate Factor:
Whether it is all the years as division rivals, the two disappointing playoff losses, or something else completely, Caps fans just can't stand Tampa Bay.
Advantage: Lightning Shocker

In the end, the Lightning Shocker does it again, and is my choice to represent the OV-Era Conference in the WMICPH final, where it will take on the 4OT loss to Pittsburgh. And you, dear reader, can help by voting in the poll at the bottom of the page, and come back soon to see the final of this contest.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Matchup 5: #1 4OT Loss to Pittsburgh vs. #2 Easter Epic

It has been a long, long time since the last matchup, but then again, so much has happened since. Here is the first semifinal match, between two heartbreaking 4th-overtime losses to hated rivals: the loss to Pittsburgh and the infamous Easter Epic.

If you've forgotten how this works (and I don't blame you if you have), I compare these two in different factors and declare a winner in the end. So, let's begin.

The Caps had struggled against both of these teams. They were both hated rivals who the Caps wanted to beat just once. The loss to Pittsburgh did not really have much of an importance factor compared to the Epic, which occurred in Game 7.
Advantage: Easter Epic

Again, impact is tough to measure. Both of these were first round matches. In the long run, the Caps probably would not have been able to knock off the Flyers or Oilers in 1987, while they may have fared better against the Rangers and Panthers. The Caps blew a good opportunity in a year anything could have happened to reach their first SCF.
Advantage: Loss to Pittsburgh

Shock Factor:
This is the definition of a tossup. The Isles goalie had played the game of his life, stopping more than 75 shots in the game the Caps had dominated. The Penguins were playing without Mario Lemieux, Joe Juneau had the first ever playoff OT penalty shot, and the Caps were up in the series. Plus, the game-winner was scored by Pavel Nedved, of all people. It is pretty much impossible for me to choose between the two.
Advantage: Push

Grudge/Hate Factor:
Another toughie. The Isles were hated during the time they beat up the Caps, and the Pens were hated when they beat up the Caps. In the long run though, there is a reason the Penguins are the Caps' biggest rivals, and the reason we see 'Crosby Sucks' jerseys instead of 'Tavares Sucks' jerseys at Verizon Center.
Advantage: Loss to Pittsburgh

In the end, the 4OT Loss to Pittsburgh was just a bit worse than the Easter Epic for the Caps faithful. This will go on to the finals of this tourney, where it will take on...

Well, you will see.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The All-Nation Teams for the Caps

This summer, Yahoo Sports is asking bloggers to name the greatest player in team history from different countries.

I'm gonna take this a step further and make an all-nation team for most of the big hockey countries. There are not enough players to make a full 20-man roster, but I can at least put up a starting 6.

So here we go.

Why not start with the home country?
Kelly Miller-Bobby Carpenter-Dave Christian
Rod Langway-Kevin Hatcher
Jim Carey
Bobby Carpenter was a tough call over Jeff Halpern, but in the long run, Carpenter is the top-scoring American center in team history. Miller and Christian were also two good wingers. Caps fans may be bitter at Hatcher's success with Pittsburgh, but he is the top-scoring American in Caps history. Rod Langway was just awesome. Jim Carey may have been the greatest goalie in team history, but unfortunately we will never know how good he could have been.

Next, we go to the country we all love (hockey-wise).
Alexander Semin-Andrei Nikolishkin-Alexander Ovechkin
Sergei Gonchar-Dmitri Mironov
Semyon Varlamov
Russia has been extremely polarized for the Caps. Semin, Ovechkin, Gonchar, and Nikolishkin (who?) are the only Russians on the team who have more than 100 points for the team. Varlamov is the only Russian goalie in team history. There is no telling how good this team would be, with Nikolishkin centering OV and Semin and Mironov anchoring the blue line with Gonchar, but this team has some good talent whom we know and love (or hate. Looking at you, Semin).

We love these guys when the play for us, hate them anytime else.
Mike Ridley-Dale Hunter-Mike Gartner
Scott Stevens-Larry Murphy
Don Beaupre
Canada always has the most talent, so there is no surprise that this is probably the most stacked team here. Dennis Maruk could be here, as could Mike Green and others, but it this is still a very good starting six.

Considering Washington's recent draft history, we could be seeing some new players here soon enough.
Bengt Gustafsson-Nicklas Backstrom-Ulf Dahlen
Calle Johansson-Leif Svensson
Olaf Kolzig
It's surprising to think that the Caps have not had a Swedish goaltender in their history, so I added Kolzig, who is the only German Capital who has been, well, good. Gustafsson, Backstrom, and Johansson are Washington legends, while Dahlen and Svensson, I guess, are there to fill out the lines.

Slovakia/Czech Republic:
And the last two major countries.
Jaromir Jagr-Michal Pivonka-Peter Bondra
Roman Hamrlik-Milan Jurcina
Michal Neuvirth
I did not want to put Jagr on here, but the alternative was Richard Zednik. Pivonka and Bondra are really the only two players here who are rightfully part of Capitals royalty. Jagr, Hamrlik, and Jurcina were huge disappointments, while Neuvirth could potentially join Pivonka and Bondra, but Holtby won't let him.

So there we are. Canada, USA, and Russia have some good talent (with Canada having the most, obviously), while Sweden, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic needed to double up in order to fill out these lines. In the end, all of these are talented, proving how good the rest of the world has performed in the nation's capitals.