Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Complete Preview, Predictions for the Washington Capitals (and NHL) Season

Yup, it's that time of year again; as the MLB season winds down (for DC anyways), the NHL season gets underway.

It's a year of renewed hope for the Washington Capitals, who's moves have made them a serious contender for the playoffs this year.

Without further ado, here is the official 2014-15 Caps Circle Preview for the Caps and the NHL.

Biggest Games:
  1. January 1 vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Duh
  2. February 1 vs. St. Louis Blues: One of the big surprises last season was that the Caps won both games against the Blues. This year, they come to DC for the annual Super Bowl Sunday matinee right before the stretch run of the season.
  3. April 11 vs. New York Rangers: Home finale? Check. Season finale? Check. Huge final week matchup against a big-time rival we may be battling with for a playoff spot? Check.
  4. November 26 vs. New York Islanders: Mikhail Grabovski and Jaroslav Halak make their returns to DC. Plus, it's right before Thanksgiving.
  5. December 27 @ Pittsburgh Penguins: First game against the Pens this year, coming right after Christmas, and is the second-to-last game before number one on this list. Get excited, people.
Predicted 2-Month-In Lines:

These are the lines that I believe the Caps will have about 2 months into the year, when we more or less know what to expect, and barring any major injuries. 

Ovechkin - Backstrom - Fehr
Kuznetsov - Burakovsky - Brouwer
Chimera - Johansson - Ward
Laich - Latta - Brown
Beagle, O'Brien

Alzner - Carlson
Orpik - Niskanen
Orlov - Green
Schmidt, Hillen, Erskine


Overall, this team is very deep compared to last year. I see Kuznetsov eventually making his way into the top-6, where he splits second-line center duties with Burakovsky, who sticks with the team. I also think that Johansson, if he is not traded, will settle into the third-line center role (possibly splitting time with Brooks Laich, who will spend most of his time on the fourth line with Latta and Brown). Jay Beagle and Liam O'Brien will get some playing time on the fourth line as well. 

Defensively, Carlzner gets a reunion, as do Pittsburgh teammates Niskanen and Orpik. That leaves Orlov, Green, Schmidt, Erskine, and Hillen as the primary contenders for the last two spots, with Oleksy waiting in Hershey for his chance to come.

The goaltending is a lot more straightforward. Holtby has the starting role, and Peters will back him up, with Grubauer ready in Hershey if he is needed.

Predicted Metropolitan Division Standings:
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins. They're still the best team in this division, although it will be a lot more hotly contested than many people will expect. Expect the Penguins to eke out a division title.
  2. New York Rangers. They probably regressed more than they improved this year, but as long as they have the best goaltender and defenseman in the league (King Hank and Ryan McDonagh) they will be good enough to take second and challenge Pittsburgh.
  3. Washington Capitals. The Caps are a solid team top to bottom now. They may start out a bit shaky, but expect Barry Trotz to bring this team to the next level in the division.
  4. New Jersey Devils. Without having to burden themselves with Brodeur anymore, Cory Schneider and the Devils are ready to bring the former conference champs back to the playoffs.
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets. It's not so much that the Jackets got worse, it's just that everybody else got better. I see them as a borderline playoff team again.
  6. New York Islanders. The Isles improved a LOT, getting upgrades in all major areas. However, I just don't see them beating out anybody else in the division, and think they miss the playoffs in a heartbreaker on the last day.
  7. Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers D took a major hit when they lost Kimmo Timonen, and without too much youth in any area,  I don't see the Flyers coming too close to a playoff spot.
  8. Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes just suck. They should tank for McDavid. They will tank for McDavid.
Predicted Eastern Conference Standings:
  1. Boston Bruins. The best team in the East edges out the Lighting for the division and the top seed in the conference.
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos beats Sidney Crosby for the Art Ross (but loses to OV for the Rocket Richard) and leads the Bolts to their best regular season since 2003-04.
  4. New York Rangers.
  5. Montreal Canadiens. Last year's Eastern Conference runner-ups turn in another solid season to win the right to play the Bolts in the first round. Ouch.
  6. Washington Capitals. Ugh. Rangers again.
  7. New Jersey Devils.
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets. They edge out the Detroit Red Wings and end the longest playoff streak in pro sports. FINALLY!!!
Caps Circle Preseason Top 10:

My top 10 players in the NHL entering this season
  1. Sidney Crosby (PIT). Still no debate about this.
  2. Jonathan Toews (CHI). Best player in the Western Conference and the best two-way player in the game, I see him as a Hart Trophy finalist this year.
  3. Alex Ovechkin (WSH). It kills me to dock him a spot from last year, but if his defense improves and his production more or less continues, he'll be back up to 2.
  4. Steven Stamkos (TBL). Injuries stop me from putting him over OV, but he will challenge OV for the Richard this year.
  5. Evgeni Malkin (PIT). May see a decline in production, but still one of the best in the game. 
  6. John Tavares (NYI). Edges out Doughty for this spot, but with the improved supporting cast, he is an easy Hart Trophy winner if the Isles make the playoffs.
  7. Drew Doughty (LAK). He's winning the Norris this year. Case closed. Last year he showed that he is the best defenseman in the game.
  8. Anze Kopitar (LAK). He has proven that he can play in both ends of the ice very well. If he cracks 35 goals or 80 points this season while continuing his great defensive play, he is definitely a Top 5 candidate.
  9. Tuuka Rask (BOS). He is probably going to win the next few Vezinas, simply because there are very few true candidates in the NHL right now. 
  10. Ryan Getzlaf (ANA). Vastly underrated, Getzlaf is the heart and soul of the Ducks. Corey Perry gets more press, but without Getzlaf the Ducks would not be nearly as good as they are.
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Kane (CHI), Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Claude Giroux (PHI), Corey Perry (ANA)

Award Predictions:

Art Ross: Steven Stamkos. He has a very strong supporting cast now, and he will finally knock Crosby off of his throne.
Rocket Richard: Alex Ovechkin. I stand by this prediction, and think that OV will edge out Stamkos for the league lead.
Vezina Trophy: Tuuka Rask. Beats out King Henrik for his second straight Vezina.
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty. It's his. There's no question. Shea Weber and Alex Pietrangelo are his biggest competitors, but Doughty is going to surpass all of them.
Calder Trophy: Evgeny Kuznetsov. I may be biased, but right now he, Jonathan Drouin (TBL), and Josh Gibson (ANA) are the favorites, and I personally see Kuzya as the most talented of them all. If the Caps make the playoffs and Kuznetsov scores about 20-30 goals and 60-70 points, which is certainly doable, I think he will have a strong enough case for the Calder.
Selke Trophy: Jonathan Toews. Edges out Anze Kopitar for this one.
Hart Trophy: Jonathan Toews. If the Islanders make the playoffs, than I'd say Tavares. But for right now, I'm going to go with Toews, who will bring the Blackhawks back to the top of the West.

Playoff Predictions:


(1) Boston Bruins vs. (WC) Columbus Blue Jackets: Rask outplays Sergei Bobrovsky and sends the Bruins to the next round.
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (WC) New Jersey Devils: Cory Schneider plays his heart out, but Marc-Andre Fleury does just enough to send the Penguins past the Devils and into the next round.
(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Montreal Canadiens: Steven Stamkos is stonewalled by Carey Price, P.K. Subban scores an OT game winner, and the Habs... still lose. Ryan Callahan steps up, Jonathan Drouin plays a great series, and the Lightning advance to the next round.
(2) New York Rangers vs. (3) Washington Capitals: A very well-disciplined Caps team frustrates the Rangers, Ovechkin scores 6 times in the 5 game series, and the Capitals advance.

(1) Boston Bruins vs. (2) Tampa Bay Lightning: In a series for the ages, Stamkos and Rask exchange hat tricks and shutouts, until in overtime in Game 7 Patrice Bergeron swipes a Stamkos shot off the goal line, brings it back the other way, scores, and sends the Bruins to the conference finals.
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) Washington Capitals: Ovechkin and Crosby match hat tricks, Holtby outplays Fleury, Niskanen and Orpik score big goals against their former team (yes, Orpik too), and the Capitals upset the Penguins to go to Alex Ovechkin's first conference final (hey, a guy can dream, right?)

(A) Boston Bruins vs. (M) Washington Capitals: The Caps run into a better and much more experienced team, and although they put up a fight, cannot stop the Bruins from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.


Blackhawks finish above the Kings in the regular season.

(1) Los Angeles Kings vs. (WC) Colorado Avalanche: Darryl Sutter gets in a fight with Patrick Roy, and amidst all that confusion the Kings steamroll the Avs.
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (WC) Vancouver Canucks: The surprising Canucks have a Cinderella run to the playoffs, edging the Minnesota Wild, when they run into the Blackhawks who beat them. Again.
(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Anaheim Ducks: The biggest rivalry in California (arguably) sees 5 OT games in the 7 game series, and the Sharks stun everybody by not choking and knock off the Ducks.
(2) Dallas Stars vs. (3) St. Louis Blues: Dallas obliterates Ken Hitchcock's defensive game, Jamie Benn makes his case as a Top-10 player in the league, and the Stars move on.

(1) Los Angeles Kings vs. (2) San Jose Sharks: Coming off of a tough series win, the Sharks can do little to stop the Kings juggernaut.
(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (2) Dallas Stars: In a matchup of proven vs. new, the Stars push the Hawks to the limit before Toews shows why he is one of the best in the league and wins it for the Blackhawks in game 7.

(C) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (P) Los Angeles Kings: After three incredible matches in the regular season, the Hawks and Kings play to a standstill, until fifth overtime in Game 7, when Toews makes an uncharacteristic error and Kopitar wins it for the Kings.

Stanley Cup Final: (W) Los Angeles Kings vs. (E) Boston Bruins. The Kings and Bruins play one of those series that is both boring and exhilarating at the same time (like the Caps Bruins one in 2012), and the Kings repeat as champs in a Game 7 victory.

So that's that for my predictions for this year! Congrats on making it through the entire article, and here's hoping for a great season!

Wait, there's something I forgot to say. What is it...? Oh yeah:

LET'S GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 19, 2014

All Washington Awards Part One: Team Rankings

After returning from my long summer break, it's almost time to turn back to hockey.

But not just yet.

For the first time in I don't know how many years, Washington DC has some of the best teams in the country. Therefore, for the next few posts, I'll focus on ranking the DC teams and athletes based on how they will do this season/playoffs (for the Washington Nationals).

First up: the team rankings.

Disclaimer 1: I am a DC fan, not a Baltimore fan. So no Ravens or Orioles here.

Disclaimer 2: I am first and foremost a hockey fan and then a baseball, basketball, and football fan. I'll try not to let this swing my opinion, but it might.

Disclaimer 3: This is all subjective, and hard to rank among multiple sports.

The team rankings were based firstly on Overall Potential for the year, with Championship Title potential receiving 5 points, Conference Finals/Finals potential receiving 3, Division Champs/Long Playoff Run potential receiving 2, and Playoff Contenders receiving 1 point (none of the above = 0). They are then ranked best to worst on Depth and Coaching/Management in a 3 to 0 scale, and Age, aka if their window is just opening (2 pts.), in the middle and serious contenders (3 pts.), close to closing (1 pt.) and not at all there (0). So without further ado, here are the rankings.

Overall Potential:
  • Washington Nationals: 5. They are the class of the National League and are without a doubt World Series contenders right now.
  • Washington Wizards: 3. The Wizards are one of the Top-4 teams in the NBA Eastern Conference, and a conference finals run is a definite possibility after their run to Round 2 last year.
  • Washington Capitals: 2. There are no excuses for the Caps this year; with a strong offense, improved defense, and a great coach, there is no reason the Caps cannot win the division or make a run in the postseason; however, I don't know if a Conference Final run is possible with serious talent in their division and conference.
  • Washington Redskins: 0. No RGIII, a weak secondary, and a patchwork offensive line leads me to believe that the Redskins are at best second in the division, and not nearly strong enough to challenge the Philadelphia Eagles or for a Wild Card spot.
  1. Washington Nationals. When Ryan Zimmerman has to sit on the bench, you know your team has great depth. Add a great pitching staff, and this is easily the deepest team in DC. (3 pts.)
  2. Washington Wizards. The Wiz edge out the Caps thanks to their savvy moves this offseason and the rise of Otto Porter as a legitimate starter. The Wizards are seen as one of the deepest teams in the NBA, and for this reason, they take the number two spot. (2)
  3. Washington Capitals. Yes, they have a very talented prospect pool, and the rise of Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov certainly makes a starting lineup hard to figure, but the Caps are still forced to rely heavily on Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, and Brooks Laich, all of whom are not quite the kind of people one wants in the roles they will probably have this year. (1)
  4. Washington Redskins. Other than maybe QB and Wide Receiver, no position seems to have a lot of depth. The Running Back position is strong and the Tight End position may be improving, but neither of those are legitimately Top-10 in the league. And don't even talk about the offensive line. Defensively, the linebackers are really the only deep position, with the DL a  few injuries away from a strength and the horrendous secondary that cannot get worse (0).
  1. Washington Nationals. Come on, this isn't even a contest! Matt Williams has been fantastic in his first season as manager and Mike Rizzo is the best GM in the league. Easily number one. (3 pts.)
  2. Washington Capitals. I have high hopes for GMBM and Barry Trotz this year. Yes, they overpaid for Orpik and Niskanen, but right now this team is one of the most talented in the NHL. If Trotz lives up to his reputation, this is a solid management team. (2)
  3. One good year is not enough to completely change my decision about Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld. They have done a great job this offseason, but I'm still not sure about them (1).
  4. Washington Redskins. I'm not even going to go into this. Snyder sucks, Bruce Allen is not that great, and Jay Gruden has not done good so far. (0)
  • Washington Nationals: 3. Definitely in the middle of their time as a solid contender. No question here.
  • Washington Wizards: 2. Their window is just opening, which is kind of scary, considering how talented this team is.
  • Washington Capitals: 1.5. I don't know what to think here. Their window isn't quite closing, but they're not solid contenders right now either. Eh, I'll put them somewhere in there.
  • Washington Redskins: 0. Seriously, these guys don't even have a window right now. There is a lot more work to be done.
Final Rankings:
  1. Washington Nationals (14 pts). No surprise, the Nats are easily the best team in DC right now.
  2. Washington Wizards (8). Thanks to their young talent and insane depth, the Wiz are just a few years away at most from being top-tier title contenders.
  3. Washington Capitals (7.5). The Caps fall behind the Wiz, but are still capable of being one of the best teams in DC.
  4. Washington Redskins (0). Yup, the Skins bottom out. With RGIII injured and no clear future, the Redskins are by far the worst team in DC right now.
So these are my rankings. What do you think? Tell me, and stay tuned for rankings and more here on Caps Circle.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Caps Circle Is Back!

After a (lengthy) summer vacation, Caps Circle is back, and just in time for the regular season!

Expect season picks and prognostos coming up in the next few days.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The WCMNT (Washington Capitals Men's National Team)

With the FIFA World Cup getting under way earlier this week, I began thinking: who would be on the Washington Capitals soccer team, regardless of what country they are actually from?

Here is my Starting XI, using a common 4-4-2 formation.

Goalkeeper: Braden Holtby. I'm not taking any creative liberties here. I don't know anyone on the team with better reflexes than Holtby, and he is easily the best choice for keeper.
Reserve: Phillip Grubauer

Left/Right Defensemen: Dmitri Orlov and John Carlson. All defensemen have to play defense, but wing defensemen also have the added element of helping out offensively once in a while. Orlov and Carlson would fit in well.
Reserve: Connor Carrick

Center Defensemen: Karl Alzner and Madison Bowey. Although Bowey hasn't played in the bigs yet, he gets the nod over the next best prospect Jack Hillen because of the injury concern. Center D-men have to be tough enough to outmuscle forwards and gel with their keeper, and I think Alzner and Bowey would do that job just fine.
Reserve: Jack Hillen

Left/Right Midfielders: Mike Green and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Both of these guys are fantastic passers and can also shoot if need be. They get beat out for the center midfield, however, because of the comparative lack in defensive prowess.
Reserve: Jason Chimera

Center Midfielders: Nicklas Backstrom and Mikhail Grabovski. Probably the best passers on the team, both will be instrumental in getting the ball to the strikers. They can also finish a shot if they need to, as well as help out on defense when necessary.
Reserve: Marcus Johansson

Strikers: Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin. The best pure finishers on the team. Can you imagine the beauty of Kuznetsov passing the ball to Ovechkin who smashes it right in the net? Both Brouwer and Ovechkin are pure goal scorers who will be more than capable of stealing some wins for this team.
Reserve: Joel Ward

One more time, visualized:

Orlov - Alzner - Bowey - Carlson

Kuznetsov - Backstrom - Grabovski - Green

Ovechkin - Brouwer

What do you think? Who would you put in your XI? Let me know and enjoy the World Cup taking your mind off of hockey (it's all over...)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

CYOA Caps Edition: Scenario 1.1, 1.2

Welcome back to the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where I continue your saga as one of the top executives in the 2014 Caps organization. Today, I'll recap what happens in the scenario you chose for GMBM and propose some new ones for you to mull over.

And without further ado, here are the scenarios.

Scenario 1.1: You have decided to use the compliance buyout on Brooks Laich, thus saving 3 million dollars in cap space for the 2014 season (per CapGeek), and now have about 7.5 million dollars left after resigning some key prospects. You have many options to pursue, most importantly a second line center, a shutdown defenseman, and maybe an extra left wing. Your preferred targets are Mikhail Grabovski and Matt Niskanen, keeping your second line center and strengthening up the defense. However, they may be expensive, considering you have quite a few holes to fill.
Scenario 1.1.1 To aggressively pursue Grabovski and Niskanen, worth between 7-9 million combined, strengthening the team at the cost of blowing the salary cap, see scenario 1.1.1 in 2 posts.
Scenario 1.1.2 To let Grabovski and Niskanen walk and look to cheaper alternatives that will still help the team but will also save money, see scenario 1.1.2 in 2 posts.  

Scenario 1.2: You have decided to keep Brooks Laich, and have only 4.5 million dollars left to improve the team. Right now, the most pressing issue is the D corps, and you have decided to go all or nothing on some top D-men. The preferred targets are Matt Niskanen or Brooks Orpik, both of whom would cost you less than the 4.5 million dollars. However, you would also like to keep Mikhail Grabovski, who was fantastic on the second line, but will cost every penny of your 4.5 mil.
Scenario 1.2.1 To let Grabovski walk and pursue Niskanen or Orpik for about 3-3.5 million dollars, thereby saving some cap space for the season and shoring up the D, see scenario 1.2.1 in 2 posts.
Scenario 1.2.2 To go all in on Grabovski to keep your second-line center, which will blow your cap space but keep your offense strong, see scenario 1.2.2 in 2 posts.

Some notes on this: currently the Caps have 16 million dollars cap space. The 4.5-7.5 million dollar estimates were based on re-signings the Caps haven't done yet but I predict they will. Also, for simplicity's sake, I kept the options down to just two for each, the two I saw as most plausible.

Again, please leave the path you choose based on what you've chosen earlier in the comments, and stay tuned for more from Choose Your Own Adventure: Caps Edition. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure: Caps Edition

It's been a while since I posted anything, so to get right back in the swing of things, I'd like to start a new series for the next week or so.

Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure when you were a kid? The ones that you would read the scenario then decide what to do and go to that page and see the ending you're destined for? That's what I'm going for here.

The rules are simple: for every step you take, there will be two or three options (I'll try to limit it to 2) with instructions on where to go next, aka what day your scenario will be posted. Starting today, just to get the ball rolling, I'll have the first choice and first set of scenarios.

Background: The year is 2014, and you have been chosen as a part of the new Washington Capitals staff. Would you like to be:
1: GMBM (General Manager Brian MacLellan)
2: Head Coach Barry Trotz

Here are the scenarios:

You have spent many years with the Capitals organization, and were assistant GM to George McPhee before getting the big job. You have many decisions to make, starting with compliance buyouts to save money. You have one buyout to use, and the likely candidate (for simplicity's sake there will just be one) is Brooks Laich who has not been productive in a few injury-plagued seasons.
1.1 To use the compliance buyout on Brooks Laich, see scenario 1.1 in the next post
1.2 To not use the compliance buyout this year, see scenario 1.2 in the next post

2. Barry Trotz
After many years with the Nashville Predators, you are excited to return to the team where it all began for you: the Washington Capitals. You want to start off on a good foot with the team, but you also don't want to let the team members get too close to you. You're not sure whether to be their friend or their coach.
2.1 To be a Bob Johnson type of coach, who is everybody's friend and has success, see scenario 2.1 in 2 posts
2.2 To be a Herb Brooks type of coach, who is distant and strict but also successful, see scenario 2.2 in 2 posts

I realize there are other options many people would like, but for simplicity's sake I'm keeping it to just two each to start. I hope you guys enjoy this series, and stay tuned as the scenarios continue.

P.S. Please write down your path in the comments so that I can see what the most popular one is. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Second Round Playoff Predictions

You know something? I might actually watch a few games in the playoffs this year.

I think we've all forgotten what it's like to watch the playoffs without feeling pressure of the Caps winning or disappointment of the Caps losing (in the playoffs, at least). The snippets of games I've seen, 5 minutes here, a period there, have been quite fun to watch.

Still, the only reason I'd watch them is if no Nats or Wizards games are being played (oh yeah, how 'bout them Wiz Kids!). But why not make predictions, I ask myself. So here they are.

I didn't publish my Western Conference Predictions (you'll have to take my word for it), but I went 5-3 overall, 4-0 in the East (woo-hoo, I think), and 1-3 in the West. The only one I got right was Anaheim over Dallas. I'm hoping to improve on that this round, but I'm still only publishing the East (my West predictions are Anaheim and Chicago).

As always, I compare Offense, Defense, Goaltending, and Special Teams before delivering my final verdict. None of the second-round games that have been played already were taken into account for this.

So let's get started:

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #3 Montreal Canadiens
Offense: Boston was first in goals per game in the regular season, but only seventh in the first round. Montreal was first in goals per game in the first round, but only ninth in the regular season. Still, because this is supposed to be over 7 games, not 82, I'll pick Montreal, barely.
Defense: Boston continued their absolutely stifling D, allowing less than 2 goals per game to Detroit. Boston, easy.
Goaltending: Rask was phenomenal in the first round, with a .930 save percentage, while Price was iffy, with a .910. I'm picking Boston here.
Special Teams: Boston and Montreal both had high power play percentages with low penalty killing percentages. Because this is likely to be a defensive battle, I'll pick Montreal, who has a slightly higher PK percentage.
Prediction: Boston in 7. You know this will be close, any Boston Montreal series always is. This is definitely going the distance, but Boston's just too talented, and with home-ice as well, I say Boston takes this.

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #2 New York Rangers
Offense: The Rangers struggled to score against Philly, whereas Pittsburgh, although not very impressive, managed to score at a decent clip against Columbus. Pittsburgh definitely has an edge here.
Defense: The Rangers did a great job keeping Philly to as few goals as possible, while Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins D struggled to stop the Blue Jackets. Rangers here.
Goaltending: Come on. Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Henrik Lundqvist? This isn't even a contest. Rangers.
Special Teams: Both the Rangers and Penguins were absolutely anemic in special teams in the first round, with the Rangers being held to a PP% under 10%. The Penguins, although not necessarily good, were better, and will need their special teams to do well against a better even strength team. Pittsburgh.
Prediction: New York in 6. I'm going bold here, but I don't even think this will go the distance. Lundqvist is a talented goalie, the Penguins are struggling to score, and the Rangers can definitely beat Fleury more than enough times to rack up four wins. The Rags will eliminate the Pens.

So there are my predictions for the second round: Boston and New York will advance and face-off in the ECF (oh yeah, and the Ducks will play the Blackhawks in the WCF). Let's hope for better results than last round.

Oh, and Go Wizards.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Tale of Two Drafts, Part 1

"With the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals select, Center Evgeni Malkin from Magnitogorsk, Russia."

How would you feel today if you heard this on June 26, 2004?

The NHL draft will take place on June 27-28 of this year, 10 weeks from now. Coincidentally, this will be the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Draft, where the Caps picked Alex Ovechkin first overall.

Today, many analysts think the better pick would have been Evgeni Malkin, who went second overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins. What would have happened then?

Over the next few weeks, I'll look at how this event would have affected the entire NHL in each year and offseason, starting with 2004-2005 today.

So, let it begin.

The 2004 offseason began after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 7 games, and as the final buzzer went off, the old CBA expired. There were rumors of a lockout to occur, although nobody knew how long it would last.

Focus switched to the coming draft, which would feature two extremely talented Russians who had led their team to World Juniors glory and were considered some of the most talented players the league had seen in a long time.

The Capitals entered with the third-best odds to take the top pick, with a 14.2% chance compared with Pittsburgh's 25% chance and Chicago's 18.8%. Surprisingly, the Caps won the first pick.

Alex Ovechkin was viewed as the consensus top pick in 2004. But say today's media 'pundits' went back in time and told the Capitals organization that Evgeni Malkin is a better pick. What would have happened then?

Let's say the Caps picked Malkin. The Penguins would have had no problem taking Alex Ovechkin second overall.

Assuming the rest of the draft went the same way, the Caps would've picked Malkin and defensemen Jeff Schultz and Mike Green in the first round. There's where we'll end the draft for now.

The NHL lockout started and the NHL died for a year. When an agreement was reached on July 21, 2005, attendance and interest in the NHL had dropped drastically. ESPN declined to continue to air NHL games in the 2005 season. Teams like the Capitals and Penguins were in dire need of something (or someone) to increase interest in their team again.

That takes us to July 30 (my birthday!) and the 2005 NHL Draft, where we'll pick up our story next week.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

GMGM vs. Adam Oates: Who Should Go (First)?

The Washington Capitals management has become a comedy of errors (or really more of a tragedy) in the past few years. There's no secret that major upheaval is completely necessary and on the way.

That being said, what is the bigger priority for the Caps: getting rid of General Manager George McPhee (GMGM) or getting rid of Head Coach Adam Oates (HCAO)?

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see them both go, and I'm sure most of Caps Nations agrees with me. But if, for some reason, Owner Ted Leonsis (no cooky abbreviation for him) decides to keep one of them, who is more important to fire?

Let's look at the track record within the last few years for each, starting with the bad for GMGM:

  • Trading touted prospect Filip Forsberg for minor-league center Michael Latta and aging veteran Martin Erat
  • Trading talented center Mathieu Perreault for a pick and a prospect, both of which were traded away later 
  • Trading talented backup goalie Michal Neuvirth for unnecessary expense Jaroslav Halak, who didn't even help the Caps all that much
  • Signing Brooks Laich and Mike Green to monster contracts that haven't helped at all
  • Signing human traffic cone Jeff Schultz to a big deal before using a compliance buyout last year
Now, let's look at the good stuff he's done:
  • Trading a 4th round pick for tough forward Dustin Penner
  • Signing Mikhail Grabovski for just 3 mil during the offseason
  • Signing top defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner to relatively inexpensive deals
Needless to say, GMGM has made some foolish decisions, but has made up for some of it by striking some good deals. Now let's look at HCAO, starting this time with the good:
  • Revamped Alex Ovechkin into a scoring threat and brought him back to being the second-best player in the world
  • Improved the Capitals power play
  • Striking gold with the 'Gang Green' line (Chimera-Fehr-Ward)
And now, the bad:
  • Buried proven Top-6 veterans like Martin Erat and Dustin Penner in the fourth line, or scratched them
  • Held talented prospects Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson to very little ice time per game
  • Played ineffective, unproven players such as Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti, and Joey Crabb on the top line
  • Continued to call up AHL players until late in the season
  • Failed to help a struggling defense
  • Tried to change the goaltending style, with terrible effects
  • Threw half the team under the bus
So, yeah. Some good stuff, but more than offset by all of the mistakes he's made.

Looking at everything together, both GMGM and HCAO have done some extremely stupid things. However, let's look at this in a different way.

Based on the trades and signings GMGM has done, here are my personal optimized lines:


Schmidt-Oleksy (oh yeah, those two were on the teams, weren't they?)


These lines are much better than the ones HCAO had on the ice during the latter half of the season. In fact, if you stop HCAO benching and disgruntling Martin Erat, add him and Neuvirth back while losing Halak, and you have an extremely talented team that doesn't even need Jay Beagle on the ice. 

And if you take out HCAO's obsession with handedness, the second line can be 
Penner-Grabovski-Erat, and the fourth line can be 
Wilson-Johansson Brouwer. See, we don't even need Jay Beagle or Brooks Laich!

All I'm trying to say is although GMGM made some questionable moves in the last few years, if HCAO had used these assets correctly, this team is much stronger than it seemed last season. Therefore, the highest priority for the Caps should be firing Adam Oates. GMGM should probably go too, but without HCAO's stupid decisions, the Caps would be in the playoffs right now.

What do you think? Who is most important to be fired, GMGM or HCAO? Leave a comment and/or rant and hope for the best!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Round Predictions (Eastern Conference) for the Stanley Cup Playoffs

What's harder than seeing your team lose in the playoffs? Seeing your team miss out on the playoffs despite having the talent to, not only get in, but do some damage.

That's the situation we Caps fans are in right now, as we have three choices now to get our sports fill: watch baseball (not ideal), watch the Washington Wizards in the playoffs (I'm cool with that), or watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs without the Capitals for the first time since 2007 (um, no thank you).

Although I have no plans to watch a single game of the playoffs this year, I'm still going to give my round-by-round picks. Last year, I badly underrated the Boston Bruins, but still went 9-6 overall.

Here are my official picks for the opening round in the Eastern Conference, before I do the West tomorrow. If you don't remember from last year, I compare both teams' offense, defense, goaltending, and special teams before making my decision.

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #4 Detroit Red Wings
Offense: The Bruins were third in the league in goals per game, behind only Anaheim and Chicago. The Red Wings were 16th. This is a no-brainer. Boston.
Defense: The Bruins were one of the best defensive teams in the league throughout the year, allowing just 2.08 goals per game, behind only ultra-defensive Los Angeles. Detroit, meanwhile, was 16th in this category as well. Again, a no-brainer. Boston.
Goaltending: The most probable goaltenders are Tuuka Rask and Jimmy Howard. If they get the starts, this is pretty lopsided. Rask carries a .930 save percentage into the playoffs, whereas Howard has only a .910. Rask's name has come up in Vezina ballots, while Howard has struggled with consistency. Another easy decision. Boston.
Special Teams: Probably the most lopsided of them all. Boston had the 3rd best power play in the regular season, while the Wings had the 18th. Boston had the 8th best penalty kill, while the Wings came in at 12th. Easy call. Boston.
Prediction: Boston in 6. On paper, this isn't even close. However, the Red Wings had some success against the Bruins in the regular season, winning 3 of the 4 matches. Still, I don't see the Bruins losing this series.

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. #3 Montreal Canadiens
Offense: The Lightning were ninth in the league in goals per game, while Montreal was 21st, being a primarily defense-first team. Tampa Bay, easily.
Defense: The Lightning were 12th in the league in goals against per game, while Montreal was 8th. This is close, but I'll take Montreal.
Goaltending: The closest battle so far, the probable netminders will be Carey Price (Montreal) and Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay). Price had a .927 save percentage during the regular season, while Bishop had a .924. It's a close game, but considering Montreal has a better D, I pick Montreal.
Special Teams: Tampa has the 13th best power play on the circuit, while Montreal is ranked 19th. However, Montreal wins the special battle pretty handily thanks to their top notch PK, which ranks 3rd in the league, while Tampa's PK has struggled all year and is ranked 23rd, behind teams like Carolina, Calgary, and, yes, Washington. Montreal.
Prediction: Montreal in 6. This could easily go the distance, but I don't see the Bolts winning, even with home ice advantage. Montreal is just too good defensively, and Carey Price has been very good, and he'll only continue to do well.

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins (ugh) vs. #4 Columbus Blue Jackets
Offense: I don't even have to look at stats for this. Pittsburgh.
Defense: This is a close one. Pittsburgh finished at 10th in goals against per game, while Columbus finished 13th. Overall, I still have to go with Pittsburgh.
Goaltending: The probable netminders are Marc-Andre Fleury and defending Vezina champion Sergei Bobrovsky. Respectively, their save percentages are .915 and .923. An easy choice, Columbus. Besides, who likes Fleury anyways?
Special Teams: I don't have to look at stats for this either. Every Caps fan already knows the Penguins were the top power play team, beating the Caps by less than a tenth of a percent. However, I did look up the PK numbers, and it just confirmed my suspicions: the Pens were fifth overall at the end of the year. No doubt here, Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Pittsburgh in 5. This isn't close at all. The only chance Columbus has is catching the Pens D on an off-day and shaking Fleury's confidence. However, I don't see that happening 4 times. Pittsburgh will win this one.

#2 New York Rangers vs. #3 Philadelphia Flyers
Offense: The Rangers ended the year 18th in goals per game, while the Flyers were 8th. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, considering the Rangers have always played a defensive style of hockey. Not much of a contest here. Philadelphia.
Defense: Just as I expected, the Rangers were dominant defensively, ranking 4th, while the Flyers were not, ranking 20th, just one spot above the Caps. Again, not too much of a shock. New York.
Goaltending: Although Ray Emery is getting the start in game 1, Steve Mason will probably be in net for the majority of the games for Philly, while Henrik Lundqvist will have the same honor for the Rangers. Mason had a save percentage of .917, while Lundqvist garnered a .920. Close, but I'll take New York.
Special Teams: An extremely tough decision, I'm going solely based on the special teams indices here, or the combined rank of power play plus penalty kill. For Philly, this is 8 (pp) + 7 (pk) = 15, and for the Rangers this is 15 (pp) + 3 (pk) = 18. Overall, I have to go with Philly.
Prediction: New York in 7. In the end, these two teams are extremely evenly matched. It will come down to if the Philly offense or New York defense will prevail. Home ice, however, will probably play the biggest role, which is why I'm going with the Rangers.

So there you have it. My picks for the first round in the Eastern Conference. Whatever happens, I won't care because I'll be watching the Nationals and Wizards and completely shunning hockey broadcasting until June.

Until then, though, I'll have to content myself with these blog posts.

4 Reasons Not to Trade Alex Ovechkin

For the first time in six seasons, the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs. So obviously, the Caps have to trade away the selfish, cherry-picking, non-team playing, and most of all, Russian Alex Ovechkin.

Since the season ended, speculation has seemingly come out of nowhere that Ovechkin should be traded. However, this makes absolutely zero sense.

Here are 4 reasons why OV should not be traded (you know, 8/2, cause if we lose him, the talent on this team is cut in half...):

1. The Fanbase. DC is famous for fair-weather fans. Other than the Redskins, no other team receives continuous support from the entire DC area. If you're reading this blog, you're probably a die-hard Caps fan like me, and we will always support this team no matter what. But for the majority of the DC area population, take away the one recognizable figure on a team that may now be the 4th-best in the area, and any interest that's left is suddenly gone.

2. The Once-In-A-Generation Player. We are privileged to be able to see one of the greatest players of all time playing in DC. Yes, of all time. OV is 13th all-time in points per game, ahead of players like Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, etc. By the time he retires, OV will definitely be a Top-20-25 player, and maybe even a Top 10. Right now, he's the second best player in the world, and if he has a better team (which I'll get to) around him, he could be spurred to even greater heights.

3. The Season Was Not his Fault. What happened this year cannot be blamed on Alex Ovechkin. First, let me talk about his abysmal plus-minus; is it his fault if his linemates cannot score worth beans when he's on the ice? His two most common linemates, Nick Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, only scored 14 combined even-strength goals, and I'm not sure how much of that was with him on the ice. Despite this, OV totaled 13 even-strength assists. Look, it would take forever to individually address every single beef anybody's ever had with Ovechkin, but suffice to say he did nothing less than he could have this year. He played with his heart on his sleeve, but was careful to say anything to the media. You can't please them all, Alex.

4. The Future. No matter what we get for him, it's highly doubtful to be enough. First the Caps would need enough assets to just replace a legend in Alex Ovechkin, and then would need more assets to fix the numerous holes in the team. It would take at least 3-4 high prospects and first-rounders to replace OV, and then we'd need a top-notch defenseman and some Top-6 help. No player in the league is worth that much right now. Even if the Caps do get this, will it be enough? Will they have enough talent to truly turn the team around? The way this organization's management is right now, no prospects and picks can be considered sure things.

I don't know where all this talk about trading OV came from, but it has to stop right now (we don't want GMGM getting any ideas in his final days here, you know). Still, there is not justification for trading OV, and the Caps will have some dark days ahead if he is dealt.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Revisiting my Preseason Picks

On August 16, while I was bored out of my mind waiting for the Caps to sign Mikhail Grabovski, I made my official picks for the season. Here's the link:

In case you don't want to read it, suffice to say I was as wrong as anybody who picked Duke to win the NCAA Championship this year (which WASN'T me, thank you very much). Just for kicks (for you guys, anyways), let's see how my picks compare against the current (as of 7:00 ET Saturday) NHL standings with only a few weeks left in the season.

Preseason Metropolitan Prediction:                                       Current Metropolitan Standings:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins                                                           1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. New York Rangers                                                            2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. Washington Capitals                                                          3. New York Rangers
4. New York Islanders                                                           4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. Columbus Blue Jackets                                                      5. Washington Capitals
6. Philadelphia Flyers                                                             6. New Jersey Devils
7. Carolina Hurricanes                                                           7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. New Jersey Devils                                                             8. New York Islanders

Heh. At least I got the Penguins and Hurricanes right. I was also only one off for the Rangers and Blue Jackets. Still...

Now for the Eastern Conference, which I'll only do the Top 8 for (because that's what I did in the preseason):

Preseason Conference Prediction:                                         Current Conference Standings:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins                                                           1. Boston Bruins
2. Boston Bruins                                                                    2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. New York Rangers                                                            3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Ottawa Senators                                                                 4. Philadelphia Flyers
5. Washington Capitals                                                          5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Montreal Canadiens                                                           6. New York Rangers
7. New York Islanders                                                           7. Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Detroit Red Wings                                                             8. Detroit Red Wings

On the bright side, I got five of the current playoff-position teams right. On the other hand, I had the Senators (13th in the conference) and Islanders (14th) in as well.

I admit I was wrong. Like, really wrong. But hey, while the Islanders can't make the playoffs, there's not telling what can happen in the next few weeks. And if my prediction turns out as planned, then who's the one laughing now, huh?

Yeah, probably still you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Importance of Perspective

This time last week, I was all set to publish a scathing article about how the season is over. Thankfully, I waited.

Since then, the Caps have won 3 in a row, including an upset over Pacific-leading Anaheim on the road. Obviously, every Caps fan now considers it a foregone conclusion that the Caps are making the playoffs.

I hate to be that guy, but just so that we don't have our hearts broken again, I'm going to have to try to put things in perspective.

Coming into today's game against the Kings, Sports Club Stats has playoff chances at 22.6%. In order to have an above 50% chance of making the playoffs (which is not what you want to count on), the Caps have to go 6-3-3.

Here's who the Caps play in their last 12 games: Kings (twice), Sharks, Bruins, Predators, Stars, Devils, Islanders, Blues, Hurricanes, Blackhawks, and Lightning. Of those eleven teams, 6 are all but guaranteed playoff teams, two are still in the hunt for the playoffs, and only three are not fighting for much of anything, and those games (Predators, Islanders, Hurricanes) are all on the road.

One can't even assume the Caps will win their remaining home games, considering that they play the Kings, Bruins, Stars, Blackhawks, and Lightning. Realistically, at best the Caps may be able to beat the Bruins, Stars, and Lightning, while hopefully pushing the Blackhawks and Kings to extra time (they played very well in Chicago in the first game of the year; we'll see today how they do in LA). If they do that, they are 3-0-2 before counting road games.

Let's do those road games now. They play in LA, in San Jose (where they haven't won in more than 20 years- chalk that up now as a loss), in St. Louis (who have the second-best home record in the league), in New Jersey (who we are fighting for a playoff spot) and the last three are the ones I talked about earlier (Predators, Islanders, Hurricanes).

OK, so now chances. First let's look optimistically. The Caps win their five remaining home games, win the three 'easy' road games, beat New Jersey and LA on the road as well, and lose to San Jose and St. Louis (who have two of the best home records in the league). They therefore end up 10-2, which Sports Club Stats gives a 100% chance of making the playoffs (lets be honest, if the Caps can do that, then they deserve to make it).

Now let's look pessimistically. The Caps only win the three 'easy' games and lose everything else (3-9). Sports Club Stats puts this as a 0% chance of making the playoffs.

Now let's look in the middle, comparing the teams' respective records at home and road. Based on this, here are the winners in each game:
Caps @ Kings: Kings
Caps @ Sharks: Sharks
Caps vs. Kings: Caps
Caps vs. Bruins: Bruins (OT) (These teams had very close respective home/road records. I gave this to the Bruins because they've been unstoppable as of late)
Caps @ Predators: Predators (Surprising, but the Predators are slightly better at home than the Caps are on the road)
Caps vs. Stars: Caps
Caps @ Devils: Devils (NJ plays 9 of their last 13 at home)
Caps @ Islanders: Caps
Caps @ Blues: Blues
Caps @ Hurricanes: Hurricanes
Caps vs. Blackhawks: Caps (The respective records are extremely close, but I gave this one to DC because they are desperate at this point, if not out already)
Caps vs. Lightning: Caps
Overall, the Caps finish 5-6-1, which Sports Club Stats pegs as a 0.9% chance of making the playoffs.

Now let's look at the non-scientific, non-biased approach which is probably the better fit. The Caps will probably lose to the Kings (both times), Sharks, and Bruins, can possibly beat the Predators, Stars, Devils, and Islanders, lose to the Blues but beat the Hurricanes, then lose to Chicago in OT at least before beating Tampa Bay in the season finale. This gives the Caps a 6-5-1 record, which Sports Club Stats gives 13.0% chance of making the playoffs.

The road for the Caps is extremely tough. Unless they can steal a few of these next games like they did against Anaheim, the chances of making the playoffs are very dim.

Before I leave you, I give you this note: if the Caps lose in regulation today, their playoff chances plummet to 15.0%. If they steal a point, their chances only go down to 22.3%. If they win in the shootout, chances go up to 31.3%, while if they win in OT or regulation, it goes up to 32.4%.

Let's hope the Caps can get it together and win a few games, and as always, Let's Go Caps!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Guide to Being a Russian NHL'er

Dear Evgeny Kuznetsov,

Tomorrow, you will be making your NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In two days, you will be making your national television debut, also against the Penguins.

Please read what I say here: it will impact your entire future in the league.

No doubt you have heard of all the controversy Alex Ovechkin has gotten himself into, while other Russian players don't get that kind of scrutiny.

Outlined here is a step-by-step guide to surviving the jungle the NHL is to you Russians.

1. Play for Pittsburgh. Too late for that, bud. Unless you play for the Penguins or maybe the Detroit Red Wings, you will be condemned for, really, being Russian.

2. Don't Celebrate. Look at players like Ovechkin or Nail Yakupov. They play with their hearts on their sleeves, and they get criticized for it. However, players like Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Fedorov show the old CCCP tradition of no emotion. Follow their lead instead of the blasphemous non-hockey celebrations of your teammate Ovechkin.

3. Take Goalie Lessons. Being Russian, you'll have to do everything or the media will be all over you. You have to score, pass, play D, have a good plus-minus despite being on a terrible even-strength team, and if you let up in even one of those aspects, you're done. Unless you can play goalie. Maybe you'll be given a brief pass.

4. Don't Take Anything I Said Here to Heart. Go out there, be yourself, score, have fun, and treat the media like OV does: the joke it really is.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Get Ready for Kuzy: Possible Caps Lines for Monday

It's here. Evgeny Kuznetsov is playing. No, actually. On Monday, against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Welcome to the NHL, bud.

How do the new lines play out for the Caps, now that Kuznetsov is here? Here is how I would like the line combos to be for the Caps.

Assuming Injuries:

Assuming Grabovski and Laich are still injured, the Caps are still not going to be extremely deep, with Chris Brown still playing, but this would not be too bad. Kuznetsov has not played left wing, but because he shoots lefty, Adam Oates is probably going to try to make him play LW anyways. Switch him and Penner, maybe, but I don't see him out of the Top 6.

No Injuries/Optimized:

Assuming Grabovski can play, it's hard to see Brooks Laich legitimately getting a spot in the starting lineup. He shoots lefty, so Oates would only have him on the LW or C, which suddenly look pretty stacked. Then again, you never know with a coach who would let John Erskine play over Steven Oleksy or Nate Schmidt.

I digress. This team is suddenly looking much deeper than it really is. What do you think? Would you put Brooks Laich in the lineup (while keeping HCAO's handedness-mania)? Who would you take out? Talk to me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Post-Deadline Day Lines: Welcome Halak, Bye Neuvy (and Erat)

Every Caps fan knows the major trades that have gone down since my post yesterday, written after the Dustin Penner trade but before the Martin Erat trade. But to recap:

1. To Anaheim: 2014 4th round Draft Pick
To Washington: Dustin Penner

2. To Phoenix: Martin Erat, John Mitchell
To Washington: Rotislav Klesla, Chris Brown

3. To Buffalo: Michal Neuvirth, Rotislav Klesla
To Washington: Jaroslav Halak, 2015 3rd round draft pick

The Capitals quite honestly didn't improve much, but they didn't become worse either. Overall, it was a safe year for GMGM, and a comparatively good one (see last year; or better yet, don't).

How do these deals change the line combinations for the Caps? Here are the probable lines for tonight's tangle with Philly:




At full strength, this is how (I would like) the current Caps team looks like:




Of course, things could change if Evgeni Kuznetsov starts to play in a week or two, or if the Caps stop their love affair with Erskine and Carrick and bring up some other guys, or...

I digress. All I'm saying is that this team could be getting a lot stronger in a few weeks, or even later this year.

For today, however, we're going with the formidable Stoa-Beagle-Wilson line. #Playoffs (or is it #Playoffs?!).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pre-Deadline Day Sample Lines

The big news of the day for Caps fans was obviously the acquisition of Dustin Penner. His 2M cap hit, however, means the Caps will be over cap after Jack Hillen comes of the IR for tomorrow's game.

The big question now, obviously, is who's on the move (gotta believe it's Martin Erat and his 4.5M)? We'll worry about that tomorrow, but for now, assuming no big moves, here is how I envision the lines will be for tomorrow night's fight with Philly:

Penner - Backstrom - Ovechkin
Laich - Johansson - Brouwer
Ward - Fehr - Chimera
Erat - Beagle - Wilson

Alzner - Carlson
Hillen - Green
Erskine - Carrick


Here is the sample lineup assuming we send Erat for somebody who is not going to play tomorrow:

Penner - Backstrom - Ovechkin
Laich - Johansson - Brouwer
Ward - Fehr - Chimera
Deschamps - Beagle - Wilson

And the defensemen and goalies are the same.

Here's to hoping the Caps can get a good D-man or at least some picks and prospects for Erat tomorrow by 3:00 pm EST.

UPDATE: GMGM is actually doing pretty well this year, after shipping Erat and prospect John Mitchell (acquired in the Mathieu Perreault trade) to Phoenix for left-handed defenseman Rotislav Klesla (yay!), prospect Chris Brown (not the singer) and a fourth-round draft pick. Nice trade, GMGM.

In Caps Circle news, expect some new articles tomorrow recapping the trade deadline, just in case the Caps do anything else of note.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Washington Capitals Trade Deadline Preview

This has been an annoying month for me. That awesomely important thing I'm working on is still not done, and I'm hoping it will be eventually.

For now, we'll have to settle for something a little bit more pressing, the pending NHL trade deadline. The Caps have some obvious holes in their game. Who should they target? What would they need to give up? Let's see, in order of most pressing to least pressing areas of concern.

1. Defensive Help.
The Capitals D has been absolutely atrocious this year, and quite honestly, nothing can or should get better until this does.
Potential Targets: Jake Gardiner, Dmitry Kulikov, Andrew MacDonald
Best Fit: Dmitry Kulikov
The Florida Panthers aren't making the playoffs this year, and while the Caps currently aren't in any reported trade talks for the young defenseman, they should be. The Panthers are reportedly ready to listen to any deal that will bring them young talent or draft picks. Kulikov is young, strong, and relatively inexpensive, maybe around 3-4 million, which the Caps should at least want to pay for an upgrade.
Trade Offer: Stanislav Galiev + 2014 Second Round for Dmitry Kulikov
Galiev is not going to get playing time for the Capitals. With Andre Burakovsky rapidly improving and young star Zach Sanford nipping at his heels, it may be time for Galiev himself to look for a fresh start. Florida may be the best place to do that, with their depth chart looking weaker and weaker. The Panthers may look for a little more than a second rounder, while the Caps would want to give less, but this could be a good starting point.

2. Goaltending Depth.
Michal Neuvirth wants out (maybe), Braden Holtby is struggling (maybe) and Phillip Grubauer is young (maybe). I don't get it, but for some reason the Caps seem to be looking for goaltending help.
Potential Targets: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Cam Ward
Best Fit: Cam Ward
Ward is expensive, yes, but he will probably be wanting out, with youngster Anton Khudobin quickly rising up the depth charts. It may be tough to get him, but hey, anything is possible.
Trade Offer: Martin Erat + Michal Neuvirth for Cam Ward
The Hurricanes are looking to shore up their weak right wing position, while Martin Erat wants out. Why not kill two birds with one stone and send Erat and disgruntled goaltender Neuvirth for Ward? This will provide the Caps a bit of a salary dump and give them the goaltending depth they apparently need for some reason.

3. Reliable Top-6 Forward.
The Caps have not had a great Top-6 all year, and could really use some help. Fortunately, there's plenty of options to choose from.
Potential Targets: Thomas Vanek, Ryan Callahan, Brad Boyes
Best Fit: Brad Boyes
As I wrote earlier, the Panthers are willing to sell some of their players for young talent or draft picks. Plus, Boyes is extremely cheap, with a cap hit of just one million. He would fit very well in Washington's Top-6.
Trade Offer: Stanislav Galiev + 2014 Fourth Round for Brad Boyes
Basically the same as the Kulikov trade, except Boyes will be a bit cheaper. Because of his low cap hit, he will be a popular target, but the Caps should find a way to get him if they need him.

Best Possible Trade:
To Florida: Stanislav Galiev, 2014 Second Round, 2014 Fourth Round, 2015 Third Round
To Washington: Dmitry Kulikov, Brad Boyes
Just throw in that third rounder to make this a little more appealing to the Panthers.

To make this more Cap Compliant (Based on Cap-Geek):
To Florida: Stanislav Galiev, Martin Erat, 2014 Second Round
To Washington: Dmitry Kulikov, Brad Boyes
Both teams will receive upgrades and stay under the cap.

The Caps need to make some upgrades this year. Let's hope they can do so without the Filip Forsberg debacle from last year. Anything I missed? Tell me in the comments.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Olympic Recap: That Sucked

I just want to hit something right now.

For one thing, the incredibly big article I posted about is not done, and I chose the worst moment to get writer's block.

And then, there was the Olympics.

I don't even know where to begin with this. Russia failed to medal and OV is going to take all the blame for it again, the USA failed to medal, and Sweden got the silver because Backy got kicked out of the game for taking allergy medicine.

And to make everything worse, Canada won the gold. Oh, and Crosby scored.

I'm seriously in no mood to write anything right now, so you guys can do it for me.

Please leave rants in the comments, because right now I need something funny to me (heck, even Calvin and Hobbes is losing its charm).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stay Tuned

I haven't been able to post anything for a while now, but heed my warning and stay tuned over the next week. Something big is coming... something huge...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

GMGM: Please Read This NOW

News has been breaking today that the Caps are the frontrunners to land Ryan Miller from Buffalo. GMGM has been talking to the Sabres management all day in potential trade talks.

Mr. McPhee, before you do anything we Caps fans will regret, stop, breathe, and READ (this).

First of all, we have great goalie depth. Braden Holtby has been steadily improving, Michal Neuvirth has also been playing well recently, and Phillip Grubauer was a phenom when he played for the last few months.

Second, the Caps don't need a goalie. We need DEFENSE. You know, the thing that arguably WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, something YOU HAVEN'T DONE (Rant over). But seriously, don't go for another goalie when we need a defenseman.

Third, the asking price would be way too high. We would likely have to give up one of the three star goaltenders, some high-round draft picks, and maybe even a prospect or two. That is way too much for somebody who is on the wrong side of thirty, especially in a position the Caps really don't need help in.

For once, GMGM, please look at a trade logically, like I just did. If you're going to pay this huge price, it has to be for a Ryan Suter or Shea Weber, not for a Ryan Miller, no matter how good he is.

And, please, don't make another trade we all will regret.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

(Sort Of) Midseason Report: Grades for the Caps

The halfway point of the Capitals season has come and gone, with the Caps crashing down to fourth in the Metro after being second during the first of these. How do the grades look now?

In case you forgot how I do these, I grade the offense, defense, and goaltending based on league stats, then choose a top performer from each. So without further ado...

Let the grades begin (you see what I did there?)

First-Quarter Grade: 90% (A-)
Midterm Grade: 83% (B)
I was surprised that the Caps goaltenders received such a high grade, but it's hard to argue when the team save percentage is tied for 10th in the league. It's a drop off from 5th in the league after the first quarter, but still comparatively good considering the ghastly amount of rubber being sent their way. Still, the inconsistent play of Braden Holtby and the injury/little playing time for Michal Neuvirth has put lots of pressure on Phillip Grubauer, who is arguably the only goaltender who is playing well right now for Washington.
Top Performer: Phillip Grubauer
This is so obvious it doesn't even require analysis. Grubauer has a .931 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA, both by far the best on the team. He was not good against Columbus, but considering how well he has played so far, there is no way Holtby or Neuvirth deserves this over him.

First-Quarter Grade: 68% (D)
Midterm Grade: 63% (F)
I reserve F's for the bottom three teams in a certain stat, usually, and the Caps are currently third-worst in Shots Against per Game. They are one of only three teams giving up more than 30 shots against per game, the other two being Toronto and Buffalo. If possible, the defense has just gotten worse in the last quarter of play. Much of this boils down to lack of depth combined with terrible decisions by Adam Oates, such as continually starting John Erskine and scratching Steven Oleksy in favor of Connor Carrick. Still, whoever is playing, this team has enough talent to be giving up less than thirty shots per game, and definitely not in the same league as Buffalo and Toronto.
Top Performer: John Carlson
Pretty much everybody else has struggled mightily this year, but Carlson is chugging along. Only Mike Green has better Corsi and Fenwick and has been playing regularly, but he has had very obvious disparages in coverage. Ultimately, Carlson has by far been our best all around D-man so far.

First-Quarter Grade: 90% (A-)
Midterm Grade: 80% (B-)
The offense has really cooled down as of late. A combination of extremely good opposite goaltending and lack of pressure and terrible Fenwick has forced Adam Oates into making some pretty bad line combinations, which have just compounded the problem. The Capitals as a team have only 133 goals, Alex Ovechkin scoring 34 of them. Yup. The Capitals have dressed 27 forwards and defenseman, and 26 of them have combined for 99 goals. That is absolutely pathetic. Alex Ovechkin's grade in a A+ for sure, while the rest of the team is probably hovering around a D+. The Caps really need to get OV some help.
Top Performer: Alex Ovechkin
Honestly, it's not even close. I chose Nick Backstrom for the first quarter, but he hasn't been doing all that great recently without OV. As I said earlier, the Capitals would have 99 team goals without Ovechkin, barely over two goals a game as the team. OV has no doubt been the top performer for the Caps.

As you can see, this last quarter of the season has been much worse than the first. Hopefully the team can step it up.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ranking Each Major DC Sports Team Right Now

This time a few years ago, the Capitals were the only team worth talking about in Washington.

All of that has changed. Two straight years with a playoff season for a team not named the Caps and the growth of other homegrown stars combined with a decline from the Capitals has led to all four major teams in DC having a good chance at the playoffs.

How do they compare right now, however? For this, I gave each team ranking in star-power, depth, and management, then combined the cumulative scores. A lower score was better, because that meant they had higher ranks in each

Here is the final ranking:

4. Washington Redskins
Star-power: 4
Depth: 4
Management: 4
Total: 12
The Redskins bottomed out in all three categories. They only have two legitimate superstars (Trent Williams and Alfred Morris) and a few more on the cusp (RGIII, Brian Orakpo, maybe Pierre Garcon). That is not enough when over twenty players are starting the game for you. Depth is also a huge issue, as anybody who followed the team and its injuries could easily see. As for management, Dan Snyder alone automatically makes this a bottom two candidate, and Bruce Allen's ineffectiveness along with a rookie coach in Jay Gruden who has had problems in Cincy knock this down to the bottom of the DC list.

3.  Washington Wizards
Star-power: 3
Depth: 2
Management: 3
Total: 8
Not much separates the Wizards from the team in front of them, while a lot separates from the team behind them. The Wizards have many star players, with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading what could become one of the best backcourts in the league, improving prospects such as Jan Vesely and Otto Porter Jr., and other talented players such as Nene, Martell Webster, etc. Depth-wise, they ranked number two again because of the talented bench players they have. Management-wise, Randy Wittman probably is not the best person to coach this team, but heck, he and Ted Leonsis are better than Gruden and Snyder for my money.

2. Washington Capitals
Star-power: 2
Depth: 3
Management: 2
Total: 7
Ah, the Caps. What, with two of the best players in the game in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, you would think their star-power would be number one. Alas, just them and maybe Mikhail Grabovski and John Carlson are not enough to give them the number one spot there. Depth-wise, I think every Caps fan knows this team is short of it. There are many prospects that just are not NHL-ready right now, meaning their future could be fantastic, but right now they just are not built for the playoffs like teams such as the Blackhawks and Penguins. Management-wise, George McPhee almost brought this team down another notch, but Adam Oates and Ted Leonsis sort of balance him out a bit.

1. Washington Nationals
Star-power: 1
Depth: 1
Management: 1
Total: 3
By far the best DC team right now, the Nationals boast many rising stars such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, as well as proven vets like Ryan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez. Depth-wise, combine one of the most talented prospect systems in the league with arguably THE best pitching rotation in the league, as well as good batting and fielding talent on the bench, and the Nationals are by far the most playoff-ready team in DC (that's a sentence that's never been seen before). Management-wise, these guys know what the heck they are doing, with Mike Rizzo the best GM in DC right now, a smart coach (albeit a rookie) in Matt Williams, and another Leonsis-like owner in Ted Lerner. This is a team that know how to get things done.

Never since 2005 have all four DC teams looked so capable of so much. Right now, the Nationals are taking the helm from the Capitals, and hopefully they won't disappoint us like the Caps have. In a few years, it may be the Wizards and Redskins leading the DC charge. Who knows what will happen in the future, but right now, DC sports seems to be in a pretty good spot.

New Domain Name!

Unless you have this site bookmarked (which you really should), you can now type in the address as

Enjoy the extra 10 seconds of your life!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Me after the game.
Watching the game, the Caps played very well against a much more talented team. They cycled well, had good pressure, pretty good defense, and were very good against the best power play in the league.

But why did they end up losing? Let's look at the keys I wrote a couple of days ago.

1. Start Michal Neuvirth. Done and done. He played and was pretty good, making some robberies of Pittsburgh, and although he had a .892 save percentage, he faced 37 shots. Neuvirth could have been better, but he shouldn't have needed to be.

2. Forecheck like the San Jose game. They did pretty well in this area, as they were able to sustain pressure in the Pittsburgh zone multiple times. The Pens also forechecked up a storm, but again, this wasn't the reason the Caps lost.

3. Control possession. Yesterday was not the Caps team we know. The Caps had 54% possession, and had pretty good Fenwick stats. This should have been the downfall of the Caps yesterday, but it wasn't.

4. Come Out Strong. The Caps did well in this regard for the first 5/10 minutes, and overall they played strong. This wasn't the reason they lost either.

So why did the Caps lose? In the end, it comes down to the fact that the Penguins are built for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup, and the Caps are not. Unfortunately, until the Caps can build their team into one like the Penguins, they're not going to win these games.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Back-to-Back from Heck; the Toughest Two Days of the Year

Today and tomorrow, the Washington Capitals play two of the best teams in the league, in the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

If you watched the San Jose game, you saw a very good effort from Washington, playing against a much better all-round team. The Caps received good goaltending and defensive efforts, forechecked a storm against 2013 Vezina finalist Anti Niemi, and played a game that, had they played against the Sabres on Sunday, they probably would have won.

Tomorrow, they will be playing a well-rested and uber-talented Penguins squad that has many more weapons than the Capitals or even the Sharks do. What will the Capitals have to do to win this one in Pittsburgh tomorrow?

1. Start Michal Neuvirth. Nothing against Braden Holtby, but look at his career numbers against the Penguins, and you know why I'm saying this. Neuvirth had a fantastic effort against the Maple Leafs after a 2-month layoff, and is right now the second-best goalie on the team behind Phillip Grubauer. Unless you want to start Grubauer again (which would be a terrible decision), the Caps have to start Neuvirth.

2. Forecheck like they did today. Niemi is one of the best goalies in the league, and had some fantastic saves on the Caps. If the Capitals play like they did in the offensive zone today against the Penguins, they will definitely score more than one goal on Marc-Andre Fleury, who although OK, is not on Niemi's level.

3. Better puck handling/possession. The Caps as a team were not very good against the Sharks, the third best puck possession team in the league ( The Penguins are not too shabby either, sitting at 10th in the league, while the Caps are 24th. The Caps will really need to dominate the puck tomorrow, and just overall limit Penguins chances as much as possible, or it could be a pretty bad night no matter how well the goaltending and offense is.

4. Come out strong. It's tough playing against the best team in the conference the day after a grueling game against one of the best teams in the league, especially having to travel overnight. To top it off, this is against a huge rival in a hostile environment, and televised nationally so we have to listen to Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire all game (oh, lord). The Caps will need to come out with their legs and believe they are the better team (which they truthfully are not) and play the best darn game of the year against Pittsburgh.

This is probably the craziest possible two day stretch the NHL could have assigned the Caps. Still after the effort they showed against the Sharks, we may have some reason to hope the Caps can pull the upset tomorrow.