F Street Faithful
The National Hockey League released the 2013-2014 schedule moments ago. You can take a look at the Capitals’ schedule here. Some quick thoughts on the upcoming road:
Two Banner Games?
The Washington Capitals will open the season playing in Chicago watching the Chicago Blackhawks raise their 5th Stanley Cup Champion banner on October 1. Two nights later, they could raise the last Southeast Division Champion banner ever as they host the Calgary Flames. The Capitals’ first three opponents are “Western” teams.
The Washington Capitals have announced that they have re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner to a 4-year contract. The contract is worth $11.2 million, with an annual cap hit of $2.8 million. With Alzner back under contract, it leaves Marcus Johansson as the only major RFA left to sign. With around $5.6 million left in cap space, Johansson should be extended shortly.
As much as people, myself included, point to the importance of the Capitals finding a second-line center, re-signing Alzner was just as important. Even if re-signing RFAs has become little more than a formality, it’s still nice to see one less thing for the Caps to worry about. He has shown himself to be the most consistent blueliner the Caps have and, at 24, is just entering the prime of his career. The stability he brought to the top pairing was a huge reason for Mike Green rediscovering his form, aside from Green simply being healthy. I’d imagine he will see most of his time this season again with Green.
With Alzner back in the fold, it leaves the Capitals with 8 blueliners capable of contributing at the NHL level, although only Green, Alzner, and Carlson would be described as top-4 quality. With the lack of options on the free agency market, the Caps should strongly consider trying to put together some package (with maybe a Jason Chimera or even Michal Neuvirth) for a true top-4 defenseman. What is the future for Dmitri Orlov? Can we really expect Steven Oleksy to contribute like he did last year? Hopefully, the Jeff Schultz buyout taught them when to move a guy.
It was just over a year ago that George McPhee finally got what he had been looking for. In trading Cody Eakin and a second-round pick to Dallas, he ended his search for a legitimate second-line center. Mike Ribeiro was pretty much everything the Capitals had been looking for since Fedorov retired. And unlike the previous experiment with the likes of Brendan Morrison, Ribeiro actually produced. Through the first quarter of the season, Ribeiro was arguably the only Capital producing, to the point where he actually usurped the first-line center role away from Nicklas Backstrom. When the rest of the team finally awoke from their lockout slumber, Ribeiro settled nicely into that second line, helping Troy Brouwer surpass his goal total from last year.
Yet here we are. A place we all knew was coming. It had been clear since the trade deadline that Mike Ribeiro wanted that “last contract”. At 33 years of age, he was looking for a team who was willing to give him at least 4 years, with a decent salary to boot. With the salary cap dropping a substantial amount next season, the Capitals appeared unable to give Ribeiro what he wanted. Both sides had been talking extensively lately, but to no avail as Renaud Lavoie has reported that the Capitals will allow Ribeiro to hit the free agent market come this Friday.
So, here we are again. One year later, and no second-line center. Here are some of the options the Capitals have with regard to filling Ribeiro’s void.
Note: This post was written in complete and total anger. It very well might be nothing more than the babbling of a mad man. After I’ve cooled off, I’ll post a more levelheaded review.
I don’t know why I let myself buy into this. For 90% of the season, I firmly believed this team was not a Stanley Cup team. When they made the move for Erat (don’t get me started on that again), I said it made no sense for a non-contender team to make that move. And yet, here I am. Sitting in complete disgust after they laid a massive egg against the Rangers in Game 7. Disgust at the product I just saw on the ice and that I was dumb enough to buy it.
Every Cap fan knew that we would see a different Ranger team now that the series has shifted to New York. The Ranger offense had been so anemic that, logically, it could only improve. The question would only be whether or not the Capitals could continue their defensive success. The answer, as we learned last night, was not what we would have hoped.
Prior to the game, Braden Holtby voices some of his concerns with the Capitals being “too loose” going into Game 3. Ten minutes into the game, it seemed his concerns were unfounded. The Caps had already killed off yet another Ranger power play and were already up 1-0 thanks to Nicklas Backstrom. But then, the looseness seemed to arise. And sure enough, Brian Boyle leveled the scoring as a Ranger power play expired. A power play that the Caps had effectively limited.
It just had to be the Rangers, didn’t it? As if both teams had not had enough of each other over the past five playoffs. It honestly does not feel like there are any story lines left to see play out. We’ve seen rookie goalies stand on their heads (Varlamov and Holtby). We’ve seen a team completely collapse in practically no time (Joel Ward double minor). We’ve even had to answer the question of which team had the loudest fans. Is there anything we haven’t seen? I guess we’ll find out starting Thursday. ON TO THE BREAKDOWN!
Last night during the Washington/Toronto game, CSN Washington asked the viewers, as they do every game, to weigh in on a particular matter via Twitter. The topic of the day was, essentially, what has been the biggest reason for the Caps’ surge over the past month. While not every person tweeted the same thing, the overarching theme was the strong play of Alexander Ovechkin. I can find no error with that reasoning. Ovechkin’s recent discovery of old ways has certainly been the driving force to turn this season around.
A few days ago, I was talking to a buddy of mine about the Caps’ chances during these last few weeks. He remarked “This team is good, but if they had somebody like Erat, I’d say they are a solid cup contender.” Now, a bunch of you are no doubt going to call me a liar, that nobody could have had that foresight. And you’d be right. Because this team is not a Martin Erat away from the Cup.
In Martin Erat, the Caps will get a 31-year-old right winger. This season, he has 4 goals and 17 assists over the span of 36 games. Had this been a regular season, he would be looking at 7 or 8 goals at this point. He is coming off a career year, where he scored 19 goals and 39 assists. He has eclipsed the 50 point mark in 5 of the past 6 seasons. They do also get Michael Latta, but I don’t expect anything from a guy with 184 PIMS in the AHL.
A little over an hour ago, Washington Post’s Katie Carrera reported that Brooks Laich will make his debut tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Laich was injured while playing in Switzerland during the lockout and, in my opinion, has been a large missing piece in the team’s search for consistency.
While Laich’s stats have been declining over the past couple of seasons (down to only 41 points last season), he has arguably been the most consistent performer over the past 4 years. While I understand the team’s logic in handing the captaincy to Alex Ovechkin, I still feel that Brooks Laich would have been the better choice. He typically logs heavy minutes on the both the powerplay and the penalty kill either as a pivot or on the wing.
Last night, Mike Milbury had some not-so-nice things to say about Ovechkin. While I personally think Milbury typically talks down about Ovechkin, this was different. I usually end up zoning out half-way through because it’s usually the same old shtick that gets old after two or three hundred times. I felt a little different listening to him this time. It wasn’t a sense of agreement (though I’m not saying he was wrong). It was a sense of total embarrassment.
Over the past two seasons, I’ve always been the optimist with Ovechkin. I was a firm believer that he would eventually rediscover his goal-scoring ways and would be back in the hunt for the Richard. I guess in a lot of ways, I still think it will happen. Yet, this was not why I was embarrassed listening to Milbury tear Ovechkin apart. It’s quite simply because the guy being made the fool was a member of the Washington Capitals.
About F Street Faithful
Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.