F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 02/08/12 at 01:53 PM ET
Last spring, the NHL watched as Joel Ward, a defense-first power forward, had a bit of a coming-out party in the playoffs. Despite being averaging less than a half of a point a game, Ward led his Nashville Predators with 7 goals and 6 assists while averaging over 20 minutes per game (he only averaged 17 in regular season). With the Capitals having seen their offence dry up in the post season, specifically the likes of Alex Semin and Mike Green, George McPhee was keen to spend money, if it meant getting more goals in the postseason. With Ward taking offers from several angles, McPhee admittedly overpaid for the winger.
Just over 6 months later, McPhee has to be having some second thoughts. His 4 year, $12 million investment is starting to look worse and worse. Under Bruce Boudreau, Ward saw some decent production early on. While he wasn’t necessarily racking up points, he was a part of the meat-and-potatoes line, along with Chimera and Laich, that was the most consistent. Since the changing of the guard, Ward has seen his production drop, only 1 goal under Hunter, and, subsequently, his ice time. In each of the last 6 games, Ward has skated under 10 minutes. That is less than half of the time he was seeing in Nashville. Ward was brought here to bring some goals to the bottom 6. McPhee obviously saw something that made him think Ward would be better for the Caps than Eric Fehr. Given their numbers, Ward is out-producing him (Fehr only has 1 G and 1 A in 29 games), but I would be willing to be McPhee still is not happy with his investment.
Any team can put together a solid 1st line, but the teams that contend are able to generate offense from the bottom 6 are those that succeed. While Malkin and Crosby certainly contributed to their title in 2009, it was the work of guys like Talbot and Kennedy deserve equal the credit. While a top line might be able to win you some games, it is guys like Ward (when performing well) that get the team to an elite status. With Ward on form, teams no longer can focus all their work on stopping Ovechkin and Semin. Now while it is true that guys like Hendricks, Perreault, Eakin, and Aucoin could provide the spark from time to time, they are also more easily moved. Ward, with his low numbers and high $, is going to be difficult to move and hope to recoup anything worth-while. The Capitals will certainly be looking to reinforce some of the line-up at the looming deadline. If Ward has not righted the ship, the Capitals might be forced to look to move somebody like Perreault or Eakin to bring in that depth scoring. But if Ward can start to turn things around, the Capitals will be looking at a new goal threat and be able to keep their young guys. For me, Ward has never had as much of an impact as he could in the coming weeks.
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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.
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