Monthly Archives: February 2012

Jeff Carter to the Caps: What could have been

I’m already on record about why I think the Caps should have traded for Jeff Carter.   Unfortunately, Carter, a sure-fix to the Caps biggest need, has found a new home in Los Angeles.  I could go on about how a 27 year old offensively gifted center, who is a responsible two-way player and affordable (both in cap hit and trade price), could have gone a long way to fixing what ails even a healthy Caps team.  I could go on about how the 2C hole has become the Achilles heel of George McPhee’s tenure and this was likely his best shot at fixing it.  But I won’t.  Instead of 1,000 words on what could have been had the Caps traded for Jeff Carter, I’ll leave you with this picture.

Photo edit by Justin Michaliga (@jmichaliga)

Copy of the original Richards-Carter image here

“Call it heart or soul or character or whatever you want…”

Picture via @japersrink

This quote is nearly two years old and came after the Washington Capitals blew a 3-1 series lead against Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 playoffs. But there are times, like right now, when it still seems somewhat appropriate.

“Call it heart or soul or character or whatever you want, but the Capitals don’t seem to have it. And until they find it, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be more of these shocking conclusions in the nation’s capital.”

ESPN’s Scott Burnside, April 2012

C’mon! Let’s! Go! Caps! With emphasis on the “Go!”

Weekend recap

English: Alex Ovechkin, 2009

Alex Ovechkin - Image via Wikipedia

In case you missed anything, below are links to all the happenings this weekend at BrooksLaichyear.com:

Caps-Bolts: Ovechkin’s other options with 25 seconds left

With about 25 seconds to go in last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals down by a goal, I would have liked to have seen Alex Ovechkin pass the puck to a teammate rather than hold it and eventually shoot from a bad angle (see video embedded below).

Troy Brouwer was open and then, after Ovechkin comes out from behind the net, John Carlson appears to have been open as he was cutting in from the point. Carlson might have had the whole top right corner of the net open for a quick shot, with Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon down in a butterfly position and over toward the left post.

Just putting the puck on net like Ovechkin eventually did isn’t a bad idea in that situation, but he had better options and they would have involved some puck movement, which is often a very good thing—in fact, it’s what led to the Caps only goal of the game.

Eight year anniversary of Washington Capitals trade for Brooks Laich

[Laich] has played more games (531) in a Capitals sweater after the lockout than any other player.

– read more at Dump ‘n’ Chase

Looking at the bigger picture and the dollars of the Caps continued season ticket price increases

Caps - Red Wings game at Verizon Center - 10/22/11 - Section 409

Caps-Red Wings at Verizon Center, 10/22/11 - the view from 409

The Caps announced season ticket prices for next season and for many customers this means an increase for the fifth straight year.

Owner Ted Leonsis noted in a message to plan holders: “Most of you will see a change, an average increase of about 8%. Some seat prices have changed more than others, while some have stayed the same and a few seating areas actually have decreased in price. I realize no one wants to pay more, but our season-ticket pricing has been moderate when compared with others around the league.”

An average increase of 8% one year might not sound like a lot. But increases year-over-year work like compound interest and this one combined with those of the past four years has resulted in a dramatic increase in the total cost to plan holders for their Caps tickets. As an example, I was chatting with my father about the price of his 400 level seats over the past five years and here’s the total cost for his two seats by year, which are going up 12.5% for next season:

2008-09  $1713
2009-10  $1882
2010-11  $2478
2011-12  $2903
2012-13  $3266

So, in five years, the cost of his season tickets has almost doubled, increasing by 90.7% in going up $1553, from $1713 in 2008-09 to $3266 for next season. During this span, the Caps have been incredibly exciting to watch the majority of the time and have become the hottest ticket in D.C. But, the team has not advanced past the second round of the playoffs during this time and each of their post-season exits has featured some rather uninspiring play. Not since the 2007-08 playoff loss in seven games to the Flyers has it appeared as if the team left it all out on the ice as they were eliminated. In series losses to Pittsburgh (’08-’09), Montreal (’09-’10) and Tampa Bay (’10-’11), the team looked flat and unable to push over the hump to take their post-season game to the next level.

For team management, the justification for constant price increases is likely more about demand and Caps season ticket holder data than how each season has ended. A waiting list for season tickets, a sell out streak that dates back multiple seasons now and a “slightly better than 98%” renewal rate last season signals the Caps can get away with pushing prices upward every year. Looking at it this way, what the Caps are doing makes sense—they’re striking while they can and taking in dollars that their data is telling them are there to be grabbed.

However, after price increases for so many seasons in a row and large ones the past two years, a current team that would not make the playoffs if the season ended today, and signs that the resale market for Caps tickets might be softening, it would have been a good PR move for the Caps to give their loyal customers a break this year. But the truth is, for any plan holder they lose, the Caps likely have someone waiting to take their place right now.

This aggressive approach the Caps front office is taking with ticket prices appears to be working for them currently, but it has some potential to backfire long term if enough fans are left with a bad taste in their mouth from the constant increases and the team hits a rough patch, missing the playoffs for a year or two, or continuing to disappoint when they make it.

Meanwhile, up the road in Baltimore, the Ravens announced they will not raise ticket prices FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR. This is a team that was potentially one dropped pass (or bad call, depending on how you look at it) away from going to the Super Bowl this season. On their decision to leave prices alone again, Ravens President Dick Cass said, “We know that our fans are continuing to be stretched financially to pay for season tickets. While the economy is improving, it’s still not strong.”

Here in D.C., the Caps continue to push it with their price increases, pouncing on the chances before them to drive their revenues upward.  If the team on the ice attacked their opportunities each spring in the same manner, this might be easier to accept.

Related articles

Why Paul Gaustad makes sense for the Caps

I recently wrote that I thought Jeff Carter was the guy the Caps needed to go after instead of the safer options like Saku Koivu (although, with the Ducks’ recent run, he may be off the market) Derek Roy or any other center from Columbus.

Adam over at Kings of Leonsis recently brought up the name of Steve Ott, which is a suggestion as unique as it is interesting.  I hadn’t thought off Ott as an option but as I read Adam’s post, the name made more and more sense to me.

While I still want the Caps to pursue Carter first and foremost, Ott has been a distant second on my wish list but his remaining years on his contract make me a little hesitant.  Enter pending UFA, Paul Gaustad.

Why he fits

  • He is over 56% in the faceoff circle.  Between him and Jeff Halpern, the Caps would be set on draws.
  • If the Caps can’t bring in a legit 2C (in my opinion, the only one worth pursuing is Jeff Carter) then I think the next best option is to put Brooks Laich there (I’m not saying Laich is better than the other options, it is more of a Cost-Benefit analysis thing).  Bringing Gaustad in to play 3C would allow the Caps to put Laich with Semin and Johansson or Knuble on the 2nd line and give them a gritty shutdown line of Gaustad, Chimera and Ward.
  • I’ve mentioned on the site before that I think team toughness is an issue the Caps need to address.  I think adding a player who is listed at 6′ 5″ 220lbs with 580 PIM’s in 474 career games would go a long way in addressing that issue.
  • He is a UFA at the end of the season so we won’t be handcuffed with any type of long-term deal and his cap hit of $2.3 million for this season could fit on this team without GMGM having to get too creative.
  • He should come relatively cheap compared to other options that have been mentioned as trade deadline targets for the Caps.  I think a 2nd round  pick, if that, could get the deal done.  If not, I certainly don’t think any prospect/player added to the deal would be one that would make Caps fans cringe.

I spoke above about cost-benefit analysis, something that I think GMGM is generally very good at come deadline day (contract extensions are a different story).  He generally does a very good job at finding a player who is a nice fix for the Caps without mortgaging the future to bring that guy in.

In my post about Jeff Carter I said it was time to abandon that philosophy and I still largely stand by that.  However, if GMGM sticks to his general deadline day philosophy, I think a name that makes a lot of sense for the Caps is Paul Gaustad.

How to see a Washington Capitals hockey game without spending a ton

Caps Jets ticket order on StubHubLast week, I noted unusually low ticket prices for a Caps game, as they were facing the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night at Verizon Center and 400 level tickets had dropped to $15 that afternoon on StubHub. I waited until just before 5 p.m. that night and ended up getting tickets for $8.99 each; this was for 400 level tickets that had a face value of $55 a piece. So I basically got five seats for what one would cost at face value—it’s not often you can do that for a Caps game. Granted, the team hasn’t been playing well lately and is missing some star players, but this was two days after the team had reclaimed first place with a big win at home over Florida, and before the recent losses to the Rangers and Sharks.

Looking at the team’s upcoming schedule on StubHub*, the current prices and the inventory available there, there could be some more bargain nights ahead for Caps fans looking to attend a game without spending as much as it usually takes. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get $8.99 tickets when a team like the Flyers come to town next month but—if you’re willing to go on a week night and see an opponent that’s either not near the top of the standings or a Southeast Division team that the Caps face multiple times a season—there will likely be some deals to be had. There were even some tickets available this past Monday afternoon for under $20 on StubHub for that night’s game against the San Jose Sharks, a good team that doesn’t come to town that often.

In order to get the best possible prices, keep an eye on the list of Caps home games on StubHub and wait it out until the day of the game if you can. On game day, prices can drop quite a bit as people look to dump their tickets for whatever they can get. The day of the Caps-Jets game last week, the lowest priced ticket on StubHub went from $15 at around 4pm down to $8.99 when I bought them just before 5pm. If you’re going to try this approach, it’s important to note that StubHub stops sales two hours before game time.

Here are the upcoming games that look like they have a chance at getting fairly inexpensive:

On Tuesday, February 28, the New York Islanders come to town. There are a little over 1,700 tickets available on StubHub and the cheapest seat is currently $21.

The Carolina Hurricanes visit on Tuesday, March 6 and tickets start at $27 right now on Stub Hub, with more than 2,000 available.

For Thursday, March 8, there are more than 2,000 tickets available on StubHub when the Caps host the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the cheapest tickets are currently $29.

There could be some other games to keep an eye on after that, like when the Jets visit again on March 23, though that’s a Friday and those games sometimes don’t get as cheap as Tuesday games, for example. The Sabres visit on Tuesday, March 27 and then Florida comes to town on Thursday, April 5. That’s the final home game of the year and tickets are only $26 right now. Whether prices for that game against the Panthers go up or down from here could depend a lot on what the playoff picture looks like as that date gets closer.

* I don’t mention the Capitals TicketExchange because there seems to be a floor below which a ticket’s price can not be sold there. From what I’ve seen, it appears buyers looking for the lowest overall price are better off using StubHub.

Caps at the deadline: What won’t, what should and what shouldn’t happen

Whether George McPhee’s job hangs in the balance over what the Caps do the rest of the season is pure speculation.  However, I know this: If I am George McPhee, I’d be approaching this trade deadline as if my job does hang in the balance.  The regression of this team over the past two years has been drastic and, if they miss the playoffs this season, the changes in the organization before training camp next year could be as well.

The Caps won’t be trading for Rick Nash

Stop. No way.  0% chance. I’m not even sure why the possibility of this happening has even been mentioned.  I thought the Prince Fielder to the Orioles rumors would take the cake for the most unrealistic local sports talk for the next few years.  Turns out those rumors have been topped.  First of all, the asking price is sure to be something far beyond what would make sense for the Caps.  I’d guess it’d start with a 1st round pick, Carlson/Orlov/Alzner (pick one) and a young center who wears #90 (more on him in a bit).  That right there is way too much and I’m not convinced that would get it done.  More importantly, acquiring Rick Nash would do nothing to even remotely address what this team needs.  The last thing the Caps need is another winger, even if that winger is an elite player.

The Caps should trade for Jeff Carter

This Carter-to-Caps talk has come up a lot recently, but for good reason.  It makes sense.  I’ve been a huge proponent of McPhee’s general trade deadline philosophy of bringing in the right part at the right time for the right price.  He hasn’t given up valuable long-term assets, hasn’t locked the club into any long/bad contracts all while making moves that seemed to adequately address what the team needs.  However, the 2nd line center issue has become the Achilles heel for a team that just can’t seem to get over the hump when it matters.   Eric Belanger, Jason Arnott and Sergei Fedorov  all made sense and were in line with the philosophy spelled out above.  The problem is none of these guys put the team over the hump and now this team stands in danger of missing the playoffs and that could very well cost McPhee his job.   So, while a guy like Saku Koivu or Derek Roy involves a lot less risk for the Caps, it is in line with an approach we have seen fail repeatedly.  The time has come for McPhee to stop making the safe and smart play at the deadline and make a bold all-in type move.

The Caps should not consider trading away any of their top 4 young d-men

True, John Carlson has had a rough year.  And yes, the day will eventually come when the Caps can’t afford Carlson, Karl Alzner, Dmitri Orlov and Mike Green.  But that day is not today and the Caps have time until their hand is forced on this issue.  They do run the risk of holding onto an asset only to see it depreciate in value but I’m willing to take that risk when it comes to these 4 guys.   These 4, and a couple other players, would be the untouchables if I’m George McPhee.

The Capitals should consider trading Marcus Johansson

Keep reading.  Even if you disagree, in the end you may at least understand that I’m not insane to suggest this.  First and foremost, I’m not advocating trading Johnansson. However,  I’m also not willing to take the idea off the table under all circumstances.  One of those circumstances is a deal that brings the Caps a player who could fill the 2C spot for at least the next five years (see: Carter, Jeff).  I wouldn’t trade Johansson for Koivu, Roy or any other possible short-term fix at 2C.  I’d only advocate trading our likely future 2C if in return we get a 2C who is the closest thing to an instant sure-fix as you can get.  Yes, we’d miss him.  Yes, he could become the 2C that we’ve longed for for entirely too long.  But the simple fact right now is that Johansson is not a solution at 2C and Jeff Carter is.  To be clear, I’m not even suggesting we dangle Johansson as bait for Carter.  What I am saying is that if his inclusion in a package for Carter was a make or break thing for the Blue Jackets, I’d make the deal.

It will be very interesting to see what McPhee does over the next couple of weeks.  The one thing that appears to be certain is that it’ll be anything but boring.

Rare Eagle’s Nest-like prices for tonight’s Caps-Jets game in D.C.

Back before the Rock the Red era took hold, when the Caps weren’t selling out game after game like they do now, the team sold the top row seats at the end of the arena for $10 each. They called these seats the Eagle’s Nest.

At some point, as demand for Caps tickets rose, those $10 seats went away and it’s not often that you can get into a game for anywhere near that price these days.

But for tonight’s Caps game vs. the Winnipeg Jets, there are tickets in the 400 level for as low as $15 on Stub Hub as of late this afternoon. That’s a great price!

Caps-Jets StubHub

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