Monthly Archives: March 2013

Three possible Mike Ribeiro replacements for the Caps from the Western Conference

I asked through Twitter for suggestions on topics you’d like to see written about.

Here’s the first one we got back:

There are many different ways you can go with this.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Caps either deal Mike Ribeiro by the April 3 NHL trade deadline or don’t re-sign him and then seek to replace him via an off-season trade, the same way the team acquired him last June from the Dallas Stars for prospect Cody Eakin and a 2012 2nd round draft pick.

Before diving into this, if anyone has #fancystat-like insight they wish to provide on the players named below, I welcome and would appreciate your input in the comments. There are also people who follow the three teams mentioned below far more closely than I do, who may be able to offer better perspective on this from the other organizations’ angles. Please feel free to jump in and add your thoughts as well—and that goes for everyone.

10 Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers, Center

Shawn Horcoff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As good as he’s been, finding a replacement for Mike Ribeiro is far from impossible. You can comb NHL rosters and come up with a number of centers that might be a good fit for the Caps second line next year and that Washington could reasonably land in many cases, provided they are willing to pay the asking price.

Let’s rule out an in-conference trade for now and, partly for the sake of simplifying the list of options, focus on three teams currently toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings that might be looking to make some changes. These are also three teams that have not made the playoffs for several consecutive seasons, listed here along with the last time they qualified for post-season play: Calgary (2008-09), Colorado (2009-10) and Edmonton (2005-06).

One that might be better to avoid

We’ll begin with the option that seems to have the most people talking, but that might not make the most sense: Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche.

With a pair of 22 year-old centers in Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene on their roster, the Avalanche could move the 27 year-old Stastny to acquire other assets and free up cap space to fill other needs. Stastny’s numbers have declined the past two or three seasons, dropping below his current .86 points-per-game career average, but he’s still young and has shown the ability to put up big numbers; there have been three seasons when he’s posted just under or above a point per game.

One big issue with trading for Stastny is that he only has one season remaining on his contract, yet will likely cost a good bit to acquire given his age and abilities. If he can not be re-signed, Stastny would become a very expensive one-season rental.

Stastny currently earns $6.7 million, which is above what Ribeiro is likely to make going forward. However, if a team trades for Stastny and decides to commit to a long-term deal with him, it makes far more sense to give one to him at age 28 next year, than it does to sign Ribeiro to one at age 33.

As for the cost to acquire Stastny, Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner writes that the asking price is: “Likely Washington’s first-round pick in the loaded 2013 draft – possibly a top 10 selection, if not higher – and either an NHL roster player or one of the top prospects [Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, Tom Wilson, Riley Barber and Philipp Grubauer].

If the Caps think they can work a deal like this in the off-season, the price they’d need to pay for a player like Stastny is even more reason to deal Ribeiro before the April 3 deadline, allowing Washington to stockpile a few more assets, including another first or second round pick in the deep 2013 draft if possible. But, with or without those assets, a move for Stastny really might not be the best one for the team to make.

The biggest concern of all with a trade for Stastny is that, with prospect Kuznetsov possibly coming to Washington as soon as a year from now, the Caps might not want to acquire a center as young at Stastny, who has such little time left on his deal and likely comes at great cost. The Caps may just need someone to fill the second line center roll for a season or two; it all depends on when Kuznetsov gets to D.C. and how quickly he adjusts to the NHL.

One that sounds like a pretty good fit, if he stays healthy

The Edmonton Oilers have a situation somewhat like the Avs, with two young centers in the picture that could make a more veteran player expendable. As 19 year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 23 year-old Sam Gagner will likely fill the center role on the top two lines going forward, 34 year-old center Shawn Horcoff is an expensive player the team may want to move.

Horcoff is much older than Stastny and has not put up nearly the same numbers, but he’d likely come at a smaller price in trade and has two more seasons left on his contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million.

Horcoff has also put up some decent power play numbers in the past and is known for his leadership and two-way play. He’s less similar to Ribeiro than Stastny is when it comes to offensive numbers, but would be an interesting option for the Caps to consider, especially given the time he has left on his contract and the current stage he’s at in his career.

Horcoff could potentially fill the Caps second line center roll next season and the season after if necessary, with Kuznetsov taking over when ready. The Caps could still look to re-sign Horcoff for less money after that, keeping him as a third line center, an option on the power play and for his defensive play.

One factor that must be considered with Horcoff though is injuries, which have been an issue at times in his career and could occur more the older he gets.

One that’s cheaper, if his current team wants to give him up

The Calgary Flames don’t appear to have a great deal of NHL-level depth at center, but do possess a pivot that could be an interesting fit for the Caps next season, though he’s certainly no Stastny in the offensive production department. He also comes with a much lower salary.

29 year-old center Matt Stajan has two seasons left after this one on a deal that pays him $3.5 million and, while he has not been putting up the same offensive numbers as Ribeiro has, he’s shown signs that he’s capable of contributing more points than he currently is. Perhaps inserting Stajan into what could be a more high-powered offense in Washington would bring back some of the numbers he put up with Toronto a few seasons ago (.72 and .75 points-per-game in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively), giving the Caps a decent second-line center without a long-term commitment or large cap hit.

However, of the three potential Ribeiro replacements discussed here, Stajan may be the player most likely to be held onto by his current team, given salaries and depth at the position.

That’s a start on some replacement options via trade. There are other teams that can be examined and the free agency market can be considered as well. Please use the comments below to add your suggestions or find me on Twitter at @mikeholden.

More on trade or re-sign Ribeiro

Dave Nichols has a new post up on DistrictSportsPage.com explaining why the Caps should re-sign Mike Ribeiro and it’s a good read in the ongoing debate about what the team should do with their second line center.

A long-term deal for Ribeiro (which I look at as anything greater than three years in this case) still concerns me, with the number of years being a bigger issue than whether the cap hit is $5.5 or $6 million, for example. As I said in my post on selling high on Ribeiro, having him until he’s at least 37 as another highly paid player on the team is a risk I’m not sure I’d take, when there could be other options available:

Chances are Ribeiro won’t continue to put up the numbers he is right now for many more years. He’s posted 1.10 points per game this season through Tuesday’s loss in Pittsburgh, while averaging 0.77 per game since joining the NHL in 1999. Only once before has Ribeiro averaged over a point per game for an entire season, back in 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars, and he’s likely to face a decline in production over the coming years now that he’s reached his mid-thirties.

There is the outside chance that Ribeiro could prove his career averages wrong and continue to produce at his current level for a couple or few more years. But the Caps might also be able to get solid production from a less expensive veteran or a slightly younger player in that role, without having to take on the larger risk of a long-term deal, while also freeing up a million or so in cap space to spend on other needs.

NHL.com writer Corey Masisak summed up this sentiment well in a tweet yesterday:

ribeiro tweet

When I suggest the team sell high on Ribeiro at the deadline, it’s not to just walk blindly into next season with no idea of who the second line center will be. As I wrote in my post the other day, if the Caps choose to deal Ribeiro—an idea that gets less appealing with every game they win and the playoffs remaining in the picture—they should have a plan to replace him this summer with another qualified second line center from outside the organization.

On the other side of this, before I could fully embrace the idea of signing Ribeiro long-term at whatever it takes to keep him, I’d need for someone to convince me that it’s unlikely the Caps can find another quality second line center in the summer trade market like they did when they acquired Ribeiro.

Here’s another way to look at this whole situation though:

If Ribeiro’s production declines by the third or fourth year of a new deal with the Caps and his numbers no longer justify the cap hit at some point, it could be viewed as part of the price the team paid for the more productive seasons they might get from him. Granted this season is still one in which Ribeiro’s putting up more points per game than he ever has before, save for one year in Dallas, so he may never match this again…or maybe he will. But if Ribeiro does follow the path of many players at the ages he’ll soon hit, the Caps could just hope to get the most from him in the earlier years and then write off the latter ones as part of the cost of the biggest seasons that he has, which hopefully help to bring the team more playoff success.

Here’s a good analogy that someone used when discussing this with me on Twitter:

My next thought though is, do you keep that expensive car at the risk it loses some power a few years from now? Or do you trade it in by April 3 if there’s a lucrative offer on the table and then replace the car with a less expensive two-year lease this summer (i.e. a guy toward the end of a deal like Ribeiro was when the Caps acquired him) or a younger but established option that might have more big years left to help justify a long-term deal?

If the Caps keep winning though and are in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, a huge piece of this all goes away. So the easy solution is for them to just win the Cup this season, with Ribeiro earning the Conn Smyth. Simple, right? Then George McPhee can just figure the rest out this summer.

The issue in the Caps’ top six forwards

Ovechkin and Backstrom

Oveckin and Backstrom (Photo: Mike Holden)

There are many ways to win consistently in the NHL. One of those can be by having the right talent, another by having a great system and sticking to it. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether it’s offense or defense-oriented or a little of both, a team with a solid approach that plays it well game-after-game can sometimes make up for talent issues on a roster. And even teams with the best players need a good plan.

In this lockout-shortened season that came without a proper training camp and preseason, it’s apparent that the Washington Capitals could have used that time to learn their new coach’s system. It’s also clear that Adam Oates and the Caps could use a bit more talent in certain areas, one of them being within the six forwards on their first two lines.

With the Caps coming off a 4-0 win in Winnipeg Thursday night, now might seem like an odd time to talk about one of the areas where the team is lacking. But, if the Caps keep winning and make the playoffs or even just miss it, the issue could rear its head again. And, going into next season, it will likely need to be addressed for the team to become a true threat.

In their top six forwards, the Caps have three very talented skill players in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro. They also have several wingers who are top six material as a compliment to these players.

For example, Brooks Laich, just back from an injury, is a talented and capable left wing that the team can try pairing up with the Ovechkin-Backstrom duo. 22 year-old Marcus Johansson has struggled to develop further as a player while showing promise at times in his still-young NHL career, but he may be another who can be plugged in alongside Backstrom and Ovechkin as he was on Thursday.

Matt Hendricks has also been tried on the top line, though he may deliver better value skating on a lower one. And it appears that Wojtek Wolski and Jason Chimera are done, at least presently, getting time with the top unit.

On the second line with Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer is a solid choice at right wing. With 11 goals and 21 points in 29 games this season, Brouwer is putting up numbers that justify his $3.6 million cap hit and the move the team made to acquire him two summers ago.

On the left side of the second line, Oates can plug-in any number of players, such as he did with Laich last night while skating Johnasson in that spot on the top line. Eric Fehr is also an option as are some others. However, with their current roster of players, it is here on that left side of Ribeiro that the Caps run into the hole in their top six.

Washington has good players that can be used in this second line role, but they are guys that, when put in a top six spot, should mostly be used to complement a skilled duo. The top line currently has Backstrom and Ovechkin. The second has Ribeiro and needs someone else in the highly skilled department, even with Brouwer putting up some nice numbers this season.

In past years, the Caps had a legitimate goal-scoring threat on the left side of their second line in Alexander Semin, but he rarely had the opportunity to play with a second line-caliber center. The Caps now have that center in Ribeiro, but let Semin go and have yet to properly replace him.

Should Washington play well the next week or so and decide to become buyers at this season’s April 3 trade deadline, a deal for a sniping or highly skilled left wing should be high on their list. And going into October and the 2013-14 season, it’s an issue they should eliminate if they are to become a top team again.

The Caps could get by without this player, if they execute Oates’ system consistently. But even then, to take the team’s play to the next level and make them tougher to shut down, the Caps could use someone to fill this gap in their top six.

The case for trading Mike Ribeiro

Ribeiro Lays a Hard Check on Wideman

Mike Ribeiro (Dallas Stars) Lays a Hard Check on Dennis Wideman (Washington Capitals). Photo credit: clydeorama

The following is one half of a point/counterpoint pair of posts. Ryan Boushell, who leans more toward re-signing Ribeiro, has posted his view on his blog, Rocking the Red in Pittsburgh.

If the Washington Capitals can re-sign center Mike Ribeiro, preferably before the April 3 trade deadline, for two years at close to the $5 million he currently makes per season, they should do so with little hesitation. But, with the supply of first and second line centers in the 2013 free agent market already looking thin and Ribeiro putting up the best numbers of his career, the 33 year-old can likely do better in both dollars and years if he waits and tests the market this summer. This could be his last chance at a big, multi-year payday before signing some smaller contracts in his late thirties.

As well as Ribeiro has played this season, this type of ‘big payday’ contract is something the Caps should avoid in this case. Signing Ribeiro for 4+ years at $5 to $6 million per year, for example, could give a Washington team with large financial commitments to Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green even less room to maneuver in the future and would mean they’d have Ribeiro under contract until he’s at least 37.

Chances are Ribeiro won’t continue to put up the numbers he is right now for many more years. He’s posted 1.10 points per game this season through Tuesday’s loss in Pittsburgh, while averaging 0.77 per game since joining the NHL in 1999. Only once before has Ribeiro averaged over a point per game for an entire season, back in 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars, and he’s likely to face a decline in production over the coming years now that he’s reached his mid-thirties.

There is the outside chance that Ribeiro could prove his career averages wrong and continue to produce at his current level for a couple or few more years. But the Caps might also be able to get solid production from a less expensive veteran or a slightly younger player in that role, without having to take on the larger risk of a long-term deal, while also freeing up a million or so in cap space to spend on other needs.

Additionally, toward the end of any long-term deal given to Ribeiro, Caps prospect Filip Forsberg—who will likely join the team for 2014-15 season—could be pushing him for second line center minutes, depending on how quickly Forsberg adjusts to the NHL. By that point, Ribeiro could be tough to move at $5 to $6 million per year if his production has dipped.

So, if the Caps can sign Ribeiro to a reasonable two or perhaps a three-year deal prior to April 3, that’s one thing. Signing him ‘at all costs’ and for several years at around or well above what he makes now is another story.

If the Caps wait until the summer, they’re likely to overpay for Ribeiro, provided they’re able to keep him at all given the competition they’re likely to see from other buyers. And, unless he’s really enjoying Washington and sees a great future for himself with the organization that outweighs money, Ribeiro would be foolish not to play the free agency game before deciding to return to D.C. All of this creates an interesting situation for the Caps as April 3 approaches.

At no other time of year do NHL general managers give up more for players than they do at the annual trade deadline, as teams attempt to bolster their roster for the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs. A solid second line center having a season like Ribeiro could bring a rather large return, such as a first or second round draft pick and a prospect or roster player, for example.

Another factor to consider is that with other free-agent-to-be centers Ryan Getzlaf now signed to an extension by the Ducks and the Panthers’ Stephen Weiss out for the remainder of the season with an injury, the market for Ribeiro is likely even better now than it was just a few weeks ago. If ever there were an opportunity for the Caps to sell high, this is it.

But, even though getting back big assets for a guy you might need to overpay going forward is attractive, the Caps should have a solid plan in mind to fill the hole that will be left at second line center for 2013-14 before they deal Ribeiro. There are several ways the team can do this.

Given the lack of top-tier, NHL-ready centers in the Caps system and a very young Forsberg still a year away from coming to the U.S., an immediate replacement for Ribeiro will almost certainly need to come from outside the Caps’ system.

One way to do this is through free agency but, as mentioned above, the pool for legitimate, second line centers looks thin this off-season and, just as some general managers tend to overpay in assets at the trade deadline, teams often have to overspend in dollars to land the most in-demand free agents each summer. Unless the Caps can find a veteran with a good year or two left in him, which is certainly a possibility, or come up big in the bargain bin, the best way for the Caps to replace Ribeiro might be the way they brought him to DC: via an off-season trade.

In one of the more ideal scenarios, the Caps could sell high on Ribeiro in the next two weeks to a team looking to make a run at the Cup this year and then trade for a center this summer when they might be able to give up a little less than teams normally do at the deadline. And through a trade, the Caps might find someone toward the end of a deal whose salary is less than what Riberio’s will be next season.

The Caps also might be able to find an offensive-minded center that comes without Ribeiro’s temper and penchant for complaining to the referees, which has resulted in three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 29 games this season. His latest allowed the New York Islanders to score the game winning goal back on March 9.

Now, don’t get me wrong here as I map out these options for a Caps team without Ribeiro. It would be great to see the Caps keep the best second line center they’ve had in years, provided he cuts back on smashing his stick and yelling at refs when he doesn’t agree with a call. But the conditions under which it make sense to keep him, on a fairly short-term deal at close to the salary he currently makes, appear to be somewhat unlikely. And if the packages being offered for Ribeiro at the trade deadline get so valuable due to a bidding war—for example, two or three solid assets via a combination of picks and players—it might make sense for the Caps to unload him even if re-signing him to a short-term deal at his current salary is possible.

While Ribeiro’s numbers would be great to have again next season, balance between present and future is critical to maintaining a competitive roster season after season. If through smart trades now, the Caps can better set up their team for success the season after next—when Forsberg and highly-touted prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov will likely join a team that might already have prospect Tom Wilson with a year of NHL experience under his belt—they need to seriously consider it.

Next season should in no way be written-off though. The Caps need to find an approach where they can compete and have a shot at a long playoff run next year, but without committing to too many big contracts that could handcuff the franchise three or so years from now. A large, long-term contract for a 33 year-old having a career year like Ribeiro sends up red flags in this department.

But all present vs. future strategy and other complexities aside, if re-signing Ribeiro to a responsible deal isn’t looking likely and the Caps playoff chances appear bleak as April 3 approaches, he must be dealt. There’s simply too much to be gained at the deadline to risk letting Ribeiro just walk this summer while getting nothing in return.

For the counterpoint to this, see Ryan Boushell’s post, “To Trade or Not to Trade…”

A look at next season’s Washington Capitals defense and Jeff Schultz

English: Jeff Schultz plays a homegame against...

Jeff Schultz plays a homegame against New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Washington Capitals have four defensemen from their current NHL roster under contract for next season (listed here with their ’13-’14 cap hit, according to CapGeek.com):

Mike Green – $6,083,333
John Carlson – $3,966,667
Jeff Schultz – $2,750,000
John Erskine – $1,962,500

Restricted free agent Karl Alzner, currently making $1,285,000 will certainly be re-signed, at a much higher salary than what he makes now, but for less than what the Caps pay the more offensive-minded Carlson. That would bring the total under contract to five.

Dmitry Orlov, who just returned to action with the AHL Hershey Bears last week after being injured in a December game for them during the NHL lockout, should be back with the Caps next season and will earn $900,000.

Newcomer Steven Oleksy is set to make $541,667 in 2013-14 if he remains at the NHL level, while Tomas Kundratek could be re-signed for a reasonable price and brought back as well. This would bring the Washington defense total to eight players.

Prospects Cam Shilling, just recalled to DC from Hershey, and Patrick Wey, a senior at Boston College, could be in the picture for the Caps next year as well, taking the field to 10.

I’ve left Tom Poti off that list, as I don’t expect him to be back, and Jack Hillen, who has played only one game this year and will be an unrestricted free agent at the season’s end. Hillen could be re-signed as an inexpensive seventh or eighth option on defense for well under $1 million, but it’s difficult to tell his status for next season at this point and I’m going to leave him out of this discussion.

Taking all that into account and not knowing if a trade or free agent signing will occur, here are the defensemen that would be in the picture next season, broken down by the side they shoot from:

Left: Alzner, Erskine, Schultz, Kundratek, Orlov, Schilling

Right: Green, Carlson, Oleksy, Wey

If Capitals coach Adam Oates wants to go with three right-shooting and three left-shooting defensemen in the line-up next season, things look a little thin with the righties if Green continues to battle injuries. Provided he’s healthy, Green, Carlson and Oleksy could make up that side for the Caps, with Wey starting off in Hershey.

With the left-handed shooters, things get more interesting. Alzner will, without a doubt, be an everyday player. Erskine has just been re-signed and though he’s been a seventh defensemen for Washington at times in the past, I expect he’ll be in the line-up regularly based on how he was being utilized by Oates before his recent injury.

If Orlov returns to his form of last season, it will be tough to keep him out of the line-up and Kundratek has shown great promise, with the potential to earn a starting job next season too. Schilling could end up back in Hershey if things shake out this way.

That would leave the seven dmen as: Green, Alzner, Carlson, Erskine, Orlov, Kundratek and Oleksy. If there’s an injury and an eighth is needed, Shilling or Wey could be called up, depending on how they’re playing and whether a right or left shot is needed.

There’s one guy I’ve left out of the group: Jeff Schultz.

I’ve never been a Schultz hater. While there are flaws in his game, as there are with many players, he often gets blamed for more than he deserves. He’s been somewhat like Alex Semin was for the Caps on a smaller scale, getting called out for his mistakes more than other players and not given some credit when he deserves it. But I do think Schultz and his $2,750,000 salary next season are something the Caps could do without.

With what will likely be an abundance of left-handed shooting defensemen going into training camp and younger, less expensive options like Kundratek and Orlov, now might be the time for the Caps to take what they can get for Schultz, freeing up nearly $3 million for next season to spend on other pieces, such as Top 6 forwards.

If a team is looking for an experienced dman in the off-season and is willing to take Schultz for a prospect or a pick, the Caps should pull the trigger. Depending on their playoff position and the health of Orlov, the Caps could even look to make a move like that before the April 3 trade deadline.

Another option is for the Caps to include Schultz as part of a package this off-season or during ’13-’14 to fill another of the team’s needs, which could be a Top 6, goal-scoring forward or a right-shooting, offensive defenseman if Green can’t stay healthy. The team will also need a second line center if Mike Ribeiro isn’t back next season.

But whatever the approach, with things looking crowded for left-handed defensemen next season, moving Schultz is certainly one way the Caps could free up some cap space to address some other areas where the team is short on talent. And this has more to do with cost and other assets in the organization than it does with Schultz’s abilities.

Soon might be the time for Caps to trade goaltender Michal Neuvirth

Neuvirth Catches Puck

Neuvirth Catches Puck (Photo credit: clydeorama)

Much of what I’ve written below could go right out the window if the Washington Capitals continue winning because you don’t necessarily want to be an injury away from Phillip Grubauer in net for the playoffs just yet…

Should the Caps decide between now and the April 3 NHL trade deadline to not re-sign soon-to-be free agent center Mike Ribeiro, they have a coveted asset to sell when teams often give up more for players than at any other time. As a club with several holes to fill in its roster, a Ribeiro trade could be an opportunity for the Caps to pick up somewhere between one and three players or draft picks that could help them next season or beyond.

The Caps have another, less-often-discussed player they might be able to move at the deadline for an asset or two as well, provided they’re no longer in the playoff hunt or simply want to take a risk now for possible reward in the future: Goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

There’s no chance that Neuvirth would bring the Caps the same return that the veteran Ribeiro and his more-than-a-point-per-game average would at the deadline but, particularly given the number of injured goalies around the league at the moment, there might be some takers for the soon-to-be 25-year-old netminder.

Nuevirth will be a restricted free agent this July and he could very well be re-signed and back with the Caps for next season. But keeping Neuvirth may not be the best way for the Caps to put the best team on the ice for the next few seasons.

This week on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM, Yahoo Puck Daddy blogger Greg Wyshynski said that Braden Holtby seems to be the guy the Caps want in net, citing his mental game as one of the reasons.

If Holtby is the guy the Caps want in goal the majority of the time going forward, then it makes some sense to deal Neuvirth now, when teams could use him down the stretch, either as a back-up or as a starter, and to compete for a number one spot next season.

The New Jersey Devils—who have 40-year-old Martin Brodeur dealing with back pain, 39-year-old back-up Johan Hedberg struggling and two AHL goalies without almost no NHL experience—might be one possible trade partner for Washington.

There are other teams in the playoff race that lack experienced goaltending depth or are only an injury away—during a condensed season that has brought many for goaltenders—from having their back-up in net and mostly unproven AHL prospects on the bench. And if an in-conference trade, as a deal with New Jersey would be, isn’t the Caps’ preference, several teams in the Western Conference fit this description. A read through GoalieGuild.com’s March 2013 depth charts provides some good perspective on where each team stands. No one is necessarily desperate enough to make a move just yet, but they could be in the coming weeks.

It’s extremely doubtful that the Caps will find someone willing to give them what the Colorado Avalanche gave them for goaltender Semyon Varlamov back in 2011: a first and a second round pick. But if the playoffs look out of sight for the Caps at some point and they get an offer half as good as what Colorado gave them, they should take it. The Caps could even consider a Neuvirth trade regardless of the playoff picture, provided they’re comfortable enough with Grubauer as a back-up.

Then this off-season, the Caps can sign a veteran back-up for Holtby for close to what it would cost them to re-sign Neuvirth. The team would then have an insurance goalie behind Holtby for next season, with Grubauer getting more time to develop at the AHL level. And the Caps would have the additional asset or two they got for Neuvirth as well.

Hockey writer and analytics specialist Neil Greenberg on The Tony Kornheiser Show

Hockey writer Neil Greenberg was a guest today on The Tony Kornheiser Show. Kornheiser has referenced Greenberg’s writing recently on-air, appearing to become somewhat of a fan of the advanced hockey stats expert and Washington Post, ESPN contributor. Here are some highlights from today’s appearance, Greenberg’s first ever on the show:

Greenberg on drinking from the Stanley Cup after the Rangers won it in 1994:

“I was frequenting some of the bars in Nassau County…there were people taking pictures with the Cup outside of one of the bars, so we stood in line. As soon as I turned the corner to enter the bar, someone said, ‘Do you want to drink from the Stanley Cup’ and I said ‘Absolutely.'”

On Alex Ovechkin’s decline:

“He’s getting older. There’s two things that are happening. One is just your general age progression. People have a misconception as to when hockey players, especially goalscorers, peak. It’s typically between the ages of 22 and 24 and then you start to see a down-slope at age 27. Ovechkin has pretty much been in that exact pattern.”

“If you look at how Ovechkin scored his goal early on in his career when he entered the league it was by a volume of shots. It was more quantity than it was quality. He led the league with 425 shots when he came in. He was just a completely dynamic player that tossed rubber at the [net] from ever angle. And as those shots per game decreased, it took the goal scoring along with it. And what we’re seeing now is a player who’s putting up 300 shots on goals as opposed to 500 and 400 shots on goal. So, the goal scoring numbers are going to come down. Now, to his credit those shots on goal have up-ticked a little this year but a lot of goal scoring is also luck. You have a clank of the pipe here, it goes through the wickets there. He hasn’t been seeing a whole lot of puck luck as maybe he’s had in the past. He’s just going to be the 50 goal scorer that he was probably ever again.”

On if Ovechkin is an assist guy, a set-up guy like Gretzky or Lemiuex, with room to elevate his game:

“Ovechkin is a good passer. I think that’s actually one of the most underrated parts of his game. However, he’s not Gretzky, he’s not Lemieux. He’s not going to tally a whole bunch of points from… [Kornheiser jumps in and says, “He’s not Crosby.”] He’s certainly not Crosby. So, he’s not going to be getting points that way. The switch to right wing was an effort to get him away from that overpowering move he had down the left side where he would go down the left wall and try to cut in and score the goal that way, because that just wasn’t working anymore. The defenses have caught up to that. So, you’re right. His points are going to come from goals and, unless he starts to adapt his game a little bit more on the right wing, we’re going to see some 25 to 30 goal seasons.”

On Ovechkin making “a lot of money”

“That’s where people’s expectations, I think, are coming unglued because they see on paper this 65, 50 goal scorer that’s making $10 million and they think that’s going to happen in perpetuity. But, look, the Ovechkin contract was a bad contract. When they signed Ovechkin to that contract, for that period of time, it was a bad deal. And you can never expect a goal scorer to score 60, 50, 60 goals a year for ten years. It’s just not reality.”

On if the Caps know what Greenberg knows about Ovechkin

“I think so. Hockey analytics has definitely become bigger in the past couple years, however you still have, and I’m not speaking specifically about the Caps, but in the NHL in general, there are some teams that are embracing it. I know that Tampa Bay has a hockey analytics guy on staff, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Calgary, some other teams are embracing it. But, as far as the Capitals are concerned, they seem to trust the coaches more than the numbers. An I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. However, I think that there’s room for both, especially when you’re looking at player evaluation.

[I’m going to interrupt this transcription, as I’ve just read on Twitter that Russian Machine has sent out a transcription of the entire interview. So, rather than duplicate work, check the Russian Machine Never Breaks transcript of Neil Greenberg on the Tony Kornheiser Show by Peter Hassett and I’ll go write something else.]

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: