Author Archives: Mike Holden
Washington General Manager Brian MacLellan’s Interesting Comments on Brooks Orpik’s Role with the Caps
Defenseman’s Large Contract Even More Puzzling Now, Two Years Into Five-Year-Deal
In the summer of 2014, Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan inked rugged, nearly 34-year-old, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik to a five-year, 27.5 million dollar deal. Despite needing to fill gaping holes in their defense, the choice of Orpik at that price and length of contract was an odd move.
In the years leading up to the Orpik signing, the NHL had begun a shift toward a style of play that places more value on smoother-skating, puck-moving backenders, things Orpik —more of a throwback to the days of crease-clearing, “HIT SOMEONE!” defensemen—really is not.
Perhaps more importantly, by the time he received that long-term contract from the Caps, Orpik had reached an age when most NHL players experience a decline in their performance. Locking up a player who no longer fits the modern day blue-liner mold, through the season when he’ll be 38-years-old and at such a high salary, didn’t seem like a great idea.
Hours before the Caps and Orpik struck that deal two summer ago and not knowing who the team might make offers to, my brother Pat tweeted, “We all agree that the worst possible thing the Caps could do today, including standing pat, is to sign Brooks Orpik, right?”
But, maybe MacLellan saw the former Boston College player as a guy who could deliver value worthy of the contract that currently makes him the second-highest-paid Caps defensemen, just $250,000 a year behind Matt Niskanen. The 2009 Stanley Cup winner may have fit into the team’s plans in ways some outside the Washington front office couldn’t see.
If that was true at the time of the 2014 signing, recent comments by MacLellan make it hard to believe. The GM’s May 2016 remarks better support the thinking of those who’ve been skeptical of the Orpik signing for the past two years.
Addressing the media a few days after this season’s second round playoff loss to Pittsburgh, MacLellan spoke about the Caps’ trade deadline acquisition of defenseman Mike Weber. “I mean, did we need a higher-caliber defenseman? Maybe. But it was difficult to trade those off because you’re going to bring in a guy that’s going to jump in front of [Nate Schmidt] and jump in front of [Dmitry] Orlov and jump in front of Orpik,” he explained.
It was clear this season that Orpik was at-best the fourth defensemen on the Caps depth chart, with Niskanen, John Carlson and Karl Alzner ahead of him. MacLellan’s comment regarding the Weber acquisition hints he may feel similarly about Orpik’s place on the team.
At times, it could also have been argued that Schmidt ranked ahead of Orpik, with Orlov showing flashes of potential to do so as well. With a little more experience, both of those young players may soon remove any doubt they’ve surpassed Orpik in the value they bring to the Washington lineup.
In a May 24 radio interview, MacLellan touched on a piece of this, saying, “There’s an offensive upside to Orlov and there’s ability for him to move up in our lineup, and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t limit him in his ability to move there. I would count on him developing and getting to that next level. I mean, the idea would be, Brooks Orpik plays a little less minutes and Orlov plays a little bit more, maybe he moves into the top four for part of the time. That would be ideal situation, but we’ll have to see how he comes into camp.”
Clearly there’s the possibility in MacLellan’s mind that, as early as this coming season, the fourth highest paid skater on the Caps roster is playing in the team’s bottom defensive pairing, which brings to mind the question: If MacLellan is thinking that now, what was he thinking when he signed Orpik just two years ago? A player recently handed one of the biggest contracts on the roster shouldn’t fall down the ranks to fourth or lower on the depth chart so quickly, unless maybe he shouldn’t have been given that lucrative a contract to begin with.
Even as a fifth or sixth defenseman, could Orpik still provide valuable minutes as a penalty killer? Sure. Did he provide an immediate upgrade to a thin defense that badly needed it going into the 2014-15 season? Yes. Does he bring leadership and experience as a Stanley Cup champion to the Caps locker room? Most certainly. Could he likely be helping some of the team’s younger defensemen adjust to the NHL? Absolutely.
However, none of those needs requires a five-year, $5.5 million cap hit to address it. Players filling Orpik’s role in Washington can be had for far less and, just two seasons after losing him to free agency, Orpik’s former team in Pittsburgh is back in the Stanley Cup Finals without him. Like most players, Orpik is replaceable, regardless of what intangibles he may have brought to Washington.
If the Caps win the Stanley Cup next season, none of this may matter much in the short term. But, if Washington loses in next year’s playoffs due to not having enough of the right kind of talent in the lineup, and wishes they’d had room under the salary cap to add another piece or two, the Orpik contract could be pointed to as Exhibit A for why they weren’t able to do that. It could be argued it already was an issue this past season, possibly preventing the Caps from acquiring the aforementioned “higher-caliber defenseman” than Weber or another player.
Given his recent comments about the team’s plans, the guy who signed Orpik to that deal could be thinking similar thoughts, which raises the question of why MacLellan—who’s otherwise made shrewd moves since being named GM in 2014—didn’t see this coming two years ago and implement a different solution for filling the Caps’ needs on defense.
Read another post by Mike Holden:
The NHL Playoffs Are Broken
Pat Holden on Japers’ Rink Radio Talking Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Andre Burakovsky and John Carlson
BrooksLaichyear co-founder Pat Holden joined Adam Stringham on Japers’s Rink Radio to talk Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Andre Burakovsky, and John Carlson. Stream it at the link below.
And if you missed it earlier this month, Pat was also on Episode 84 of the PDOcast with Dimitri Filipovic.
BrooksLaichyear founder and Russian Machine Never Breaks/Today’s Slapshot writer Pat Holden joined Dimitri Filipovic on Episode 84 of the PDOcast. The two discussed the firing of Bruce Boudreau by Anaheim, the Penguins and Capitals Round 2 series, Tom Wilson and whether he crosses the line, how good Andre Burakovsky is and more. Stream it below or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and at hockeypdocast.com.
The Definitive Guide to Unofficial 2016 Washington Capitals Out of Town Stanley Cup Playoffs Viewing Parties
Fans have been posting online about getting together in various cities to watch Caps games during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here you’ll find all the viewing party-related posts we know about so far.
Some of what’s listed below are gatherings that have already been coordinated and others are as simple as fans asking who else near them knows of a good place to meet up with other Caps fans to watch the games.
Those looking to buy 2015 Winter Classic tickets through resellers like StubHub or NHL TicketExchange should focus on two things right now if they’re wondering how much they might have to pay for tickets:
- Where the game will be held: The venue for this game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the host Washington Capitals has not been determined but, when it comes to ticket prices, a football stadium would be preferable over a baseball stadium. As you’ll see below in data from SeatGeek, this often results in lower secondary market ticket prices since the football stadiums have a larger seating capacity.
- When to buy tickets: Based on previous Winter Classics, the key to buying tickets through the secondary marketing will be to wait. History shows that if you can wait until just under a week before the Winter Classic to buy your tickets, you’ll likely pay less for them.
Here’s some data and insight from Jason Weingold at SeatGeek that dives deeper on this:
- “The Washington Capitals will be participating in the Winter Classic for the second time, and will be hosting the game for the first time. While the location is yet to be announced, prevailing speculation says that the game will take place at Nationals Park over FedEx Field, which does not bode well for fans hoping to score cheap tickets. Nationals Park can hold 41,418 fans — less than half of FedEx Field’s capacity of 85,000 — which means there would be less supply and higher prices on the resale market. For the last Winter Classic held at a baseball stadium (Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2012), the average price paid for a seat on the secondary market was $471, nearly double the combined average ticket price of the 2011 and 2014 games held at football stadiums ($245). [Author’s note: See the next bullet point from SeatGeek for how last year’s game in Michigan had a big effect on this].”
- “An average ticket for the 2011 Winter Classic featuring the Penguins and Capitals at Heinz Field (capacity of 68,111) cost fans an average of $409 on the secondary market, and there were a total of about 11,000 tickets resold. The 2012 game pit the Rangers against the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park (seats 46,967) in Philadelphia, and the average price of a ticket rose 15% to $471; there were also more tickets resold — an estimated total of 13,000. The next Winter Classic in 2014 featured a long-anticipated matchup between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at the Big House, Michigan Stadium, which welcomed a record 105,491 fans, and that increased supply of tickets (an estimated 24,000 were resold on secondary markets) brought the average resale price down to $172 per seat.”
- “The NHL has also experimented with other outdoor games in the past. The 2013-2014 season featured five other outdoor games: the Heritage Classic in Canada and four games in the United States collectively called the “Stadium Series.” The first Stadium Series game took place at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, where the average ticket cost $190. The Rangers then played twice at Yankee Stadium — first against the Devils (average ticket price of $231) and second against the Islanders ($141). The fourth game was between the Penguins and Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago (average ticket price of $248). The 2011 Heritage Classic featured the Flames and Canadiens at McMahon Stadium in Calgary (average ticket price of $253), and the 2014 game set the Canucks against the Senators at BC Place in Vancouver (average ticket price of $153).”
- “The 2015 Winter Classic should end up being a record-breaking home game for the Capitals in terms of demand. Since 2010, the most in-demand regular season home game for the Caps was on Feb. 6, 2011 against Pittsburgh, when fans spent an average of $166 per ticket on the secondary market. Even in the playoffs, the highest average ticket price we’ve recorded for a Caps game at the Verizon Center is $221 for Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers.”
- “The Capitals have only hosted the Blackhawks once since we began collecting pricing data, and that came on April 11 earlier this year. The average ticket to that game at the Verizon Center cost $122 on the resale market.”
- “By taking a look at pricing trends for the past three Winter Classic games, we’ve found that the best time to buy a ticket has been a little less than a week before the game. In 2011, the average ticket price bottomed out at $343 five days before the game, having fallen 24% in 17 days from a peak of $450. Prices for the 2012 game followed a similar pattern, dipping to a low of $391 six days before the drop of the puck (down 22% from $500 with two weeks to go before the game). Last season, the average price fell continuously throughout December, dropping 57% from $239 with 30 days to go before the game to just $103 per ticket the night before.”
Thanks to Jason and SeatGeek for pulling that all together. They also provided the chart below, which illustrates how waiting until just under a week before the game is often the best approach for finding the lowest secondary ticket market prices for a Winter Classic.
My son provided the inspiration for the name of this blog. As mentioned in the first post I wrote here in 2012, “my hockey-crazy three-year-old son is under the impression that number 21 for the Caps and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story share the same last name: Laichyear. It cracked me up the first time he mentioned the name “Brooks Laichyear” while telling me a story about a Caps game. And [my brother] Pat and I filed it away as what we’d name our Caps blog if we ever started one. ”
He’s six now and played his first hockey game Saturday. Below is the video of his first goal.
And you may have noticed there hasn’t been any blogging happening on BrooksLaichyear for the past few months. My brother is busy with his last year of grad school and I started a new job in the fall, plus my wife and I just welcomed our fourth baby into the world. But here’s one of those kids scoring his first ice hockey goal.
Caps play-by-play man John Walton: “Thug hockey back” in Philly; Calls Flyers goalie Ray Emery’s actions “a disgrace” and worthy of NHL suspension
From Washington Capitals radio play-by-play man John Walton’s call of the Ray Emery-Braden Holtby incident last night (Listen to it on Walton’s blog through the link below):
“Emery takes him down. Oh my goodness. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Ray Emery sucker punching Holtby. He’s still punching him. The referee hasn’t stopped it yet. Oh what a dirty play by Ray Emery. Taking Braden Holtby down. Thug hockey back in town. You’re losing by a touchdown and you just grab a sweater. If you think that’s gonna get you standings points, think again. The Buffalo Sabres are the only thing saving this team from being the bottom of the Eastern Conference and now they’ve taken it to the alley in the dirtiest way possible. Ray Emery went after Holtby. Holtby did not want it. He absolutely didn’t want to fight him. And Emery sucker punched him six times. It’s the only cheer you’re gonna hear out of this building tonight. That’s a disgrace. Ray Emery, a disgrace what he just did.”
“Suspend that guy. Suspend him right now,” Walton went on to say regarding Emery.
A full audio clip of Walton calling the Emery-Holtby goalie altercation is available on his Capitals Voice blog.
And here’s a great shot of Michael Latta being waved off during the fight by referee François St-Laurent:
— James G. Heuser (@JamesHeuser) November 2, 2013
Low secondary market prices for upcoming, not-yet-sold-out Penguins-Caps game; NHL resale prices up overall
Washington Capitals tickets on secondary market sites like StubHub and NHL Ticket Exchange have been selling at their lowest average prices since the 2010-11 season (10/8/13) and the team’s upcoming November 20 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, while one of the higher priced Caps home games on the resale market, is no exception.
“We’re seeing an average ticket price of $120 for that game, which is the lowest for a Caps-Penguins game in D.C. since we began tracking data on the NHL resale market [in 2010],” wrote Connor Gregoire, Communications Analyst with ticket search engine SeatGeek, in an October 22 email. “The average resale price in the 400 level for that game is $71 per ticket.”
Average Resale Price for Pittsburgh at Washington since 2010
for tickets overall and 400 Level tickets (Source: SeatGeek)
|Date||Avg Price||400 Level Avg|
The November 20 match-up against Pittsburgh is not yet sold out. Tickets remain available through TicketMaster, starting at $84 in the 400 Level of Verizon Center. The lowest priced tickets for sale to this game on the secondary market as of this posting are a pair for $63 each in section 431, Row G on the NHL Ticket Exchange.
Overall, average NHL resale prices are on the rise. Gregoire explained, “We’ve actually seen a 10 percent uptick in the average ticket price across the league through this point in the season as compared to the lockout-shortened year. The average resale price across the NHL is $89 per ticket so far this season compared to $81 through as many games last season. In the 2011-12 season, tickets sold for $87 each on average through this point in the year, so it appears that we’re seeing a recovery in demand for tickets in 2013-14 after the lockout.”
Washington has been promoting value-added ticket deals via email for some games in recent weeks, including Ticket-Food-Drink packages starting at $59 per ticket and another offering two upper level seats and a signed puck for $99. The November 20 game against Pittsburgh is not listed as part of either offer.
The team also continues to promote “Fan Packs” for some games, offering two tickets for $69. But that deal doesn’t make much sense for customers, considering seats to those games are available at far cheaper prices in the same sections of Verizon Center via the secondary ticket market, including NHL Ticket Exchange, which the Caps also promote via email (“Sorry Caps, but this is bad marketing,” 10/7/13).
The Caps did not respond to a request to comment for this story.
Come win this Caps prize basket—which includes an autographed Troy Brouwer picture (thanks to the Caps for donating that!), four bobbleheads, a Caps scarf, blanket and more—and help raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s research.
Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011, our mother has been working tirelessly to raise money for TEAM FOX, to help the Michael J. Fox Foundation in their efforts to help find a cure. In just her first year doing this, she raised nearly $8,000 through events like the one tonight in Baltimore.
Please join us for this fundraiser as we help her continue to raise funds for the cause:
Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 5 pm
Our Lady of Victory School
4416 Wilkens Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21229
The cost is $20 and tickets are available at the door. There will be 18 regular bingo games plus three special games. Prizes are bags (Vera Bradley, Coach and 31) & baskets (Longaberger) filled with a theme of goods & services.
There will also be various raffles at the event, including a 50/50, and food & drinks will be available for purchase, with those proceeds going to the cause as well. Door open at 4 pm and games start at 5 pm. If you can’t make the event but would still like to make a donation, you can do that here.
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation Unites Industry Groups around Research Tool Development (prnewswire.com)
- The 3 Roles of Michael J. Fox (nytimes.com)
While in Detroit this past week, I took a side trip to one of my favorite craft brewers, Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then stopped by the home of the Plymouth Whalers on the drive back to the city.
Plymouth is where Michal Neuvirth won an OHL championship in 2007 and where Caps rookies Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick (recently assigned to the Hershey Bears) played junior hockey. Former Cap Pat Peake’s jersey is hanging from the rafters as well.
I snapped a few pictures:
And here’s Mike Ribeiro (63) in a Coyotes jersey during the Phoenix-Detroit game at Joe Louis Arena the night before. We were able to grab seats 11 rows from the ice for $39 (face value of $110) through StubHub. Not a bad secondary ticket market bargain!
- Orland Park’s Connor Carrick making his NHL debut tonight against the Blackhawks (voices.suntimes.com)
- Is Tom Wilson The Missing Piece? (japersrink.com)
- Caps Q&A with sportswriter Ted Starkey (brookslaichyear.com)
- Caps Q&A with Sick, Unbelievable (brookslaichyear.com)