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Thought this was pretty interesting.

Article seems to break things down pretty well....and lots of it made sense to me as to why the Caps have been so up and down this season...actually, for the last several seasons.


From the Washington Post:



I think all hockey fans who have watched what the Caps have done in recent seasons, but particularly this year, agree that they have pretty good offensive talents, starting of course, with Alex Ovechkin.

Their defense? That to me is the biggest culprit as to why this team can look outstanding one game, average the next, and horrid on another occasion.

Basically, Washington is trying to beat teams by simply outscoring them.


Games of the 5-4, 6-5, 7-6 variety seem preferable to this team as opposed to the normal 4-3 or 3-2 games.

Exciting for Caps fans, having a bunch of games feature tons of goals, however, for coaches and players who expect to be hoisting a Stanley Cup anytime soon, not so much....especially when many of those goals are going AGAINST Washington.


If the NHL as a league has proven anything, it's that no matter how they wanna rig the rules, goalie equipment, etc to 'open up' scoring, if a team can't play a good consistent defense (and have a quality netminder to stop shots regularly), then they aren't going to be a playoff team, much less a Stanley Cup contender.


So where can the Caps turn to fix this problem? Is it a player personnel issue? A coaching issue?

Maybe the GM who can't seem to figure out how to draft then develop good defensemen who can actually, you know, DEFEND, within the organization?



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Watched some of the Capitals @ Blue Jackets.


Columbus really took it to the Caps offensively.

Any mistakes Washington made, Columbus was there to take advantage.


Game is still going on in fact, as I post this...about 9 min left.

Jackets already  have 35 SOG, 5 goals, including 2 for 4 on the PP, and have run starting goaltender Mikael Grubauer out of the game.

Not so sure Grubauer was the problem, but rather, his defense consistently hung him out to dry.


Also adding to the Caps issues was stupid penalties.

In particular, Alex Ovechkin early in the third, with the Jackets already up 4-1, Ovechkin takes a blatant cross checking penalty which put his team down a man, and while Columbus didn't score on that particular PP, they got the goal shortly after it expired...it may as well have been one.


Bad enough this team has a terrible defense and some suspect goaltending, but their strength, offensive players, ADDING to the woes certainly isn't needed.

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This may take some time, and quite a few key strokes, so please forgive the possibly long winded response.
First, let Garth and Wayne take you back in time, dodaladodaladodaladodaladodala to the heyday of Washington Capitals hockey around the 2009 or so season.  The Capitals were an offensive juggernaut, and finally were getting back into the playoffs.   But as good as their offense was, their defense was just as bad.  But heck, who cares if you give up 5 goals when you can score 7, right.  Right up until the playoffs start, and the officiating takes that little turn where more interference, hooking and such are "overlooked", and scoring goes down.  
Grinding teams who play a defensive game are not really hurt, they're built for this, but a team built to just score goals, and all of a sudden cannot, well that's a different story. So those great offensive Caps teams started to make the playoffs, but one or two rounds, and they were done. But heck, the players loved it, after all, who wants to play defense when you can score goals.  So they had a team with Ovi, Backstrom, Semin and Green who went balls to the walls to score goals, but couldn't cash that into playoff success.
Something had to change, so Curly, sorry I meant Bruce Boudreau, attempted to make his team more defensive oriented. Heck, he even made Ovi come back into the defensive zone instead of floating at center ice.  Hey it worked, the poor Capitals defense went from giving up 233 goals in the 2009-2010 season down to 197 in the 2010-2011 season.  Yippee, oh wait, but because of the focus on defense, the team went from scoring 318 goals to 224 goals. :o  A net loss of 60 plus goals in differential.  Their team points went down, and guess what, they were still out in second round of the playoffs.


So the Capitals decided it obviously must be the coach and B.B. was gone.  Replaced by first Dale Hunter and now by Adam Oates.  Both are still trying to play a defensive game, only problem is that the core of the team, Ovi, Backstrom and Green are still poor defensively. 


dodaladodaladodala . . . So here we are today. At his current pace, OV is on pace to win the Rocket RIchard trophy for goal scoring at around 60 goals.  He's also on pace to be a project -27 for the season.  He's still a beast in PP mode, but his even strength numbers are down because of the additional defensive focus, but he and Backstrum are not very good at it.  How will this relate in the playoffs when the number of penalties goes down, not good I feel.


I'm laying the burden of this on management.  It's not the coach.  It's not the goaltenders.  It wasn't Semin. It's the team that you built. You took one of the greatest offensive threats the NHL has seen, surrounded him with questionable defensive players and took away his freedom to focus on goals. What did you expect. Add to the fact that you have nothing after the Ovi line to score goals, and there you have it. You pick up Martin Erat? Really? Other teams simply focus on Ovi, and try not to take penalties.  Just think if Ovi has an injury what would happen to this team.


My 3 easy steps for the Caps success(I hope they don't listen).

1) Pick a goalie, any goalie, and stay with him. Stop the three man hustle. Develop a goaltender that will build his relationship with the defense.

2) Release the hounds, let Ovi go all offensive, surround him with a defensive center and forward and let him do what he does best(limit his time though).

3) Shop Mike Green, he is much more of a defensive liability than whatever you think his offensive capabilities are. Take whatever you can get and think of what the $6M cap hit could buy you.

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Very good take, @nossagog ...makes sense in a lot of areas.


You know, when Dale Hunter was brought in to coach this team, I was thinking, "Hey, SOMEBODY realizes this team needs to understand balance and bring more of defensive minded approach to this team".


Well, as you stated, it worked for a bit, but given the personnel, it was a hard thing to maintain.

Also, I know Coach Hunter had personal interest in seeing through his London Knights, but I have to wonder if he himself saw what direction the Capitals management was going and that any attempt by him to bring a different culture to the Washington locker room would be met with more resistance than was worth it to him.


Personally, I thought Hunter would have made an OUTSTANDING coach for the Caps. I mean, here is a guy who really understood the balance of offense, defense, checking, playmaking, checking and toughness...he personified that his entire career!


Anyways, maybe even if Washington had been willing to go in the direction that a guy like Dale Hunter would have liked, maybe his family investments in the Knights was simply too much for him to just walk away from to be behind an NHL bench.

Enter Adam Oates...another guy who really seems to understand the balance of offense and defense...yet the Capitals still struggle with executing that on the ice. I wonder how long before even a guy like Oates gets frustrated with how things are going in Washington (execution and personnel-wise), then you may see HIS name come up in possible firings...and who knows, he may welcome that and move on somewhere else.

He really does seem to enjoy coaching....but in some in-game interviews, he seems to be on the verge of big time frustration.


Back to personnel and management issues it looks like.


On the Washington netminders...they have had quite a few pretty good ones go through their ranks over the years that Ovechkin has been there. Some maybe really were never meant to be to stick around...some though, one has to wonder if they would be more successful with a halfway decent defense in front of them.


I agree you can't change a guy like Ovechkin...you have to let him be what he is, a goal scorer.

If he backchecks once in a while and is at least aware of his teammates in relation to defenders on occasion, while still doing his thing, I think that would be acceptable.

As long as he has a solid defense behind him and, as you mentioned, perhaps a good defensive defensive minded center to play on the same line with him.


As for his part though, Ovechkin, as the team captain, NEEDS to lead by example...but sometimes I wonder, if he really is cut out to be this team's captain.

Is he the face of the Capitals? Sure. Anyone who doesn't know much about the Caps know who Ovechkin is.

Is he their best player? Offensively, no question. All around? Well, maybe not so much, but not so far off the top seeing as how not many on the team play the kind of defense that can offset what Ovie does offensively...if that makes any sense.


But is he a TEAM LEADER? 

That I question.


To me a captain not only carries a team on his back with his play (which Ovechkin has done), but also needs to be stabilizing force in the locker room, on the ice, lead in such a way that he doesn't put his team in bad positions (he loses his head many times and takes dumb penalties at the worst times), AND can talk to officials in such a way, that perhaps, they may through a call or two his teams way here and there...not so sure Ovie does that particularly well, as any interactions between he and the officials seem to be a bit heated and excitable at best.


I just wonder if a guy like Troy Brouwer or a Jason Chimera wouldn't make a better captain than Ovechkin...though obviously, the Great 8 blows them away in pure on-ice talent.


Leadership at the ice level and in the management levels.

That's what it will take to get this team to a point where they are a viable contender.


And some change in personnel, also as you mentioned, should also be in the works in order for the team to solidify what kind of identity it wants to have.

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I'll go cynical here. You question Ovi's leadership. I don't think there is a question.  Look at Crosby or Teows, both of them can stand up and preach for both sides of the ice, and lead by example because they are great two way players.  Can you imagine Ovi standing up in front of the team and saying(please think in the ovi voice from his TV ads) "Hey guys, we have to make sure that we all get back and help the defense".  Everyone would look at him for about 5 seconds, then bust a gut laughing.  


Ovi is an unbelievable offensive player, but as a team leader you have to have someone who is more than willing to play both ends of the ice and try to excel at BOTH of them and constantly tries to improve on ALL aspects of their game.   So you can make a guy a captain, but that doesn't mean he's a leader.  So you're right, there are probably better leaders on the team that could be the captain, but how would Ovi take that, does he care about the captainship?

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I lived in DC for a long time. I was there for the Jagr disaster, and the arrival of Ovechkin- a.k.a. the next "savior" of DC hockey. For Ovechkin's first couple years you could walk up to the box office and get tickets to a Caps Flyers game at face off time. And the place would be half empty and half of the people there would be Flyers fans. BB turned the team into a winner (playoffs excluded) and suddenly the Phone Booth was filling up.

Personally I'm not convinced that winning a Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal for that franchise. The cynic in me says that as long as they are selling tickets nothing much will change. Look no further than the horrendous trade of Forsberg for Erat. Just to marginally (if that) improve the team's playoff chances (sell a few more tickets without any realistic hope of winning a Cup). But at the expense of giving up one of the top young talents in the world.

If management was serious about building a championship team they would seriously consider trading Ovechkin. He scores a bunch of goals but that's absolutely all he does. He doesn't make his team mates better, in fact one could argue he makes them worse because they try to force the puck to him. He has never played well without the puck (although he's not as bad there as he used to be) and he plays zero defense. If I was GMGM I would look to get the biggest haul I could for him and build around Backstrom, who is a much better all around player. But that won't happen because Ovechkin sells tickets.

Edited by JackStraw
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I think you're very close to the reality of the caps.  I can remember watching Pens games at Washington, even in the playoffs, and the place was filled with Pens fans because they could get tickets. It came to the point that the owner had to put limitation on the area codes that he allowed into the ticket system to prevent it from being filled with Pens fans.


But that reality is that Ovi sold the city on the team and gave them something to watch, and with him they rocked the red.  I think you're cynical side is correct,  that ownership at first was okay with just being great in the regular season, and selling out the arena so that they made money. Not sure if they can keep that up, and what happens as Ovi's skills diminish.  Can they keep that fan base, not sure.

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@nossagog - The Nationals did the exact same thing with regards to selling tickets to stop Phillies fans from taking over the stadium. The reality is that DC is a bandwagon town when it comes to sports other than the Redskins. They are not going to support the team if the team isn't winning. The Caps have enough of a buzz going with Ovechkin and Backstrom, etc to sell tickets. As long as that continues I doubt that management will have the courage to do something bold to turn the team into a legitimate contender.

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Some more very interesting takes from the both of you regarding this franchise.

See, now THIS is the sort of thing I like when I join sports forums:


A way for me to look at a given team from the perspectives of others (outside the media) and particularly those who have been closer to the situation and look at things beyond just what you see on the ice as well.

Good stuff.


I honestly had not even considered that Washington management was fine with the status quo as long as tickets were being sold.

And with the media constantly hyping Ovechkin vs. Crosby, Washington now a division rival once again to not only the Pens, but other big market teams such as the Rangers/Isles, Flyers, AND the fact that Ovechkin really is an offense threat at any given time, well, it makes sense that tickets will continue to sell and that the fans will keep showing up and thinking they are still only a piece or two away from a Cup, simply because Ovechkin is such a dynamic player, and in their minds, it is only a matter of time before he leads them to a Cup.


But as you guys said, what happens as Ovie gets older, his skills become less of what they were and he just isn't anything special anymore?

Will the fans keep buying those tickets?

At that point, ownership and the GM will **gasp** HAVE to build an actual contender from the ground up!


It's a real interesting dynamic. Building a contender vs. building a team people will pay more to see.

One would THINK that if management builds a true Stanley Cup contender in DC, that the fans would STILL buy tickets.

But if the overall attitude of most sports fans in the area is one of "gotta have the star power, or I aint goin", then yea, sounds very much like a bandwagon situation...and they CERTAINLY would not like the inevitable 'down years' that would probably be necessary in order for this team to build itself back up strongly once again.


Not to make a direct comparison, because these players are all different on many levels, but I am starting to look at a player like Alex Ovechkin sort of like a Marion Gaborik or a Pavel Bure before them.

Meaning, they are players with loads of talent and ability...mostly on the offensive end...that can absolutely electrify fans, get them to the gate, but themselves, aren't necessarily 'leaders of men', or guys you really would build AROUND in order to build a SC contender.


But instead, they are guys that are awesome to have on the team, if you ALREADY have have a base core of leadership, and real talent (though maybe not as marketable) that will carry the workload en route to a championship, while that exciting goal scorer stars and gets all the press.


That said, perhaps a trade of Ovechkin elsewhere WOULD be a good thing for the Caps.

He is at the peak of his career now and his value will probably never be higher at any point past the present.


Sure, teams know his faults, but again, if they already have the basic building blocks, and many lesser lauded but equally good talents already on the team, they could live with Ovie just scoring goals without a care for anything else. And they would have to be ready to win NOW.

He could star with another team while others, for lack of a better term, do the "real work" (the checking, the grinding, the scoring that one goal in key situations when teams need it most...see: Patrice Bergeron) in getting a team to a Stanley Cup.


Meanwhile, the Caps could then overhaul its entire team using much of what they got back from the superstar winger combined with a few other saavy moves.


But of course, if the master plan in Washington now is "just sell tickets", then we probably won't ever see an Ovechkin trade until he is a shell of the player he used to be, and at that point, it would be much too late for the Capitals to count on any returns for him to build a better team.


Side note, as of the time I am posting this, Washington continues in freefall mode in the standings, Ovechkin has been out a couple games with the nebulous 'lower body injury'.....and the team simply looks like it has NO CLUE what to do.

Hmmm.....if what you guys think on the practices of the Caps' FO is right on, then does:

Ovechkin injured + team continuing to lose = less ticket sales?


Once again, great stuff guys and some very interesting reads! :)

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  There is only one answer for the Caps. Start over....trade Ovechkin, and start the whole process over again. OV is not a winner, is not a team leader, merely a goal producing machine. Get a boat load of picks and youth and start the whole damn process over again.

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Tonights Caps at Jackets game is a classic example of the lazy games that Ovi has.  Early in the second, 3-0 Jackets, and Ovi is -3.  The second and third goals he's just floating lazily around the blue line as the Jackets are scoring. He looks completely unterested in playing hockey tonight.

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@TropicalFruitGirl26 - I might have been a little too harsh in my characterization of the Caps management. I'm sure that Leonsis and GMGM both want a championship team in DC. The question is, are they willing to do what it will take to get there, or will they continue to fool themselves into thinking that they can build a championship team around Ovechkin- that being the "safer" and (at least near term) more profitable approach.

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  How about Martin Erat...absolutely 0 goals on the season???  He has 20 assists, but kinda think they were looking for more than that when they moved an elite prospect like Forsberg for him...wow, that is just pitiful!!

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  How about Martin Erat...absolutely 0 goals on the season???  He has 20 assists, but kinda think they were looking for more than that when they moved an elite prospect like Forsberg for him...wow, that is just pitiful!!

For sure he has been a great disappointment to the caps. $4.5M cap hit, not sure if they could even find someone to take him off their hands at this point. 

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Caps - Isles game between periods on NBCSN, Milbury and Roenick are rippin on Ovi pretty well with the same comments as we've said here.   "One Dimensional", "Floating", "No Sweat Effort" were just some of the terms they were using.  On the power play he was just sitting on the left dot, and not making an effort if the puck wasn't passed to him for the one timer. 


Thing is, he'll play like this all game, then get a PP goal late(or OT like last game) and the people in Washington will praise him. I just don't get it with him, he's so frustrating to watch, I'm glad I'm not a Caps fan.

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