Capitals and Their Fans: Photo Review of Season

Throughout the summer of 2016 and the entire 2016/17 season, Brittney Marcum and Mel Abernethy captured Caps fans and season ticket holders around the area. They also caught the Capitals doing their best on the ice and interacting with the fans and the Washington DC community. Here are some of their favorite photos. ENJOY!img_7681

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Washington Capitals: Much Ado about Nothing

The Caps are sitting pat – sort of.

General Manager Brian MacLellan finally emerged on Tuesday to talk about the past and future season. The big takeaway?  Don’t look for any major changes or anything unexpected. To be clear:

  • They are NOT NOT trading Alexander Ovechkin. Duh.
  • Yes, he is STILL the captain!!
  • They are NOT changing the coaching staff. (We think this is their last chance though.)
  • They are working to come to terms with TJ Oshie – terms that won’t break the bank.
  • No buyouts. That most likely would have applied to Brooks Orpik.

GMBM seems to have faith in the team they have; however, they are also looking for a younger, faster team which will mean moving up those younger players as veteran players begin to show a decline in their performance. As we said in our previous article, that mostly applies to Ovechkin, Backstrom, Beagle, and Niskanen (the over 30 crowd). Mac indicated that his top four defensemen are Niskanen, Carlson, Orlov, and Schmidt (per Washington Post) so we would expect that once Oshie is locked down, they will sign Orlov and Schmidt. Brett Connolly could be back as well. At least is sounds like he will be given a qualifying offer.

Others still to sign are Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, and Grubauer.

The writing is on the wall for the following players who are unlikely to be wearing red sweaters next season:

Karl Alzner

Dan Winnik

Justin Williams

Kevin Shattenkirk

And we still expect Phillip Grubauer to head to Las Vegas.

We aren’t terribly surprised by the news. We know that signing Oshie is a priority and that creates a domino effect for the remaining RFAs and UFAs. If the Capitals want a younger team that they can mold into a playoff winning team, it will require the loss of a couple of favorite players and the slotting of some rookies in those positions.

The dust hasn’t even begun to settle but one thing is clear: certain players and coaches have been put on notice. Put up or face a trade or firing. No one is immune, not even Ovechkin or Trotz. We think the owners are serious about winning the cup, maybe  REALLY serious for the first time ever. And they are willing to make some tough changes if that is what it takes.
Stay tuned friends, we have all of June to figure this one out!!

Washington Capitals: 2016/17 Season Strengths and Weaknesses

How do you determine what works and what is broke in an organization? One way is to start by taking a dive into what strengths the organization has exhibited in recent times and then to balance those advantages against areas in which they are less strong. This helps to provide a framework to discuss how to draw from and expand on those strengths and how to minimize the weaknesses.

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Caps Prospect Jakub Varana: Ready for the NHL?

 

The Washington Capitals are looking at prospect options as they consider which players to sign to new contracts and which players to release. Jakub Vrana was called up for the first time at the end of November and played his first game in a red sweater December 1 against the NY Islanders. Although he didn’t score that game, he did manage to get off four good shots. Vrana would eventually play 21 games and recorded three goals and three assists; one each on a power play opportunity. He played his last game in a Caps jersey on March 16.12-07-10

Varana got his start playing hockey in the Czech Republic, becoming part of the Sweden’s Linkoping’s team in the 2011 season. He would continue to play in the Czech World Junior hockey tournaments until he was picked by the Capitals in the first round of the draft in 2014. By April 2015 he was replanted to Hershey, Pennsylvania to play for the AHL Bears.

As a Bear, the left winger has proven himself in his first two full seasons (2015 and 2016) with 34 and 36 points respectively. This season he played only 49 games with the Bears because of the time spent with the Caps. Even with the shortened games played, he still ranked eighth on the team in points and fourth in goals scored, Coach Troy Mann commented at the end of the season that Vrana’s play was somewhat inconsistent, in large part because he went back and forth between Hershey and DC. He believes that with more consistency, his game will improve. It wasn’t clear though if that would be in DC or back in Hershey.DSC_0018

It has been widely reported that Vrana is on track to become part of the third or fourth line with the Capitals this summer. He would most likely fill the gap left should the Caps not sign Justin Williams. We question if Vrana is ready for the big show yet. We know that he has the potential to become part of the next generation of “young guns” for the Capitals, although that time may not be this season. The last thing the Caps need to do is add a player to the mix who isn’t prepared for the challenge and rigor of the NHL. At 21, Vrana has time to grow into the player we can come to see great things from.

With development camp around the corner we will have a chance to see Jakub up close and compare him to other prospects in the run for a spot with a red jersey. We’ll look more closely at players like:

Lucas Johansen, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Nathan Walker, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler

The Ovechkin Future: How Teams Deal with Their Fading Stars

The Capitals are in the position to begin thinking about transitioning their high-performing players to aging under-performing players. And by under-performing we mean players whose stats are on the decline compared to their previous performance or to the performance of newer younger players. Yes we mean Alex Ovechkin in particular.

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Just a year ago we were talking about the maturity of the Caps top line players. At that point we focused on how they had grown as they learned from their mistakes. They had time to hone their hockey skills. And yes, they had matured in their personal lives too, as most of the older players are now married (or in long-term relationships) with children. Today; however, they are the ‘aging’ players whose player maturity will have less impact as they come against younger, stronger, and faster players around the league. Continue reading “The Ovechkin Future: How Teams Deal with Their Fading Stars”

Caps Post Season: Daniel Winnik, UFA

Dan Winnick came to the Capitals in February 2016, a surprise trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In exchange, Brooks Laich and Connor Carrick made the move north. He had one year left on his contract at the time. No stranger to the trade process, the Capitals would be Dan’s seventh team to play for in the NHL. He and his wife (and their pooches) would quickly become a part of the fabric of the Caps and the Caps community.

With the end of the Caps season, Dan now becomes an unrestricted free agent and is in the mix of players waiting for a contract offer. Winnik dodged an earlier trade bullet in March when he came in under the radar for the trade deadline. And he stepped it up, helping the Caps end the season on a high note, winning the President’s Trophy. Overall:

  • Winnik had one of his best NHL seasons in 2016/17.
  • He scored 12 goals with 14 assists during the regular season.
  • He leads the team in short-handed goals at two.
  • He was responsible for three game winning goals, including a spectacular night against the Coyotes in which he scored two goals in the third period.
  • At 14.6 he has one of the highest save percentages on the team.
  • He literally took one for the team in in October 2016 when in a game against the Panthers he took a puck to the ear, losing a little piece of it. Now that’s dedication!

On the downside of things, he didn’t contribute as much as we would have hoped in the playoffs, ending the run with a -4 and no points recorded. He was part of the fourth line that failed to score against the Penguins, according to CSN.

Chances are, Dan and Taylor Winnik will be looking for a new home by the end of the summer. When it comes to trades and new contracts, the Capitals are looking at the overall best mix for the team. They have to be looking at playoff performance. Now there ate lots of gaps in performance to point to this season, unfortunately, Winnik is one of the weakest links.

Now we can’t end this article without talking about Taylor and what she has brought to this team. She was the photographer for the annual Canine Calendar, bringing out the best of the boys and those adorable pooches. She has been instrumental in bringing the wives closer, as a support system for one another and the players. She was part of the crew that brought families together on the recent vacation during Bye Week. She is always bringing awareness to causes close to her and Dan, including pet adoption. We have come to love her tweets and her Instagram posts and if they go, there will be a huge hole left in her absence.

We wish the best for the Winnik’s,where ever life take them.

 

Caps Fans Living Vicariously Through the Predators and Senators

There is a real quandary for hockey fans when their team is knocked out of the NHL playoffs. Do you stop watching hockey? Do you watch World Hockey and see how the players from your team do with their homeland team? Do you watch to see if the team that knocks you out, gets knocked out in the next round? Or do you turn off the TV and wait for October??

Many Caps fans have jumped on the Ottawa Senators bandwagon in the hopes that they will keep the Pittsburgh Penguins from making it to the final round. If you are watching, it has been a great series. It is hard for some of us to stomach the likes of Crosby, Kessel, and Malkin but there were great moments in the round. Like when Erik Karlsson made fun of Crosby’s penchant for ‘secret’ messages to his team–or himself?

There will be a Game Seven Thursday night at 8 pm on NBCSN. Sens goalie Craig Anderson has been having a great run–he is worth the watch. You might want to turn the sound off as NBC is still rooting for the Pens and Crosby…

And then there are the Nashville Predators. We feel a special affinity for the Preds. It is the team that Barry Trotz, cut his coaching teeth on. He was never able to get them past the second round of the playoffs, so like us, we were hoping they would break the mode. And they did!!!

We are so excited for this team to be heading to the final round. Yes, there is that guy that we traded who is playing (Filip Forsberg) which still leads to a lot of whining from some Caps fans. PK Subban was brought to the team from Montreal this season and clearly has been another factor in their new capabilities. Many fans are living vicariously through this team which mirrors the dream we have for our team.

The Stanley Cup final round will begin Monday, 29 May and could run as late as 14 June. It will air on NBC and NBCSN in the US and CBC and Sportsnet in Canada. The dates are as follows:

29 May
31 May
3 June
5 June
8 June *
11 June *
14 June *

*Games played if needed.

So what about you? Are you watching hockey? Are you in for the playoffs and if so, who are you rooting for to take hoist the cup??

What IIHF World Shows Caps About RFA’s Kuznetzov and Orlov

The NHL season didn’t end so well for the Capital’s Russian players Evgeny Kuznesov and Dmitry Orlov. As another year ended at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins and fellow countryman Evgeny Malkin, Kuzy and Dima made plans to join Team Russia for the IIHF Worlds in Germany and France.

And boy oh boy did they shine. In their first game against Czech Republic, Orlov, wearing his old 81 sweater, scored the game winning  goal of the game. Kuznetsov earned three points in the three games he played (one goal and two assists)  to help the team take home the Bronze. He had five shots in nine games. Orlov had seven shots in his five games. Kuzy played with the finesse we are used to seeing while Dima was a speed demon and really lit up the ice when he was on.

The pair of 25 year-old players are both restricted free agents this summer. It is highly likely that the Caps will sign both players. It goes without saying that the KHL has an interest in both players. No doubt the Caps kept an eye on their players and how they performed in different circumstances. They have to balance that against their performance this season.

11-25-0215In his third full year of playing with the Caps, Kuznetsov dropped from a previous high overall points recorded of 77 to 59. While his goal scoring was pretty static (20 dropping to 19), his assist number dropped 57 to 40. His plus/minus dropped from 27 to 18. His power play production dropped, as did his shots indicating that he has not been contributing as much to the teams scoring chances. And yet we believe that the best is yet to come from Kuzy. Maybe World’s was what he needed to shake off the rust of the season past.

img_7622-1Orlov had a rather uneven year. Fans were either all praise or all trade him. This was his second full season after returning from a wrist injury. His overall performance was slightly improved over the 2015/16 season going from 21 to 27 points. Most notable he improved his plus/minus from eight to 30, meaning he was on the ice when a lot of Caps goals were scored. Then again, his save percentage dropped from 8.9 to 4.8. When it comes to the playoffs–which is really where the team needs to focus, Orlov was a shooting machine who had three assists to help the team.

Going forward it will take a little bit of $$ and some longer contracts to keep these two on the roster. The last time Orlov negotiated a contract, it went down to the wire and it wasn’t clear if the two sides would come to agreement. Given the uneven performance, the Caps might decide to go with another one- or a two-year contract to see how he improves. For Kuznetsov, the team again is highly likely to sign him to a multi-year deal Many have believed that the long-term future of the Caps rests on the shoulders of younger players and none more than Kuzy.

The watch continues as the boys and their families head off to vacation and spend time catching up with family and friends.

Celebrating Evgeny Kuznetsov: HAPPY BIRTHDAY KUZY

Russian player Evgeny Kuznetzov celebrates his 25th birthday between IIHF World Ice Hockey matches. Team Russia defeated Team Czech in the quarter-finals on Thursday in Paris , France and Saturday will meet Team Canada in Cologne, Germany. Kuzy earned two assists in the game.

Kuzy is a restricted free agent and hopefully in the midst of contract negotiations with the Washington Capitals. His current two-year contract of $6 million with a $3 million annual cap, ends in a few weeks. The Capitals have the option to offer him a better, longer contract or to release him for another team to pick him up. We know, for example, that the KHL would love to have him come home and play. As the Caps management team look at over all salary cap numbers they have to be considering the long-term benefit of a player like Kuznetsov and that means looking at what he has done under the previous contract.

Kuznetsov has been working to improve his game; unfortunately it isn’t evident in his stats this season. In his third full year of playing with the Caps, he dropped from a previous high overall points recorded of 77 to 59. While his goal scoring was pretty static (20 dropping to 19), his assist number dropped 57 to 40. His plus/minus dropped from 27 to 18. His power play production dropped, as did his shots indicating that he has not been contributing as much to the teams scoring chances.

  • One thing for sure is that Kuzy is a valuable asset when it comes to the playoffs. He scored five goals with a total of 10 points overall. These numbers were up from last season’s two points and slightly better than 2015.

And yet, we still love him and have faith that he will improve. Witness what he is doing with his homeland team. We know he is fully capable of being one of the leading contributors to a winning team. He is just one of the players that for whatever reason didn’t seem to have the right scenario for scoring. However, in the coming season he is going to need to create those chances himself, regardless of which line he is one and with whom he is playing.

Kuzy has an irrepressible joy and lightheartedness. He caught reporters off guard when he walked in during the post-playoff life and asked: “Why you act like someone died?”  He takes the game seriously but also has the right ‘move on’ attitude that the team needs to have going into the new season. Evgeny said he likes this team and wants to return. We hope he will.

For more on Kuzy’s hockey journey, check out our post from earlier this year. Click here!

Grubauer Proves in Worlds He is Ready to be Number One

We love Philipp Grubauer. He has really proven himself this past season. Coach Trotz gave him plenty of opportunities to shine and shine he did. Lets look back at the his performance this season and at Worlds where he was beyond incredible.  So we start with his overall stats.

  •  He played in 24 games with 13 wins with two wins in overtime and three shutout games.
  • He saved .926 percent of shots fired at him and ranking him fourth in the league overall. FYI- Braden Holtby had a .925 this year.
  • He only played 19 minutes in the playoffs, jumping in for Holtby on a bad night. Unfortunately he let in two goals on nine shots. But then again, he hadn’t played in weeks.

And then there is the IIHF Worlds in which he played for Team Germany. It can be said that he saved his motherland from extreme embarrassment. The team only had 20 shots on goal and did not score until late in the third period. DSC_0501Grubi on the other hand had an amazing 48 saves letting only two goals from Team Canada through. And we know how Canada plays which makes this an even more impressive story. He was without a doubt the star of the game. At one point we think nearly every other sentence was: “Grubauer saves.”

Grubauer continues to improve and mature with every year he plays. The Capitals are fortunate to have two powerful goalies minding the net. Under Coach Barry Trotz and goalie coach Mitoch Korn he has sharpened his skill and had much more time to show what he has to offer.

We know that Grubi is one of the top names the media is bantering around for Las Vegas. After all George McPhee is very familiar with why the Caps brought him into the organization–they always figured he would be in the NHL, even as a potential starting goalie.  The Caps could offer him a new contract which would include a bump in salary as mandated by the NHL and NHL PLayer’s Association of “no less than 110% of player’s salary.”  If he doesn’t accept the offer he is free to consider other teams come 1 July.

Except of course where the Las Vegas Knights are concerned. Again, according to the NHL rules: “Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender”

That means, one goaltender is NOT protected. And then there is the clause that says: One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.

Grubauer meets the unprotected criteria.  This is why many of us believe he has played his last season with the Capitals.

We don’t want to see him go. He has been part of the Caps family since he began playing for the Stingrays in the 2011 season. We watched him go back and forth to Hershey before coming up to the NHL. However, we always want the best for our “family” and if that means moving to a warmer climate – we know he is ready and will do us proud.