Caps acquire Radko Gudas from Philly

This morning, the Washington Capitals have announced that they have done a one-for-one defenseman swap with the Philadelphia Flyers; Radko Gudas in exchange for Matt Niskanen, Philadelphia will retain 30% of Gudas’ remaining salary.

We here at FiCP are sad to hear this news about Niskanen leaving the organization, but understand the business move by Brian MacLellan. This is most certainly a move to clear up salary cap space to re-sign certain players or shop the free agent market. Trading Niskanen has opened up $3,405,000 in cap space for the Caps to work with, making it possible to re-sign guys like Nicklas Backstrom and/or Braden Holtby.

Gudas plays a physical game from the blue line and has been a beating pulse on Philadelphia’s penalty kill for years. Him being a right-handed defenseman certainly puts him on the 3rd pair with either Christian Djoos or Jonas Siegenthaler.

A plus side in this trade is that Gudas only has one more year on his contract until he’s a UFA compared to Niskanen, who has two more years. Gudas’ contract will expire around the time Backstrom and Holtby’s contracts expire, so there’s that. Who knows, GMBM could flip real quick and dish out Gudas to a struggling defensive team for forward depth or picks. Until then, welcome to the Caps Radko!

Hershey Goes Back to Wellar for New Assistant Coach

The Hershey Bears announced on Tuesday that former Bears’ defenseman Patrick Wellar will return to them as the new assistant coach. The Bears relieved Ryan Murphy, along with head coach Troy Mann, of his duties in late April. And it looks as if defense coach Reid Cashman is moving up to the Capitals, although there has been no formal announcement from the organizations.

Wellar, some of you may remember, played in Hershey from 2008 to 2024. He was part of the team that won the Calder Cup in 2010. Since leaving The Bears he has been the assistant cos h of the ECHL Utah Grizzlies, the Alaska Aces, and Cincinnati Cyclones. Most recently he was assistant coach for the Reading Royals, helping them make it to the playoffs (which the Bears did not) and secure third place in the Ortho Division.

Social media response has been mostly positive and hopeful for next season with this addition. The organization hired ECHL coach Spencer Carbery as their new head coach in late June. The Caps are keeping it in the family with all their moves in Hershey and DC.

Vice president of hockey operations had this to say of Wellar’s return to Hershey:

We are elated to welcome Patrick Wellar back to Hershey as an assistant coach. Patrick has a wealth of knowledge and a championship pedigree that will be a valuable asset to our young players as they grow and develop in the American Hockey League. From his lengthy tenure here, Patrick knows how special it is to wear the Chocolate and White. We are looking forward to Patrick bringing the passion he provided as a player in Hershey to his work behind the bench on Spencer Carbery’s staff.

Let’s hope he is what the Bears need to get back to winning all the way to the final round!

Todd Reirden New Capitals Head Coach Has A Plan

The new era for the Washington Capitals has officially begun with the Capitals hosting their first press conference with head coach Todd Reirden and General Manager Brian MacLellan (GMBM). Reirden, the former assistant coach will now take the lead, make the tough calls for the team, and be the guy meeting with the media. And he has a great first day!!

The Voice of the Capitals, John Walton first introduced GMBM who then turned the podium over to the new HC. Mac opened by saying: “We feel fortunate to have an internal candidate of of Todd’s quality” who will build on  the success they have. He sees keys  and strengths for selecting Reirden as “Development” and “Working well with defensemen” And “Communication”  He likes the way he communicates with players at all levels of their development, including “depth players”  And he is “technically sound…He is not afraid to be creative. He’s open minded to try new things.“. 

Reirden began by thanking the organization for the opportunity, including Barry Trotz for bringing him to Washington. He said: “It is an honor and privilege to be the Washington Capitals head coach.”

Reirden repeatedly said that he has a plan and a process for moving forward and to keep on winning with the team that is returning. There will be few changes to the roster; however, he is excited to take on the challenge of developing younger players as well as challenging those with years of experience. He knows that he has to treat each player as a “separate entity” and is excited about  going through the development and establishing trust in a new partnership.

The coach will have a team that is basically unchanged from the Stanley Cup winners. It is a group he knows well and who know him. The transition should be seamless; however, as with any new coach, there will be some changes. The most evident we will likely see is his emphasis on developing younger players, of which the Caps have quite a few now because of the salary cap. He has walked the walk and knows that he can “have a huge role” developing players. He has the advantage of already knowing the staff and said this of them: “I’m excited to have  Blaine Forsythe come back…and continuing to see Scott Murray, our head goalie coach.” Also stressed the important contributions  the video coaches Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi who will help to prepare the team for games, as well as the coaches challenge.”

He spoke highly of Barry Trotz and said that he was one of the coaches in the past that helped shape him as the coach he will be. He said he has spoken with Trotz and that he will “take advantage of what I learned from him.”  That said, he has clearly moved on!

He even thanked the media for their support and the positive message they put out. And he THANKED YOU the fans who “Went to a completely different level this year. They never quit on us.” 

It is obvious that these two gentlemen have a lot of respect for each other. That is a key element in an organization that wants to keep on winning. There will be no taking the foot off the peddle!!

 

 

 

Capitals Todd Reirden – Waiting in the Wings

Todd Reirden is all about hockey. And he has always had his eyes on the prize.

Stanley Cup Practice337

Continue reading “Capitals Todd Reirden – Waiting in the Wings”

Thank you Ted Leonsis for Rebuilding the Washington Capitals

The vision and dream that Ted Leonsis had for Washington DC finally came true on a Thursday night in Las Vegas. It didn’t matter that the Caps won the Stanley Cup away from home because the Hockey Town that Ted built celebrated just the way he envisioned. He has always wanted the DC community to be a town that was proud of its teams and one that the fans loved – be it the Wizards or the Capitals.

And when he took the STANLEY CUP from Alex Ovechkin, you could see what a proud papa he was. That look of overwhelming emotion over a goal finally achieved exemplified the feels we all felt watching.

Ted Leonsis – is allll Washington Caps and a BIG silly fan like alllll of us!

Mr. Leonsis bought the Washington Capitals (along with the Wizards and the stadium now known as Capital One Arena) from DC legend Abe Pollin in May 1999 for about $200 million – a year after their failed final round of the Stanley Cup. Ted was 42 at the time and had a vision for both teams and a plan to engage fans in one of his favorite sports.

His dream morphed into today’s Monumental Sports and Entertainment, LLC, an organization that broadly includes the AFL’s Washington Valor, NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals, and  the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. And he launched the subscription –based Monumental Sports Network in 2017, which pretty much rules the airwaves around the DMV.

It’s Ted’s love of hockey and his dedication to building a Hockey Town on the east coast; one that would become a place equal to many cities in Canada and the original six hockey teams. In 1997 he brought in George McPhee (GMGM) as his general manager and began to set the tone for the future we are living today. Leonsis had a lot of faith in McPhee who would go on to acquire some of the shining stars of the Capitals, especially Alexander Ovechkin.

ovi capscon2010There is no doubt that Ted Leonsis is a savvy businessman. That isn’t why we fell in love with him. Many of us are “latecomers” to the hockey and Capitals scene. We didn’t really engage until the Ovechkin Era began that faithful day Ovi was given the keys to the city. And Ted knew how to make the most of that silly infectious grin. He knew that with the talent and charisma of Ovechkin and the management genius of McPhee, the future would be bright.

In April 2009 Leonsis shared his list of 10-point plan for rebuilding the Capitals. Among those things the plan included transparency with the fan base, investing in the draft and taking time to develop younger players, add veterans for the short-term to infuse the team with experience, and most importantly, NEVER SETTLE.

In 2012 he answered questions from fans via Japers Rink, and then said: “The Caps have made the playoffs five years in a row. We haven’t progressed past the second round in any of those years; it has been a huge hurdle despite some Game 7 opportunities. So we keep tweaking and making changes to get to the next step. It is tedious, sometimes frustrating, but it is necessary.” 

Ted made some hard changes in the summer of 2014 after the Capitals failed to make it to the NHL Playoffs. The biggest change was letting go of the man with whom he built the hockey team that included Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, as well as many other notable players, but failed to help win the cup. McPhee and Leonsis seemed to know what was needed and they went out and got the best players that they thought would help reach the pinnacle of success. GMGM gave us Bruce Boudreau and unfortunately, also Dale Hunter and Adam Oates who nearly destroyed everything they had worked so hard to have in place to win.

trotz watchLeonsis moved up Brian MacLellan as general manager and hired former Nashville Predators coach, Barry Trotz in 2014. The excitement began to build again. Trotz had a good reputation as a community man and as a coach. He seemed the perfect fit for the image of the Capitals we all had by that time. However, in July 2015, after another year of disappointment, Ted told reporters about Ovechkin: “I feel I haven’t met my commitment that we would build a team that would be able to win Stanley Cups.” Many of us felt that too.

Together MacLellan and Leonsis brought in reinforcements, like Justin Williams whose name was already on the cup three times and American favorite, TJ Oshie. Everything looked right at the start of the 2015/16 season. The team came together as friends in a way that we have never seen. Sadly, we know how that ended again.

Ted was one of us. He was seen walking around the Verizon Center and outside. He was known to meet and speak with people from all walks of life. We learned about the gentle heart of this big man when in 2009 he heard about a homeless man who was a huge Caps fan and spent his nights outside Verizon Center trying to catch glimpses of the game. Ted would later respond to a letter from a season ticket holder about Scott Lovell, find him a job in a local restaurant, and help him rebuild his life.  Not only did the encounter change Lovell’s life, it changed Ted, who had never even had a discussion with a homeless person before. A man of the people, he recently sent 200 employees to Vegas to watch games one and two of the Stanley Cup finals.

Time and again, we have heard the stories about Ted reaching out to fans. Maybe they were from Brazil and arrived to watch a game only to be snowed out. Ted later brought our friends Pedro Rocha and his family back for a game in his box.

Or how about Connolly Fan sensation Keelan Moxley? Somehow he always seems to want to make a bad situation better. And his actions inspire us as a result.

Never one to just relax or sit back quietly, rumors began in 2016 that he might consider moving the Caps and Wizards out of Chinatown at some point. He corrected himself later, saying: “We love Washington D.C., and we have a great, mutual respect for our city, and we have a 99-year lease on the land, and it’s been the greatest experience, so we’re very, very committed to Washington, D.C., and I’m grateful for the love that the fan base has shown us, and I hope to return that certainly for the rest of my lifetime.”  For now, he continues to focus on making Capital One Arena a better place for the fan experience. He announced in February 2018 that over the summer he would be investing $40 million in improvements to the arena to “…ensure that the fan experience at Capital One Arena remains second to none.” We can expect to return to a more modern concourse, improved concession stands, two new lounges, on the 100 level, and even new padded seats!! Always making it better for us.

So while the Capitals are a business for Ted Leonsis, it is also his passion. He is one of those rare breed of owners who actually involves himself in team and the community. We are in large part the kind of community that showed up by the thousands at Capital One Arena and in the streets of DC on a night when the team played in a place far away, because of him. And when it was all over, and the Cup came back to DC, what did he do?? He took it to the people!!

So when you line the streets on Tuesday to celebrate the Stanley Cup – make sure you wave to Ted Leonsis and scream a huge CAPS THANK YOU!!!  And if you see him walking around town or the Arena – stop and shake his hand. Let him see the tears in your eyes as you thank him for investing in a sport that we all love and a team that has proven to be incredible ambassadors for Washington DC!

Well done TED, well done!!

Capitals Under Construction: Comments from MacLellan

Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan (GMBM) held a media call Monday morning to talk about all the changes and signings from the weekend. It was, as many reported, an open and honest discussion about what transpired. Although many disagree with some of the decisions he has made, he did his best to explain them. “It hurts, we spent three years to get that lineup last year.”

He started by explaining that the team “maxed out”  with what they spent the “last three years building the team”  and had to make some tough decisions. He was expecting to run into “issues” and “knew this was coming.” Mac compared the pain the Caps are experiencing as the “hangover” that teams that who have won the cup go through – only we haven’t.  Caps were “top heavy” like Blackhawks and Pens. He is now “comfortable” with the position they are in and ready to settle on Philipp Grubauer and Andre Burakovsky. They are next on the agenda.

When asked, he said they didn’t buy out Oprik because he liked how he looked last year:  “We value what he brings to young defensemen.”

On signing Evgeny Kuznetsov, MacLellan said they “went above where we thought we were going.” Kuzy had the KHL option and the Caps “had to comply with his demands.” GMBM still sees it as a good deal for the team. They could either go with Kuzy or Marcus Johansson and they opted for Kuzy.

Younger Guys

In the season ahead, GMBM is excited about the prospect of new younger players joining the lineup. He wants to give younger guys a chance to play. The blue line will add a couple of those younger guys this year.  Looking for speed there and will have to see who to slot with John Carlson.

The Caps today signed right-wing Devante Smith-Pelley from the NJ Devils to a one-year two-way deal and he his likely to get more NHL time. Mac said: “I think there’s some untapped potential.” Hershey Bears’ center Jakub Vrana might yet get a shot – haven’t heard him mentioned in a while. Maybe even Nathan Walker, the left-winger from Australia, might see more NHL time.

The Caps are Happy to have two strong goalies on the team with two young defensemen added in. There will be a change though in who is coaching the goalies this year with the formal announcement we expected. Mitch Korn will step down as goalie coach and become director of goaltending. They will promote Scott Murray to goaltender coach, who was dominate during Capitals development camp last week.

Our Takeaway

There is a sense that GMBM was slow on the draw this year and maybe didn’t have full control over the decisions that needed to be made. There was a lot of money spent for TJ Oshie and Kuznetsov which forced his hand. Additionally, perhaps the Nate Schmidt over Grubauer draft choice was unexpected.

We know that keeping all these players and salaries straight is no easy game. We have heard that before from Don Fishman, Assistant General Manager, Director of Legal Affairs, just how grueling a process this time of the year can be for managers. We don’t envy him the task of making all the numbers work.

What lies ahead? A bit of the old peppered with the new. All teams need a strategy to integrate their younger players or run the risk of losing them to other teams. Now appears to be that time. It also may mean that this will not be our Cup year, again. We’ll stand behind the Washington Capitals, we always do in the end. We are hopeful that these decisions won’t create too much chaos and we will adjust to the change.

LET’S KEEP ROCKING THE RED!! 

 

Capitals Franchise: Some Signings and Some Waiting

BREAKING: Capitals Sign Chandler Stephenson

In the past couple of days the Washington Capitals (and Hershey Bears) have re-signed a few of their players. Meanwhile, we know that  the Caps tendered qualifying offers to restricted free agents Phillip Grubauer, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov. We are waiting and waiting to hear that these fellows are all locked up.

The NHL Free Agency begins 1 July. Players must have been provided with a qualifying offer to enable the team to continue to negotiate the terms of a new contract. Those not receiving qualifying offers become unrestricted free agents (UFA) and can negotiate with anyone (including their home team) for a new contract. Those with qualifying offers may accept the offer, reject the offer, or head into arbitration to try and get a better deal.

TJ Oshie is the first of the players signed last week. He inked an eight-year $46 million agreement with an annual salary cap hit of $5.75 million.

Bob McKenzie (TSN) reported that Brett Connolly – who we understand from the Caps was not given a qualifying offer – signed a “two-year deal with on AAV of $1.5 million per year.” Although Spotac has the details fed into their list of Capitals contracts, the organization has yet to officially announce the contract.

The Caps have five UFAs who most likely will not return to the Capitals next season, mostly because there just isn’t enough money to go around. There are lots of rumors circulating about Williams, Alzner, and Shattenkirk but nothing definitive yet. Most frequently we are hearing interest from the Leafs and Habs.

  • Centers Dan Winnik and Paul Carey
  • Right Wing Justin Williams
  • Defensemen Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie the Capitals have agreed to terms with Connolly on a two-year contract that will pay him an average annual salary of $1.5 million per season.

The Caps have signed the following players with the Bears:

Chris Bourque (One Year),

Pheonix Copley (Two Years),

Christian Djoos (Two Years)

Chandler Stephenson (Two Years)

Nathan Walker (Two Years)

Bears Coach Troy Mann has suggested that Walker and Stephenson are close to playing for the NHL.

These players do not yet have contracts. We have heard that Stan Galiev does not intend to return to play in the for the Caps this year and was actually placed on the available list to Vegas. .

Christian Thomas, Stan Galiev, Paul Carey, Garrett Mitchell, Tom Gilbert.Darren Dietz,Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien,

The Caps reportedly tendered qualify offers to  Liam O’Brien and Travis Boyd, although we have yet to see a contract.

We’ll keep watching to see what happens. We are pretty confident that the RFA’s will be locked down as soon as General Manager Brian MacLellan and the team of lawyers settle on terms that fit the very tight salary cap. And lets’ not forget that there are some intriguing young players showing their stuff at development camp who could find themselves at Hershey when players move up to DC and the big league.

Let’s Talk Washington Capitals Coaches 

Every time the Caps fail to make it past Round Two of the NHL playoffs, the call for the coach’s head can’t be far away. This season is no different as we have begun to see the tweets in favor of replacing Barry Trotz are building as frustration is replacing tears and anger.

So let’s look back a few years on the Ovechkin Era and see what’s been going on. Ovi signed with the Caps in 2004 right before the 2004/05 season lockout. It was a pivotal time for the Washington Capitals. At that time George McPhee was general manager (GMGM) and Glen Hanlon was coach. Hanlon had been coaching the team since 2003 when he was promoted as assistant coach and replaced Bruce Cassidy. Hanlon had played in the league himself from 1977 to 1991; however, he was never on a Cup winning team. His stint as coach was memorable only for his losses and the sense of defeat the fans felt as the result of his coaching.

That takes us to Bruce Boudreau. He too had played in the league. He; however, had no NHL coaching experience. What he did have was a winning record with the AHL affiliate team, the Hershey Bears. After seven years he took the team all the way to win the Calder Cup in 2006. The hope was that he would bring the winning skill he demonstrated in Hershey to Washington. Fans were pretty excited with this change and hope seemed to be all around the team. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green—The Young Guns—the Caps were primed for lifting the Cup.

Or so we thought.

BB would quickly become part of the “Building America’s Hockey Capital” strategy of owner Ted Leonsis.  It was a pretty remarkable time for the Caps. He helped them win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. He gained notoriety as the “F-bomb coach” when HBO followed him around during the Caps first Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a game that would excite Caps fans and dismay Pens fans as the Sidney Crosby hit and subsequent concussion would haunt the team ever after. He was a staple in the hockey world and fans adored him almost to the end. By the time he left Bruce posted a 201-88-40 in 329 regular season games. He was also the fastest coach to record 200 regular season wins. Unfortunately, he could never get the Caps past the second round of the playoffs either. He gradually lost the confidence of the team and the fan base resulting in his rather abrupt firing.

It was all over by November 2011 when the Caps fired Broudeau and made one of the worst hiring decisions bringing in former Capitals’ superstar Dale Hunter, owner of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. Hunter played for the Capitals from 1987 to 1999. Hunter made it clear when he arrived that he was no fan of Ovechkin, probably believing the press that Ovi had become disrespectful toward his coach and needed rewiring. The excitement for Hunter was brief. He had almost tasted the thrill of victory as a player with the Colorado Avalanche but still did not know how to lead a team past the final. After a dismal season (six months of coaching) with the Caps once again not making it past the semi-finals, Hunter decided he was better suited with the Knights and folded tent to head home.

Hunter’s departure led to the Caps second disaster in this time frame; the hiring of another former player, Adam Oates. Oates was a former assistant coach for Tampa Bay Lightning and part of the NJ Devils team (assistant coach) that made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2012,  which the LA Kings won.  Although he had not yet served as a head coach, he at least had the experience of working with a team that made it to the finals. And he was a Hall of Famer. What could go wrong???  Well things started bumpy with the 2012/13 NHL lockout, which led to a shortened first season. It looked hopeful for the team until they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. His second full season fell apart as he lost the locker room early and he lost the confidence of his star players, most notably Ovechkin. (Que the Ovi fires coaches rumors). He quickly lost the support of the fan base that loved him as a player. This discontent ultimately led to the Caps failure to make it to the playoffs. In the end, the Caps declined to continue their relationship with Oates and released him from his contract.

And as a side note,  they also released GM George McPhee. He was after all, the guy who brought in all the losing coaches. Although he was also responsible for bringing on some of the strongest players in the league, he was unable to create the right mix for a Stanley Cup winning team. He came close though in his first year, 1998, when the Caps went all the way to the finals—for the last time. It was time for a major shakeup and many long-time followers of the Capitals had mixed feelings about letting go of GMGM. Like Bruce, he was well liked in the community.

Which brings us to the Capitals current coach, Barry Trotz. He never played hockey in the NHL, often saying he wasn’t good enough. He began his NHL coaching career with the Nashville Predators in 1997 as part of the new expansion team. He earned a positive reputation as a coach, a winning coach who also never took his team past the second round of the playoffs. He failed to bring them to the playoffs in his last two seasons in Nashville. As a result, the Preds released him in April 2014 which opened the door for the Caps to bring him into the fold a month later. There were mixed reviews about the Caps hiring him, but there was also a sense that he could be the guy to have some success in the latest round of “rebuild.” He has worked well with the team, never afraid to do the unexpected as he adjusted lines, sat under-performing players, and was not phased by the Ovi hype but looks at the team as a whole. Clearly he was disappointed after the Caps were knocked out of the playoffs for the third time under his leadership. He built real cohesion and friendships on the team, the likes of which we have never seen. There were mentors and a real dependence on each other, on and off the ice.  However, all the changes and growth were not enough to give the team the confidence and steam to push past round two. Clearly he knows how to get the team to the playoffs but he hasn’t proven an ability to make it all the way. All that said, there is no sense from the players that they have lost confidence in him. He has created a new culture, but that culture will change with all the moving pieces and trades likely to occur over the summer.watermarked332017-02-17-1120

In the weeks ahead the Capitals management will be taking a good look at what worked and what didn’t. Bloggers and sports writers will assess players and argue about the weakest links. If Trotz stays, he will keep working with GM Brian MacLellan to develop a new strategy and together they will work to create a new team that can go all the way. They have already made some positive changes overall on behalf of the team—creating a healthy environment and a place where young players can develop their craft. The team is closer than ever and it is a waiting game to see who stays and who goes and what that means for the next season.

In the end, the biggest downfall with GMGM’s hiring practice was the mistake in not hiring a coach with NHL Stanley Cup experience. The ongoing problem is that the Caps have never hired someone who coached a team and won the Stanley Cup. Close enough is not necessarily good enough. As much as we believe in what Barry Trotz has tried to accomplish with this team, his record speaks for itself. If the Caps stay with Trotz one more season, he needs to not just coach the team to the finals but win the Cup. If management is unsure of his ability to do that, we strongly urge them to consider hiring a coach with the actual experience of  “rebuilding” a team that has won the Cup. We know who we would suggest at this point were the Caps to make a change today…

Bottom line: fans don’t just want another season of making it to the playoffs, or even making it to the final round. WE WANT TO BRING THE CUP HOME!! And we want them to do whatever it takes to make that a reality next season. We are past the ‘rebuilding’ promises and are ready for a positive outcome.