17 April, 2014


100 Questions for Concerned Caps’ Fans

It’s cliche, it’s boring, it’s obvious, it’s true: We don’t know what’s going on with the Washington Capitals right now.

At the risk of selling the sizzle before the steak, here’s the point of all this: I don’t know. People who make their living by watching this team don’t know. No one knows.

Better defensively. Penalty kill — much improved. The power-play can’t score. They’re dirty. Or they’re not. They’re
physical. Or they’re not. Too young. Too slow. Too old. Too wild. Not wild enough. Is a notable shakeup coming?

Rather than go over the obvious questions, let’s figure out if we’re even asking the right ones:

  • George McPhee’s defining characteristic in the rebuild has been patience — but when does the patience change to imperative-of-the-moment aggressiveness? Should it? Does that translate well into the Caps’ current cycle? Is it time to ‘go for it’? Is it time to face hard truths about the team’s viability as a Cup contender? It seems unseemly to question it, but McPhee has stated the past few years that the organization has thought that it had a chance to contend for the Cup. Considering the results, does that thought process need to be revisited?
  • How flawed are the teams at the top of the Eastern conference? Is this setting up to be an especially ripe time for management to make a bold roster move, precisely because the East lacks a thoroughbred at the top, and one key addition (let’s just say for the sake of argument an impact second-line center) could catapult the Caps to legit conference finals contender?
  • How would you feel, generally, about this hockey team’s chances this postseason absent any notable acquisition by management this weekend?
  • A defensive state of mind. The Caps are much better defensively, likely better than most national media realize. Shutting out teams  once in a while, even. Blocking shots. But not scoring. Not scoring a lot. Getting shut out a ton. Not a lot of offense, and a lot of defense. Will the Caps be able to win the 1-0 games in the playoffs, when things are even tighter? How much better would this team be if the power play converted on a 20 percent basis?
  • What do you most want to see from this hockey club over the final 20 games of the regular season? More scoring generally? The emergence of a true no.1 netminder? A heated up power play?
  • As far as you’re concerned, is Ovi enough of the Ovi of old to instill confidence in you that he’s poised to lead the Caps to a reasonably lengthy postseason run? Do the Caps need the Ovi of old? Is Ovi 2.0 where he should be as a hockey player, ready to stake a credible claim to Cup aspirant? How exactly would you describe Old Ovi and how would you describe Ovi in 2010-11? Perhaps most importantly: is it necessarily the case that Alexander Ovechkin had to radically adapt his game — individually, and radically — to advance his hockey team’s postseason ambitions?
  • In the same vein, Mike Green, too, has significantly modified his game this season, subsuming individual offensive stats in pursuit of a more complete game. Is it your view that the reigned in Mike Green is a net benefit to this team’s postseason viability, or like Old Ovi, is the experiment with Green another instance perhaps of the team cutting off its nose to spite its face?
  • In your view, is there any notable identity crisis with this hockey team? Put another way, can a tiger change its stripes — can this club built for speed and scoring and an up-tempo attack re-engineer itself, and reliably, for the duress of the postseason?
  • Play GM for a weekend. Give me one move — any move. Who and what is going, and who’s coming?
  • The Room. Who owns it? Who is accountable to who? Being a good interview is nice, but it doesn’t follow that it gives you clout when the doors are closed. Bruce Boudreau is capable of screaming at the team, as we amply saw on cable television, but what Caps player can raise his voice (if need be) and get results? Can this group of players take the challenge? The team’s style has changed significantly, but it’s been very slow to adapt/embrace it — the effort is there, no doubt. When will they fully adapt to the new system to take advantage of the chances their commitment to defense is creating?

Just a few questions, almost every one of which opens a can of worms. The Caps are young, they are changing their style, they are dealing with injuries, and certainly they are being questioned in the media. If they get through it, it seems like they will be tougher, stronger, and more resolute. But almost certainly they need to score more, and almost certainly they need to be more threatening on the power play. If not, it’s hard not to wonder where this group of players is next year.



14 Comments

  1. nafyekcoh wrote:

    GMGM will continue his patience attitude in rebuilding this team by not making a trade at the deadline. Previous transactions have not worked out well, either they got the wrong player or it drastically effected the team’s chemistry. With the way the East is setup, the Caps can still make a run to the Cup, however, they will have to eliminate the simple mistakes they continue to make and they will have to be prepared to work twice as hard, there will not be any easy series.

    The PP has to get better, right now teams are not afraid of going a man down against the Caps. This needs to change, a successful PP allows more opportunities 5-v-5 by not allowing opponents to play as aggressively. Ovi’s continued success hinges on his ability to develop his playing style, he is still a little one dimensional. Green has proven he can improve his play in his own end, but he will have to have the ability to turn on his offensive game when needed. Now that the team can play defense they have to find balance between a defensive game or a high flying offensive team. 1-0 games will put too much pressure on the goaltending during the playoffs. Very few goalies can handle consecutive series of 1-0, 2-1. It’s time to mix in the offensive to this defensive style.

    25 February, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  2. TG wrote:

    Probable: 3rd rounder to Buffalo for Connolly.

    Want to see (I’m not dealing with salary cap issues or anything like that right now): A package of players/picks to Colorado for Stasny or Duchesne. Or to Columbus for Nash.

    Regarding the power play, remember during the regular season how everyone said, “Once the playoffs come and the calls decrease, the power pay won’t be the weapon it is now.” So would I like to see it working better? Yeah. But I’d much rather see them figure out how to win without it than rely on it for victories.

    Another depth defenseman would be nice. Or a moderately healthy Poti. I’d take Jurcina back (again) for a 6th-7th rounder.

    But given that Crosby is still out, and may not be back this year, Philadelphia still (again?) has issues in net, is there really a dominant team in the East? This may be the time to really make – or at least attempt to make – the big splash and see what you can do.

    But I guess that’s why I’m not a GM.

    25 February, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  3. Colin wrote:

    MP and a 1st for Penner
    Eakin and a 2nd for Vermette

    25 February, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  4. Liz wrote:

    Sasha Semin and Jeff Schultz gone. Signing any fast-footed forward scorer and ANY OTHER D-MAN who can move bodies from the crease, clear the puck, finish a check and has a shot from the point.

    25 February, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  5. John wrote:

    I thought there were supposed to be 100 questions??????

    25 February, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  6. G man wrote:

    Though I am not a hockey expert, just a fan and a big fan of the Caps. It seems to me that McPhee has put a good team together, but the team does not have chemistry. I have only seen “brief” moments of brilliance as a “team”. Nobody knows what Ovi going to do with the puck if he gets it. He is a awesome player, best I ever seen. However, it takes 5 guys and a goalie to git er done. Somebody needs to light a fire under their butt and I look to Ovi to be more vocal English or Russian! Get pssed and get it done as a team!!!!!

    25 February, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  7. Dave wrote:

    It’s not just that they’re playing a new style, it’s that they’re adapting their style every night. They can still run and gun as shown in Anaheim, and they can grind out wins against less talented teams that come to play the body, as shown in Buffalo and Pitt. They’re not just learning a new system, they’re learning an entirely new way to play the game.

    My biggest question for caps fans? Why can’t we enjoy a team thats winning, thats on pace to qualify comfortably for the playoffs, is in contention to win its division, and has great potential to keep doing so for years? Did you honestly expect this team to be a modern day version of the gretzky/messier oilers, and duplicate the same rampant success they had last year? This is the post lockout NHL, a dynasty like that is going to be very hard to come by. This is a professional team playing against other professionals.

    25 February, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  8. OvieTracker wrote:

    Like G MAN, I’m no expert either, just a big Caps fan through thick and thin. All the questions asked are legitimate, but I am in no way equipped to even begin to answer any of them. All I have to offer are a few comments/observations:
    —it wouldn’t surprise me if GM McPhee doesn’t make a trade before the deadline for the reasons NAFYEKCOH gave. He has shown that his approach to building the team is patience, plus the fact prior transactions didn’t work out, so I assume he won’t be offering up promising prospects to get someone unless the new player can solve some of the offensive problems the team has had, especially on the PP, and will blend in with the current roster without disrupting chemistry. You just don’t know how these moves will turn out, but having said that, GM could surprise me and acquire THE MISSING PIECE, whoever that might turn out to be.
    —I applaud the team’s improvement in defense but remain as perplexed as anyone else about their struggles offensively, especially the PP. I can’t understand how being more responsible on the D can impact the PP in such a negative way. Right now teams aren’t afraid to taking penalties against the Caps, and this absolutely must change if for no other reason than to prevent injuries to key players going into the playoffs. I also can’t understand why a choice must be made, either more offense or remain defensively responsible. This back-and-forth switch in strategy leads to an identity crisis, and I believe the Caps need to establish who they are, ideally a more balanced team between O and D, to prepare them mentally for the war of attrition that characterizes the playoffs.
    —leadership, accountability, establishing an identity must be top priorities for the team collectively, but most especially for the players wearing the C and A on their jerseys. To simplify matters, I will focus on the guy who wears the C, the unanimous choice of his teammates to be their Captain. I have no doubt whatsoever that Ovie desperately wants to win the Stanley Cup. I also have no doubt that he has adapted his game for several reasons: lingering hangover from the Olympics and elimination from the playoffs by the Canadiens, last season’s suspensions, a nagging hand/wrist injury from mid-October this season, personal decision to be more team-oriented and less concerned with personal awards or achievements, etc. Having said that, I also believe Ovie has been going through his own personal identity crisis as he attempts to modify his game for the team’s benefit. I’ve seen him at different times this season looking somewhat lost and/or disinterested, and other times more energized and committed. That is why I firmly believe that as Ovie goes and how successful he is in achieving his own balance and comfort zone, so will the rest of the team follow. I have no idea what is involved or how he/they will go about achieving it, but establishing an identity and achieving balance in their style of play between offense and defense, will decide how far the Caps go in the postseason.

    25 February, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Brad wrote:

    1. Agree with Liz, at least about Semin
    2. Best that can be expected from deadline trade is a lineup tweak. There is no earthquake level trade that will, by itself, completely change playoff prospects. It can sure help, but if they’re headed for first round exit, a trade won’t get them much beyond that.
    3. real playoff prospects are in the hands of 6 players – Ovie (there is no substitute), Backstrom, Green, Semin (if he isn’t traded) and Varly/Neuvy. If they all play there absolute best every game they could make it to the finals. But we all know that isn’t happening (except Varly/Neuvy). Semin’s a joke, Backstrom is awol, and Ovie? As for Green, yes, his D is better, but does anyone remember people complaining about Bobby Orr’s defense play? Didn’t think so. There’s no reason why Green can’t be a puck moving decent scorer, and still play defense. Green needs to party less and focus more. He’s a pro, time to grow up.

    25 February, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  10. Ted wrote:

    We’ve dominated the Rangers when they had better teams in the season series the past couple years thought they have played us much tougher. The showing this season against the Rangers have been absolutely pathetic. The Rangers aren’t as good as they have been in other seasons. Either the Caps don’t care or we stink.

    25 February, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink
  11. Ray in MD wrote:

    Dave: “My biggest question for caps fans? Why can’t we enjoy a team thats winning, thats on pace to qualify comfortably for the playoffs, is in contention to win its division, and has great potential to keep doing so for years?”

    Me: What team are YOU watching? The best thing that could happen to these freeloaders is not to make the playoffs, so they know that effort must be consistent, not intermittent, or they will be replaced.

    25 February, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  12. Steve wrote:

    Boudreau has to go. I like the guy and what he’s done in the past, but when a team with this talent is as inconsistent and baffling as the Caps, it goes back to the coach. Look what Lemaire did with the Devils. I’m no admired or Lemaire’s style but it shows how a coach can turn a team around.

    26 February, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  13. Dave wrote:

    Ray, it may be that i empathize too much. But i’ve been on the receiving end of criticism like this at times when i’ve struggled, people questioning my effort when it was really that i was just having a difficult time, my game was off, whatever, but it wasn’t a lack of effort. I think we need to remember that even though these are highly paid humans, they’re humans. Young humans at that, and sometimes they will struggle, and the more they struggle, the more frustrated they get, and then when everyone around them is screaming at them, or booing them, it will get even worse.

    You see a team full of freeloaders, i see a team that doesn’t believe in itself right now. And as cathartic for us or coaches as is may be to “send a message” it’s been fairly well documented that isn’t effective.

    26 February, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  14. mattsdad wrote:

    I have a question, and I can’t figure out why our “journalists” aren’t asking it: whatever happened to “Dr. Doug Nagel Chiropractor, Washington Capitals.”

    26 February, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink