In early June 2009 I made the 10-hour journey north to Toronto to begin an internship at what many regard as the most important hockey publication in the world, the Hockey News. During my time there, I established a good relationship with a couple of writers, one of whom I got in touch with last week upon hearing about their 2012 Stanley Cup prediction. In case you missed it, THN is picking the Caps to win the Stanley Cup in 2011-12.
Last summer, THN, and many members of this DC bloggers roundtable (including yours truly) predicted a Vancouver celebration for June 2011. In my prediction, I noted that Alexander Semin must leave for the Caps to have a credible Stanley shot. One former THN colleague went to Vegas and put his dime on the Caps and lost. The year before, he put his faith in Chicago and was substantially rewarded. The rest of THN said Philadelphia would hoist Lord Stanley. This year he’s making the same bet as last summer, going with the Caps in the hockey bible and with the bookies.
Let’s be honest, though, betting against Vancouver didn’t seem all that wise a year ago, and ultimately they were but one win shy of paying out.
- Four world class scoring forwards: D.Sedin, H. Sedin, Kesler, Burrows
- Two prime two-way centers: H. Sedin, Kessler
- The best defense in the league: Edler, Ballard, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Salo, Alberts
- Vezina finalist and Olympic gold medal-winning goalie: Luongo
- Former Jack Adams winner: Alain Vigneault
- A dynamic and diverse supporting cast
Mike Vogel of the Caps website wrote this article last week on his Dump ‘n Chase blog just after THN penciled in Washington as the last team standing. Vogs does a nice job establishing that these predictions are useless 10 months in advance of the fact, especially with many teams sure to encounter poor starts, numerous injuries, fledgling run-ins, or that stroke of bad luck. Nevertheless, they are fun to ponder, which is exactly what I’ve briefly done.
There are a lot of good things the Caps did this offseason to avoid the misfortunes that can make any team hiccup. They replaced Eric Fehr with a proven champion in Troy Brouwer. They added a bonafide no. 1 goalie, one better than their veterans of recent years past. They added grit and experience. But I feel they have failed to address the most important issue related to this team. And it’s one that continues to hang over our collective heads.
Zherdev, Frolov, S. Kostitsyn, Filatov, Kovalev, Yashin. What do all these names have in common?
In the post-lockout NHL, talented but enigmatic Eastern European must go.
- Zherdev — traded from Columbus to New York Rangers. Signed with Philadelphia last summer.
- Frolov — Signed by New York Rangers as a FA last summer.
- S. Kostitsyn — traded from Montreal to Nashville.
- Filatov — traded from Columbus to Ottawa.
- Kovalev — signed as FA by Ottawa, traded to Pittsburgh. Signed in KHL.
- Yashin — bought out by New York Islanders in 2007.
Alexander Semin remains with Washington, and ex-Caps Matt Bradley’s ruminations on no. 28 last week re-opened a longstanding debate. Until something changes about this situation, I believe that any prediction crowning Washington Stanley Cup Champions, including the one my former colleagues drew up, is fairly foolish. Summed up succinctly: Semin, in ice time, salary, and skill, is disproportionately important to the Caps, but all too often when he’s needed most he’s AWOL.
Jeff Schultz remains another toss-up pertaining to playoff success. I thought he did reasonably well during the past two regular seasons, but every playoff season seems another story. Playoff hockey is a game of closer checking — “uglified hockey” — and I don’t see that markedly changed environment suiting Sarge real well.
I have a lot of respect for the writers at THN. After all, their picks have made the Cup finals the past two seasons. But with the souring effect of Sasha, I simply cannot say this Caps team will give THN another close call.