23 April, 2014


THN’s Got It All Wrong

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.

Semin will again be asked to play a role that may be too big for him to handle.

  • 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.




16 Comments

  1. The Horn Guy wrote:

    I agree with your assessment. I consider Semin’s downside to outweigh the benefits of having him on a roster. The money he’s being paid will not motivate him to be any different than how he’s ever been: a sickeningly talented boat anchor.

    22 August, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink
  2. Mike wrote:

    And what about Hossa to the Blackhawks for their SC win? Engimatic, check. Eastern European, check.

    Also, Kovalev was on the 1994 SC winning NY Rangers and contributed in a major way. His trades/releases now are more about waning skills than enigmatic nature.

    22 August, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink
  3. michelle wrote:

    who scored the OT GWG against the Rangers in Game 1? Oh wait…. the guy that doesn’t care…..

    22 August, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink
  4. Dan DC wrote:

    as long as boudreau is aware of those days when semin is checked out mentally, and is willing to sit him on the bench (or scratch him) – he is still enough of an offensive assett that he is worth keeping on the roster. without him, other teams will be able to more effectively shut down ov. shultz, on the other hand, brings nothing to the table. he is the team’s slowest skater and has the weakest shot (when he does it). he seems afraid on the ice and indecisive. i would rather have doig than sergeant frock. getting rid of shultz truly would be addition by subtraction. if erskine sits and big bird doesn’t, then i think you have to flush the caps’ chances down the toilet…because it will show that management just doesn’t understand the value of heart, courage and effort…and are too enamored with draft position.

    22 August, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  5. Grtttt wrote:

    Hey kid, learn to spell Schultz and stop being a bandwagon fan. Thanks.

    22 August, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink
  6. Alex wrote:

    @Mike, I wouldn’t call Marian Hossa enigmatic at all. He is world class talent and was on three successive Stanley Cup Finals teams. Your words, not mine. Kovalev, anyone would say, still has the skills to torch any goalie in the league.

    @Michelle, besides his very good series against the Rangers a couple years ago, he’s been MIA, including the Penguins loss that same postseason.

    22 August, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  7. Dave wrote:

    Anyone who thinks we are better off with Semin and Schultz on this team either isn’t paying attention, or knows nothing about hockey.

    @Michelle

    Game 1, first round. That’s his big accomplishment? Too funny.

    22 August, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  8. Jack Bartram wrote:

    “Anyone who thinks we are better off with Semin and Schultz on this team either isn’t paying attention, or knows nothing about hockey.”

    I would say that anyone that makes a statement like this knows nothing, period, but the statement isn’t entirely false, so I’ll let it go. Schultz… ok, I myself would prefer Erskine play than Schultz, and there are a number of d-men in the league that could be at least as effective for the $$$. So, the Schultz portion of the comment displays at least a modicum of knowledge. Now, for the utterly idiotic portion…

    Yes, the team is better off with Alex Semin, and anyone that thinks differently should likely stick to a sport they at least have a passing familiarity with. If you drop Semin and don’t replace him with someone who is at least the offensive threat Semin is, get used to the numbers Ovie and Backs put up last year, because it will only get worse. The big value of Semin isn’t what he does so much that other teams have to account for him. They can’t load up on the top line. So, sure… the team would be better off with a more fundamentally sound and motivated player with Semin’s offensive skills. When you find that player that another team would be willing to part with and would come for $6.5M or less, let me know (hint: there isn’t one). Until then, the answer is yes, the Caps are better off with Semin. Anyone that thinks differently either isn’t paying attention, or knows nothing about hockey.

    22 August, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  9. 28ISGREAT wrote:

    So to be clear – we don’t win the Cup because of 1 player? That’s your insight?

    22 August, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  10. Alex wrote:

    Look, the Cup is a toss-up. The usual suspects will be challenging (and sure the Caps are a usual suspect), but it’s my opinion that lackluster pieces were absent from recent Cup-winning teams. Teams that win have all their players show up in the regular season and the postseason which is something I feel several fans and the media know, but sometimes choose to ignore. I don’t see a point about only parading around regular season accomplishments when this team should be so far beyond that in their cycle.

    I sincerely hope I am wrong, and when/if that is the case next June, please have at me. But for now, I can honestly say what I wrote is what I believe. I’d welcome anyone’s views as to why the Caps can win in the postseason with Semin on the team. As of now, I haven’t heard any.

    22 August, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  11. JessMan wrote:

    so easy to take pot-shots at schultz. i challenge anyone here to go 1-on-1 with him and see if you can get past. i would like to see him hit more though

    22 August, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  12. Liz Mulcahy wrote:

    Trading 55 is long overdue. Can’t clear the puck from his own end, is horrible in front of the net and is very slow footed. Having a “long reach” does not make up for this on “D”.

    22 August, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  13. Paul wrote:

    So I guess we won’t win the cup with 28 but won’t win it without him either. Since the whole thing is a tactical crapshoot starting in May…I would stick with him, just because he could limit some opposing teams options. Maybe it is bad that he is a 6 million chessboard piece but we have him. I hope Bruce can become a grand master.

    22 August, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  14. ValleyCapsFan wrote:

    Despite flashes of brilliance, the only thing #28 can be counted on to do consistently is draw a hooking or interference call – in the offensive zone – and often with very bad timing (almost as bad as an Al Iafrate penalty). The team may be better off with him than without him, unless you think about how his $6.7 million might be used.

    22 August, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  15. Denver Dave wrote:

    The problem with the logic, such that it is, is that it places 100% of the blame for not progressing farther in the playoffs on one player (ok, maybe 5% to Schultz; another issue completely). The enigmatic, eastern European, Alexander Semin. That is simply – and objectively – not true. And, besides the obvious flaw in that statement, it presumes that a) there are no ‘enigmatic’ players from other places that cause these types of problems and b) still ignores how tons of eastern Europeans (who I presume are not ‘enigmatic’) are vital to Stanley Cup runs (see, Krejci, Hossa, Malkin, Datzyuk, etc., etc.; the list is HUGE).

    Most importantly, though, the “logic” proves the opposite point — Zherdev and Filatov were traded from Columbus, but Columbus didn’t get better, again missing the playoffs. Kostitsyn was traded from Montreal, who then went from Eastern finalist with him, to one-and-done without (oh, and Nashville went farther in the playoffs WITH him). Frolov had 50+ pts for 5 straight seasons with the Kings, but when he left the Kings had a WORSE record (and, obviously, didn’t win a Cup).

    If this list proves anything, it is that one talented enigmatic player likely doesn’t affect the team’s performance.

    22 August, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  16. Corners wrote:

    I think you have a point. The Europeans are prominent with awards like the Ted Linsey, however, it rarely crosses over to a Hart trophy winner.
    In todays game you need more Hart trophy contenders to win a cup.

    28 August, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

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