Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good Riddance

Dear fans,
Jonathan Cheechoo's balloon contract was finally bought out. What a grotesque waste of money.

I remember hearing, about a decade ago, that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals if it played next to Mario Lemieux. Apparently the same can be said about Joe Thornton. If Cheechoo can cheat the Sharks out of $3.5 million per year, then I think I could earn at least the veteran's minimum.

Your [still] draft eligible blogger.

What should the Caps do?

Why did the Caps lose in the playoffs the last three years? A few reasons. They rely too heavily on the power play. They suck along the boards. They get frustrated too easily when things don't go their way. They do not block shots. They do not play in front of the net at either end. They do not hit, fight, or play physically, at all. They flop around on the ice, looking at the refs, instead of looking to just play the damn game.

So how do we fix this? We mix up the roster a bit. The returning forwards we have are Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Knuble, Laich, Chimera, Steckel, and Bradley. All of them except Semin have some grit - Backstrom is not that strong on his skates, but he is smooth like Datsyuk. And even he showed some emotion last year in the infamous Pittsburgh game, something that is pretty rare for the smooth operator he has become.

I expect Fehr, Fleischmann, and Gordon to be back next year. That leaves one roster spot (not counting the 100 combined games that Bradley, Gordon, Semin, and Fleischmann will miss). I liked the addition of Eric Belanger, but he seems to be out the door. Marcus Johansson will be competing for a roster spot, but it does not make much sense to bring in a top prospect to anchor the third or fourth line when he has top line talent.

Some bargains the Caps should pursue: Colby Armstrong, Rob Niedermayer (both UFAs), or Dan Carcillo, Ben Eager, and Andrew Ladd (RFAs). Of these, Ladd would be the best pick up. He has played in 53 playoff games, and won 2 Stanley Cups, and he is only 24 years old. A great combination of grit, size, leadership, durability, and poise, he would make for a great bargain - I see him making around $2 million next year, certainly within the Caps budget. The question is, are the Caps willing to part with a 2nd rounder as compensation? They should be, especially for this winner.

I would love for the Caps to add a gritty enforcer, maybe a guy like Zenon Konopka. Zman was amazing in the faceoff dot, has served as a captain in the AHL, and despite leading the league by a large margin in penalty minutes, did so with respectable and clean play. He only had two instigator penalties - something he takes pride in doing is defending his teammates without setting them back. But we know how the Caps feel about having a fighter. They would rather flop around like a Ghanaian when any contact is made, hoping for an penalty, instead of pressing the matter and having a highly effective deterrent on the roster. We can always hope.

The defense seems pretty much set: Green, Carlson, Poti, Schultz, Alzner, Erskine/Sloan/FA. There are a ton of third pair veterans available, for low salaries, but there is one in particular I am interested in - Shane O'Brien. He is young, physical, and if he could be kept in check, would make a great second/third pair dman. He has attitude problems, but that leads to passionate play, something the Caps have badly been lacking since the pre-Jagr days. If Boudreau is such a great coach, he should have no problem reeling him in and getting the most of him, right?

The goalies are set. Maybe look at the bargain bin for a backup (Emery?), but the future is in net now, and Varlamov and Neuvirth need all the experience they can get right now.

All this cap space, and for what? Use it.

Capitals Qualify Nine Players

"Two days after the completion of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and three days before the start of the league’s free agent shopping season, the Washington Capitals got back to business on Monday. The Caps issued qualifying contract offers to nine players for the 2010-11 season.

The list of players qualified is as follows: Jay Beagle, Chris Bourque, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Andrew Gordon, Boyd Gordon, Patrick McNeill, Zach Miskovic and Jeff Schultz."

-Mike Vogel

I do not know much about the Hershey boys (Beagle, Bourque, A. Gordon, McNeill, Miskovic), but they have been together for a bit and have great chemistry. Do any of them have the talent to crack a top three line for the Caps? Probably not any time soon. Do any of them have anything to offer as a fourth liner? Definitely not. Qualify them and keep them buried in the minors, and use as trade bait come March.

The others, well they are a mixed bag. Fehr has come a long way, at long last. He was the 18th overall pick seven years ago, which sounds like a long time, but he is only 24 years old. However, he did not play more than 23 games in an NHL season before he turned 23, which is typical of power forwards. Herein lies the problem. He's not a power forward. Just because he lowers his shoulder and shoots from less than 12 feet away does not make him the next coming of Neely. He is not physical (less than one hit per game, and less than one blocked shot every third game), and other than his surprisingly clutch scoring, does not bring much to the table.

Why do I say clutch? Of his 21 goals scored in the regular season, 11 of them came with the score tied, and another 6 of them came while the Caps were losing.

Fehr is due for a 5% pay raise, however, he will need a 25% raise to garner the Caps any sort of compensation. Is he worth a million dollars? Not right now. This leaves our hands tied - sign him and use him as a trade chip in March.

Fleischmann is one of the streakiest players in the league, right up there in the company of Kovalev and Afinogenov. He too had a career year, posting over 50 points and shooting a very respectable 19%, especially given his paranoia of blue paint. Flash is one of the fastest Caps, and provides great versatility in his ability to not only play passive hockey at center, but also at left wing. And he is a great Swayze impersonator in April.

However, he can skate, plays well with his teammates, and has a good shot. And, like Fehr, over half of his goals came with the score tied. Does this equate to earning a roster spot next year? Maybe. The Caps have a bunch of cap room, but after the bungling of the cap two seasons ago, I am sure they will be much more cautious. Fleischmann comes at a steep bargain; he will probably not earn enough to justify letting him walk to receive the compensation. Maybe he will be trade bait, but I see the Caps keeping him for a few more years.

I will leave you with one telling stat: +24 in 47 wins, -15 in 22 losses.

Boyd Gordon. For years, one of my favorite Caps. His tireless work ethic is unmatched among most of the Caps forwards, in the defensive zone at least. He is also a very clean player - just 33 minor penalties in over 300 NHL games played. Very reminiscent of a younger Jay Pandolfo. However, that is about the limit of his game, and in recent years, injuries have become a serious concern. Sign him for another one year deal - he is a good piece of the puzzle, and comes at a great bargain.

Jeff Schultz. What an enigma. The guy has size for days, but never uses it. Imagine if Hal Gill had a kid with Mother Theresa. That's Schultz. He had an absolute monster year though, and will get a huge pay raise, whether it be from the Caps, or from another team. I expect to see someone else offer Schultz a fat offer sheet, a la Bobby Clarke/Ryan Kesler. Maybe even Philly - they are in the market for a depth defenseman, and Schultz would make a great third pair dman for the Flyers.

This would be a great time to lock him up long term. Not 10 years, but a nice 4-5 year deal in the $2 million per year price range is appropriate. Why not more? There is something to be said about a defenseman who gets benched in the playoffs two straight years.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Watch MLL Games Online - Free

Turns out ESPN isn't all bad, or at least the trey isn't. Streaming free sports, yes please.

MLL Online

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Coach for the NJ Devils

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker

According to the NJ Devils website, John MacLean is now the head coach of the NJ Devils. Nothing fancy to write about here, it's still one of the most boring organizations in the NHL.

PS: To the pricks on the internet, I know it's John McClane in Die Hard. Close enough.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Two players resigned

Holmstrom resigns for 2 years/3.75 million.

Holmstrom is a veteran warrior, winning four Stanley Cups, and appearing in 164 career playoff games. He's definitely in the twilight of his career, but he's still a force in front of the net (13 of his 25 goals in the regular season were on the power play), and his 82 points in 121 games played during the last two seasons makes for a very respectable .677 points per game, after the age of 35 no less. Homer has also been a plus player in every season since 2001-02, when Detroit won the Cup, so his responsible play can not be questioned. Durability is obviously a concern for a 37 year old player, but even more so for a man who makes his living in front of the net. H0lmstrom has had groin and knee problems in recent years, and missed considerable time last year with a broken foot.

All things considered, he's a relative bargain. His cap hit of 1.875 puts him in the same company as guys like Moreau, Avery, Fedotenko, Guerin, and Neil. While Holmstrom can't be expected to continue at this scoring pace much longer, this two year deal symbolizes what may be the end of an era for Detroit.

Shawn Thornton resigns for 2 years/1.625 million.

I know most NHL "fans" hate fighting, but it has its place. Thornton is one of those guys who gives his heart to his team, his city, and his fans. In a city like Boston, which has a reputation of being blue collar and down to Earth, Thornton fits right in. He's certainly paid his dues - 605 AHL games before Burke's Stanley Cup winning Ducks gave him a shot in 06-07. This hard path has given him much needed mental toughness to be the impact player he has become. While he won't do much in the way of scoring (28 points in 211 games with the Bruins), he brings a lot more to the table as a fourth line enforcer. He is well respected throughout the league, doesn't take dumb penalties (141 PIM this year, including 105 from fight majors), and gives a sense of protection to his teammates.

This signing may not look like much, but it's a sign that Boston understands what type of player allowed them to upset Buffalo. Hopefully Boston can add a few guys to compliment Lucic and Thornton - maybe a Shane O'Brien or Garnet Exelby - to round out a tough roster in one of the most physical conferences in the league.

I'm back, kinda

Sorry for not posting recently. I was busy (17 days in a row working), then went on vacation. During this vacation, I broke my laptop and my hand. I had a lot of interesting things to post about, but they have all lost their thunder, so we'll have to start anew.

With the next post.