Monday, July 31, 2006

Raising the Bar

Making the playoffs or being 3rd from worst in the eastern conference? Choosing a goal for the Capitals may be the big questions as off-season acquisitions roll along. Obviously the bar is set for more than 29 wins, for which the Capitals set last year, but the signings look like more of the same, with little improvement to go on.

There has only been on significant addition thus far, the signing of defensemen Brian Pothier (a consolation prize for not landing Zdeno Chara) and the reacquisition of Richard Zednik from Montreal. Both either players add any significant numbers to the Capitals line up.

So what are the lofty goals this year for the Washington Capitals? Is it realistic to say playoff bound, or just settle for 30 wins? One thing is for sure, the Caps have banked all of their hopes on prospects and youth. Two things the Stanley Cup finalists last year had little of.

With their hopes that with time comes improvement, the Capitals look for their young hopefuls from Hershey to be the next big thing in the NHL. Names like Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Mike Green, and Jakub Klepis will be the hope of the Capitals quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. But how long is it suppose to take, how long are fans suppose to wait for this immaculate conception of a champion team when all the same players show up in Caps sweaters again?

The Caps looked at support for Alex Ovechkin by drafting Nicklas Backstrom, only to see him stay in Sweden for another year. Saying that the Caps need defense is an understatement, but no moves had been made to get a veteran blue liner. Olaf Kolzig flat out said he had no more than three years left in him, and failure to secure any kind of defensemen to help the veteran, that figure may get lower.

The plagues that keep the Capitals seem many. It’s hard to swallow the thought of management standing by and simply crossing their fingers in a “let’s wait and see” strategy. The Caps have proven talent in Ovechkin, solid goaltending in Kolzig, and that is about it. There must be more support for the team to reach any goal as lofty as the playoffs. Otherwise the bar is only set for 1 more win than last year.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bradley In The Capital Fold

The Capitals have done the right thing and resigned Matt Bradley. There were some grumblings that the Caps may have to part with the gritty Ontario native. The Caps avoid arbitration by signing Bradley to a two year contract.

The Caps have also been busy holding on to Ben Clymer and Brian Sutherby. The Caps look to keep the core of players that proved their skills last season and hope that they continue their improvement.

While the Caps seem to have a plan in place, there are a few signings that fall into the category of “whatever.” This includes the resigning of a couple of career minor leaguers, which, to me, doesn’t show the strength of the Capital’s farm system.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Caps Get Muscle In Brashear

Capitals announced today that Donald Brashear was now a Capital. The 6’2”, 235 left winger who spent last year with the Philadelphia Flyers scoring 5 goals, 4 assists and a whopping 103 penalty minutes. Wash Post has the details.

I am having a little trouble with this one. Brashear isn’t a defenseman and could be a dinosaur of a NHL long ago. I don’t understand getting Brashear for anything other than being a beefy goon. Sure it may be protection for Alexander Ovechkin, but how many players decided to take a cheap shot at the superstar rookie.

Don’t get me wrong, Donald Brashear is one of those players’ fans love to love, and opponent fans love to hate, which to me is endearing. However, I fail to see the need for Brashear on this team. When the Caps are desperate to get some D-men, George McPhee again continues to sign and trade for forwards.

Brashear, if you can remember, was the victim of a high stick incident from one Marty McSorley in an effort to goad him into a fight. With the recent trade for Todd Bertuzzi in Florida (who was in an incident himself with an Avalanche player), one could see trouble on the horizon now that these two are in the same division. That peaks my interest a little bit.

But, it is a little disconcerting. Even when the Caps owner talks about the need for some defensemen, the general manager seems to have the “I heard the opposite disease.” Caps again are leaving the position neglected, and leaving Olaf Kolzig high and dry.

I will give it some more time before it turns out to be a conspiracy. But I do predict a long summer if this keeps up.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Zednik's Return

He’s baaack! All you Zed heads that had changed your clean hair cuts to mirror the explosive right winger get a chance to be seen in public once again. Richard Zednik is back in a Capitals sweater and this time as a veteran.

I am actually applauding this move. I thought the Caps had made huge mistake on trading Zednik to Montreal. But, we did land a great talent in Dainius Zubrus in Zednik’s place. It will be interesting to see how these two will now complement each other. You can read more on the Wash Post.

The Caps have also made an effort at keeping good talent, especially on the blue line. Resigning Shaone Morrisonn was a step in the right direction. Although, I would like to see the Caps sign a veteran stay-at-home defenseman.

So far the Caps are getting a B from me on their off season moves. While signing a solid defenseman Brian Pothier, the Caps did lose a work horse in Brian Willsie to LA Kings. Although it’s hard to lose a fan favorite, it was time for Jeff Halpern to go, and I think he got a great deal in Dallas.

Capitals season schedule is out and the Caps will open on Broadway. They will again be opening their season on Oct. 5, and play their home opener on Oct. 7 at the Verizon Center (I know, it still sounds weird).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Don't Shed A Tear For Halpern

Local hero Jeff Halpern finally comes to his senses and moves on singing a $2 million, 4 year contract with the Dallas Stars. While Halpern was the Capitals captain and grew up in Potomac Maryland making him a local favorite, his days were numbered with the Caps.

Faster, bigger, stronger centermen are what the new NHL craves. That leaves little room for a player like Halpern on a team that is gaining in all 3. Halpern who instead of playing in Europe during the lockout (mostly because of a family tragedy), spent the year in the US. When the NHL finally returned, Halpern did not look sharp.

Some theories on why Halpern decided on Dallas. But in the end it may be one last chance to make the USA team by getting close to Mike Modano. But, at 30 years of age, Halpern may have his best years behind him.

As much as the local Caps fans will miss Halpern, the more I look forward to what the Caps are building. Along with Halpern leaving the team, Brian Willsie (a player I thought the Caps would fight for) signed with the LA Kings.

But while they lose talent, the Caps have roped in some key defense. Brian Potheir who partnered with Zdeno Chara (who the Capitals had made offers for but failed to sign after the price exceeded $5 million) had a career year with the Ottawa Senators. The Caps also resigned Brent Johnson, the young goaltender that will again back up Olaf Kolzig.

It is still to be seen if the Caps will go after another defenseman, or continue to beef up the forward column. My hope is that the Caps don’t stop with Potheir. The Caps still need a solid stay at home defenseman.