Monday, June 30, 2008

Lightning Storm

A storm front is rolling through the league. It's the Tampa Bay Lightning not waiting for any dumb ol' deadline. With new ownership in place, it looks like they are prepared to spend what they need to get the job done in the '08 - '09 season. But are they getting a little too reckless this off season?

The Lightning, the most active Southeast Division team thus far, couldn't wait for the July 1st deadline to come around to sign free agents. They traded a couple of draft picks for the rights for Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone and as a result, both have signed.

Tampa is looking to win now, "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead" kind of attitude. Now that they have ownership that seems ready to spend some cash, a new head coach, Vinny Lecavalier signed for life and a few free agents under the belt, the Lightning expectations are high for next year.

But at a cost. Malone signed a seven year, $31.5 million contract. Some now are saying that is too much for a player of his stature. He will earn between $7 and $8 million in the first two years. Plus the Lightning hired Greg Malone, Ryan's father, as head pro scout (a move to assure Malone would sign in Tampa?). And the Lightning might not be done pulling big deals.

They traded a conditional pick for the rights to Brian Rolston from the Minnesota Wild. Rolston and Malone, to me, seem like the exact same player. Both gritty forwards with a scoring touch.

Also rumors are circling around trading Dan Boyle and the team may be shopping the defenseman around. Which is a bit funny since Boyle has a "no trade" clause. But Tampa is looking to win now. Obviously, they believe since they have pulled the number one draft spot that their time is now. It was time to change the team's makeup and try to buy a playoff spot.

Time will tell if the Lightning's latest moves will pay off for them. Even their ownership claims "nothing is guaranteed here, but we hope to have a chance to get another quality player in a Lightning uniform sooner rather than later." It sure makes the division a bit more interesting.

Green Schmeen!

So just about everyone has their eyes set on Mike Green's and in some little part Cris Huet's possible signings with the Capitals before (or at) the deadline, noon Tuesday. Well not everyone.

Tarik takes a look at Chris Clark's progress, which still looks like he has a ways to go if he is still feeling pain when he skates. He's got a couple of months before camp so I guess we will see.

The Flyers didn't waste much time to get former Cap Steve Eminger under contract. Emmy signed a one year contract and seems happy with the change of scenery.

Else where around the league, Ryan Malone will not be a Penguin anymore. He just agreed to a pretty nice deal in Tampa Bay so we will be seeing a lot more of the kid in at the phone booth. Malone will get seven years, $31.5 million. Nice chunk of change from a player that was considered a must get this off season.

John-Micheal Liles and Adam Foote signed on the dotted line with Colorado. Liles might be a good example to look at in terms of Mike Green's contract. He resigned with the Avelanche for four years and slightly over $4 million for each one of those years. Foote's contract is 2 years and $12 million.

Of course if you do want to keep up to date with all the talk on Green, feel free to check out these links:
How much Green for Green? - Corey Masisak
Green's Green - Japers' Rink
Capitals, Green continue to talk - TFP

Friday, June 27, 2008

Green References

There are two good articles to read if you are curious about Mike Green's status and what it really means to the Capitals.

First is Corey Masisak's look at what the Caps' cap hit will really look like if we sign the ones we want in sort of a worse case scenario (i.e. he did the math, where I was too lazy to). It will give you a good idea what GM George McPhee is looking at as he discusses contracts with players and agents. It also talks about the other free agents that have to be signed as well.

Second is Scott Cullen's look at the restricted free agency and how it affects the teams involved. This is a good guide to gauge what other teams are looking at if they were to make an offer for any of the Capitals RFAs.

Both will give you a good idea what the Capitals are looking at, and how the rest of the league looks at the Caps situation. The beauty part of both articles is neither one of them claims to know what is going to happen or go into to much rumoring. Just the facts.

In other news, the Ducks have waived my friend and yours Todd Bertuzzi. This was a case of paying too much for a player that gave him marginal results in the lineup. Not sure who would pick Bertuzzi up after this, but I could see him going to help a team in the Central Division.

Also the Philadelphia Flyers have locked up Jeff Carter to a multiyear deal. The Calgary Flames also signed players Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow. Maybe that some players are starting to sign contracts, the rest of the league will start to fall in line getting players to sign. Let's hope the fad continues through the weekend for the Caps. Have a great weekend.

Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

Off to Russia he may go, along with his cap hit.

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me (Green Rumor)

Surfing around I came across this drivel from
I am hearing that [Mike] Green WILL get a sheet if he goes past July 1, and some teams are so worried that they are trying to trade for Green's rights. One rumour that I am hearing is that the Sabres may offer up Afinogenov to Washington for Green's rights in a deal that could go down this weekend IF the Capitals feel that Green is out of reach. Other teams interested in Green (and yes all 29 are interested, but these are the teams that I am hearing specifically) are San Jose, Toronto and the NY Rangers.

Uh, no. Losing Mike Green would be just as bad as if the Caps were to lose Alex Ovechkin. I doubt that GM George McPhee would even consider such a trade. Normally I enjoy Eklund's rumors, but he is just grasping at straws here (lucky for him he put in the big IF). Even if the Caps were considering moving Green (and they aren't since they came right out and said they would match any offer) they better be getting a defenseman, some first round picks, Maxim Afinogenov, a Klondike bar and someone's first born child.

Do all these teams want to offer the Caps something for his rights? Absolutely. You would have to be stupid not to want to get Green in your jersey. But just because some GM's have put the thought out that Green is attainable, doesn't mean the Caps are even entertaining the idea.

The most I can see any team offering Mike Green would be a 6 to 7 year deal at $6.5 million, a figure that the Caps could match easily, especially with the bump in the salary cap. Eklund's got to stop eating the brownies.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

NHL Ups The Ante

The NHL raised the cap hit from $50.3 million to $56.7 million for the '08 - '09 season. The lower limit has gone up as well, teams can spend no less than $40.7 million on player salaries. Most of this can be contributed to the NHL's success last season and teams actually turning a profit last year. But what does it mean for the Caps?

With some key restricted free agents to sign, GM George McPhee can breathe a little easier knowing that not only does he have some cap space left from last year, now he has a buffer. The down side will be the agents taking advantage of that fact as well.

But just because the cap has expanded doesn't mean that Uncle Ted's pockets have either. While it's a closely held secret to what the Caps can spend on player salaries, I doubt the Caps will take their salaries to the limit. First, $56 million is a lot of money, and second, it's not that smart to be pushing the cap limit in case of player movement.

We will soon see how the cap push helps (or hurts) the Caps as July 1st comes around. Hopefully the cap raise doesn't mean a raise in ticket prices.

Talking Smack About Olli

No, not Olie, Olli. Olli Jokinen that is. It appears a season ticket sales guy sent out an email that undercut what Olli had done in Florida. I guess to keep morale up with the season ticket holders, an account executive sent an email telling season ticket holders the reason Panthers captain Olli Jokinen was traded was because he was playing "with little heart or passion" and showing "no leadership or improvement."

This is the paragraph verbatim:
Olli is a great player, but he has shown no leadership or improvement, and he never came through for us when we needed him the most. As a stat, Jokinen scored 5 goals in the last 24 games, this is not acceptable for a Captain of an NHL organization. He played with little heart or passion and never had the determination to reach the playoffs. This move was done for one reason only, to make the postseason and return the passion and energy into this arena.

Nice. Of course the front office doesn't feel this way and the trade at the Draft where Jokinen was traded to Pheonix was more to shake up the line up and allow some cap space for younger players.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Meanwhile On The West Coast

Centerman Brian Sutherby will stay a duck. At least for another year and signed for $700,000. Sutherby, a fan favorite here in DC will get another year in Anaheim to make some noise. Sutherby did play in 5 games in the playoffs for the Ducks but didn't score.

Qualified Offers Extended To 5

Mike Green, Shaone Morrisonn, Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon were given qualifed offers today. Two were not, Jamie Hunt and Stephen Werner will both become unrestricted free agents now that the club did not offer contracts.

Tarik explains more.

This is the first step to keep the players restricted free agents come July 1st if the player waits until the deadline.

Do You Know How To Cheer?

On the Today show yesterday morning, a story came across about the up coming Olympics in Beijing China. The communist government seems to think their loyal subjects might not know how to cheer, so they came up with a helpful guide:

Now that you know how to cheer, you can better enjoy your experience while watching the Olympics. While it seems easy to do, you might want to practice them. Don't forget to do the thumbs up sign, that one is the toughest of all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Steel Town Dismantles

While the Caps may have a hard time getting a certain RFA, at least their team it not starting to disintegrate. The Pittsburgh may not get Marion Hossa back, Ryan Malone might even find greener pastures and now, they seemed to have alienated Gary Roberts. The Post-Gazette reported that Roberts was going to continue his NHL career, just not with the Penguins.

As his agent put it, Roberts is just being a good soldier and is moving on to help the team solidify some free agent signings to keep the team intact. Or could it be his Stanley Cup dis that seemed to put a pea in the mattress of Robert's time in Pittsburgh? Either way the Penguins could be a different team come fall with key compentents gone.

The Pens have lost two good players in Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong to get Hossa, and lost prospect defensemen Noah Welch for Roberts. Now it seems those trades were for not as both Hossa and Roberts are moving on seemingly. So not only are they out two quality players, but really out five.

Granted, it doesn't make much sense to pay a forth line winger $2.5 million. And if they aren't going to play him in big games, like the Stanley Cup finals, it's not worth taking up cap space. So it makes sense to take a pass on a player like Roberts. And I am not saying that the Penguins are now going to suck, they still have that marginal centerman by the name of Sid "the Kid" Crosby. But it's interesting to see the line for the door out of Steel Town grow.

Ready Your Mullets

Welcome Southeast Division's newest coach, Barry Melrose. The Tampa Bay Lightning are ready to introduce the mullet himself as head coach. Last time Melrose was a bench boss was in '95 - '96. He became a full time analyst for ESPN in 1996.

To refresh your memory, here are some other things that happened in 1996:
  • MLS played their first game ever (DC United lost 1-0 to San Jose).

  • Chess computer "Deep Blue" defeats world chess champion Garry Kasparov for the first time.

  • Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski was arrested in his Montana shack.

  • The Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup since moving to Denver.

  • U.S. Mafioso John Gotti is found guilty of murdering Paul Castellano.

  • A tiny girl stole our hearts with a vault jump on a bum ankle winning the gold medal for the US Gymnastics team in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Rent opens on Broadway (years later my wife makes me watch the DVD, there is 3 hours of my life I can't have back).

  • Boris Yeltsin was sworn in for his second term as Russian President.

  • The scoreboard in Buffalo's HSBC arena falls to the ice just hours before a game, no one injured.

  • Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell, is born at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, Scotland.

  • Nintendo 64 was released in the United States.

  • Six-year-old JonBenĂ©t Ramsey is murdered in the basement of her parents' home in Boulder, Colorado.

  • The first version of Java programming language is published.

  • And the L.A. Kings fire head coach Barry Melrose.

Over a decade later, apparently Melrose has gained some magical new coaching skills sitting in a Connecticut studio. His job is to return the Lightning to greatness after the new ownership group has the pressure on for their new acquisition, claiming "failure is not an option."

Melrose joins 2 other new coaches in a Southeast Division that only sent one team to the playoffs last season. The dynamics of the division didn't take long to change, and it will be interesting to see if any of the changes help teams that need the help. One thing is for sure, the Capitals will have a tougher time repeating. There should be no reason that they shouldn't.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Clymer Takes First Steps To Buyout

The Capitals have put Ben Clymer on waivers in hopes to move the forward who will take up $1.5 million in cap space on the Caps roster without seeing a single minute playing time for Washington the previous year.

If no one claims Clymer off waivers by noon tomorrow, the Caps will buy out his contract allowing him to work the market as a free agent. The Capitals will still be responsible for a chunk of his contract whether he is claimed off waivers or not.

Clymer, 30 years old, spent the entire '07-'08 season in the Capitals' farm team Hershey. He scored 11 goals and had 16 assists in 50 games. The Caps place him on waivers twice if I remember correctly without even a scent from 29 other clubs.

Anything But Free

With the Draft now in the books, the focus now turns to more immediate concerns. Free Agency has already have some players salivating at their calendars with a big circle around July 1st. For the Capitals, there are some pretty big holes that need to be filled, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some contracts signed this upcoming week.

The biggest contract that might give the Caps some fits would be the Mike Green signing. Already it sounds like there is a rift between GM George McPhee and Green's agent. Don Meehan called out GMGM publicly for "low-balling" Green on a new contract. McPhee responded by stating that the Caps would match any offer for Green if they stretched the talks to July 1st, which Meehan wants to do to test the market. Testy-testy.

Another big hole the Caps have would be in net. They seem to have burned the Olie Kolzig bridge and Cris Huet seems to make the most sense to hold onto. Especially after his fantastic play late in the season, where Huet help the Caps make the playoffs for the first time in 5 years with impressive numbers.

If Kolzig leaves and Huet finds better cash somewhere else, the Caps could be with out a number one goaltender. That could make for a rough season and the Caps can ill afford to take their foot off the pedal now. If they miss the playoffs next season, it could be huge step backward. I don't see this team making the post season with Brent Johnson and a rookie in net.

Others that need to be resigned in terms of unrestricted free agents include Sergei Fedorov and Matt Cooke. I find it unlikely that Cooke will be back next season, I figure he would like to test the market for something better.

Fedorov is still a question mark though. He would have to take a pretty extensive pay cut to stay here in DC, but his chemistry with both Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin at the World Championship could convince the talented Russian to stay. I wouldn't be surprised to see July 1st come and go, and training camp to come around before Fedorov does decide what he wants to do.

Other restricted free agents that are on the Caps' radar include Shaone Morrisonn, Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich. The most important signing maybe keeping Morrisonn in the fold considering the chemistry he had with Mike Green. It may also depend on Mike Green being in a Caps' jersey come fall. Morrisonn had a solid year and like all the Caps' defensemen stayed pretty healthy all season long.

Gordon would be a good character sign, a strong defensive center and good in the face off circle. Laich is the only talent I could see moving on in this group to be honest. He has already gone to arbitration last summer, and he may want to test the market for his services come July 1st. With talent in the pipeline, would Laich's face be missed all that much?

While that is what the Caps' hand looks like, we have yet to hit what free agents are available elsewhere around the league. Do the Caps need another defenseman? Is there a talent out there that is looking at the Capitals as a team they want to be apart of? How about Sean Avery? I guess we could let the speculation and rumors overrun us until July 1st, when all our questions will be answered.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Caps Draft Night

While the NHL Draft started in a frenzy of activity, the Caps waited for the right moment to make a move. They did so by picking up a familiar name to Capitals fans, Gustafsson. Son of the Cap great Bengt Gustafsson, Anton Gustafsson was drafted after the Caps made a trade to jump up to the 21st pick from New Jersey. They dealt the 23rd and 54th pick to draft the young talent.

Anton was scouted as a good talent but was placed lower on the draft list due to a partially herniated disc in his back. He was considered a draft wildcard due to his health. Gustafsson is a tall and strong two way player known for his playmaking ability with his good vision. He is still a few years away from a probable Caps debut, but should be in DC in July for development camp.

But the Caps didn't stop there. They then dealt Steve Eminger (who was rumored to be in trade talks before the draft) to Philly for the 29th draft pick. They took bruiser John Carlson for their acquired draft pick. Eminger, who found himself in the doghouse for most of the season, finally gets what he wanted: a trade. In return they get a second first round pick and Carlson and picked up a 3rd round pick as well.

Carlson is a big, tall, strong defenseman that plays with a hard shot and is a hard skater. He will return to his junior team the London Knights next season. He brings some skill on the power play with his hard heavy shot, and doesn't shy from being physical. Carlson was expected to take higher (some experts had him higher around 20 -22), but settled in for a 29th pick overall.

This year's draft saw an influx of defensemen signed for any one draft in some time.

As the Caps go, they did pretty well for what GM George McPhee had to deal with. He was able to tie up a lose end in Eminger and getting him to a team that may use him more than here. He still has a heavy contract for Ben Clymer and still has to finish the draft weekend and sign a slew of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. The Caps have now made 15 first-round picks in the last seven years, four more than any other NHL team.

A special thanks to Japers' Rink that hosted a live chat throughout the draft. It was fun to see all the Caps bloggers initial reactions to each pick, whether it was the Caps' pick or not. To be honest though I had a bit of a headache trying to keep up with everyone. I wonder who I will have to bribe to get on that panel?

No Idea

Just about no one has a clue on what GM George McPhee has up his sleeve as the NHL draft day arrives. While chatter about possible early trades just hours before the draft starts seems to overwhelm both media and general managers alike, GMGM seems content on keeping what ever trades or picks under a cloak of silence.

While it may just look like they may load up on young talent again, trades are not outside the realm of possibilities for the Washington Capitals. But any analysis of what the Caps have in mind as the draft draws near could be as accurate calling the dial a psychic for advice on your love life. "I sense the letter N is important..."

There are several lose ends that need attending to. Remember a Stanley Cup winner that squandered the entire season in Hershey? Ben Clymer's contract ramps up to $1.1 million for next season. Attempts to put the fiesty forward on waivers put him in limbo. An early trade to try to clean up his contract could help McPhee and Clymer clean the slate.

McPhee has to deal with a defense core that seems to be getting a tad too crowded. Steve Eminger was held in reserve for most of the season. While he got his chance late in the season and into the playoffs, he could also be a trade fall out to make room for budding D-man Karl Alzner who looks to make the squad in summer training camp.

But none of these players could warrant a higher pick. In that case, McPhee will just go through the draft picking the best players he and his scouts can get their hands on. While the top picks will elude the Caps, they do own three picks in the second round. More than enough to pull some good talent and start to develop them with cultivation about 3 years out.

Some good news, GMGM and Cris Huet seem to be having some good talks. A positive note as if Huet decided to move on it would make the goaltending a sensitive issue for the Caps as they would have lost both Huet and Olie Kolzig. It will still be pretty interesting to see where Kolzig will end up, while most think he will be in Ottawa when all is said and done.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Caps Sign Young Talent

Oskar Osala was just signed to a three year entry contract with the Capitals. You remember Osala, big kid, left winger from rookie camp. He had been playing in Finland and was one of the better talents in last year's devolpment camp.

At 6'4" and 217 (at camp last year they listed him at 222) the 20 year old is big, but he has some nice hands. He was one of the dark horses to come out of camp to maybe get into traning camp, but he needed another year to gain some maturity. If Osala can use his size and his soft hands he could make for an excellent second or third line forward that can add a scoring touch.

No word if he will be at this year's development camp as he is now under contract, but should be here for training camp a month or so later.

As far as the draft goes, tomorrow the Caps are have the 23rd pick in the first round and several second round picks. Some of the talk is the Caps are looking to trade not just picks but they still have Ben Clymer's contract they would like to dump somewhere as well as sign some RFAs before the July 1st deadline. Makes for a busy last two weeks of June.

When Boredom Strikes

As many of you know, Bruce Boudreau was an extra in the movie Slapshot. I found some footage from the actual movie.

The video is not that great, and the audio sucks but Boudreau is number 7 for the green team early in the movie. He is involved in both goals and even a wrap around the net with a big grin on his face. And look at all that hair.

Boudreau sets the screen on the first goal and looks like he scores on second off screen. The funny thing about the first goal is he sets the screen and then comes off the bench in the next shot. Two places at once, pretty impressive.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Too Much Green For Green?

They were very simple words, but they carried very heavy weight. If any 29 other organizations offer Mike Green a contract, the Capitals will match it. "Probably within 10 minutes," added GM George McPhee. Answering questions on the the draft yesterday, GMGM made it clear that Green wouldn't be going anywhere.

This after Green's agent made some comments on how the Caps have been "low-balling" Green in negotiations. They may stretch things out until July 1st to test the market. So what kind of money are they after that could warrant such a greasy statement? Yea I don't know either, but Green sure did make a case for a lot of cash this season. But are we talking Dion Phenuef numbers, can Green really be worth $7.5 million a season?

Well, I guess he could. He did lead all defensemen in goals on his contract season. He played every game and had some pretty clutch goals. But he also lost the puck a lot, was out of defensive position more than once (behind the net on Knuble's game winner in game 4) and he still has to answer questions about his physicality on the blue line. He's no Scott Stevens, but he has been guilty of taking the puck before the body (a big no-no in full contact hockey).

While his agent, who according to Japer ain't the saint to save all hockey-dom, is ranting about how the Caps management might be offering far too little, I doubt the Caps came to the table seeking a $1.5 or even a $2 million hand out. Don Meehan (Green's agent) is looking to cash in on a career season. But it may be a failed tactic since GMGM sort of challenged Meehan back with a "no questions asked" match, whatever the damage might be.

If I were GMGM (which I am not and that is a very good thing) I would be looking at the $3.5 to $4 million dollar range for long term, with the contract ramping up toward the end to maybe $5.5 to $6 million. The contract would pay Green the same as any other elite player and keep the Washingtonians from paying through the nose for section 400 seats.

This is a "take the dispute public" to try to win a battle behind closed doors, and frankly I am starting to realize why GMGM is often mum about negotiations and contracts. If Green's agent does take him to the July 1st deadline to test the market, we could see some fall out with other players McPhee would like to keep in the fold. If the Caps match something of Kevin Lowe proportions, that could mean getting back RFA's Shaone Morrisonn and Steve Eminger could be a challenge. Even some quality forwards like Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich could find themselves in different sweaters come October.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Settling Into The Big Ho Hum

Anticipation sucks. And at the rate the Capitals seem to be resigning free agents, it seems we are entering the doldrums of the off season. Hockey no longer seems the priority on Puckhead's summer itinerary. Even the draft coming up in the next few days seems to take a back seat.

For the past 5 years, that is all we seemed to be waiting for. The Draft. Who are we going to get? What first rounders make the most sense for the Caps? So on and so forth. But it's seems that this was the year the Caps turned a corner. Instead of seeing who they can get in this year's draft, I am much more interested in who will be in net, or if they will lose a defensemen or two to make room for some younger players that are knocking on the door.

GM George McPhee will meet with reporters today (6/16) concerning the draft at Kettler. I would much rather hear about how contract negotiations are going with Cris Huet, Shaone Morrisonn, Mike Green, and others. I understand how important it is to have a secure future, and drafting good talent is keeping an eye out for the horizon. At the same time, I am just not jazzed about who the Caps are going to pick just to wait another 3 to 4 years to see their name again.

I am sure that will all change in 5 days time when the Draft starts to ramp up and when the Caps' management decides to start resigning players. But I can't help but feel pretty ho hum about the upcoming draft.

Friday, June 13, 2008

90 goals?

Pierre McGuire, hockey analyst for CBC and NBC, almost guaranteed that Alex Ovechkin could not only break his career record of 65 goals but he could surpass it and can score 90 goals in one season. Ovechkin was the first player in 12 years to reach the 60 goal mark. Now it looks like the pressure is on for him not only to match but exceed that mark.

But 90? There are two things I find unsettling about Pierre McGuire's prediction, 1) that bald head of his is always so shiny and 2) he might be right. I agree with him as far as the infrastructure of the Capitals' offense is on pretty steady ground. That may culture a goal scorer is only hungry to take the next step which is to win the Stanley Cup.

With Jack Adams award winner Bruce Boudreau at the helm, teammates like Nick Backstrom, Micheal Nylander, Alex Semin and the possible return of Sergei Fedorov and the changes that may be had to goaltender equipment, Ovie could make that 90 goal mark. If he does, it will blow the top off of this league. Not since names like Lemieux and Gretzky that graced our sports pages has the league peaked this much interest outside it's traditional fan base.

I don't know which is more scary for a Friday the 13th, 90 goals for Ovechkin, or agreeing with Pierre McGuire?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ovechkin Cleans Up, Boudreau Wins Too

Alex Ovechkin just made history, again. The dynamic Capitals winger took home the clean sweep, winner of the Hart Trophy for leagues MVP, the Lester B. Pearson Trophy for best player as voted on by the players, the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals and the Art Ross for most points. Ovechkin was the first player to take home all four.

Bruce Boudreau also got a shiny new trophy taking home the Jack Adams Trophy for leagues top coach. Boudreau took the team from worst to first and propelled the Caps into the playoffs with a team that had been riddled with injuries.

Nick Backstrom did not take the top rookie honors, that went to Patrick Kane who beat both Backstrom and his teammate Jonathan Toews out for the Calder. While Backstrom was prevented the historic sweep for the franchise, he was named to the NHL's All Rookie team.

All of Ovechkin's awards will be on display today at the Kettler Iceplex from noon to one Friday, June 13th. This was actually written in the press release:

"Due to travel and space constraints, the Jack Adams Award, which was won by head coach Bruce Boudreau, will not be on display."

Wow, so much hardware they couldn't get it all back home!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Change Your Locks

Not to jinx Alex Ovechkin or anything, but Friday, in the event that Ovie wins the Hart Trophy as league MVP, Ovechkin will be awarded a key to the city by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty.

While that seems to suggest that Ovie is the forgone winner, the Caps PR dept. was smart enough to use "in the event" in the press release.

So if you don't have much going on, possibly on Friday at maybe 4 pm, there may or may not be a key to the city awarded to Ovechkin kinda in front of the John A. Wilson Building probably. Don't get your hopes up, but be there!

They did book the Ballou Marching Band for the event. If that doesn't say Hart Trophy winner, you would have to print it on a t-shirt for me to believe it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Kids Are Coming Back To Town

Per Tarik and his blog, the Caps development camp starts up mid July. Which is less than a month from now. Time flies when your having fun I guess. All the same prospects will be there like Karl Alzner (possibly his warm up for training camp), Simeon Varlamov (young Russian phenom that may be the Caps' Carey Price) and forwards Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault.

July 6 is when the kids are in town and camp starts on the 7th with the first group hitting the ice at 10 am. Camp is open to the public for free at the Kettler Iceplex in Arlington, Va. It will be interesting to see who makes the graduation from rookie camp to training camp. Nick Backstrom was the only name that comes to mind that made that jump last season.

The camp goes until Saturday July 12th with a scrimmage from 10 am to 1 pm. Again, it's free to the public. Bruce Boudreau and the usual faces will be conducting camp.

In other news, Canadians are breathing a sigh of relief after CTV stepped in and saved the Hockey Theme from Hockey Night in Canada. If they had lost the rights to the song, I am sure the Canadians would have revolt worse than the Rocket Richard riots. Hey, it's a catchy tune. You can listen to it here, it's obviously the second tune in the intro.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Goalies Are Funny

Just if you were bored like me since the season ended. Plus consider this a sort of tribute for Dominik Hasek who is set to retire today from the NHL... again.

Was that comedian Jim Gaffigan in the back of the cab?

You gotta love the Philly goalie encroaching on his territory. It's pretty funny.

Classic Fedorov, notice the Caps goaltender in the old DC blue.

Another classic Fedorov Nike Commercial.

This goaltender sounds eerily like Jim Carrey.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Like my wife always says, "You can't trust boys with anything, eventually they are going to break it." For the Detroit Red Wings, apparently some one took their eye off the Stanley Cup. The Cup took a tumble and acquired a dent as it made the rounds at Cheli's Chilli Bar, Chris Chelios' restaurant in Detroit.

No worries though, it was a minor dent that was "smoothed out."

Meanwhile in the Steel city, the Penguins are sweating bullets as contracts need to be resigned. There have even been rumors that Evgeni Malkin may not be in Pittsburgh, or even in this hemisphere. There have been slight talk of him returning home to Russia and returning to play for the Russian Super League. I find it hard to believe that the Penguins would see that happen, but stranger things have happened.

As far as the Capitals are concerned, GM George McPhee talked to XM Radio on Friday about the season and the tough job of getting the players back under contract that did so well last year. One of the interesting things he said was that following the playoff run in 1998, in all of his exit meetings the players described about how great of a time it was, how much fun it was. While this off season, all of his players couldn't wait for the next year to begin. A very stark contrast the grows promise for the Capitals in '08 - '09.

I can't wait either.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How Secure Is The Ground For Goaltending?

If the Capitals have an issue before the season ended, it was they had three capable goaltenders fighting for a spot in the crease. After it ended, the field was whittled down to just one. Brent Johnson is the only sure thing for next year since he has a year remaining on his contract. But where the Capitals had two, now look as if they have none.

As Japer was kind enough to point out the silence that was heard 'round Caps nation, not even Bruce Boudreau is sure where management is heading in the puck stopping department. So if Olie Kolzig is out and the team is unsure they will get Cristobal Huet back, then who will be there?

No disrespect for Johnson, but he is not a number one goaltender in the NHL. He is a capable backup and a good person. Johnny has even improved his numbers from a year ago, which shows maturity in his game, but can he do it for 50 to 60 games a year?

There is certainly some talent down the line, Simeon Varlomov played well for Team Russia at the World Championship, but he lacks NHL experience not to mentioned he was injured early in the tournament. Michal Nuevirth is another young talent that just doesn't look ready to be a back up in Hershey let alone a number one in the NHL. If the Caps can't keep Olie and lose Huet their troubles in net may not be something that settles itself out for another 2 to 3 years.

Perhaps George McPhee was counting on getting Huet at his $2.75 million price tag. But Huet played well enough to replace Kolzig's receipts at a $5 million or better goaltender. I mean going 11-2 with a 1.63 GAA and .936 save percentage down the most important stretch for the Capitals, he clearly proved his was apt to be a number one goaltender that is looking to win.

But with a slew of RFA's to resign and convincing a few UFA's to stay, that leaves little room in the cap. And GMGM working at his own slow pace to resign, the collective Caps fan core seems a bit nervous at all these questions now coming up concerning the most important position, goaltending.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stanley Cup And Tornado Warnings

The DC metro area got hit by a massive storm cell that blew down trees and cut power to our humble abode. There was even a report of a tornado that touched down somewhere in No. VA. You can imagine my frustration at 8pm eastern time when the power had not been restored and my wife and I are sweltering in a hot house. And I can't watch the Stanley Cup Finals nor record them as my HD Tivo refuses to work with out electricity. The nerve.

Lucky for you I have the Universal HD channel that replays the game at 2 am. I set the Tivo, have a cup of coffee and prepare to actually stay up and witness the game. I think I lasted until half way through the first period when the call of bed was too strong to ignore. Now I am up early watching what was recorded and the coffee maker is in overtime.

Anyway, it actually takes me until 5:30 in the morning to find out who won the Stanley Cup. Wait, almost there, :30 seconds left...

Hannah Montana! The Penguins were inches away from a tie and Chris Osgood made the save of the series with a mere 3 seconds left on the clock! Wow! The Cup returns to Hockeytown. Actually, it's been the most exciting series since the Tampa Bay and Calgary's game 7 for the Cup.

For some light reading on the game:
Detroit Free Press
Behind the Jersey
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pens Blog

Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular. Give the Penguins some credit here, they made this series great to watch and forced a game 6 (almost a game 7) after many thought they would just get swept after not scoring a single goal in the first two games. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they just couldn't score when they wanted too, and their power play was abysmal. But Fleury's heroics in game 5 and his solid play in game 6 kept the Penguins in it.

Henrik Zetterberg is your Con Smyth winner, as well he should be. Not only did he score the game winner off a squeaker of a shot that Fleury couldn't find in his pads and ended up knocking it back into his own net, but he played the best two way game I have ever seen in a Stanley Cup final. He was all over the puck in game 6 especially in the waning moments. It seemed every time the puck needed to get out of the zone it was through Zetterberg's stick.

"It feels pretty good," Zetterberg told reporters. "It's been a long season. When we lost a few nights ago in Joe Louis, it was devastating. We found a way to battle back. It's just a great feeling."

While this is the organization's 11th Stanley Cup and the fourth ring for some players, it was Dallas Drake who won the Cup for the very first time that made me smile as the Red Wings circled the ice with Lord Stanley's prize above their heads. Drake, who has made the rounds for 16 years, had the widest smile as he skated the Cup around.

"I can't believe it," said Drake. "We've got a tremendous group of guys who want to win more than anybody I've been around. I just can't be more thankful right now."

Nick Lidstrom becomes the first European born and trained team captain to win the cup. Not that I think it's that big of a deal, he does have 15 years of experience and three previous rings all with the Red Wings.

One of the players that most impressed me was Ryan Malone. You can't deny this kid's toughness. He broke his nose twice, once when a puck hit him in the face. He was caught with his head down a couple of times by Nick Kronwall. But he got back up every time. While he will never win a Lady Byng anytime soon, he did play a tough gritty series.

I thought NBC did a great job on the broadcast as well. While I am not sure if they cut the broadcast right at 11 pm, they certainly did show a lot of the Cup carrying at the end of the game on the Universal HD broadcast.

The NHL should be very happy at the end of this Stanley Cup final. Not only are the ratings up, but the series are actually fun to watch and have been pretty exciting. The last thing the league wanted was another 5 game dominance of a season ago. Instead they got two very talented teams and an thriller of a 3 overtime game 5.

And that concludes the 2007 - 2008 campaign and summer is officially here. Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings. Next up, awards ceremony on June 12th. Will Alex Ovechkin win the Hart trophey? Can Bruce Boudreau get the Jack Adams for top coach? Guess we will find out soon.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tort Reform

The Tampa Bay Lightning took their first steps into hiring Barry Melrose. They had to fire the coach they had, John Tortorella. That was done today and the Southeast Division has to learn a new bench boss's face in the mist of three head coaching changes within the last 6 months.

Torts had a year left on his contract and was still his prime as a head coach that was given the reigns of Team USA for the World Championship. His record with the Bolts was 239-222-36-38 making him one of the most successful American born coaches in the NHL. He was a winner of the Jack Adams award as the league's top coach in 2004. The same year he led his team to a Stanley Cup championship over the Calgary Flames.

But injuries and inconsistent goaltending landed the Lightning dead last in the Division. Even when at the half way point in the season they were in the midst of battling for 1st in the Southeast.

Rumors over the last week or so had ESPN analyst Melrose a candidate for the head coaching job in Tampa Bay, but Tortorella was still head coach, until today. Barry Melrose's fame (other than the annoying mullet and purple suites) was the year he took the Los Angeles Kings to the Cup Finals. Of course he had Wayne Gretzky (when he was still a dominate goal scorer in the league) on his team.

What I will miss most about Tortorella was his gut check honesty with the media and his calling out of his goaltenders. While he was rough around the corners, he was also 99% right about what he was talking about. What is interesting about this move is Torts could make the short jump to Florida to take the reigns of the Panthers who are still looking for a head coach. That would make for some sunshine state drama.

Overtime At The Joe

The Red Wings and the Penguins skated to a 3rd overtime thriller and it looks like we have a couple more days of the season left. The Pens won to force a game 6 back in Pittsburgh. Finally, the finals are starting to live up to the hype. This was one of the those games we all had expected from game 1.

I really thought the Red Wings were going to pull it out. After going down 2-0, they fought all the way back to take the lead in the third 3-2. But the Pens tied it with less than 20 seconds left and the game dragged on for another 3 periods before Peter Sykora buried the puck on a 4 minute powerplay and Evgeni Malkin finally got on the scoresheet in the finals with an assist. But this wasn't your average dull overtime, it was pretty exciting with end to end action and both teams just missing on their chances.

I would like to see what the ratings were for this game. The talent for both teams certainly didn't disappoint.

Also in Detroit the NHL General Managers met to talk injury reporting and the no-touch icing. I really think the icing rule in the NHL is a good one, I do like the touch up because it creates offensive chances. Yes you are going to have injuries from defensemen and forwards racing back for the puck. But you could also get hurt by cruising through the neutral zone with your head down, that's hockey.

They also touched on the injury report on players, especially in the playoffs. In order to protect players, many injury reports are given by a vague upper body or lower body injury. While that mostly happens in the playoffs, GM George McPhee has to problem doing it anytime.

“Come on, we’re all big boys, we all know exactly what happens out there,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “You’re going to play, and you play to win. Not play to hurt, but play to win.”

Almost all GMs are in favor of the vague reporting and the only ones really hurt by the system in place are the media, fans and bloggers.