Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bolts Like Caps?

First of all, I just wanted to see if I could get three straight titles with a question mark.


Second, I am starting to see some similarities between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. The Caps roster from 2001 - 2003 that is. A team loaded with what looked on paper like the team to beat loaded with plenty of veteran savvy and "proven" talent.

The Caps had spent the money to get Jaromir Jagr in a DC sweater, Robert Lang to compliment him, they had spent money on players like Trever Linden, Bates Battaglia, Joe Sacco, Adam Oates, and so on. The best players at the time (on paper) that were battled harden and veteran savvy themselves.

Tampa this year spent money to bring in veteran talent in Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, goaltender Olaf Kolzig and a coach that hasn't seen the back of a bench in over a decade in Barry Melrose. The owners seem just as agressive as Ted Leonsis was so long ago getting the best players available.

There are the obvious differences. The Lightning had the number one overall pick last year and signed their pick Steve Stamkos to a three year contract. Their top talent was bred through their farm system as well, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis pretty much bleed black and blue.

But being aggreisive this off season and signing talent that could be past their prime or being "overpaid" really going to pay off? For the Capitals, their model failed.

When the Caps spent the money to get the best possible players it could at the time, it led to either an early out or missing the playoffs all together. This from a team that had seen the Stanley Cup finals for the first time just a couple of years prior.

The excitement was palpable in DC with the signing of former rival Jagr, and players the Caps felt they could compliment him with some veteran talent. But it never worked out. The Caps changed coaches putting in a younger successful coach from the minors in Bruce Cassidy in '02 and it just got worse.

Uncle Ted and the Caps management had to change course drasticly following the debacle of the 'o3 - '04 season which led to the sell off of every heavy contract the Caps had just before the dreaded lockout.

To me, the Lighnting look a bit similar loading up their roster with, on paper, proven talent like the Caps did some 6 years ago. Time will tell if this was the right move. If the team can gel and Stamkos pays off, they have the potential of being a very good team. We certianly thought the Caps had that potential back then.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is The Excitment Still There?

It's already a long summer. Is it long enough for some short term memory loss? Maybe for some fans. But catching up with one of my season ticket holders, this has been an excruciating wait.

It's that time of year when it seems all you see is Redskins, Redskins and more Redskins. So much so that many Washingtonians might have the summer amnesia when it comes to what the Capitals were able to do in the spring. But for hard core season ticket holder friend, who has re-upped for next season already, the playoffs are still fresh in their minds.

"For those of us that were there, that building was amazing," He said with a look of excitement in his eyes. "I don't think I have ever seen a building that alive before and every one of them were in red. I just hope we see more of that next year."

Uncle Ted as already seen the benefits of a an electric spring in the dead of summer. "Business is very healthy for us right now and we are very grateful," Owner Ted Leonsis wrote through his blog. "I watched game 7 of our playoff series against the Flyers last night on the NHL channel. It was so amazing to see that sea of red in the stands. I am hopeful we can keep the spirit alive and recapture that magic throughout next season and it all starts with our season ticket holders."

For some it might be hard to contemplate hockey in this sweltering humidity and heat. But for that core of fans that season ending run and the playoffs that followed has kept ice on the brain no matter what time of year it happens to be.

Take, for instance, my blog. My readership this summer has almost tripled from last year with fans who want to know more about the Capitals. While I appreciate the love, this is becoming much bigger than I hoped for a place that I just came to vent game after game. But the level of the Washington area's saturation of Capitals hockey seems to never reach full. Fans want to know more and they want to keep the momentum going.

"This is a town of flakes," My season ticket holder friend once wrote me. "For them to come in full force to Verizon Center, that means something special happened. I witnessed a team that couldn't draw charity tickets in the door, to a croweded ticket line to get in 2 hours before game time all in one season. That is once in a lifetime experience there."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are We There Yet?

When you have a good thing going, everyone wants to be a apart of it. Just ask Graham Mink in his brand new blog:
Anyone that has been following the Washington organization the past year knows that they are one of the up and coming teams in the league with a lot of positive energy surrounding them. Their rebuilding efforts over the last couple of years are finally paying off now that they have the right pieces in place. Having played for Coach Boudreau for the 05/06 season I know that this years Caps will be a very competitive team that will love to play every night and that will be fun to watch. I am also looking forward to seeing several old friends and teammates who are still with the organization. Seeing all of the great players that have signed on with Wash/Hershey for next season I know that regardless of which team I play for they will be a contender for a Championship.

The Capitals now seem to have the most exclusive club in the league. Now that they have hit the salary cap ceiling and a bit beyond. One very good way of telling the value of a particular organization is what those are saying from the inside out. And Mink's been around long enough to realize a good thing is happening here in DC.

What makes this club intriguing to the rest of the world is they seemed to come from nowhere. But as most of us bloggers and Caps fans, we have been enjoying watching this crop cultivate into the buzz of the league. To see that growth and explosion into maturity happen in a single season has us rabid for more.

With a roster that is now pretty tight, it's looks like some of the younger players will have to wait their turn in Hershey. Not that the Bears are complaining much. And in case of injuries, players like Karl Alzner, Francois Bouchard and Oskar Osala will continue to develop in Chocolate Town. Until the trade deadline anyway, were cap limits will no longer matter.

With a team that is nearly already assembled so early, trades may be likely but doubtful. I think that McPhee and Uncle Ted are pretty satisfied with they line up they have now.

In other NHL News:

Jaromir Jagr arrived in Omsk in good spirits. He seems pretty excited to play in a city that has a small town flavor to it. Apparently New York was a bit much for him. He also is not expecting a come back to the NHL anytime soon. Rough translation: "Chance to return to NHL, void, I would say that it is zero."

He also talked about the difficult choice to leave the NHL. "The main thing was to take the most correct decision. I played 17 years overseas... So the choice was difficult."

And maybe his head got a big head too: "I had the opportunity to become the ocean almost idols, perhaps second after Wayne Gretzky." Second after Gretzky? Ah I don't think so. The link to the article is here. Rough translation to English here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Power To The Rankings

Remember the days when the Capitals could barely break the top 25 in national power rankings? Let alone the top twenty. Well the expectation level has jumped to the top ten. Top 5 if you just count the Eastern Conference. came out with their mid summer power rankings and the Caps are nestled between the New York Rangers (4) and New Jersey Devils (6). espn is not about to rank the full league however, so their 5 place ranking is just in the Eastern Conference. Guess whose number one.

The Caps, according to the rankings, look to be Southeast Division champs agian. But goaltending will always be suspect, and Burnside sort has that angle down. If Jose Theodore can be the goaltender that he was for Colorado, what's to say the Capitals can't make it work.

Another problem is the recent bump in the road for the Capitals is the salary cap. With Shaone Morrison's arbitration winnings yesterday, the Caps are now about $900,000 over. That means some of the prospects will have to sit in Hershey a bit longer, until at least the trade deadline, when the cap doesn't matter. Or a trade could be likely, but McPhee obviously wants everyone back.

With this new ranking, comes an expectation level on these players to do even more this year. A better start, a better road record. A better overall effort by everyone. Because in a year's time, this team will look somewhat, if not completely different.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

B & E Hardcore Rap

It's not hockey related but it's very funny. Since Morrisonn is back on board and news will all but cease from Capitals' headquarters, have fun.

Morrisonn Signed (Updated)

Shaone Morrisonn was resigned with the Capitals. Details to follow.

Update: Shaone signed, as RTM found out before me, to a one year $1.975 million. Which puts the Caps over cap for now (thanks to JP's math). There will be some juggling of rosters positions to keep the Capitals with in legal ranges, possibly a trade before the season starts?

Mo must have turned down the straight $1 million that would have kept the Capitals just under the cap.

Friday, July 25, 2008

101 Uses

Tomas Holstrom is quite the family man. Holstrom allowed his cousin to christen his daughter with the Stanley Cup.
“Tomas came up with the idea when we were sitting in his summer cabin kitchen a week ago,” Sundstrom said. “Me and my wife thought it would be fun to christen our daughter in such a priceless object.”


Other NHL News

John Tortorella met with the Islanders in hopes of a new job. While Torts is a hard pill to take, he is a gold mine for bloggers and media. You have to have some pretty thick skin to play for him. But his blunt truthfulness can sometimes be refreshing as well.

News Flash, Mats Sundin still has no idea where he will play next year. Well he might have an idea, but he is playing that hand pretty close to his vest. It's making both the Leafs' and Canucks' fans salivate in the hot summer sun.

Okay it's no hockey, but I watched the MLS All Star Game that pitted the MLS all stars against a premier leauge West Ham United last night. It was by total mistake, I was actually thinking that espn would play the Mets/Phillies game. I still don't see much of a difference between the talent level between the MLS and one of the top football clubs in England. Granted these were the best players MLS had to offer (David Beckham included). But a thought crossed my mind. Is the MLS to the soccer world the same as Kontinental Hockey League is to the NHL?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Morrisonn Testing The Arbitration Waters

Shaone Morrisonn's arbitration hearing is scheduled for today. It basically will decide one of two things for both Morrisonn and the Caps. Either his salary for the '08 - '09 season or if he will become an unrestricted free agent.

These hearings can be tough to take for players to go through. Basically you have to sell yourself to the arbitrator while your team tears you down. Some players will come out of a hearing with hurt feelings or bad attitude toward management. So let's take a closer look at Shaone's contributions and his weaknesses.

The positives: Shaone's play has been, if anything, consistent. While his offensive numbers are at the bottom of the Caps list of talent, it's really his defensive play that keeps him in the top four defensemen, if not the top 2. He finished the last three years in the + column (+7 in '06, +3 in '07, +4 in '08). Morrisonn had pluses on a team that finished last in the division in the last two seasons.

Morrisonn has played 76+ games in each of last three seasons, which makes him dependable. He has been able to avoid the injury bug missing a combined total of 12 games in the last three years. Which means very rarely is Shaone a healthy scratch. That makes him coachable and trustworthy of the coaching staff to make the line up just about every night. He was third this season for ice time behind Mike Green and Tom Poti.

The most important positive, I think, would be his chemistry with Green. Being a solid stay-at-home defenseman has allowed Green to play more offensively. A good part of Green's success is attributed to Morrisonn's play in covering him.

The negatives: It's easy to point to the score card and see that his production total isn't that great. Shaone's point totals have declined in each of his last three seasons with just 10 points recorded last season. Clearly he isn't breaking any records for goals or assists, which is troubling since Morrisonn does see his fair share of powerplay time. His playoff stats where not very good either. Zero points and a -3 for the series.

I would like to see Morrisonn use his size and speed a bit more. There are times when Morrisonn is caught looking at the play and not covering his man. He is also quick to ice or dump the puck instead of head manning it. His ice awareness has to improve he wants to continue to be lined up against the league's number one lines. That increase in awarness would also help his point totals out.

The most important negative, the Caps just might not need him anymore. With Karl Alzner in the fold, they have a far more sound defensemen that will be going through training camp this fall. While Morrisonn may have the experience, Alzner could also fill in that chemistry role with Green and frankly his ice awareness and defensive positioning is much more impressive than Morrisonn's.

Katie Cerrera explains a bit about the process on Tarik's blog:
Things that are brought into consideration according to the CBA: pure statistical performance, injuries, "leadership qualities" and "public appeal." Both sides typically use player comparisons as a significant portion of their argument. The arbitrators aren't allowed to consider the financial situation of the team, the team's salary cap room or lack thereof or newspaper columns.

Brooks Laich went through arbitration last year which awarded the forward a bit of a raise. My feelings are Morrisonn will be awarded somewhere around a $1 - $1.5 million for a year. He earned $900,000 last season.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Camp, Camp, Camp, Camp, Camp

It starts to sound weird when you say it in succession for too long.

Anyway, Caps released their training camp (ha! there it is again) schedule. Rookie camp to start September 14th with a rookie game against the Flyers on the 18th. Since they played the Flyers' rookies up in Phil town, this time the game will be at Kettler.

Then we jump into training camp on the 20th with the big boys. For all your camping info check out the Capitals' website or just click here. If you are really looking for somewhere to camp, here is a nice place too.

If you just want to sit in front of you computer and say camp a million times to yourself until it sounds weird to you too, knock yourself out.

Summer Read

So your curious about hockey in Russia? Instead of booking tickets and exchanging your dollars to rubles (do they still use rubles?), you can get the following book:

King of Russia: A Year in the Russian Super League, by Dave King -

It's a recount of a Canadian coach working and living in the hockey culture in Russia. Dave King, former coach for the Flames and Blue Jackets, had an opportunity to coach in the Russian Super league with the Metallurg Magnitogorsk during the NHL lockout.

Courted by team officials, King's adventure with the Russian system is recounted for you as he tries to mesh the high offense of the Russian system with solid defense in the Canadian system.

If you want to see what it's like across the pond, this is a well written and thoughtful book. Definitely a good summer read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NHL Network To The Rescue

Sitting at my comfy "blogging chair," I was literally ripping at my face with my fingers as I look through the NHL news on just about every site I can think of. Is it really this slow? Yes, it is. With Shaone Morrisonn's hearing not scheduled until Thursday (yes it's this Thursday) and the likelihood that it will happen means for the next few days there is not much to talk about.

God bless the bloggers and writers, they are trying. But with no one playing hockey, and the August summer winds are nearly at our backs it seems everything has ground to a halt. Thank goodness for the NHL Network.

As I stare blankly at site after site on my laptop, 7 pm rolls around and NHL Network starts replaying game 1 of the Capitals/Flyers series from last spring. And it was the TSN broadcast to boot. Nothing against CSN Washington, they did a great job. But it's nice to hear a third party call the game and TSN did a great job of talking about both the Capitals' and Flyers' storylines.

Crisis adverted. My hockey fix is satisfied as I still yell at the Matt Cooke penalty, the missed call on Marty Biron playing the puck in the forbidden zone, and jumped up and down when Mike Green buried two goals to tie and Alex Ovechkin sneaky steal to win the game. Dang that was a good game.

The NHL Network will be replaying the whole series for the remainder of the week. Yeah me! As long as the news is slow, I can now take a more rational look at the series that almost was won by those boys of winter. Just a fix for a Caps fan that still can't wait for next season.

Monday, July 21, 2008

NHL And KHL Super Series?

Just about every free agent in this summer off season seems to be rumored to be going to Russia for the new Kontinental League. With salaries comparable to the National Hockey League, they are luring talent across the Atlantic and some players are answering the call and commuting to Russia to play.

With now two seemingly good leagues separated by the globe, could a interleague super series be in the future? It's an interesting question and many on the KHL side would like to see NHL franchises compete with their teams. A thought that I am sure has crossed the mind of Gary Betteman. A super series with games both played here in North America and over in Russia.

Imagine Alex Ovechkin playing in his home town of Moscow in a Capitals sweater against his former team Dynamo Moscow or Jaromir Jagr suiting up for Omsk to play against the New York Rangers. Both games heavy with storylines that both Russian and North American fans would understand and both be interested in.

While some here in Canada and the U.S. are outraged about talent making the jump to the Russian Hockey side, many Russians still are mad about the flow of their fellow countrymen playing in the NHL in the 80's. Hockey Karma has a way of doing that. Instead of bickering over players, how about a series of games between the two to bridge the gap.

Downsides? While this seems a winner for the fans, owners from both leagues probably wouldn't want their talented players injured in exhibition games. Plus the cost of shipping players back and forth across the Atlantic could give the owners the shakes and players some serious jet lag.

Of course it has to be profitable too. The whole point of doing things like the Winter Classic is to make money, which the NHL did last January and it's the reason there will be another this season in Chicago. It also has to grab ratings for American audiences. But I think both can be achieved for the basic concept that really no other league from any other sport really does this with the most skilled players in the world. This could help both leagues and would create as close to a world wide league as one could get.

At the very least it is an intriguing proposal. Would you tune in for a super series between the NHL and the KHL?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When In Doubt, Do Slapstick

Alex Ovechkin and Alexei Kovalev attended a hockey clinic for kids in Russia. Ovie remarked before the event, "I want something sweet." Kovalev obliged.

All in good fun, "But he did not offend me," Ovie remarked. "We are a friends of hundred years and I got a lot of things like that from him!" The kids got a kick out of the friendly prank.

You can catch the video here. What a trooper, even with a face full of cake Ovie keeps on signing autographs for the kids. Hey, those sticks and programs aren't going to sign themselves.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Sched

Having a chance to take more than just a passing look at the Capitals' schedule for the upcoming season, here are just a few thoughts.

The Caps play back-to-back games 12 times this season. The interesting thing about the games back to back, almost all will be in different cities. There are 7 back-to-backs the Caps play where they will be either traveling to or from home between games (only one of those is a home and home - Devils Nov. 14 and 15). The other 4 are on the road so they will be traveling between games then as well. There is only one home back-to-back, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 where the Caps will host the Red Wings and Senators respectively.

The Caps have two western swings relatively early in the season. The first will be a short 3 game swing through Calgary, Phoenix and Dallas from October 21 - 25 playing every other day. Then a bear of a road trip. Nov. 15 - 24th they start off in New Jersey (finishing a home and home with the Devils) then jump coasts to Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose then Minnesota. While they do take a longer road trip in late March due to the Frozen Four a the phone booth, their trip then will mainly stay in the eastern time zone.

The Caps will play on New Year's Day at home, they play the Lightning at 7 pm after the hoopla with the Winter Classic in Chicago.

I am sure you have all circled your calendars for when the Pens (Oct. 16), Flyers (Dec. 20), and Lightning (Nov. 10) come to town. But one game I am actually looking forward to is the Capitals' season opener against the Thrashers (Oct. 10). With both coaches best friends, now divsion foes, you know its going to be pretty intense.

The Caps open and close the season on the road. They actually spend their last three games in divsional foes buildings.

The return of the 6 games against divisional foes seems to work okay for now. I am excited to see the Red Wings, Oilers and Kings come to the phone booth. Since we don't get to see those teams very often on the west coast. Now we have to just hurry up and wait.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why I Haven't Watched ESPN In 2 Years

Either Americans just don't get it or I guess the Canadians are taking revenge for the World Cup... no? espn's so call "award" called the Espy for best hockey player in 2008 goes to Sid "the Kid" Crosby. A player that was mostly hurt through the season.

Look, I will even concede that Evgeni Malkin deserved better after Sid was injured for FALLING DOWN ON HIS OWN. But did espn, and more importantly Barry Melrose (Tampa Bay's new head coach and resident mullet man) ever give Alex Ovechkin his props for scoring 60 goals in a season or the Caps climb from worst to first in the division? No, they just showed highlights. Am I surprised at this? Not really. I have a feeling we will be seeing more about the Lightning on their broadcasts just to rib their old colleague.

Well, you will anyway. I am sticking with my NHL Network, old games or not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Caps Open Against Chicago

Via the press release from the Capitals:
The Washington Capitals will face the Chicago Blackhawks in their home opener at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 at Verizon Center, one day after opening the season at Atlanta, the NHL announced today. The league also announced the Capitals will play two games each against Western Conference opponents Columbus, Los Angeles and Nashville during the season.

The Capitals will raise their 2007-08 Southeast Division championship banner prior to the home opener.

This is the second time in club history that Washington will host Chicago for its home opener, as the Blackhawks made the trip to D.C. on Oct. 5, 1996, and won 5-2. The Capitals are 17-14-2-0 in home openers. Washington is 33-38-11-1 all-time against Chicago, but owns a 20-15-5-1 record at home against the Blackhawks.

So much young talent, all three nominees for the Rookie of the year award in one place. And we get a banner, yea baby! Oh and Huet will be back in town. Ooo, awkward.

Winter Classic In Windy City

NHL makes it official, this year's Winter Classic (or Winter Classic 2: Porky's Revenge) will be in Chi-Town featuring the Blackhawks hosting the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. We promise to try keeping Darren McCarty from chewing on the ivy.

The league also considered Yankee Stadium as well. It was a bit of a disappointment that they decided to go to Chicago instead of New York, it would have been pretty neat for the league to play at Yankee Stadium considering its future demise. But I guess they have their reasons.

One of the perks of having the game on a diamond rather than a gridiron would be the sight lines are much better and fans would be closer to the action. One of the downsides of last year's classic was the action that looked so far off.

No goats will be allowed on the premises.

NHL Schedule will be released tomorrow at noon, but the Caps' staff may release some highlights early. When I get word, I will pass along.

Fedorov's Big Loan

What would an elite hockey player that has collectively gathered $68 million in his previous two NHL contracts need a mere $2 million for? Not sure, but it seems Sergei Fedorov's past caught up with him in D.C. A bank in Michigan is suing the two way forward for $2,108,405.66 plus lawyer and court fees. No one seems to know what the loan is for. Fedorov will make $4 million in a one year contract with the Capitals. Is this one of those Uncle Ted clean ups? I wouldn't be surprised to see this just sort of melt away by training camp.

Former Capital Brian Willsie found a new home in Colorado. It's homecoming of sorts for the forward that was claimed off waivers from the Avalanche by the Capitals at the beginning of the '03-'04 season. Willsie was then traded to LA in '06 for draft picks during the "rebuild." Willsie signed a one year contract.

Kris Beech will stay a Penguin signing one year contract with Pittsburgh. Beech, a seventh overall pick by the Capitals, will help with the depth at center for the Pens, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is used sparingly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy MLB All Star Day

Since news is grinding to a halt for hockey, I figure I would wish every one a happy All Star Day as the baseball devoted get their day at Yankee Stadium. Just a few things to mention.

If you haven't seen it yet, has the full interview with Ray Emery. I only bring it up because Emery actually put some of the blame on himself for it deteriorating the way things did in Ottawa. It's only now, when he has no job in the NHL, do we see him mature. Ironic.

I did hear back from a couple of sources that Shaone Morrisonn will "most likely go to arbitration." Both sides are negotiating still and that is a good sign. I am not sure what the hold up is, whether it's the contract length or the dollar amount that is keeping the two sides from agreeing. As long as they are talking, a deal could be struck before Morrisonn's hearing date of July 24.

Happy Belated Birthday to Japers' Rink. 3 years huh? Sounds like someone is just a couple months older than PHT. Has it really been 3 years? Dang.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Da Preseason, Da Preseason!

Schedule finally out for the Caps preseason. Interesting foes:

Wed, Sept. 24 @ Carolina - 7 p.m.

Thurs, Sept. 25 vs. Carolina, Verizon Center - 7 p.m.

Sat, Sept. 27 @ Boston - 4 p.m.

Mon, Sept. 29 @ New Jersey - 7 p.m.

Wed, Oct. 1 @ Philadelphia - 7 p.m.

Fri, Oct. 3 vs. Philadelphia,
Verizon Center - 7 p.m.

Sun, Oct. 5 vs. Boston,
Verizon Center - 5 p.m.

Nothing like jumping right back on the horse with the Eastern Conference runner ups, Flyers. Anyone want to put bets down that Steve Eminger scores and makes us look silly?

FYI: Monday, July 21st at 7 pm, the NHL Network will be replaying the first game of the Flyers/Capitals series from this spring. Then see all seven games throughout next week or so as they replay all seven games.

Schedule Comes Out Wednesday, More On Hauswirth

A little bird told me that not only is the NHL Schedule complete, but they are set to release it Wednesday a day after the MLB All Star game during a relative lull in sports news. While I don't have the details on what the Caps will be doing, several other teams have sort of leaked their home openers.

In other news:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the league's biggest news makers this off season. Why not top it off with a Ovechkin-like keep? Vinny Lecavalier signed an 11 year, $85 million contract that will keep him in Tampa until just shy of his 40th birthday. Actually I think it's a good signing for the Bolts and for Lecavalier. The contract is front heavy so later, if they need to bring in more talent they can do so.

Apparently that has Atlanta a little green with signing envy. They went out and signed free agent Jason Williams from the Chicago Blackhawks for 1 year, $2.2 million. Atlanta has the most work to do in the division as far as getting their fans back in the Blueland fold. Their new coach, John Anderson, best buddies with one Bruce Boudreau, seems to be helping in that regard.

Since development camp, there has been some buzz about Jake Hauswirth, a camp invitee that seemed to make quite the impression. So I did a little digging.

Slated to attend Michigan Tech, the Wisconsin native scored in each of the scrimmages at Kettler last week. And in certain circles amongst those that talk hockey in Wisconsin, they are saying that Hauswirth is the real deal. He played 57 games with the Omaha Lancers last year, scoring 13 goals and 23 points and played 13 playoff games, amassing 2 goals and 4 assists. While in development camp his play was impressive his numbers from the Lancers were middle of the road. Before Omaha, Hauswirth played for the Marquette Rangers (pictured left) for their inagural season. There he finished third on the team in scoring with 21 goals. Hauswirth will be a 21 year old freshman at Mich Tech come the fall, where his father attended college.

And finally, the Caps make it official (he must have signed the paperwork). Sergei Fedorov has been inked to a one year contract. GMGM's thoughts in the Caps press release:
“We are happy to have Sergei back,” said vice president and general manager George McPhee. “What he brings to the club extends beyond the rink. He is a leader and a player that everyone on our team wanted back. We look forward to him helping us compete this upcoming season.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Controversy Brews

Yesterday I caught this on OFB:

Prompting this response from Uncle Ted:
We need the revenues to pay for the huge increase in player payroll. We will develop this team in the best manner possible and we will not offend anyone. This effort is one that is fairly consistent across the league and across sports.

But when you grow a payroll like we have, a team must develop all available sources of income. It is the nature of the business. I am hopeful that people will give it a chance but we are moving forward with this effort. I am a family man with a wife and a daughter. I promise we will not offend anyone with the Capital Spirit team.

Prompting a response from Caps nation:
--Do anything else! Heck, put advertisements on the back of my chair. Give me sponsored napkins when i buy my chicken fingers. Just not this!

--I’m not big on the idea. It’s probably a by-product of working for the government for 32 years and listening to boundless sexual harassment and hostile work environment diatribes. Honestly, I pay my money to watch NHL ice hockey and root for the Caps. I don’t really want to watch the “Hooter girls” at the hockey games.

--I hate seeing the NHL going to the pole, the stripper pole. Why do we need women with half tops? Hello? I think a group of people with thick black glasses, long hair and “Chiefs” jerseys would do a much better job of getting the crowd going.

Prompting this response from me:

I could care less if they want to do cheerleaders of if they don't want to do cheerleaders. It's not like I am going to go to the game to see the girls dance around. If the organization feels it needs to make more revenue by getting cute girls to prance around, fine. But it should not be a distraction from the game, which I doubt it will.

As far as those who have brought up the point that there are no cheer girls at college and high school hockey games obviously have never been to Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan and Colorado. Many high school teams have a cheer team in these hockey heavy areas, just because they don't here doesn't mean that is the standard nationwide.

The only annoying thing that will happen will be the television broadcasts that will do a shot of one of the girls after every goal. As far as during the game, the less I see them the better.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Camp Comes To A Close

It may just be one week, but it may be the most important week for these young players to make their NHL dreams come true. It is also a week Caps management can play with the new acquisitions, and truly evaluate their depth and future. But all good things must come to an end.

The Capitals wrapped up their development camp today at the Kettler Iceplex centered around Fan Fest that featured a moon bounce in the parking lot. No, I did not go on the moon bounce. They wouldn't let me. The final scrimmage saw the most people at Kettler this week. There were 3 to 4 deep on the glass and just about every bench in the stands was cover in Caps fans' butts. It was a sea of red, Caps home jerseys, rock the red shirts, so on and so on. Plus there were a lot of cute families. It seemed the younger kids were more interested in the moon bounce than the Capitals' future faces, but I probably would have been too at that age.

Due to other obligations, I was only able to stick around for warm ups and a little bit of the first period. But I have been to every one of the morning skates this week and attended the previous two scrimmages. I heard the game went to another shootout with Blue team eeking out the win. Here are some of my thoughts of the camp overall.

In terms of goaltenders, the Caps are in good hands. Michal Neuvirth has grown leaps and bounds from a year ago. Last year at development camp, Neuvirth looked like a kid in his dad's clothes at times. Compared to this year, besides the knee injury he is recovering from, he has filled out more and has more confidence since we saw last. This year he looked like a goaltender.

Simeon Varlomov looks like he is ready to take the next step. Which is to go to Hershey. A very athletic goaltender, he is a expert rebound handler. His control is impressive, able to either gobble up the shot from the point or safely route it to the corners. His look is intimitating too, he just looks like he knows he is going to stop you.

Dan Dunn had a good camp. His size is impressive, he is just looks big in net. Besides Neuvirth and Varlomov, he was the most consistent goaltender. Braden Holtby had some great moments, but I think nerves got the best of him throughout the week. And Joe Howe, to me, looked great, but he is a smaller goaltender. Let's see if he fills out next year.

As far as the Caps properties, Karl Alzner looks ready. When we saw him a year ago he might have been overwhelmed by the process. This year, he has this determined look. His sights are not just on development camp, he is looking beyond that.

What impresses me most about Alzner are the little things he has done during camp. For instance, at the end warmups at all the scrimmages Alzner was the first on his team to help pick up the pucks. During the practices, he would often be the one to go to when the other defensemen had questions or looked lost. All those little things a good leader seems to have.

Oskar Osala is a good talent, and was heads and shoulders (both figuratively and literally) above everyone else at camp. A big kid with soft hands. My only beef with him would be his failure to use his size more. I saw glimpses of that in the second scrimmage, but I felt if he could be a bit more physical he could make his own room on the ice much like Dustin Penner does for Edmonton.

Mathieu Perrault and Francios Bouchard were not as impressive as we saw a year ago, but it's likely both will make it to training camp in August. Bouchard apparently had a better scrimmage today, although I was not there to see it. In the previous two, he just got lost in the pack and often times took lazy penalties. In the drills he looked okay, but I guess I was expecting more out of him.

Perrault looked fine in the drills and in the one and only scrimmage I saw him in, he too seemed a bit lost in the woodwork. But you can't deny his speed and his instincts around the net. Perrault has all the characteristics of a pure goal scorer. Just needs some seasoning.

There were a couple of players that made an impression (to me anyway). Jake Hauswirth had a great camp. He scored in both scrimmages I saw and he looked very confident on the ice. He is tall and a bit gangly, but he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. On the defensive end he needs a little work, there were a couple of times he cleared the puck out of the rink (a penalty in the big leagues).

Andrew Gordon and Andrew Glass both looked pretty good. Both were sort of the gritty role players for their teams and played physical and created havoc on the forecheck. Micheal Dubuc was another talent that impressed me in the one scrimmage I saw him in.

Defenseman Sasha Pokulok had an okay camp. While he did well in the drills and morning skates, during the scrimmages he was beaten like a rented mule. Players easily stepped around him and he didn't look too solid back there. Another defenseman, John Carlson seemed good in the drills, but in the scrimmages he was a bit wreckloose with the puck at times.

There were several other players that seemed to just be there for the sake of getting other players to fill out the rosters. Which is the point I guess. Overall the talent seems to be there in many of the players. But this is rookie camp, when training camp comes around you will see the big difference from this level to a professional level. You will see more confidence in the play, the hits are bigger and harder and the passes are more on point.

But now we are moving on to the douldrums of the off season. Just about the only news we are waiting on Shaone Morrisonn's arbitration/signing in the next week or so. Other than that, not too much more is going on through the Capitals system until training camp starts in August.

Schedule To Come Out Soon?

On the Carolina Hurricanes website, the Caps will be playing them in the preseason at least twice. Which could mean the schedule for the Capitals' preseason is close to coming out. It may be released in conjunction with Fan Fest today at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, VA.

According to the 'Canes website, the Caps will play a home and home with their division rivals September 24th and 25th. The first game will be at Carolina.

Today is Fan Fest at Kettler and the following is the schedule of events.
  • 9 am - Capitals Equipment Sale begins (season-ticket holders from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; general public from 1 to 3 p.m.)

  • 10 am-3 pm - Outside activities (weather permitting; street hockey, moonbounce, obstacle course, slapshot cage, face painters, airbrush artists, jazz band)

  • 10 am - Development camp scrimmage warmups

  • 10:30 am - Development camp scrimmage begins

  • 12 to 1 pm - Brooks Laich autograph session

  • 2 pm - Future Capitals autograph session

Friday, July 11, 2008

Boyd Is Back

Boyd Gordon resigns, more details to follow. Shaone Morrisonn next? Well he is the last one.

Update: Details per Tarik:
Center Boyd Gordon has signed a one-year contract worth $725,000. That's a little bit more than his qualifying offer.

Elsewhere around the division, GM Jay Feaster parts ways with the Lightning. Like you didn't see that coming.

Light News

Not much going on this morning. I did notice that it seemed Tampa fans are a bit blush about Lightning owner Len Barrie's comments about winning the Southeast Division. Bruce Boudreau had a pretty snappy comeback:
"We just hope to be in second place because Tampa says they're going win the division," Boudreau said. "So if we play good enough to get to second place, we'll be happy."
Well on the St. Pete Times website, it seems not all fans shared their owner's feelings. Some highlighted fan responses: owner who craves the lime light he couldn't earn as a player. One thing Torts got right -- it's the guys on the ice who win and lose games. The guys in the suits are just witnesses.

--This is Boudreau's kindly way of telling you to get an attitude adjustment before you make any more of a fool of yourself.

--I actually think its Boudreau who should shut his yap. He's been blabbing since last year, and he hasn't even coached a full NHL season. Give me a break, go take you team past round 1 of the playoffs before you speak Boudreau.

Okay, maybe not all Bolt fans are turning against their owner.

As for the Caps' fans they should consider themselves lucky. In Carolina this is a first:
The Carolina Hurricanes will host the Canes Summer Fun Fest at the RBC Center on Thursday, July 24 at 6 p.m. Admission and parking are free and there will be plenty to do for the whole family, including street hockey, various interactive inflatables and live music. Food will be offered at discount prices and we will re-live the famous "Miracle at Molson" game at 9 p.m. Hurricanes players and coaches are scheduled to appear.

Yup, their first ever fun fest or whatever they call it. Caps have been doing fan fests at the drop of a hat for various reasons. Consider yourself pretty lucky. Remember, Carolina was the organization that upped the ticket prices the moment they won the Stanley Cup, which turned away some long time season ticket holders who could no longer afford the new prices. I guess now they are trying to warm up to them again.

Some good news, the NHL has reached an agreement with the Russian Hockey League to stop the luring of players from either side with big money contracts. This may be the first step to help both leagues to realize their full potential with out busting the bank.

The Cap's development camp continues today, but there is no scrimmage scheduled. It looks like it will be a light skate for both groups and some early shut eye for the fan fest tomorrow. Since both the blue team and white team have won games, Saturday's game should be pretty exciting to break the scrimmage series tie.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Developing Day 4; Shootout

Blue Team 5, White Team 4 SO(3-2)

Today's scrimmage had all the fireworks of the Fourth of July. Well mostly in the third anyway. The first and second periods saw some tight checking with a 1-1 tie after the first. The blue team scored a late goal in the second and eventually went up 3-1 midway through the third. Goals seemed hard to come by and chances were kept to the outside.

Braden Holtby played much better today (after allowing six goals yesterday), with some great saves to keep the blue team in. He had a great stop late in the second period on Andrew Glass. Glass and a teammate got behind the defense on a mini two on one. Holtby read the play beautifully and robbed Glass of a goal with less than a minute left in the second.

Then the white team struck in the third, Oskar Osala scored to make it 3-2, then they tied it on a Bobby Butler goal. But Andrew Gordon scored for the blue to make it 4-3 with about two minutes left.

With a minute left, Dan Dunn (white's goaltender) was pulled to allow an extra attacker and since I was on the far side of the rink I didn't see who scored the game tying goal, but Karl Alzner had the pretty assist to send the game to... Shoot Out! Screw overtime.

Below is the tally in the shootout:
Blue team was first in each round
Round 1 - Patrick McNeil, goal - Paul Crowder, miss
Round 2 - Philip DeSimone, goal - Oskar Osala, goal
Round 3 - Francois Bouchard, save - Steve Pinizzotto, goal
Round 4 - Andrew Gordon, miss - Nikita Kashirsky, save
Round 5 - John Carlson, miss - Maxime Lacroix, miss
Round 6 - Kyle Laughlin, miss - Bobby Butler, save
Round 7 - Jake Hauswirth, goal - Josh Godfrey, save

Holtby gave a celebritory fist pump on the last white team's chance. And why shouldn't he? He was my stand out player for the blue team. The blue team came out with a little more desperation since falling behind in scrimmage one and eventually losing 8-4. That makes Saturday's tilt the scrimmage series tiebreak.

On the white side, Osala was my stand out player of the game. He used his sized much better this scrimmage. His shot is quick and hard too, but I would have liked to see it hit the net more. His overall play was good, he even had a couple of back checks late in the game to help his team stay in it.

Honorable mentions for the stand out players were, Glass for the white team. He plays hard and loves to get physical. Some of his hits lead to chances down the ice. Gordon for the blue team also gets honorable mention, he scored a goal and nearly had a second. He used his speed well to pressure the defensemen.

Francois Bouchard did not have a great game. He was held scoreless and was sent to the sin bin twice. The white team took advantage of one of his penalties. Mathieu Perrault did not play today, but Craig Laughlin's kid, Kyle, did. And I believe he scored as well.

What I did notice was a lot of missed passes. Players could easily step around the first defender, but couldn't seem to find the open man's tape. Often good scoring chances never cultivated because of an arrant pass or miscommunication.

Tomorrow will be a light morning skate for both groups, with fanfest on Saturday and the final scrimmage for development camp.

Fehr Resign (Updated)

Eric Fehr was resigned by the capitals. More details to come. If you are keeping score, both Boyd Gordon and Shaone Morrisonn have yet to be resigned. I will update more after the scrimmage at Kettler.

Update: Fehr's contract is a one-year, two-way deal worth $735,000

Southeast Notes

Just some Southeast notes.

The Atlanta Thrashers made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history just two years ago. But since then, it's been anything but positive. Just ask the fans. In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a poll was constructed on their website:

Ouch! Seems like all is not well in dizzy bird land.

Could Jay Feaster be out in Tampa? I am sure a lot of you have read the blog posting on St. Pete Times website for Olaf Kolzig, but what I find more shocking was the paragraph at the bottom:
WHERE'S FEASTER?: Absent from the team's official player announcements has been general manager Jay Feaster. With Brian Lawton, vice president of hockey operations, handling most contract negotiations and owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie completing a three-headed brain trust for personnel issues, Feaster's duties are diminished. An upcoming meeting with ownership could determine his duties with the team.
Sounds to me like the axe maybe falling for Jay Feaster. Barry Melrose, Coach/GM? Don't be surprised either to see Melrose play Kolzig for every one of their games against the Caps.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Developing Day 3; White Team Wins

Team White 8, Team Blue 4

First scrimmage of the Capitals development camp is in the books. After a good 15 minute delay to replace the glass on the Blue side after warm ups, the kids didn't disappoint as they dropped the puck. Here are some quick thoughts on the scrimmage
  • Michael Dubuc (72) was the stand out player on the white team. He scored twice and must have been a +3 or +4. He also changed slowly, it seemed he was always the last one off the ice from his line.
  • Jake Hauswirth (42) was the stand out player for the blue team. A tall gangly looking forward had a nice one timer goal on Simeon Varlomov (40) and was involved in a couple of the other goals for blue.
  • Karl Alzner (47) is text book when he plays defense. He is hardly ever out of position and he always takes the cautious route and finds the open winger to clear his zone. He is a smooth skater too, heads and shoulders beyond the other defensemen.
  • Kevin Clark (57) is the smallest player on the ice, but he is fearless. More than once he went into the corners with guys twice his size. Although he didn't come out with the puck some times, he takes a punishing each time and there is not hesitation on his part.
  • Victor Bartley (64) loves to hit. Maybe too much. He was involved in a hit that hurt a blue team player and he was called for a penalty for roughing after hitting another up high.
  • Oskar Osala (48) needs to work on his curl and drag. Everytime he tried the move he would make it past the defender, but the puck didn't.
  • Mathieu Perreault (85) and Francios Bouchard (36) both scored although Bouchard looked a little uncomfortable to me (injury maybe). He didn't look as fast as he was last year and he seemed to get lost in the traffic a lot. His one goal was a deflection off a point shot.
  • Varlomov and Michal Neuvirth (30) both only allowed 2 goals, but Varlomov looked sharper. Braden Holtby (70) let in six goals and looked a bit nervous after every goal. Dan Dunn (80) only allowed two.
  • The play often looked bogged down alot, and even though there were a lot of good hits and near misses, it seemed the talent players didn't seem to have much room. Maybe it was first scrimmage jitters.
  • One player I thought looked really good in the practices was John Carlson (74), a defenseman that seemed to have a laser of a shot and was a quick skater. However in the scrimmage he was very wreckloose with the puck.
For the most part the scrimmage was pretty fun to watch. The kids came out and played hard. But you can start to see who has that "it" factor and others who seem to be struggling. There were no fights, and most hits and pushing were followed by smiles and friendly jawing. It should be a bit more exciting tomorrow when Jose Theodore will be in-house as they introduce the new #1.

Laich Signs (Updated)

Brooks Laich was just signed to a 3 year contract with the Capitals. More details to come.

Per, the Caps may have just signed Sergei Fedorov as well to a one year $4 million contract.

Update: Details via Corey at ITR:
[Brooks Laich's] deal is for $6.3 million. He will make $1.7 million this year, $2.1 the next and $2.4 in 2010-11 with the cap hit being $2.1 million each season. By signing him to a three-year pact, the Caps were able to buy out one year of unrestricted free agency.
As far as Fedorov goes, there were rumors the two-way forward was going to resign with the Capitals. Although the club has not yet made it official.

I tried to contact Shaone Morrisonn's people to no avail. Last I knew from his camp he was going to go through arbitration.

Witt Stays On The Island; Scrimmage Today

Brendan Witt resigns a two year $6 million contract with the New York Islanders. I guess that ends all the talk of getting him to resign here.

Today marks the first day of scrimmages at the Kettler for their development camp. The intrasquad scrimmage will be at 3:30 this afternoon and is (as always) open to the public. I was assured that the players will be in sweaters that will don their names on the back, so we can kind of grasp who else is at camp besides those on the public roster.

It should be a bigger crowd too, one more knowledgable about hockey and the Caps in general then what I have encountered in the past two days, I hope. The crowd has been pretty light, except for all the bloggers (Peerless, OFB, CI, PHT). Which is funny, I haven't run into any of these guys there. Well to be honest, I am not sure what they look like. There should be a blogger corner somewhere at Kettler.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Developing Day 2

The morning started with some time trials. Basically they set up some timing equipment and had the first group skate as hard as they could in different situations. There was the straight fast skate. Timed how fast from a dead stop, so on and so forth.

Since I could only get to the morning session, that was what I mostly saw. They did clean the ice and do some more drills after that, but I didn't stick around long. One thing I did notice was Bruce Boudreau's intensity during drills. He likes his drills done full speed and loves to let some of the players keep going. Sometimes screaming, "Put it in!"

It was my first look at Francois Bouchard. He is one of the dark horses to make the team. He looked like he was in good shape to me and has fill out some since a year ago. He is still fast and still has some good hands.

While the goaltenders didn't take part in the speed trials, they got their work out later when they started doing drills. Braden Holtby spent some time in front of me. He did okay, goes down a little early, but looked okay. He is no where near where Michal Neuvirth and Simeon Varlomov are, but he has some good basics down. I got some pics, but I am no expert so I apologize for the many out of focus shots.
Francois Bouchard during the time trials.

Dan Dunn makes the save.

Braden Holtby prepares for more shots.

Morrison Signs

It's sneaky I know, but Brendan Morrison has signed with the Anaheim Ducks. Not Shaone Morrisonn who is still, as far as we know, going to arbitration. I figured I would take a page from JP's book of tricks.

The topic of conversations of Caps fans attending the development camp at Kettler seemed centered around how to sign more free agents, even though Uncle Ted was pretty clear that they were not going to do much else on the free agent front (for now anyway). But these were some of the conversations overheard as I watched the Caps' future run through Bruce Boudreau's drills.

"Brian Potheir should retire so we can sign Sergei Fedorov and another hard nose defenseman."

Potheir still has a contract, and is a good talent. But head injuries aren't something you just get over. Just ask Eric Lindros.

"We have so much cap space, I don't see what the deal is? Let's get a gritty center."

Sure the Capitals have plenty of cap space. But what is the total amount that Uncle Ted is willing to put up? No one really knows.

That is the one thing that sort of grinds me about the cap, everyone just assumes the money is there. But for teams like St. Louis, Calgary and even Washington don't always have the funds to make the cap limit. Besides why would you as a GM back your team into a corner against the cap and not be able to move or deal players that aren't preforming. Then your stuck with a cap limit of bad players.

"We should get Peter Bondra back."

Hey, I am all for bringing back Rod Langway too, but that's the past. Bondra is RETIRED. Which means he doesn't play anymore. I am not saying that I don't like Bondra, but move on people.

"Why didn't we offer anything to Jaromir Jagr?"

Are you serious?

Now these are all the Caps' so called hard core fans (I mean most of them took the day off work just to watch some young talent that may never see a day in the NHL). Still I am surprised that some fans are still peeved about the rebuild and the slow march to get to this point. I fear that the Caps' nation won't be satisfied until the Cup comes to DC. Even then their will be some that want more.

What I have also noticed, some fans seem to be having amnesia when it comes to the reasons why the Caps blew up their roster before the lockout. That plan, that seem a big risk then, now seems to be paying off. But for some fans, it's just not happening fast enough.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Just a few thoughts I would shoot out there after attending the morning group at Kettler.

Michal Neuvirth (pictured) has definitely matured over the past year. Last year in camp he looked small and a bit lost at times. This morning he looks a little more filled out and more comfortable in net. At first I thought he was Simeon Varlomov but was quickly corrected. Wearing Brett Johnson's old mask, Neuvirth calmly turned away some good shots and had a few eyebrow raising glove saves. His boyish face now has some scruff on it and he looks much older and bigger than he did this time last year.

Andrew Glass's skates have to be a good 10, maybe 15, years old. I played with the exact same Bauers when I was playing back in High School. Seems like a new pair of skates would make him go faster since the newer skates are much lighter.

Sasha Pokulok had two really good hits during a 5 on 5 drill. Karl Alzner tended to shy away from hits. And the final skating drill seemed to hurt at least one player and left all a bit out of breath. Bruce Boudreau just seeing how in shape they all were. Some looked a bit too winded.

Mathieu Perreault scored two pretty goals, one on the back hand that sailed over Neuvirth's shoulder. Perreault is a sneaky forward and hangs around the net alot, at least he did a lot of that on the 5 on none and 5 on 5 drills. Perreault also was one of those that was pretty winded during the last drill.

I did not stick around to see the afternoon group, but I will be there to see them tomorrow morning. Dan Dunn spent most of the time in the opposite net from where I was standing, but he looked a bit nervous at first. He let in a couple of softies, until there was a 5 on none drill that Dunn kept the puck out for a good minute or so. 5 guys couldn't get it past him.

Kids Are Back In Town

The Washington Capitals start their development camp today. Some are getting their first look at the Capitals' system, and some getting another chance to turn some heads and look to graduate to training camp in a month or so.

As always, the camp will take up considerable space at the Kettler Iceplex in Arlington Va. Most of the practices start every day at 10 AM and are open to the public. However on Saturday July 12 (final day) the intersquad scrimmage will be at 10:30 AM with the Caps' Fan Fest scheduled all day at Kettler. Should be a packed house.

The big names to watch for are Karl Alzner and Simeon Varlomov. Alzner earned WHL Player of the Year honors and the WHL’s Defenseman of the Year last season. He also signed an entry level contract with the Caps ensuring that he will stay for training camp. Possibly even a spot since Eminger has departed.

Varlomov is the Caps' future in net. He is one of the many reasons Cris Huet could not be signed here. Varlomov spent all of last year in Russia and has expressed a deep desire to play in the NHL. He was so excited that when he was first selected in the '06 draft he promptly painted the Capitol dome on his helmet.

MIA: Joe Finley and Anton Gustafsson. Both have good reasons to miss camp. Finley would have to pay his own way here to keep his college elgibility. Since he experienced camp last year, he may just be saving his dollars for when he signs an entry level contact.

Gustafsson still has some lingering injuries that will keep him grounded in Sweden. According to Nate Ewell, Capitals' Director of Media Relations, the Caps had consider bringing him in anyway, but decided it was best for him just to stay home and heal up.

Other noteables:
  • Two players, John Carlson and Stefan Della Rovere, both have 1990 birthdays. Now I feel old.

  • Four players at this year's camp have moved up through the system all the way from the South Carolina Stingrays.

  • Two players to definitely keep an eye on, Mathieu Perreault and Francois Bouchard. Both have won scoring titles in the QMJHL. Both joined the Hershey Bears late last season.

I most likely will be able to check out the morning skates everyday this week. I doubt many of these players will make the squad full time like Nick Backstrom did, which makes him a pretty amazing talent for doing so. If anyone has a chance it would be Alzner or Oskar Osala, big kid from Finland who was Rookie of the Year playing for the Blues Espoo.

The next week will be a good measuring stick on the Capitals' future. At the very least you can watch what it takes for these kids make their NHL dreams come true. Below is the full schedule:

Monday, July 7
10 a.m.: Group A on ice
2:30 p.m.: Group B on ice

Tuesday, July 8
10 a.m.: Group B on ice
2:30 p.m.: Group A on ice

Wednesday, July 9
10 a.m.: Group A on ice
11:15 a.m.: Group B on ice
3:30 p.m.: Intrasquad scrimmage

Thursday, July 10
10 a.m.: Group B on ice
11:15 a.m.: Group A on ice
3:30 p.m.: Intrasquad scrimmage

Friday, July 11
10 a.m.: Group A on ice
11:15 a.m.: Group B on ice

Saturday, July 12
Capitals' Fan Fest
10:30 a.m.: Intersquad scrimmage

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Arbitrarily Speaking

No surprise that Brooks Laich and Shaone Morrisonn have opted for an arbitrator.

And if you were curious, Matt Cooke becomes a Penguin. Since the Pens already lost a agitator they needed to get one in return. Cooke now is the enemy. But with a sweet face.

Fireworks Of A Different Kind

Kevin Lowe finally jabs back. Well not only is it a jab, it's a full on upper cut with a few body blows:
"Where do I begin?," started Lowe. "He's a moron, first of all. Secondly, he really believes that any news for the NHL is good news. Thirdly, he loves the limelight and I don't think anyone in hockey will dispute that. Lastly, he's in a pathetic hockey market where they can't get on any page of the newspaper let alone the front page of the sports, so any of this stuff carries on."

"I mean, if he wants to debate what our offer sheet did to them or to the salaries, anytime," he explained to Team 1260. "The reality is, Rick Nash's contract a number of years ago, (Patrice) Bergeron's and (Ilya) Kovalchuk's; that sets the standard - that's been going on for decades. I'm sick and tired of it. I know everybody in hockey is. I know our peers are like, 'Well, that's Burkie.' This guy is an absolute media junkie and I guess he's achieving what he wants because he gets his name in the headlines. But the reality is, I hate the fact that my name is linked to his. He's an underachieving wanna-be in terms of success in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup? Great. I've won six Stanley Cups, you want to count rings? Who cares, it's just a little pathetic that he carries on."

No animosity there. While Lowe has tried to take the high road several times by not engaging, he became Brian Burke's punching bag. The punching bag just punched back. Best line: "He won a Stanley Cup? Great. I've won six..." Ah those crazy GM's. So cute and cuddly.

In other news, Jaromir Jagr is gone (thank goodness). He signed a two year deal somewhere in Russia.

And Southeast Division foes Tampa have done away with Dan Boyle sending him to San Jose in a player swap. Personally, I think this is a mistake on the Lightning's part. Boyle himself didn't take the news to well either. After going on a honeymoon, he just found out himself that he was rumored to be traded when he was returning home.
“I don’t have the nicest things to say about what happened, but I don’t want to dwell on this,” Boyle said in a phone interview from his Ontario cottage. “I was misled and disrespected, and it was really not the right way to do a lot of things. I don’t have anything good to say about how all this went down.”

Is Tampa really doing any good this off season? Or is it shake up for shake up sake?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th Of July

Happy Birthday, big ol' USA. Since I doubt the Caps will sign anyone today, being a holiday and all, I am going to take a nice weekend off. Get some BBQ, light some illegal fireworks and just enjoy a nice long weekend.

Just some loose ends to tie up.

Per Tarik, GM George McPhee maybe done signing free agents, now is the time to lock up some of the those RFA's. Sounds like GMGM is pretty confident that Brooks Laich will be back even though his agent has confessed that Laich has been contacted by other teams about possible offers. What ever the market might give him the Caps will match.

Deals are also in the works to get Sergei Fedorov back, but like I surmised, the Caps and Fedorov are going to wait until the dust settles and comtemplate each others' options. Looks like Fedorov might wait until McPhee has the team he wants under contract and then start negotiating. Which makes sense.

Matt Cooke looks like he will move on. While he served his purpose here in DC, it was down to either Matt Bradley or Cooke. Bradley resigned. End of story.

You might have noticed that Capitals' first round draft pick is not on the development roster. Anton Gustafsson will not be here in July due to his nagging injuries. At first the Caps thought they could at least get him in and work a rehab program for him. At least he would be able meet some of the other players in development. But I think doctors put the kabosh on that and told Gus II to stay home. He was going to stay there for next season anyway.

Shaone Morrisonn's status is still in the air, but it's likely he will be resigned. He found some chemistry with Mike Green last season, which is a big reason the Caps would want him to stay. But with so many good defensemen now in the Caps' system, it going to make playing for jobs quite the battle.

Also some good news. The Rangers weren't going to wait around for Jaromir Jagr and signed Markus Naslund instead. I pretty much think that puts the Caps in the free and clear of any contractual monies obligated to the Rangers and Jagr. It truely is Independence Day!

That's all for now. Happy 4th

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Caps Sign Aucoin

The Caps keep their free agent signings up by signing up Keith Aucoin. A centerman that spent last season in limbo with Carolina Hurricanes and Albany River Rats. Aucoin could be a replacement for someone else who is still a long way away from getting to a contract agreement with GMGM, according to Tarik and Corey anyway.

Clearly Aucoin will be a third or fourth line center, if not spending time back and forth with the Caps and Hershey.

Here Keith Aucoin gets suckered punched by Drew Fata, brother of former Cap Rico Fata in the final seconds of a game in February of 07.

Olympic Fever

Over the past week or so, NBC has been starting to cover the Olympic trials on their sister channels like USA and Universal HD. Something that brings great joy to my wife who was a high jumper in college. The other night we witnessed one of the most exciting races in the Men's 800 meters.

Now let me preface this by saying my wife could care less about sports in general. When I am watching hockey, she rolls her eyes with every goal I celebrate, and gets peeved when I get upset over a blown call or a stupid penalty. Don't try talking hockey with my wife either, she could care less. When ever I have news or think something is exciting and I share it with her, I usually get a "I really don't care" stare from her.

But the roles were reversed the other night when we watched the track and field Olympic trials. She was on the edge of the couch, getting more and more excited as we watched the decathlon events high jumping and pole vaulting. Then we watched the Men's 800 meter race that feature 3 runners from Oregon, the home boys since the trials are being held in Oregon.

When the race starts the three Oregon runners were near the back for most of the race, until the last turn. Out of nowhere all three put it into overdrive and all three beat the field and will be going to Beijing for the Olympics. You can see the video here on My wife was so excited she was jumping around the living room and screaming about how great a race it was.

I caught myself rolling my eyes. It was a great race, but I was never a huge track and field fan. But thinking about it, I get to see the Caps play every year for near 8 months out of the year. She only gets to watch elite athletes realize their Olympic dreams every 4 years. So I let her jump and scream and grunt with the runners and jumpers. It was fun to see the fan side of her emerge as we watched all of the events. She even gave me a few pointers on how to high jump using our bed as the "pit."

I guess our house has already caught Olympic fever.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Corey Masisak caught up with Olie Kolzig's agent Art Breeze:
Q: What was the interest level like for Olie yesterday?

Breeze: He was one of the most sought-after unrestricted free agent goaltenders yesterday. There were several aggressive suitors. He is a class act, and I think he can still be a dominant goaltender in this league. Tampa’s gain is going to be Washington’s loss.

Q: Was there any communication with Washington yesterday?

Breeze: None whatsoever. And you can put that in big, bold letters.

Haha, haha, haha, ooh, that Breezy. Whew.

Seriously, if I ever felt down about myself, unsure and feeling depressed, remind me to hire Art Breeze.

Caps Stay Busy

The Capitals have signed free agent right wing Graham Mink and free agent defenseman Tyler Sloan. Mostly a move to keep some talent in Hershey. It's a minor move, but keeps some depth for the Caps down the road if the injury bug hits.

Mink returns to the Capitals system playing only 5 NHL games (all with the Caps). Sloan returns the the Bears after two solid seasons in Hershey. Not really the news we were hoping for today, but at least some one is working over there at Kettler.

The Morning After

There is a mix of feelings toward the Capitals' moves on free agent Tuesday. At first there was a lot of animosity headed in the Caps' management way when GM George McPhee seemed to have botched the Cris Huet deal and went with a less capable goaltender in Jose Theodore >>>. Then that flipped when it had been revealed that Huet was actually given what they had asked for and still went to the open market. McPhee afraid he would be with out a number one goaltender at all, made the move he thought he had to to get a number one goaltender.

Huet dismissed the offer that they themselves told McPhee they would sign for and headed for open market. When all was said and done, Huet got a better contract with Chicago. Which already has a "number one" in Nic Khabibulin. In a way it's funny that both Capitals' goaltenders, Cris Huet and Olie Kolzig, went to different teams that already have number ones (in Kolzig's case he is right back into a situation with 3 goaltenders in Tampa with Mike Smith and Karri Ramo).

With Huet going the open market route, the next best thing was Theodore who was willing to sign on for less time and money. Think of it as a "patch" until the Caps young talent can get their feet wet. Although Theodore, while inconsistent, is no "patch." He is a good goaltender. Will he produce the numbers for the Caps that are comparable to Huet's? Maybe not, but he is no slouch either. When his game is on, Theodore is a playoff goaltender and has the ability to sway a game or two. If you want to draw side by side comparisons, Huet has never made the second round of the playoffs, Theo has (not to mention got cozy with Paris Hilton). If the Avalanche had a healthy squad in front of him, Theodore could have done a shade better too.

The Capitals do have some talent in the pipeline in the goaltender department and are certian that their prospects are a year or two away from the big show. The Caps didn't want to be bogged down with a lengthy contract if the likes of Simeon Varlomov was ready to play in the big league after spending some time in the minors and making his way through the system. If Huet signed for four years and Varlomov has to sit on his keaster to wait out the contract.

The job isn't done. Green check, a goaltender check. Now onto the RFA's with the likes of Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrisonn and Brooks Laich need to be re-upped and UFA Sergei Fedorov. I still think the Fedorov deal will take the Caps almost up to training camp as he weighs his options. Obviously it helps that Alex Ovechkin is in constant contact with him and has been his number one campaigner.

While those other contracts will take some time to iron out, development camp is around the corner. Just a week away, we will see the likes of goaltender Simeon Varlomov, defensemen Karl Alzner and Josh Godfrey, and forwards Oskar Osala, Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault. Can a few of these players finally make the jump to the bigs? Its about time to find out.

P.S. If you were curious, NHL network is replaying the 2008 playoff series with Minnesota and Colorado. Your chance to see Theodore in action over the next week or so.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Huet Gone, Kolzig Gone, Welcome Jose

The goaltender situation just couldn't get ironed out. Cris Huet wanted a longer contract, George McPhee was only going to give him 3 years. The result, Huet makes the move to Chicago for a 4 year, $22 million contract. And the Capitals felt they had no choice but to pick up what they could.

Jose Theodore comes to Washington with a so-so career record. Plus the Capitals got him for a deal, 2 years, $9 million contract. Theodore did play well in the first round of the playoffs last season, and helped his team make the second round, a fact that Huet did not. Theodore should bring some of that calm butterfly demeanor to the Caps net. Let's hope he got that hair thing all figured out.

Huet seemed the perfect fit, but the hold up was 1 year. McPhee offered 3, Huet wanted 4. As a result Olie Kolzig signs a one year contract with the Lightning. Wha? Kolzig was rumored to head to Ottawa, to sort of settle things down goaltender wise. But the move to Tampa actually makes sense. They will use him in conjuction with Mike Smith, and when Smith's game starts to get in consistent bring in Olie.

The market apparently wasn't very kind to Kolzig. Who could only muster a mere one year, $1.5 million contract. Leaving his future very much in question. Will his competive nature help the Lightning or hurt them? Is Kolzig past his prime? We will have to wait to see. It will be interesting to see the Caps play against their former team leader. Kolzig will definitely be in a back up capacity with the contract he signed. Maybe even a back up, back up capacity, don't forget Karri Ramo.

Will Thoedore's contract give Simeon Varlamov the time he needs? Is he a good enough goaltender to get the Caps back to the playoff landscape? Is he healthy enough? Much of these questions will haunt Caps fans for the off season. Let's hope good things are to come.

Update: according to Tarik:

I just heard from a source that Huet asked the Caps for three years, $15 million and the Caps offered it to him. But Huet told them he wanted test the market today and see what might be out there. Now it's looking like he'll sign a four year deal with Chicago for $5.6 million per.

Did GMGM jump the gun thinking Huet wasn't going to sign?

Green Will Stay A Cap (updated)

For another 4 years. Mike Green gives the green light to a 4 year $21 million contract that will pay the defenseman a modest $5.25 million a year. Consider this a steal, since many were discussing Green signing for no less than $6 - $7 million. Green will talk with reporters via phone conference at noon.

GMGM's comments on the signing:

“Mike has developed into an impact defenseman in the short time since we drafted him, and he will be a key part of our team moving forward. We look forward to his further contributions as we continue to improve the hockey club.”

But cap space will be squeezed with others that need to be signed. With Green locked up, whose next? Huet?

Now we will have more adventures like these to look forward to.