Welcome to our weekly edition of Penn Quarter Sports Tavern’s 6-Pack of Questions, where we aim to keep it real while answering your most pressing questions regarding the Washington Capitals.
Let’s get started.
@Terpinyc Time to try [Mike] Green at forward now that he has incurred his 3rd concussion & continued deficiency on the backline?
It won’t happen, especially with Green being a right shot and the Capitals’ depth at right wing, but it’s a legitimate question. When I asked Adam Oates if Green needs to protect himself better, his answer was pretty revealing. "At times, yes,” Oates told me. “I think sometimes he's his own worst enemy. He's a targeted man. We've talked about that, and that's why he's got to be a sharp player every night. He can't relax because he's got an 'X' on his back right there.” There are times when Green retreats into his own zone without the urgency needed to avoid some of those big hits. Would putting him on the wing decrease his chances of getting his bell rung? Probably not. Collisions along the boards are just as frequent for forwards as they are for defensemen. As for those defensive deficiencies, in my opinion they would be masked by a reliable defensive partner. I like what Green and Dmitry Orlov can bring individually, but each needs a more reliable defense partner who can erase some of their defensive mistakes.
@johleger Why is [Steve] Oleksy not playing for the Caps? He was the only d-man with a plus rating.
For the sake of accuracy, defenseman Nate Schmidt [plus-4 in 29 games], newcomers Julien Brouillette and Patrick Wey [plus-2] and Alex Urbom [plus-1 in 20 games] are also plus players on the blue line, but no one on the Caps has a better plus-minus rating than Oleksy’s plus-7. In fact, Mikhail Grabovski [plus-4] and Casey Wellman [plus-3] are the only other Capitals on the right side of that oft-maligned statistic. My theory on Oleksy is that the Capitals’ coaching staff does not see enough foot speed from Oleksy and the Caps’ breakouts are predicated on quick-footed defensemen who can either snap the puck up the ice with precision or skate it out of the defensive zone themselves. If you notice, most of the Caps’ “offensive” defensemen are on the right side of the ice and Oleksy, a right shot, does not fit into that category. I’m guessing the Capitals want a longer look at right-handed rookie Patrick Wey and that’s why they recalled him on Thursday. As for Brouillette, he was recalled because Tyson Strachan would have needed to clear waivers if he stayed any longer than two games on an emergency callup. By the way, we’ll see Wey, Brouillette and Wellman sent back to Hershey on Sunday for the Olympic break. If I understand the rules correctly, defenseman Connor Carrick will be ineligible to play for the Bears during the break because he’s played in 16 of the Caps’ 20 games leading up to the break [he hit that number Thursday night].
@caddlecreek Why is it that this team seems to have holes every year? 2c, goalies are costing us 10 pts per gm, the d-corps?
The Caps addressed their need for a second-line center by signing Mikhail Grabovski, but the longer he remains unsigned, the less likely he will return to Washington after this season. His situation reminds me a lot of Mike Ribeiro, who made it clear around this time last year that he would not accept the Caps’ contract offer. If Grabovski is still unsigned on March 1, the Caps might consider trading him before losing him to free agency, as they did Ribeiro. As for the goalies, yes, they have cost the Caps a handful of points this season. Ten might be a stretch, but Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth need to play better if the Caps hope to get into the playoffs for a seventh straight season. Thursday night’s 34 save performance was a good step for Holtby. The Caps’ blue line had the same holes last season and it was not addressed over the summer. If this team had a solid No. 4 defenseman it would be in a playoff position instead of chasing one.
@Hudak_SR71 Will the Caps pursue D-Men and not look at [Ryan] Miller?? Good Defense means less shots on the goaltenders.
Has goaltending been an issue with the Caps this season? Yes. Would acquiring Ryan Miller help them make the playoffs? Of course. Would Miller re-sign with the Caps in the offseason? Doubtful. Is Miller the missing piece to a Stanley Cup parade? Sorry, but the answer is no. With all that in mind, I do not think the Caps should trade the players, prospects and draft picks it will take to get Miller out of Buffalo. If they can pry a legitimate defenseman from another NHL team before the March 5 deadline – by the way, the Olympic trade freeze begins 3 p.m. today – they should do it. If that means trading Mikhail Grabovski, so be it. But I’ll answer your question with another. If the Caps could acquire a top four defenseman for the rights to Evgeni Kuznetsov, should they do it?
@Feds91 How long a leash do u think [George] McPhee is on? If he has any power to trade or does it have to go to Ted [Leonsis] first?
I can’t profess to know the inner workings of the Capitals’ front office. In most organizations the team owner is advised on most trades, especially ones involving high salaried players, but trusts his hockey personnel to make the right decisions. I do believe Leonsis went into this season with expectations of making the playoffs. Whether those expectations result in increased activity before the NHL trade deadline – and whether those potential trades have an impact on McPhee’s future -- remains to be seen. That’s about the best answer I can provide on that.
@oviethegreat What is up with all the changing of the lines? It seems every game it's different and not working?
Let’s start with the top line. My guess is that with Alex Ovechkin a minus-19, Adam Oates wanted a more reliable two-way left winger on that that line and that’s why you’re seeing Marty Erat with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Injuries to Mikhail Grabovski [left ankle] and Brooks Laich [groin] necessitated changes to the second line and allowed Casey Wellman to take full advantage of his latest NHL opportunity between Johansson and Troy Brouwer. [By the way, Brouwer’s 13 goals in 58 games are six fewer than he had in 47 games last season]. Ideally, I think Oates would like to see Laich centering a third line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward, who have been beasts this season. But Laich’s uncertainty has been a sore spot for Oates and that’s why Eric Fehr was on the third line and Laich was on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson Thursday night. I can’t fault Oates for trying the combinations he has this season, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Grabovski on a line with Erat at some point.