Friday, December 2, 2011


A friend sent me a picture of this jersey that he saw, and snapped a picture of, at last night's Caps game. It rivals the Blackstrom jersey that has been spotted in and around Verizon Center in the past.

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words I will end my commentary here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Boudreau and his contempt for tough guys

If Bruce doesn't realize the impact that DJ King can have on a game after tonight, then I doubt he ever will. DJ King is not a guy who is going to chip in offensively, but he can still have a valuable role. He is the sheriff, he makes sure guys like Asham think twice about dropping the mitt with a kid who has 0 NHL fights.

There are many teams in the NHL - like Detroit - who pose no physical threat to the Caps. Consequently, in games against teams like Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina etc. there is no reason for DJ King to be in the line up.

Conversely, there are teams in the NHL whose lineups are full of noted pugilists.
Those teams include, but are not limited to the Penguins, Rangers, Flyers, Senators, and Leafs. When playing one of those teams Boudreau needs to make a point to have someone in his lineup who is more intimidating than Matt Hendricks. With all due respect to Matt Hendricks because he is a tough kid, but there are not a lot of guys in the league who fear him.

It is hard to say for certain whether or not Arron Asham would have gone gone after Beagle if King was playing, but the odds decrease. Arron Asham is a big time tough NHL tough guy, Jay Beagle is not, and he shouldn't have to answer to Asham for what was a relatively innocent jab at Kris Letang.

The competing argument with playing DJ King is that his offensive/defensive abilities hurt the Caps chances of winning games. There is some truth to that, but those impacts are marginal. If the other 17 skaters don't give you enough offensive and defensive ability win the game, then you have bigger issues than deciding who will be your fourth line wing.

The question Boudreau has to ask himself going forward is what is more important, a marginal drop in talent on my fourth line which will play sparingly in the late stages of a close game, or the health and safety of my players.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Caps Final Roster

Goalies: As known for sometime, Vokoun will be the number 1, and Neuvurth will be "1A."

Defensemen: With Orlov being one of the final cuts the remaining D are Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Jeff Shultz, Dennis Wideman, John Erskine, and the injured Tom Poti.

Forwards: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Knuble, Brouwer, Semin, Johansson, Perreault, Ward, Laich, Chimera, Hendricks, Halpern, King, and Beagle.

There are no real surprises here, I think most people would agree that Perreault played well enough to earn that final roster spot. The biggest criticism of him in the past has been that he has not been a consistent player during his time in the NHL. Here is his chance to prove that he is a quality NHL player.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Rubicon Has Been Crossed

Sean Avery supporters defend him because they like what he brings to a team. Although he says and does idiotic things on the ice, it is hard to deny his effectiveness. Avery plays hard and infuriates opponents; he infuriates them so much that every time Avery is in the lineup he is a candidate to have his head taken off.

Avery’s antics are often immature and inexcusable, but they do serve a purpose. There is a certain rhythm to hockey, one that is not just dependent on skill, but on concentration as well. When you break that concentration, when you are no longer focused on the game, you are not useful. Avery has an innate ability to take the focus of other players and avert it elsewhere, namely at him.

When Avery plays like this, when guys are more concerned with exacting revenge on Avery than they are on the game, he is a valued asset. However, there is a very thin line between an effective pest and a classless villain. Sean Avery often toes that line, sometimes straddles it, but rarely does he ever actually cross it.
This week he crossed it. There are multiple ways to cross that line – with the exception of a dirty hit – betraying hockey code is the worst. That is exactly what Avery when he confirmed to reporters that Wayne Simmonds called him a homophobic slur.

There was video evidence that seemed to be pretty damning, Simmonds did not further need the indictment of a fellow player. Even though Avery has a personal investment in the cause of Gay Marriage, he still has an obligation to his fellow hockey player to avoid answering questions from the media on the subject.

I am not defending what Simmonds allegedly said, but the truth is words like that are often exchanged between players. Simmonds deserves to be punished as a result of the evidence provided from the video. However, no player should ever publicly reveal what was said by another player.

When talking about the situation after the game Simmonds handled the incident the way a hockey player should by saying "things got said out there and I am not going to repeat to the media what he said." Perhaps Simmonds was referring to the part where Avery threatened to kill his teammate. Instead, Simmonds took the high road.

The real irony is that Avery, someone who makes a living from saying vile things on the ice, had the nerve publicly call out another player for something he found offensive. It is time that Sean Avery realized when he is being efficient, and when he is being a scumbag. Fortunately for Avery if he can’t figure it out himself, someone will eventually teach him that lesson, because in the NHL justice is swift.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Caps 2011 UFA's and RFA's

Jason Arnott UFA

This past season the 36 year old center was being paid $4.5 million, he was a great fit in DC up until the 2nd round series with Tampa Bay. The entire team struggled and Arnott was no exception. I think there is a chance that Arnott is back in a Cap uniform next season, but the numbers are going to be a lot different. If the Caps resign him I suspect it will be in the 2-2.5 million range.

Prediction: Gone

Marco Sturm UFA

Sturm was a good mid season addition when you consider they gave up nothing to get him. Sturm played well at times, and looked lost at other times. I would be very surprised to see him back next year.

Prediction: Gone

Brooks Laich UFA

When you think about the Caps paying 6.7 million dollars for Semin, it is not unreasonable to say he is being overpaid. Unfortunately, in the salary cap era a team can only afford to overpay for so many guys. The scenario I imagine unfolding around Laich is the Caps offer him a fair contract, but he holds on singing until after July 1, where another team will offer him a lot more money. As a result, Brooks is not in a Caps uniform next year. Having said that, so much has been made of Laich's character during his tenure in Washington that it would not surprise me if he took less money to stay.

Prediction: Gone

Matt Bradley UFA

A fan favorite and a great teammate Bradley is getting older and due to much depth at the 4th line wing position he is dispensable.

Prediction: Gone

Boyd Gordon UFA

Gordon has performed great in a PK role and as the fourth line center. Guys like Gordon are not easy to come by and I think McPhee will be very active in making sure Gordon is back in a Caps uniform next season.

Prediction: Back

Scott Hannan UFA

Hannan was a solid mid season addition, however, his play really sputtered in the playoffs. The lightning were really able to use their speed to make Hannan seem like an AHL quality defenseman. With 6 defenseman already under contract for next year it makes it seem unlikely the Caps will resign Hannan.

Prediction: Gone. The only way the Caps would resign him is if the numbers in terms of dollars were advantageous for the Caps. I can't foresee a scenario where another team is not willing to pay Hannan a substantial amount for his services.

Karl Alzner RFA

Most likely the Caps number one off season priority. Would be very surprised to see him anywhere but Washington next season.

Prediction: Back

Semyon Varlamov

Prediction: Gone. Two scenarios I can see happening. The first is that he goes to the KHL and he is no longer the Caps property, or problem. The second scenario is the Caps deal his rights at some point this summer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Thoughts

Dear Washington Capitals,

You did it again. You were poised for greatness and now you are an afterthought of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Disappointed, chokers, and heartbroken represent a short list of the many words I have heard to describe the events of this Caps season.

While I am upset, my level of devastation has now dissipated and I am completely at peace with what transpired over the course of the last week. I am finding the people who seem to be most distraught by the Caps sudden eviction from the playoffs are the "bandwagon" fans. The people who are the newly minted "Rock the Red" era fans, the ones who can't stand to see another DC sports team become the punchline of the sporting world.

First and foremost, I do not have any problem with "bandwagon" fans. I love to see so many people showing an interest in the sport, and I harbor no bitterness towards them. When it really comes down to it, we are all, to some extent "bandwagon" fans. None of us came out of the womb with a Caps t-shirt on. Every single fan's level of passion was sparked by one singular event, for some that event occurred at an earlier place in time.

For me, my first Caps memory came when I was five years old. I went with my mom and uncle to see the Caps play the Flyers at USAir Arena. I have almost no recollection of the game, except for the score (3-0 Flyers), and Dale Hunter's disallowed goal. The ensuing sight and sound of the Caps goal siren will be forever etched into my memory, and my love for the team and the sport grew from there.

I have been a die hard supporter of the team for the majority of my life, and there is nothing in sports that would make me happier than to see the Caps win a Stanley Cup. However, them losing does not eat away at my soul like it does to many. I have read too many articles, tweets, and Facebook posts that would lead me to believe that there is a direct correlation to the Caps losing and an end of the world scenario.

I began to wonder why my level of frustration did not parallel that of many other fans. I knew the answer was not because I lacked the passion for the team, or that I did not care about the team. I was somewhat perplexed by the question, and then it hit me.

I love them unconditionally. In fact there are very few things I love in life more that hockey, and more than this team. My love, however, does not come from idolizing players, or because the Caps are trendy and hip. Instead, it comes from the profound impact the Washington Capitals have had on my life. Some of my greatest memories are a result of experiences I have had with this team.

I was there when Petr Nedved iced the Caps in the 4th Overtime. I felt like I had lost a friend when Jim Carey was traded. I was there when Peter Bondra got a hat trick on souvenir cup night at USAir Arena, and there were thousands of broken pieces of plastic on the ice from the cups being hurled in celebration. I remember Joe Juneau's goal that sent the Caps to their first Stanley Cup, and I was there for Game 4 of the ensuing sweep at the hands of the Red Wings. I even sat in the Garden and watched the Caps lose in a 16 round shootout to the Rangers.

I was at Verizon Center many nights when it was so empty that the noise level was comparable to that of a public library. I was there for the infamous "Fire Hanlon" game, and the next home game, which was coincidentally Bruce Boudreau's first.

I was there for Hunter, the Chief, Simon, Killer, Tinordi, Peat, Brashear, and the rest of the never ending list of pugilists. I've seen Bondra, Pivonka, Ridley, Langway, Johansson, Miller, and of course Ovechkin. The name Esa Tikkanen makes me cringe, but Segei Fedorov always can bring a smile out of me.

I sat through the good times and the bad, I was there for Jagr, the firesale, the rebuild, and the now. Abandoning the team was never an option, they have become way too much a part of my life. I have an infinite amount of great memories with them and no matter how much they disappoint me I will always support them.

I suppose it really is not about the wins or the losses, but instead its the feeling I get every time I walk into Verizon Center for a hockey game. Whether they are a last place team of NHL journeymen, or a first place team made of first rate superstars, the Caps are the Caps, and for that I will always love them.

For better or for worse, I have been there, and I will always be there. The wins are nice, but the memories are even better.


A Fan for Life

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Whoever Wins Game 3

Whichever team wins tonight will win the series. That is my rather simplistic outlook on the Caps current situation. If they go down 3-0 they are then relegated to Death Row. Maybe you prolong the inevitable by winning Game's 4 and 5, but the overwhelming odds are stacked against you. Also being down 3-0 with game 4 less than 24 hours would only add to the myriad of obstacles that would be facing the Caps.

Conversely, a win tonight puts a lot of pressure on Tampa to take game 4 on home ice. When you couple that with a quick 24 hour layoff, the Caps should be sitting pretty come Wednesday night/early Thursday morning on their plane ride home with a tied series.

I guess we will know tonight who is going to win the series. No, that's not true. What I really mean is we will know tonight whether or not the Capitals have any chance at winning this series.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just doin' the Ference

The NHL has been the stage for some legendary goal celebrations, perhaps none as great as what Andrew Ference did last night. I suspect this will start a new trend on rinks across the country where kids are going to top off big goals by just doin' the Ference.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Conservative and a Hockey Fan: A Man After my Own Heart

Our nation's top law makers have had a busy two weeks. Between Libya, Planned Parenthood, and the near miss on the shutdown, there has been had a lot on their plates. Despite the hectic schedule Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) was still willing to take a few minutes and talk some hockey with me.

For those who do not know of him, McCotter is a 5th term congressman from Michigan's 11th District. His district encompasses much of suburban Detroit, naturally making him a Red Wings fan. As he put it "it's Hockeytown, everyone loves the Wings."

The idea for interviewing McCotter came about when I noticed he tweets about the Red Wings on a semi-regular basis. To be perfectly honest, I was not fully sure what to expect when interviewing him. I was slightly nervous that maybe his tweets were fueled by the need to appease his hockey loving constituents, and his knowledge of the game would be minimal at best. I quickly learned that my fears could not have been further from the truth. Unlike some of his colleagues, McCotter, is very well versed on the subject of his favorite teams.

McCotter's understanding of the game stems from his time spent playing hockey as a kid. Although he was never involved in organized hockey, like a lot of Michigan's youth he learned the finer points of the sport playing pick up on the frozen ponds and creeks during the notoriously cold winter months.

Our conversation covered just about every hockey realm imaginable, we chatted about past and present, real and even hypothetical events. The most entertaining discussion of the imagination came about when I asked him, “who would win a heavy weight battle between his Republican colleague Jon Runyan and former Red Wing pugilist Joe Kocur?“ In perhaps a somewhat surprising decision, we unanimously scored Kocur as the victor, so long as they were on skates.

He made reference's to Caps Legend "Olie the Goalie" and NHL great Bobby Orr. The conversation turned to Orr when I asked, "where Nick Lidstrom stacked up all time on the list of greatest defensemen?" He responded, "number two, obviously Orr is number one."

His affection for Lidstrom is not limited to his play on the ice. Lidstrom is actually a resident of Novi, Michigan a city in McCotter's district. McCotter says "everything you hear about him is true, he gives back to the community, he is just a great cat."

As they always are this time of year, Lidstrom and his teammates are a popular topic of conversation in Detroit. Since Lidstrom has been a member of the Red Wings the team has never missed the playoffs. That trend started in 1992 and continues this year as the Wings are once again among the favorites to win the Western Conference. Detractors of the team, do however, cite one major common concern regarding their playoff fortunes. The Wings are statistically the oldest team in the NHL and many wonder how it will affect their energy if they embark on a long journey through the playoffs.

Don't mark the congressman from Michigan's 11th district on the list of those concerned. McCotter believes the age of the team translates into experience, an essential component that is vital to any deep playoff run. "Look at our older guys, you have Osgood, one of our backup goalies, and we all know he can come in and do the job. Mike Modano is on our 4th line, how many teams would love to have him on their fourth line? Guys like Bertuzzi and Lidstrom, when you mix all that in with some of younger guys like Abdelkader and Helm -one of the fastest players in the league- that's a pretty good team."

It is certainly tough to disagree with McCotter's sentiments regarding the Wings. They have had great success over the course of the past 15 years using that exact recipe of speed, skill, and experience. As McCotter pointed out, that is in many regards similar to the approach George McPhee is taking, and has been taking with his Washington team.

As a fan of hockey and as a temporary resident of DC it becomes almost impossible for him not to have some understanding of the re-birth of hockey in DC. The Caps rabid following has been a welcomed change for the congressman during his tenure in DC. He said, "[I remember] hearing in 98 when Red Wings fans had no problems getting tickets for the Stanley Cup Finals in DC... its great to see what has since happened to hockey in DC."

There is no denying the Congressman's knowledge of the game, appreciation of the history, and overall enthusiasm for it. However, being a member of congress requires that McCotter have certain unavoidable responsibilities that limit how often he is able to watch. He told me "you are lucky if you get to catch part of a game, let alone the whole thing." Although he is not able to watch as much as he would like, advances in social media assist him in following his local sports teams. McCotter cites his twitter account as one of the ways he remains as up to date as he possibly can.

As our conversation turned away from Twitter, I asked him what he thought of Alex Ovechkin. His reviews came back positive, he echoed my sentiments about him being a blue collar type player with world class talent. He compared Ovechkin's dominant physical prowess to that of Red Wing great Vladimir Konstantinov. A compliment of that nature coming from a Wings fan should perceived as the highest form of flattery. McCotter's praise of Ovechkin did not just stop at his similarities between Konstantinov, he also lent his two cents in the always hotly debated NHL topic, who is better Ovechkin or Crosby? He said he would take Ovechkin, but he did caution that his view on the subject maybe slightly skewed due to the Red Wing Penguin rivalry.

With President Obama's consistent dismissal of hockey it is nice to know that there is at least one powerful member of our federal government who likes the sport. Although, I did find out that McCotter is not powerful enough to help me in my quest to get a Caps jersey placed on the Statue of Freedom on the Dome of the Capitol. For that he says "you have to ask Boehner, but he is probably a Blue Jackets fan, or maybe even a Cleveland Barons fan."

The #winning goal and the two ensuing hugs

In my life I have never seen what I saw last night after last nights OT winning missile by Alex Semin. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game itself, or anything of real significance. What I noticed was the way the team celebrated, generally when a guy scores a game winner every single player on the team mobs him.

This was not the case last night. After Semin scored about 4 or 5 of the Caps players swarmed Jason Arnott and celebrated as if he was the one who scored the game winner. I understand the respect the guy carries in the locker room, and I realize he made a great play to set up the goal, but that was just somewhat bizarre. If you watch the video posted below you will notice two separate celebratory hugs going on.

It is a little odd to see, but it also further emphasizes how much respect Arnott has with the guys on the team. Personally, I prefer unity following a big time OT win. However, I will admit that in some weird way this is kind of cool.