Number of People Nice Enough to Stop By....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

WHOOPS! U-TURN!

Yeah, remember that thing about the Caps' finally being rid of Michael Nylander and his $3-mil a year salary?
Well, not so fast so says a few sources.  I first read about it early this morning in Katie Carrera's column in the Post and thought it had to be a mistake.  Well, at least I prayed it was a mistake anyway.  But no, it turns out it's all true as was confirmed by the GM to the aforementioned Swordmaiden of the Rink.


So while he's gone, his price tag, or at least a good chunk of it, is still with us. BLAH!  Ah well.  It's like when you get a substitute teacher but you still have to do homework---half the good is better than no good at all.

At least this tale may look to have a better ending than the Eric Belanger saga, which seems to be shrinking in our collective rear-view mirror, thank God.  In any case Nylander may not be exactly where he wants to be, but at least he now has something of a say in where he might end up after this year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

EXTRA EXTRA!

Wish I could say this was an exclusive, but darn close! Michael Nylander's salary is now gone!  Well, almost.

Don't have to say that this is VERY good news in that it's about $3 million more in the piggy bank that's available for (fill-in-your-desired-player here).  This lets the GM go after even bigger names, assuming there are any out there by the trade deadline.

Anyway, this put a smile on my face, hope it did yours.  Still can't wait for the first real faceoff!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Got Nothing...Hope you Like it!

Yeah as much as I hate to admit it, I've been racking my brains all week for something to write about for the Point, but I can't come up with anything specific.  Not like last week, anyway.  Last week I could have gone on and on about that mess.  But seeing as how it's pretty much behind anybody that ever gave a damn, it's not worth beating to death anymore.

So in any case I've decided to approach this week's edition of On Point Seinfeld-style.  It's about....nothing. Nothing in particular anyway.  Have to say I haven't really had my mind on the Caps too much this week.  Mrs. Blueliner has been getting on me about certain things needing to be done, and being the dutiful husband that I am I put my energy into that.  Ahhh, life, it loves to get in the way of what you want to do....

Another part of why I can't really get my head around writing about hockey is the fact that it's just, well, the preseason.  You know where the games mean....nothing?  Don't get me wrong, I'm just as excited as the next hockey fan now that it's all starting up again.  But given last year's playoff results, pardon us Caps fans if we want to jump ahead a ways to games that matter.  Let's just get on with it and drop the puck for real!

So just as I type all that, I have tonight's Oilers-Canucks preseason game on in the background (thank you NHL Network!!!!).  Wouldn't you know it---it's 4-1 Oilers already after one period?  But again, it's preseason, so I'm not reading too much into it.  Canucks fans need not worry--keep in mind they did just play last night plus the fact that the Oilers have loaded up on their "A" lineup to make the hometown crowd happy. I'm noticing a couple things, though.  First, Oilers' management must think a lot of their No.1 draft choice Taylor Hall since he's wearing Kevin Lowe's old number 4 at his urging, no less.  Second, the fact that Dustin Penner's having a decent game makes me look good for my decision to pick him up midway through last year's foray into fantasy hockey--my first.

Speaking of fantasy hockey, yes, I dove into it headlong last year and absolutely loved it.  Not having much in the old bank account I of course went the free route via Yahoo!  I highly recommend it for anyone who's always wanted to play but didn't think they could. No, my team the Balmer Bumblers (bumbled into this from Balmer, get it?) didn't win my league but darned if I didn't lead it for most of the season and ended up finishing second.  Not bad for my first time out if I do say so myself.  I'm feeling pretty good about my chances this year, but I'm no expert by any stretch.

Not that that will stop me from offering some advice.  It occurred to me last season that leagues are not won and lost by the first-tier group, the starters.  No, they're won by how your second-string and bench guys do.  I might have won my league if I had figured that out sooner than I did.  That said, unless your in a "keeper" league, where you have the same guys from year to year, do keep an eye on the top 50 scorers in the league.  Yahoo's in-house stats listings made it so easy to do that.  All you have to do is focus on a few guys that are doing well in certain categories.  This is especially beneficial if you're in a rotisserie league.  And don't be afraid to drop a guy who's dragging your team down.  It's just fantasy...you're allowed to be an SOB.

By the way, my "sleeper" pick (as if there is such a thing) this year is Kings' center Anze Kopitar.  This on recommendation from The Hockey Guys podcast.

I just realized that, as this is supposed to be a Caps-centered blog, I haven't really said much about them.  Big news this week is their giving a decent contract to Tom Poti.  Can't say I'm surprised at this--he is the only reliable veteran presence in their D-corps.  I'm happy to see him committed to the team, but it doesn't exactly do anything to quiet the critics who say we need a true stay-at-home D-man.  This would be the kind of defenseman that clears the crease, bangs heads, and does all the nasty work that comes with keeping a team's goal totals down.  Even if we had a journeyman level type of guy who can do that I would feel at least a little better about things.  As it happens, the Caps' style of play may lead to some lonely nights for the goalies.  This year's fortunes ride on how well they keep their end clean, not that I'm revealing anything new.

Well, that's pretty much all I've got for right now.  Just a bunch of nothing. Maybe next time I'll do a Kramer-like entrance for my intro, who knows?  I certainly feel like George Costanza sometimes--hopeful but often empty-handed.  At least my wife isn't as annoying as Elaine.   Consider this a squandered power play.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"RED" with Anger

Well here we are at last...training camp has begun in earnest as the veterans reported in yesterday.  The rookies of course have already been there a few days.  Though it means pretty much nothing, they won their annual game against the Flyers' rookies 4-3 this past Thursday.  I take it back--it does mean something.  It means that the future at least looks bright.  Marcus Johansson, their number one pick from last year's draft did very well by all accounts.  Some say he'll challenge for roster spot on Opening Night. I wouldn't go that far, but if he turns out to be the real thing, the future looks good indeed.

But we all know the talk around here isn't the future, it's now.  And supposedly the Caps are  "angry":
Yeah yeah yeah.....heard it all before.  Save it for April.  Tell me how you're angry then.

Seriously though, such talk is premature (how often does THAT word get thrown around in the preseason?).
All indications are that the regular season should be another reasonably smooth ride, barring injuries and/or totally lackluster play.  The trick is to not fall asleep early on.  No no--it must be controlled fury from the get-go then turn on the jets come late April. 

The nay-sayers are already lining up on the message boards--that bastion of human civilization where people line up to post extremely witty commentary.  Let 'em.  Thirty-odd years of frustration and failure can be wiped out with one success.  Assuming this team fulfills its destiny I can still see the boards: "Still only one, other teams have won more."  "Doesn't prove anything."  I beg to differ.  It will prove that they are THIS YEAR'S CHAMPIONS.  And that's really all that matters.  And as far as "winning only one" I'm sure the Canucks, the Blues, the Kings, and several other teams that have been around for a while that have yet to win one Cup would beg to differ as well.  Not to throw all those other teams under the bus, but for some reason everyone has this hatred for the Caps.  Won't matter if AO is lifting the Cup when it's all over.


There's another issue that's makiing me red in certain parts of my anatomy (use your imagination).  Yes this is about the Eric Belanger deal.  In fact, this whole article was supposed to be about the fiasco regarding the signing that wasn't.  Except when I read the reaction of most of my brethren in Caps' fandom, it seemed to be all one big "meh."  No one seemed to care about how management once again let a quality player go.

What really bothers me though is the how.  As in how everything went down.  It just seems like he was led to believe there really was a deal in the works.  The team went as far as to arrange for tuition for Belanger's children's school.  They can say what they want about "not actually signing a deal" but if that's not dangling the bait then I have no idea what is.  Yes, I know the guy is a free agent and as such can deal with anyone he so chooses.  But dammit, if there was no deal, why were we all led to believe there was one?

Now the more I researched all sides of this mess I came to realize that, as is the truth in all divorces, not one party is completely at fault.  And, to be sure Belanger's agent Joe Tacopina is doing nothing less than making a total ass out of himself by crowing about a potential lawsuit.  Let's be clear--this "lawsuit" has no merit as there was no deal.  I know I'm not writing anything that hasn't already been mentioned.  The real sin in all of this however is that it was allowed to go this far to begin with.  And I believe Caps' management in the form of George McPhee and his lackey  assistant Don Fishman is to blame.

From here on out I'm just going to lay it all out as I see it:

1. If you want the team's side of the story, read it here
2. This phantom "trade" that was supposed to happen first and didn't is what killed the deal, according to management.  So we're just supposed to believe this when none of it can or will be substantiated?
3. Yes, the fact that "no deal was ever signed" gives the team plausible deniability.
4. No, it doesn't excuse the fact that, somehow, Belanger's camp was led to believe a deal was to be done, complete with the trappings I mentioned earlier.
5. An extension of #2--Since the trade was obviously never completed, why couldn't the team just announce that no deal could be done if that indeed was the linchpin in all of this?  You know, as in telling the truth?
6. So the team had to trade away a player to make salary cap room first?  Didn't they have a contingency plan or were they going to be content in letting Belanger walk away all along?

I guess I could keep going on about this, but I am disappointed that, in the eyes of those who scrutinize the game closely, this makes the Caps look bad.  I see no reason for the NHL to get involved, but given the ridiculous deals that have gone down before, this is the kind of thing that gives them the idea to start sniffing around.  And you know that this is going to spread amongst the players.  The true fallout from this could be far worse than any temporary bad publicity.  This episode could very well adversely affect the team's ability to land any high-profile free agents that may be needed to help the team.

I love my team, please don't get me wrong.   I want to see them succeed, and nothing could make me prouder than for that success to be achieved the right way.  I think this organization has the tools to maintain that success for a long time.  Not like Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Carolina who win the Cup one year, then blow up their team the next.  But this kind of thing happening has left a very bad taste in my mouth.  Should we as fans expect better from the hockey team that shares a city with politicians?  I think so. I just never thought Caps' management would come off like politicians--say nothing substantial, and do nothing productive.

Power play time is up...next shift in a while.


'liner

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shots from the Point

Bear with me...going to take things one random idea at a time here.......

FA-LA LA LA LA

So it looks like two FAs (free agents for you humanoids new to the game) that had potential value to the Caps got away.  First one is a defenseman named Willie Mitchell.  I have to admit that I really hadn't heard anything about this guy before this offseason.   I'm a bit embarrassed because he most recently played for the Vancouver Canucks...my second-favorite team. Call it anti-Left Coast bias or whatever.  But the word is that this guy was one of the most coveted backliners available in the offseason.  My research has come up with nothing significantly bad about the guy, meaning he would have been a pretty good upgrade coming into this season, to say the least.  No offense to Schultz and Green et al, but this guy is a top-four D-man anywhere.  But where does he sign?  With the Kings, naturally.  Supposedly, according to more than a few sources, the Caps were in the running...for a while anyway.  Ah well, it would have been nice...so very nice.

The second signing was a guy some Caps fans (hopefully more than a few at least) should know very well---Jeff Halpern.  Halpie has the distinction of being the only Maryland-born and former Junior Capital ever to make the NHL.  So he's living the dream.  Anyway, he drifted beyond our reach for one reason or another but was also available this offseason.  I'm pretty sure he wasn't contacted by the Caps this year for his services, but he should have been.  Here's why--when Halpie was here, he was the epitome of grit and leadership.  No coincidence he was once the captain of the team for these reasons.  No knock on Captain OV here, but I think Halpern would help by providing the locker room spark that the Great Eight may not be ready to give off just yet.  A much needed plus for a team that drifted aimlessly at times during the playoffs.  So where does he sign?  The Kings!  Must be the weather...either that or the chance to see (fill-in-the-name-of your-favorite-star-here) on a nightly basis.


ERIC B. AND ROCK HIM (THE RED)


Okay, this baloney sauce with Eric Belanger has now OFFICIALLY gotten ridiculous.  Even those fans that have snored through this offseason (there are many) have probably figured out that Eric B. will be (or at least should be) signing with the Caps.  Except it hasn't been officially announced yet. And why???  According to some in the know, it's part of some cockamamie last-gasp effort for G2M2 to land either (choose one): a quality defenseman or a decent second-line Center.  EL STUPIDO!!!!   What in the blue hell is going on here?????  Oh, let's not let on that we've signed somebody so we can.....sign someone else?  What is management hoping to accomplish here, other than potentially ticking off a good player?  If even a shred of this is true, it will be even more embarrassing than the whole phony steroids thing, which hasn't been fully proven to be false yet.  Here we are, a week from camp and nobody is saying a word.  Ridiculous.  Especially given what he has already contributed to the team--he deserves a lot better.


FROM CHOCOLATE-TOWN TO D.C.

Got a few young men who appear to be ready for the jump from Hershey up to the big club this season.  In no particular order they are:  defenseman Karl Alzner, center Mathieu Perrault, and defenseman John Carlson.  It goes without saying that these three are the key to the Caps future endeavors.  But the question is how will they help them win this year?  All three have proven themselves worthy of full-time duty.  Of the three, only Perrault didn't get a chance to prove himself in the playoffs. It was a shame in that he played fairly well against his hometown team in the regular season (2 games: 1 assist, and a plus 1).

Alzner and Carlson are more of a lock to make the team, barring a blockbuster trade.  This is of course owing to the fact that two full time spots opened up with the departure of Milan Jurcina and Shaone Morrisonn.  They both got an extended tour of duty with the big club, both acquitting themselves very well.  Alzner in particular looked like he belonged in the NHL for certain.  He looked very comfortable at both ends, either with or without the puck.

Perrault is looking to be the answer to the Capitals' $64,000 question--who will be the second-line pivot they need to balance out what is already a deadly attack?  He might get competition in the form of  Anton Gustafsson (son of Bengt) a top draft pick from two seasons ago.  If so, I give the edge to Perrault just because I'm fairly certain Gustafsson is still at least a year away, assuming he's still interested in making the jump.  Not to mention that Perrault is hungrier than Cookie Monster on a diet to make the team.

So how will they do?  Hard to predict.  I do know this much--they will provide a lot of energy from the get-go.  The trick will be seeing how much they have left in the tank when Lord Stanley comes calling.  At best they will all be Calder trophy contenders.  A dreamy prospect to be sure but not likely.  At worst they will make egregious rookie mistakes and become trade bait for more experienced players.  This also isn't likely, especially considering the time spent on development for all three.  Look for something in the middle--Coach Boudreau probably won't give them too much ice time for them to hang themselves.  But it should be enough for all three to have their own permanent spots on the team.





Training camp at Kettler IcePlex in Arlington.  Wish I could be there.  Here's hoping it'll be a good one.


WE WILL NEVER FORGET

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't pay my respects to two great souls who gave their lives to the game as part of the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks nine years ago today.  United Airlines Flight 175 carried Los Angeles Kings scouts Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis.  Old time Caps fans know Bailey for his four seasons with the Caps in the late '70s.  If you read Coach Boudreau's book, you would know that he was supposed to be on that plane as well, but was asked to stay an extra day for a Kings' developmental camp.
It's both strange and cruel how the fates work out these things that one team benefits and another loses out.

In any case, these two were part of a terrible day, one that should never be forgotten.  But I write to celebrate their lives, not so much to lament their deaths.  This is because they both made a contribution to the game we all love.  Bailey put his stamp on the game mainly as a player, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins.  He went on to provide leadership to a scrappy Washington Capitals team that worked its way to respectability after its first four years.  But his leadership skills truly shined when a young Wayne Gretzky was coming through the pro ranks. Bailey was there for the Great One's first pro season with the Edmonton Oilers. Gretzky credits Bailey in his autobiography as being a good friend as well as being a mentor to him during the waning days of the WHA.  I would say most likely this trait helped him land the job as head of pro scouting for the Kings.

Bavis, while not as well known as Bailey, had a strong career in his own right.  In his playing days, he played for the legendary Jack Parker at Boston University.  He went to the Frozen Four all four years he was there.  He was then drafted into the New York Rangers system.  After knocking around in the minors for a while he turned to coaching, eventually becoming an assistant with the Harvard University men's team.  He was hired as Ace Bailey's assistant in 2000.  He is so well thought of today that, if you do a Google search on his name there are at least a half-dozen memorial pages for him.  His legacy lives on in his surviving family--his twin brother Mike is now an associate coach at their alma mater--Boston U.  His legacy will also live on in the charity created in his name the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation.  If nothing else, this man is a hero to me because he dedicated his life to teaching young people the game he loved--hockey.

God rest their wonderful souls.  The sport and the world was made better because of them.


Until next time, folks, I'm still the Blueliner on Point.  Catch you next power play shift.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

After a long absence.........

Yes I are back.  Had to take some time off to address some personal issues.  I'm frustrated to say that a few of those issues are still with me.  Life is truly an endless parade of crap sometimes.  However I decided I had some things on my mind hockey-wise that I just couldn't keep to myself much longer.  So with apologies to any and all readers still left, here goes......


First, the story that has the whole hockey world talking--the Ilya Kovalchuk deal.  As of this post, I have heard that the second try at getting this done has indeed been approved by the league.  I haven't read the details of that, but I say thank God it's over!  There seemed to be no end to the ridiculousness of this story.  I mean really--this is the biggest story of the offseason?  A penny-pinching team deciding to pay a guy until he's in his mid-40s?


Now I'm of two minds about this--a team should have the right to lock up a guy for the length of their career especially if the fans truly value the player's presence on the team.  But that should not come at the expense of common sense, which is clearly what happened in the first try.  By now, anyone who's been paying enough attention should be wary of anything that Lou Lamoriello does.  The man has a long history of trying to get around the rules and this is no different.  Besides, it's not like Kovalchuk was on the team anywhere near long enough to get this kind of consideration.  My final word?  Everybody should meet in the middle on this one--cut the deal in half at least.  It's not like it matters anyway, the CBA as we know it will probably get an overhaul in four years' time.


Second, and more importantly, much closer to home--the Caps' offseason moves.  Or rather, the lack thereof.  Depending on who you listen to, G-squared, M-squared (General Manager George McPhee) is taking one of two approaches.  Either he's standing pat or he's trying like heck to get a deal done.  It's actually both.  The big rumor is that he's been trying to move Tomas Fleischmann, even after signing him.  Presumably this would be a deal for a quality second-line center.  But look at what has gotten done--signing guys that have already been there and had decent seasons.  Is anyone surprised by this?  I, for one, am not.


Grave concerns here--what was on the ice was obviously not good enough to get past the first round of the playoffs last year.  And, to be sure, some of the pieces who had either outlived their usefulness (Shaone Morisonn and Milan Jurcina) or were never a good fit to begin with (Joe Corvo) are now gone.  But what kind of message does it send to the fans when the only new player you bring in is an enforcer.  Granted, DJ King's toughness is most welcome on a team that looked very soft a lot of nights.  But most GMs would not hesitate to bust up a group full of underachievers given the opportunity.  The message--which, as I've touched on before, is NEVER going to cone from this current coach--has got to be:  "You don't produce when you're needed to, you're gone."  And if that message doesn't come from the coach, it sure as hell needs to come from management.


I've been using whatever spare moments I've had perusing other Caps' observers blogs, podcasts, what have you.  A popular notion is that the "right deal" will most likely come along around the time of this upcoming season's trade deadline.  This is a sound premise in and of itself and shows that the fans who are paying attention do know what's going on.  However, I would argue that the timing of such a deal needs to be sooner.  The Capitals now no longer have anything left to prove in the regular season after last year's President's Trophy winning campaign.  So it would behoove them to acquire someone who stands to have the desired impact much earlier in the regular season as the extra time can be put to better use. In other words,  when you've got a good shot to make the playoffs anyway, you may as well use the regular season as an extended training ground for your "A" game in the playoffs.

Veering slightly in another direction, I want to take a quick minute to address the fate of Eric Belanger.  All parties agree that this is a guy we can certainly use.  He acquitted himself very well in  both the regular season and the playoffs.  He even took it in the teeth when times got tough, literally.  So the question is, what is Caps' management waiting for?  Re-sign the guy already!


Finally, I'm also hearing about some proposed rules tweaks and changes.  I don't have the space or time to go into detail (that's for a later article), but it seems to me that just about all the suggested changes seem better left at the drawing board.  The only one that has any merit to it at all would be the so-called "hybrid icing" rule. Let me spell it out for you if you're not catching my drift--these new rules are all a bad joke that seems to have come out a video game.  Here's hoping none of them have a snowball's chance in South Florida of passing.  I will say one thing, though--I do like that shootout wins will be less emphasized when considering tiebreakers.  Definitely a step in the right direction.  Eliminating them altogether would be a giant leap in the right direction, however.


Look for more from me later on as the season gets going.  Thanks to those who have kept the faith while I was away!