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!