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.