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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Point Shots--Three for One

Back again I are after taking care of some personal business.  And first off, I know I promised an article just on Varly, but a whole hell of a lot has happened this past month.  So not wanting to fall further behind, I decided to do this one up Combo Platter style.  My apologies to Messrs. Vogel and Ball.  And awaaaayyy we go....


Simeon Semyon Varlamov....Varly.  Gone to join Flash in the land of the mountain High. What to say?  It was fun while it lasted.  And speaking of flash, Varly had plenty of it.  I've got to say that's what I liked about him, he's got a lot of style.  By the way, the "cocky" goalie isn't exactly a new concept in the NHL. For further study, I suggest looking over the careers of Patrick Roy, Jacques Plante, and Ron Hextall.

The knock on the guy of course was that he couldn't stay healthy.  To put it in DC-talk, his approach in terms of his physical preparation was questionable at best. Which is funny when you consider that the exact opposite is the knock on Michal Neuvirth, at least as far as this is concerned.  So we had an Odd Couple of sorts for a while as a goaltending tandem, for a while anyway.

But the guy had a way about him, no doubt.  It wasn't just that he made saves or even the timing, it was the way he would make the saves.  A flourish of the glove here, a fist-pump there.  That confident (some would say overly so) attitude he had about him that said, "I don't care how many they shoot at me, I'm winning this game!"  Olie Kolzig had that...maybe in a bit of a different sense, but he still had it.

Speaking of Kolzig, Varlamov doesn't quite rank as high as the Caps' legend, now associate goalie coach in terms of all-time greats.  Still, he won one playoff series and took an eventual Stanley Cup champion to a seventh game.  That's quite a bit more than many Caps' goalies of the past have accomplished, but doesn't measure up to past legends like Kolzig, Pete Peeters, and Don Beaupre. So as far as the history of the Caps is concerned, he's in the exact middle.  Just had to throw that in there, being a hockey history buff and all.

No matter what you might think of him, he had his moments while with the Capitals.  Quite a few, in fact.  Here is a Youtube tribute made by a fan containing six minutes worth of highlights, which collectively speak louder than anything I can say.  Oh yes--"The Save" is shows up at 1:55.  Enjoy...or not.


So the one guy I was kind of hoping the Caps would keep during all this fuss goes and signs with the St. Louis Blues.  I said before we needed a playoff-tested veteran to help us out and I was sure Arnott was the guy.
Therefore, I was disappointed to hear about this signing.  Anyone who's followed the game knows how it works--when you're a free agent, you can do business with whoever the heck you want and I respect that.  But I have to say that this makes absolutely no sense. 

It makes no sense to me because I remember his sentiments being that he wanted one more shot at a Cup, and he felt the Caps were his best chance.  Perhaps his last chance.  Admittedly, there has been limited success, but there are a lot of true believers who believe this team is on the brink of capturing the Cup.  A lot of people outside the organization like this team's chances as well.  No links or other trickery to back my point up here, just going to simply point out that the Caps finish among the NHL's top teams by the end of each of the last several regular seasons.

Now I'm not knocking the Blues, mind you.  They are definitely one of the league's up and coming teams and should make the playoffs this year.  They made that late season trade that included Kevin Shattenkirk, a fine young rearguard.  The kind that produces points from the point and plays smart--in other words, my kind of defenseman.  And he's just one blue-chip youngster (no pun intended) that they will grow with.

But, barring a few huge moves, the Blues won't truly contend for a Cup until Arnott is ready to call it quits.  You can't tell me there wasn't some top-contending team that could have used his services.  Of course you could say that he pretty much had no choice but to leave given how the Caps were spending--on everybody but him.  I'm running out of fingers to point here.....but still.

Perhaps it may not have been as if Arnott could have named his own price, but even so, there is a dearth of quality second line centers around the league.  So much so that it was labeled the Caps' Problemo Numero Uno for two seasons plus. All the more baffling considering Arnott was seen as the answer to said problem.
On top of that Arnott would have been another perfect component to the more hardworking style the Caps will hopefully be implementing this season.  So I'll ask you the reader, was it the piece that no longer fit or did the whole puzzle change?  Let me know because I'm still trying to figure it out.


Going to make this one short and unsweet, but even with George McPhee's talent for maintaining the books, (he did after all intern on Wall Street for a summer) is anyone else concerned about the team's payroll figure this year?  Especially when you consider that, according to they are in the hole?  If this were three years ago would they be asking for a bailout?  Could Ted Leonsis solve the government debt crisis by offering a season ticket package?  I know that would convince me of doing almost anything right now.

I jest of course.  But all kidding aside, being up against the cap ceiling has consequences.  Consequences that can doom a team's hopes for a prosperous season.  It's not as if there aren't solutions, however.  Many of these solutions seem to center around Tom Poti, he of the hard luck stories you find on 6 o'clock news.  These have been discussed in expert detail here at Japers Rink by JP himself.  I'm actually confident that it will all work out, but it's hard not to be negative when you see that minus sign in front of the cap space figure.  And with that I will quit while I'm ahead.

But not before a long-awaited joke about Jaromir Jagr that I'm sure has already been made approximately 150,000 times.  We as Caps fans don't really need to as ourselves...did it really come as a surprise that he disappeared for a while?  I know I wasn't surprised.  Go ahead you know you want to!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Free Agent Day Doings--The Rundown

Ahhh, Free Agent Day...the last bit of activity before the great big nothing for three months.

They say if ain't broke, don't fix it.  Well, maybe the Caps' brain trust figured something was broke, because they sure did make the proverbial flurry of moves yesterday.  So much of a flurry in fact that I'm still brushing the snow off the front porch.

Just going to briefly go over all the deals one by one then give the overall analysis at the end:

First and probably biggest, we get Roman Hamrlik...$7 million over 2 years.  He adds experience and so much more to a formidable D-corps.  A valuable addition to the never ending carousel of blueliners that need to be ready for duty come playoff time.

Next up we have Joel Ward, a tenacious winger with bite of a bulldog.  Although not quite like the bite of  another winger.  Four years, $12 million.  This guy's a keeper, despite the somewhat steep price.

Another big deal that didn't net a player but left us minus a goalie was the Semyon Varlamov trade.  We get back a first round pick next year and a second rounder in either one of the years after that.  This one merits its own article, if not to give old Varly a nice sendoff.

A somewhat lesser signing is a homecoming for Potomac's Jeff Halpern.  He'll be sporting a different look though as the number 11 he wore has since been retired.

And a latecomer deal, not to mention the headscratcher of them all-- Goalie Tomas Vokoun signs for $1.5 million for a year.  At least we know what he can do, and it's going to be much more than riding the bench and/or doing rehab.

By the way, Varly's short but interesting stint here deserves its own article as far as I'm concerned so you will see one eventually.

Okay, so what do all these deals mean?  More of that wonderful math concept of subtraction by addition.  This has been taken care of to some extent--we lost Boyd Gordon to the Goldwater Phoenix Coyotes.  Get yourself a nice tan, Boyd.  Darn it, now we need a guy who will win a faceoff more than half the time.

Hamrlik's arrival also means that Scott Hannan is the odd man out in the D-corps, because there's no way in hell they let Karl Alzner go without a fight.  Just so everyone knows I'm saying that and not the General Manager.

The Minuses:

The biggest loss I can see here is Boyd Gordon's faceoff ability.  It is indeed becoming a lost art as we've now traded away two centers who displayed considerable skill in that area..  But as we've all learned, it's about putting the puck in the net, something than can be done without winning a faceoff.  Oft-injured
as he was, I kind of hated to see Varly go--he had that flashiness about him that made him fun to watch.

The Plusses:

Most of these I've already mentioned--Vokoun adds instant goalie cred to a team that is considered shaky in that area--little wonder why McPhee took the deal when the opportunity came up.  I really like Joel Ward and what he can do.  Given the Bruce's penchant for juggling, you just might see him on OV's or Semin's opposite wing--wouldn't THAT be a sight?  Hamrlik is basically an older and hopefully much wiser Mike Green. I might be stretching that a bit, I know. Halpern adds veteran depth down the middle and perhaps can take some of those key draws Gordon used to do.  We even get something for the future--a potential top 10 draft pick for next year.


BUT...the biggest question of all is this:  What, if anything, is to be done about current FAs Jason Arnott and Troy Brouwer?  Personally I don't want to see either one of them go because they're both a good fit for the playoff style hockey this team needs to start being used to playing.  Only thing is, the Caps have spent almost as much as Congress in the last couple of days.  As a result, they are now a coin's throw away from the cap ceiling with barely a half million to spend.  So unless either one of these guys feels like taking a huge pay cut or another trade is made, they're gone.  One assertion is that the new Winnipeg Jets would make a play for Arnott.  Can't blame them but, yikes to have to play him six times a year and then perhaps the playoffs? While I do like Joel Ward, this makes the Troy Brouwer signing a lot less sense. Not to mention it's never easy to justify $3 million a year for a plugger, even if he is one of the best.  Maybe this is just a classic case of stocking the fridge until it's about to burst open?  Perhaps Tom Poti's poor health can provide an extra icebox and they can keep both. That would give the team 15 forwards..logjam anyone?  DJ King, get to know the pressbox very well...again.

Well, when did spending money in Washington DC make much sense anyway, huh?

PS, Happy Canada Day (late) to my friends north of the 49th!