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Posted at 9:20 AM ET, 02/ 2/2011

This is your team

By Ryan Cooper

I have to admit that at times when I watch the Caps struggle offensively, my mind drifts off to Feb. 28, 2011. That’s the NHL trade deadline.

Yes, the Caps have holes. Significant ones. But those have been dissected ad nauseum. The overriding issue is that trading for players at the deadline won’t fill those holes.

The addition of the overtime point has changed everything because it seems like teams are in the playoff race forever. Look at the standings. Calgary is in 12th place out West, and yet only two points out of a playoff spot. It used to be that you could pick apart the terrible teams at the deadline, but with everyone so bunched up, that’s practically become impossible. How do you tell your fans that while your team is only two points out of a playoff spot, you’ve decided to trade your best player? Besides, who are the Caps going to take from the teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs that will be a significant help to their offensive woes? It’s certainly not Chris Phillips or Jason Arnott. And you’re not going to pry any significant young assets out of those teams, because younger players are the cheapest players, and teams will hold on to them with a death grip. Furthermore, with a ton of players either nearing the end of their entry-level deals or looking to sign new deals, every dollar you commit to the future means having to make painful cuts down the road (see Chicago’s situation, where half of their team ended up in Atlanta, or Philadelphia’s attempt to go into the playoffs with Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher, which I ain’t buyin’).

The deadline is not a cure-all, and it shouldn’t be looked at as one. For every Zarley Zalapski trade, there are at least two Joe Corvo or Brian Campbell trades. As much as some Caps fans seem to want action from GMGM and demand he make at least a dozen moves every offseason (tangentially, these are the same people that complain about the Redskins’ numerous free agency moves, yet seem to want the same thing for the Capitals), I can already see the bitter disappointment when nothing “significant” at the deadline happens again. I’m sorry, but no matter how much you may want it to happen, Brad Richards will not be walking through that door to save us all (nor will Jimmy Chitwood). I can't see the Caps making a move other than to add a little bit of depth.

For all intents and purposes, ladies and gentlemen; this is your team.

By Ryan Cooper  | February 2, 2011; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  | Tags:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  
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Next: Charlie Davies is a gamble worth taking

Comments

First of all, I enjoyed your posts on the CAPS. I just wanted to say I completely agree with your analysis as to the benfit of making a trade this season. I am optimistic that this team will improve their offensive capability and win the division. It should also go deeper into the playoffs (Conf. Finals) than in the past.

Posted by: adhardwick | February 2, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

the difference between the Caps and the Redskins (since you brought it up in your piece) is that the Caps HAVE invested their time in properly building a core of players through the draft and some savvy trades in years past.

They have reached the doorstep of advancing to a championship and from the read we are getting here, there is NO way this organization is going to shuffle some of those assets to win in 2010-2011.

As someone who went through watching the team in 2005 and 2006 with Ovechkin, Kolzig and nothing else, I thought that once the team had assembled a team with the requisite assets the front office would leverage those to win a title.

It's great for an organization to remain competitive and to plan for a 'decade of excellence', but the cases of the NFL Eagles and the NHL's San Jose Sharks show that consistent contender status without a championship behind it is a hollow success.

No, there is no Henrik Sedin coming to Washington to rescue the Capitals.

However, this organization has significant assets that could be leveraged to balance out the current roster and provide an impetus to win sooner rather than later.

With Ovechkin at 25 and Backstrom at 23, and both signed to long-term deals the Caps have the team anchors to be competitive and continue to build and rebuild around them for some time.

McPhee seemingly doesn't want to run the risk of losing a future contributor for the sake of additional benefit now.

But the reality of the salary cap is that the team over the next 2-3 years is going to lose some productive players that they drafted and developed.

That's just the simple truth.

And for a fan like myself that has watched this team since 1974 and seen Southeast Division upstarts in Carolina and Tampa win a championship this decade, I think it is time Washington made a statement about winning a title.

The best organizations find a way to organize the pieces and solve the puzzle.

Detroit did. NJ did. Colorado did.

At times that meant making a trade or signing that carried some significant risk on the upside but also on the downside.

The Caps could have been doing what Tampa did and that was looking at clubs like the Oilers, Leafs, Islanders, etc. and seeing which veteran players could be culled off those rosters for moderate compensation.

The Caps could have used Roloson for this season and the playoffs. My feeling is Varlamov, Neuvirth and now Holtby are in a competition which will not yield an ultimate winner until next season.

Brad Richards is not the only center in the NHL whose pending free agency or contract makes him a target for trades or possible trades.

The Caps in fact don't need someone with that high of a profile.

A second line center given the Caps' resources on the parent club and the farm system should be something that the front office can get done before Feb 28.


Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 2, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

You raise many fair points. But I would just clarify a few things:

1. Free-agency, deadline trading, etc. are not cure-alls.

2. The team shouldn't make trades just to make trades.

3. Maybe there aren't any good "rentals" to be had this playoff run

Agreed completely. BUT:

Do you think the team, as it stands now, will go far in the playoffs?

Do you think that GMGM's off-season complacency has anything to do with the Caps being a mediocre franchise right now?

We are not for the gung-ho, worthless approach that is the Redskins standard operating procedure.

But, when the ship needs to be righted. The answer isn't "spew Kool-Aid, do nothing, and act like things are fine"

Posted by: CF11555 | February 2, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I know that this team has been near the top and literally a goal or two from moving on in the playoffs each year that they failed.

The danger with the trade deadline and the anxiousness to get immediate results is to make a deal for the short term with no regard for the long term goal of staying a contender.

This is a really young team - any player moved will be a young player. That is important because its hard to evaluate how good some of these guys will be in the future based on today's contribution especially on a team that is talented.

That youth factor - while other teams want young talent make it hard to do a deal that really accomplishes anything. Sometimes the best deal is no deal.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | February 2, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Fire Bruce Boudreau and replace him with a hard-nosed disciplinarian who will get these talented, at times lazy and unfocused players in line.

Posted by: jmarks09 | February 2, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I am, in fact, looking at Chicago. They seem to have something that the Caps don't have... Oh right, a Stanley Cup. It must be hard on their fans and the organization to have a Cup and a playoff contender team the next year. They only have Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and a dozen other top-notch players to get them there. The Capitals have to make a move. I vote trading Boudreau and Semin to Pittsburgh for Dan Bylsma.

Posted by: Boushed | February 2, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I think it is absurd to say that trading a player under 30 to attempt to win in 2010-2011 is necessarily a mistake that will hurt the franchise.

The Caps have already promoted Varlamov (23), Neuvirth (23), Carlson (20), Alzner (22), Johansson (20) this season.

Ovechkin is 25. Backstrom is 23.

Then you have a host of developmental players like Holtby (21), Kuznetsov (20), Galiev, Orlov and others to build with.

The idea that a package of ONE of these players to cash in now when the team is potentially cose is knee-jerk and probably in Washington closely related to the instability caused by the Redskins frenetic moves each offseason.

This is different. This is not a team trying to go out and find an Ovechkin, this would be a team trying to go out and find COMPLEMENTARY players who can help the team win in the postseason.

This club is still carrying guys like Tom Poti that are hurt each season and regularly miss 15-20 games if not more off the schedule at age 33.

Anyone see Jeff Schultz give up that scoring breakaway last night against Montreal with uncertain play at the line?

Is Schultz part of the future here and a guy you think can help the team hoist the Cup? How about Poti?

What about Brooks Laich? At 27, he appears to be a guy that most likely had his career season last year. His statistics this year are off the charts. The team has received less scoring from him than guys who have been in and out of the lineup like Eric Fehr.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 2, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

This may be "our team", but it doesn't have to be "our coach".
And if GMGM doesn't pull the trigger, and soon at that, he may very well not be "our GM".
We bought thoroughbred horses and are now trying to make them plow horses. Coach apparently hasn't a clue as to how to implement a more defensive scheme while continuing to utilize this squad's superlative offensive skills. It doesn't have to be 'all-or-nothing'.
GMGM has, so far, failed to bring in the two or three pieces missing to make this a dominating team.

Posted by: scmonty1 | February 2, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

if a trade is made, you need to be willing to trade something to get something.....the Dino Ciccarelli trade was one which filled a hole for this team in the playoffs. Gartner always seemed to disappear. But we had to trade Gartner and Murphy for Dino and Bob Rouse. the 'wait and see' approach seems to be building up in GMGM's head. He doesn't want to be the one on the hook to trade away 'the next big thing' for short term success. I agree with Ryan that the team you see today is the team you will see after the deadline. You may see some role players for role players change hands, but fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, do not expect much to happen.

Posted by: erico31us | February 2, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope that this team ends up better than it is now, which could happen. On the other hand, Tampa, the Flyers, Penguins, etc. will not, all of a sudden, be pushovers. I don't see this team advancing beyond the first round. Maybe they can get lucky and get to the second. But Conference Champs? There is no desire, effort, or overall team balance to be that optimistic. Next thing you know, Ovie will be 35 and still be waiting for that Cup.

Posted by: Almazar80 | February 2, 2011 9:39 PM | Report abuse

It ain't the players folks, plain and simple. Oh sure, a 2nd line center and a veteran goalie would help, but the talent is already there. The problem, is also simple.

The 'system'

If i hear BB one more time say 'stop making fancy passes and get the puck to the net' i'll throw up. That is a strategy for a muck and grind team. This is a team of dazzling offensive talent that has been effectively muzzled by BB. How did they win the presidents cup last year? Wide open attacking offense with 'cute' passes that these guys are capable of making.

The truth is, the franchised panicked after the Montreal loss. Instead of staying with their plan and tighting up defensively, they tried to become a defensive team and a muck and grind team. It ain't working, they are now very mediocre and boring. Good job management.

They are not as good as tampa, philly, pitt or montreal right now. And they will lose again in the playoffs if they don't wake up. They are playing tentative and unsure, all do to this new 'system'.

I maybe wrong, i hope so.

Posted by: gs12 | February 3, 2011 6:38 AM | Report abuse

First, the point many miss is that this is still a young team. Three young goaltenders. Two rookie defensemen. Two rookie centers. Shultz still growing into his size. Many players under 30. Knuble and Poti are the lone grizzled vets on this team. This team may still be a year away. The Coach has now taught them two divergent styles of play. Once they figure out how to switch back and forth between the two, this will be a very dangerous team. Also, you've been missing Semin and Fehr for a few weeks as well. Those are two key players. Lastly, Ovi is getting double teamed and is learning how to deal with that. Once he learns how to make other teams pay for that, he'll get some more open ice.

Posted by: genericrepub | February 3, 2011 9:08 AM | Report abuse


About GM , BB , and future of our team - my point of what i think . More and more questions coming up about what going on with Caps top players ? In my opinion its a lock of effort , discipline , dedication , to play for 60 minutes every game ; Caps don't need to go to OT or SO , this is the way for losers which let them to get a point in the standings . Caps are a better team , and if they continue to play like this - they will not going to reach the point to play and bring the highest trophy to Washington ! I honestly suspecting that best players on team playing with injuries , otherwise i cant explain why they suddenly became very average ,lost intensity , and GM & BB ignoring it and steel forcing them to play with injuries - its very wrong , we all know that regular season Min's nothing for teams with high expectations . We have so many good players in who will bee glad to replace the injured players until they healthy and ready to go for the playoffs , and the young kids who had a chance to prove that they can do it on a regular bases - the whole organization and Caps FANS will win . Otherwise GM&BB got to go and the season is lost again !!!!!!!

Posted by: knopka | February 3, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Well, it is very rare to see a 54 win team with a young core of players, head into the following season adding a host of rookies and younger call-ups and avoiding making any moves for veteran talent.

I like Carlson. I like Alzner. I think in time either Varlamov or Neuvirth could be the answer in goal.

But not this year. Perhaps not for 2012. These guys are 22-23 years old.

So, McPhee is going to keep the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin-Green-Knuble-Fehr-Laich group waiting for these players to turn the corner down the road?

I don't know of too many teams that don't try and maximize a team that wins 50 games in successive years to grab a title when they can.

The future is the future, but if you look at the NFL Eagles and the NHL's Sharks, consistent excellence without a championship is hollow solace to players and the fan base.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 3, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I think actually deciding on a goalie and staying with him would do wonders to adding stability to the lineup.
Goalies are different...others handle the puck more or better than others. That affects the defensemen and eventually carrying the puck into the offensive zone.
The rotisserie of goalies certainly isn't helping.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | February 3, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse


About GM , BB , and future of our team - my point of what i think . More and more questions coming up about what going on with Caps top players ? In my opinion its a lock of effort , discipline , dedication , to play for 60 minutes every game ; Caps don't need to go to OT or SO , this is the way for losers only which let them to get a point in the standings . Caps are a better team , and if they continue to play like this - they will not going to reach the point to play and bring the highest trophy to Washington ! I honestly suspecting that best players on team playing with injuries , otherwise i cant explain why they suddenly became very average ,lost intensity , and if GM & BB ignoring it and steel forcing them to play with injuries - its very wrong , we all know that regular season not very important for teams with high expectations . We have so many good players in AHL Bears who will bee glad to replace the injured players until they healthy and ready to go for the playoffs , meanwhile the young kids from Hershey will do everything possible with a given to them chance to prove that they can do it on a regular bases - the whole organization and Caps FANS will win . Otherwise GM&BB got to go and the season is lost again !!!!!!!







Posted by: knopka | February 4, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

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