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Posted at 12:28 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

What ails the Caps?

By Kareem El-Alaily

Much is riding on the final 31 games of the season. While the Caps are a mere four points out of first place in the Southeast, they’re also only seven points up on ninth place Carolina. Being in the jumbled mix of teams jockeying for playoff positioning hasn’t made Caps Nation very happy, especially since the team was favored to easily win the Southeast this year. While there are fans of other teams in the NHL that would love to play at the Caps current 101-point pace, there is no doubt that the team’s play has caused a large dose of consternation here in D.C.

Everyone seems to have their theories as to why the Caps have struggled this year. I’m curious to know what you think:

Other thoughts:

  • I think the Caps overpaid for Alex Semin but the reality is that it’s what the market is for point-per-game players. While I’m glad the Caps didn’t sign a long-term deal with him, his signing isn’t a negative. Semin is still a threat to score and he’s still a very good player. But if the Caps are going to make a deep run in the playoffs they need Good Sasha to show up for two months straight. It’s a roll of the dice, with the odds well under 50 percent.
  • Staying on the Semin topic…I’ve stated before that I do not believe that second-line wingers should get paid top-dollar because it takes money away from core positions that need to be filled, and the Caps certainly have a gaping hole in a key position (2C). I reviewed the list of highly paid wingers in the league this year – real wingers, not centers playing wing – and one thing I noticed is that many of them do not play on successful teams. Sure, Patrick Kane, Daniel Sedin and Dany Heatley are on the top 10 list, players whose respective teams have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs the past two seasons (and have world-class centers feeding them the puck). But the teams that pay the remaining players in the top 10 most highly-paid wingers reads like a graveyard of recent playoff performance: Buffalo (Vanek), Calgary (Iginla), Washington (Ovechkin), Tampa (Malone), Columbus (Nash), Ottawa (Alfredsson), NY Rangers (Gaborik). I remain unconvinced that paying a lot for a wing – unless he is a once-a-generation talent – correlates to playoff success. Granted, a one-year snapshot of comparing highly-compensated wings against team playoff performance is not enough to produce an objective viewpoint, but it begs the question: what exactly does paying top dollar for a winger get you in terms of playoff success, especially when your team is short on quality centers?
  • Want another ugly stat on the Caps anemic offense this year? The Caps have been shut out seven times this season in 51 games. The only Stanley Cup winner in the past 15 seasons to get shut out more times in a season was Tampa in 2003-04, a team that was shut out eight times. Stanley Cup winners have endured – on average – roughly 3.5 shutouts per year. (Gotta give props to my brother, Ameer, for pointing that out to me.)
  • Twenty-seven days until the trade deadline. Twenty-seven days until the trade deadline. Twenty-seven days until the trade deadline…

By Kareem El-Alaily  | February 1, 2011; 12:28 PM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  | Tags:  Capitals, Kareem El-Alaily  
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