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Posted at 10:48 AM ET, 02/17/2011

Numbers alone show Capitals' void at second-line center

By Katie Carrera

When the Capitals entered this season without acquiring a proven center to fill a void on the second line, they were doing so with the understanding that those who might take the spot most often -- particularly Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault after Tomas Fleischman was traded -- would have their inconsistencies.

"We've asked a lot of them," General Manager George McPhee said. "There have been some nights where they've been very, very good and some nights when they haven't met expectations, but that's what you get when they're young."

It's difficult to fault either player for simply being young and needing a learning curve. Peerless had a great breakdown of Johansson's and Perreault's stats in 10-game increments that is worth checking out. Given that they are both developing players, it's hard to compare what either Johansson or Perreault produce to that of more seasoned centers.

But take just a glimpse at the production in stats alone that top teams receive from their second-line centers and it's clear that increased impact in that role is key.

Stats for Perreault, Johansson and Fleischmann (before he was traded to Colorado), the Capitals who have served as second-line center most often this season:

PlayerGPGAP
Tomas Fleischmann 234 6 10
Marcus Johannson45 8 7 15
Mathieu Perreault31 6 6 12
Total18 19 37


The second-line centers for the top four teams in the league:

TeamPlayerGPGAP
Vancouver Ryan Kesler 58 33 23 56
Detroit Valtteri Filppula 50 12 19 31
Philadelphia Danny Briere 54 28 21 49
Tampa Bay Vincent Lecavalier 41 13 17 30

By Katie Carrera  | February 17, 2011; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, Trade deadline  
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Next: Line change: Can the Caps put it all together?

Comments

These glaring stats assure that the Caps will pursue a puck moving defenseman at the deadline...


Please tell me you get the sarcasm...;)

Posted by: R617 | February 17, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

At the risk of being Mr. Obvious, the Caps haven't had a real 2C since Fedorov.

Posted by: Steve_R | February 17, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

You could even argue, given the point of his career, that Fedorov was really a 3C too. I don't think we've had a legitimate 2C in a long long time.

Posted by: mkyan978 | February 17, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Curious: Do you think waiting until the last minute before the trade deadline is advantageous to the buying team or the selling team? I thought last year GMGM probably lost out on the D he wanted and made a play for Corvo at the last second.

Posted by: kcbrichmond

I think there are positives and negatives to both. One of the biggest positives about waiting until the trade deadline is that it gives you more salary cap room and flexibility to make more moves than you could in early January.

While it is true that some players getting traded decreases the amount of players available the longer you wait, you must also consider the fact that more teams become sellers late in February who weren't necessarily sellers at the beginning of February. I would say Colorado, St. Louis, Florida have turned into definite sellers with Columbus being more than likely a seller.

So while you lose the chance to get some players who were already traded you also get the chance to acquire players who may not have been available earlier.

A definite negative to waiting is that if there is a strong demand for the players you want, the price of acquiring them can get high. Many things can influence this,, such as injuries to other team (i.e. the Malkin and Savard injuries).

IMO, I think it is good that GMGM has waited as long as he has, but I think it would be very risky to wait until February 28th to make the deal. I think it would be best to try to complete it a few days earlier.

However, remember it takes two teams to make a deal. So if the other team thinks it can get more by waiting a few days, they may do so anyway. Just because a deal isn't made does not necessarily mean it is because GMGM is refusing to pull the trigger. It may very well be the other GM(i.e. Gillis wavering on trading Bieksa for Flash, then not doing so once Salo got hurt in the offseason).

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Derrick Brassard is out for 2-3 weeks. I thought it was a given he was going to be dealt, but that injury makes me wonder if a team will still go after him.

Posted by: ThePat | February 17, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Interesting stats. Sounds like they've got somethinking to do, and then act on it.

Posted by: SirPelleas | February 17, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I truly believe MJ90 is our future 2C. I could see him being one of the best in the league too. Man he skates well! And he's got decent puck skills that will only get better.

But no question we need to pick up that 2C for this season to have any chance. Make MJ90 the 3C and send MP85 back to Hershey or move him in the trade. I believe that by the mid-point of next season MJ90 will be our 2C, or by the 2012-2013 season at the latest, so we can pick up a guy who's got another year or two on the contract. No reason to pursue only rentals.

Posted by: TimeForACup | February 17, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

.... And to follow up, I think Weiss from Floria is a perfect fit for us. Does anyone know if we can we make that work salary-wise???

Posted by: TimeForACup | February 17, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

@sgm3
Completely understand. I just hate to see the deal (if any) wait until the last minute. Anybody got any good rumors?

Posted by: kcbrichmond | February 17, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Well, your analysis is a little flawed. To call Kesler and second line center is a little off - he is #2 in goal scoring this year, some would say he's the first line. Also, briere is not playing center, and again, some would say he plays on the top line. Richards has been seeing 2nd and 3rd line duty.

Posted by: fakedude2 | February 17, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

@TimeForACup

Weiss would easily fit in salary wise. The question is what would it take to get him and how easy would it be to deal within the division.

I have been a proponent for Weiss for a while and feel he would perfect to get. However, I doubt it will happen(Florida may not even want to deal him).

-----------

Also, for people talking about Saku Koivu last night. I was also on board for wanting the Caps to sign him, but Koivu said, before he signed in Anaheim, that he wanted to stay in the area. That his family liked it out there and he didn't want to go anywhere else. Add in the fact that he is friends with Selanne who is out there, and there was basically no chance he was coming east(unless you offered him an absurd amount of money). He didn't want to move. Offering a contract of only slightly more money is unlikely to change that.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. Obvious!

Posted by: Leeguru | February 17, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Nice article considering you're comparing 2 1st year NHLers (Johansson and Perreault) to 4 guys who have a combined 34 years experience and three have played on the same team for their entire careers (Lecavalier has been with TB for 11 seasons). Lets compare Johansson and Perrealut's stats to these 4 guys 1st year in the league and its not as staggering.

Briere G: 1 a: 0
Kesler g: 2 a: 3
Lecava g: 13 a:15
Filppu g: 0 a:1

Lets just settle down and realize that we have good young centers who I would keeop. Oh, and rememeber that perreault spent part of the beginning of the season in Hershey.

Posted by: thomassweet | February 17, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

@kcbrichmond

One guy who I think the Caps may end up grabbing is Brad Boyes from St. Louis. I think the Caps showed interest in him earlier, and now with St. Louis out of the playoff picture they are likely to sell. Additionally it seems as though St. Louis is one of the teams that GMGM communicates a lot with.

He is a good player and his contract would fit under the cap for this year.

The one possible negative is that he is signed for next at a $4M cap hit. However, only one more year may not be that big of a deal(it shouldn't be at least, GMGM should be able to maneuver enough in the offseason to take care of that).

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Yup, Caps have been looking for a 2C since Feds left. Brendan Morrison at times last year, did not start or was the 3C. It is going to be hard to find one at the deadline without overpaying. At least the Caps have some prospects in the pipeline that will give depth to the center positions in Kuznetsov and Eakin. Kuznetsov will probably develop into a 2C and possible 1C. Eakin will be a solid 3C. Which then brings up the question of the long term future for Johansson and Perreault. Johansson has played wing but I think Perreault doesn't have a long term future with the Caps. If the Caps want a legit 2C at the deadline, I hope they only deal draft picks to get one. Our center prospects are very good and Caps should be looking for a 2C that as a short term contract.

Posted by: madflava | February 17, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I still think one of the biggest flaws on the Caps, that is especially prevalent on the PP, is the lack of a left-handed player with a good shot.

If you go through the Caps roster, who has the best shot out of all of the left-handed players? Go through all the forwards and D. I think it may be Backstrom, and his shot isn't that good.

That can tend to make a PP too one-sided when it is on the ice. With all threatening one timers coming from only one side.

That is one thing that Flash did bring, he has a pretty good shot and was left-handed.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

@madflava

It is possible that Eakin or Kuznetsov could play wing in the NHL. Eakin played wing a the World Juniors(I think).

MJ is a pure center. One thing he adds that the Caps really needed is speed. I'm not talking Chimera straight line speed with hands of stone, but great skating ability and the ability to skate around people. The Caps, as a team, are a little slow. I think having MJ as the possible #2 or #3 center for the long term future will be great. I would be completely against trading him.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm with madflava - Kuznetsov has no 1 or 2 C written all over him. Kessler's a number 1 center - and getting paid accordingly - on a team blessed with two number 1 centers.

As for now, MJ90's getting better each game. He's learning to stretch defenses with his speed and thus creates ice for his companions and he uses that speed to be a fairly efficient puck retriever. He may click with Semin.

I don't think the current assemblage can be much improved with a trade - either this team can go deep now or it can't - but I would not trade prospects. Having said that, I WOULD move one of the goalies if a good offer comes in. THAT I would do.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | February 17, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

@Timeforacup...

Answer to your question is yes. But based on the other trades we have seen FLA will want a 1st & 2nd or 3rd to do the deal or will want a goalie in lieu of 2nd or 3rd. I've been playing around at capgeek.com to see if I can squeeze Weiss & Vokun under the cap. Pretty tight but if I had my druthers, i'd love to see those two here. A vet goalie and a solid, productive #2 center. But the price tag to get vokun may be too high.

Posted by: jimc93 | February 17, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

@redlitYogi

Said it before and Ill say it again. Kuz will most likely play a Wing for the Caps, just like he is doing in the KHL right now. Does he have the ability to play C yes. Doesnt mean he will. I honestly see him as the replacement to Semin when we decide to give up on him.

Posted by: ThePat | February 17, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Given those stats, the rotation of Caps 2C's compare to Detroit's & Tampa's. It may be harder for the coaches but they made need to juggle who fills that slot based on who's playing better at the moment. I remember in the Orioles heyday the best left fielder in baseball was their 3 player rotation. If they get a short term solution w/o giving up much it can be a plus but with good talent in the pipeline and a rotation that's not awful why panic?

Posted by: jluksch | February 17, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

@ThePat

Kuz may play wing or he may play center. I think the main point is that he is 18 years old and it probably isn't the best idea for the Caps to make all of their plans based on the belief of where he might play when he gets to the league.

My guess is that the Caps will have him playing center when he comes over. I think GMGM has realized that he needs to get more of his top players at center instead of wing. His skill set seems to transfer well to being a center and I just see the Caps trying their best to groom him to be a center. However, that may fail and they could switch him back to wing.

Basically, the point is that no one knows what he will end up succeeding at or if he will succeed at all, not even the Caps know that.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

This article is very misleading. If you add up Flash, MaJo and MP, they add to 100 games. Therefore those numbers are not sum of #2C position but in reality sum of #2C and 3C pretty much together.

Let's do the math, boys and girls.

In 99 games combined, the three have 37 pts. If we prorate that to ONE player and 82 games, it comes out to 30.6 pts for a FULL SEASON.

By way of comparison, both BMo and Belanger had 40 pts last year (Belanger's mostly with that offensive juggernaut, the Wild). BMo this year is on a pace for 50 pts (at like $750K!!!) and Belanger on a pace for 34 pts.

So, both players that we had and let go are more productive this season than our combined #2 center. In BMo's case, he's 67% more productive.

OK, BMo has shortcomings, but our guys do too. Only MaJo of our group plays any D at all. And Belanger, had he been kept, at #3C, is great on faceoffs and good on PK.

Maybe the beat writer here should ask McPhee if he has any regrets for the personnel decisions he made between the end of last season and now.

I'm not saying BMo was the answer as #2C. I'm just saying he's been far better than the alternative.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 17, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Kuznetsov certainly has shown in his progression that he could be a #1C if not a solid #2... and would that push MoJo to #3C giving the caps an extremely talented and solid top 4 centers.

But for now, MoJo and MP85 are inconsistent and aren't enough to get the job done...

To STL
Perreault
3rd
2nd tier prospect

To Caps
Boyes

Personally, I wouldn't rush Eakin or Kuznetsov next season... let them play a season in the A, get a call-up, and then when Boyes contract is over, let them slide in.

Incidentally, Boyes is listed as a Center on St Louis's website!

Posted by: FrankM73 | February 17, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

If the Caps are able to acquire a center, getting MJ all the experience he got will only help him for the playoffs and especially for future years. Clearly, the Caps cannot go into the playoffs with MP and MJ as the #2 and #3 centers, but if they get one for the playoff run and were able to get MJ and MP all the experience they got, isn't that the best of both worlds. (Obviously this is contingent on them acquiring a 2nd line center. If they don't then they only get the benefit of one world, the young guys getting valuable experience).

I'm expecting to see a big jump from MJ's play from this year to the next. It usually happens with all guys from their first to their second year.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

I said he could play C. I just believe the Caps are going with MaJo and Eakin at C. And they know Kuz will have the ability to do it. Much like Kozlov when he was with the Caps.

Also there is no guarantee if or when Kuz will decide to come to America. So its very fooloish for management to even pencil him in as anything until they know hes coming. He's at least a year away.

Posted by: ThePat | February 17, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Incidentally, Boyes is listed as a Center on St Louis's website!

Posted by: FrankM73
---
But checking NHL.com, he has only taken 119 draws and won only 40% of them... so he's really not the Center we are looking for, I guess!

Posted by: FrankM73 | February 17, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I said he could play C. I just believe the Caps are going with MaJo and Eakin at C. And they know Kuz will have the ability to do it. Much like Kozlov when he was with the Caps.

Also there is no guarantee if or when Kuz will decide to come to America. So its very fooloish for management to even pencil him in as anything until they know hes coming. He's at least a year away.

Posted by: ThePat

I know. I was just agreeing with you that it wouldn't be wise for the Caps to base their moves on the idea that Kuz will be a top 2 center for them next year. There are too many variables.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 17, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

From an earlier post that Semin disappears in the Playoffs:
28 career games
8 goals
16 assists
24 points
+1

Not exactly Dino playoff numbers, but almost a point per game. If you take out last year's loss to Montreal, where he only had 2 assists depsite 44 shots, he is averages over a point per game in the playoffs, and was one of the more physical forwards in the Flyers series a couple of years ago...MP and his -2 from last night should be traded...If he can't stand the physical contact now, he will nver makes it in the playoffs

Posted by: Unknown19 | February 17, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

R617, if the Caps can't get a real 2C (i.e. not Arnott), I would like to see them get a puck moving left hand shot D-man.
Sgm3 made a great point about not having a left shot on the PP. Kaberle would be the best available but, at what price & he hasn't been to the playoffs in a long time. Also, he would have to waive his not trade contract.
It would be great to get a 2C but, with the market & other teams shopping, the price will be high.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 17, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Incidentally, Boyes is listed as a Center on St Louis's website!

I've been watching Boyes play since his days with the Bruins. He's a Center like Flash is a Center. At this point, any scoring would help this team...but if one was looking to obtain a player off the Blues roster, I would suggest shooting higher than Boyes (no offense intended).

Posted by: j3rockstar | February 17, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

R617, if the Caps can't get a real 2C (i.e. not Arnott), I would like to see them get a puck moving left hand shot D-man.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 17, 2011 12:25 PM

Isn't that what Tom Poti was supposed to be?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 17, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The Caps may make a small move for a forward..but I am pretty sure whoever they bring in at the deadline will not be a household name like people on these boards are hoping...dream small and be not surprised. Johansson is 2C in training.


Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | February 17, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Mathieu Perreault has no business being in the HNL at this point in his career.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 17, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

R617, if the Caps can't get a real 2C (i.e. not Arnott), I would like to see them get a puck moving left hand shot D-man.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 17, 2011 12:25 PM

Isn't that what Tom Poti was supposed to be?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 17, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Tom, BMo and Belanger are certainly not the 2C's of our dreams, but they are competent journeymen. IMO the Caps overall would have been well served to resign Belanger. I think when the market prices began to fall late in the off-season GMGM could not bring himself to pay Belanger what had been informally agreed to. So he bailed on the deal. I think fundamentally GMGM is a bargain hunter. That explains the Poti extension - Poti agreed to a pay cut so GMGM jumped at the deal, not fully considering whether the money could have been spent more productively elsewhere.

Posted by: zmega | February 17, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Weiss is 3.1mil for 2 more years. I would take him to help move MoJo to the #3C and bridge the gap between Kuznetsov, Eakin and MoJo fighting it out for #2 and 3Center spots... but if Varly and Nuevy can't stop pucks, we ain't going annnnywhere in the Playoffs!

Posted by: FrankM73 | February 17, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

new thread or are we ignoring the useless line change blogs?

Posted by: icehammer97 | February 17, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

If the Caps are unable to get a 2C, I think I may have a solution, at least a stop gap.

Assuming that Ovie plays like he is capable (even though this season his numbers are down, he is still in the top ten in points.). Let's just assume that the center is not as important to Alex as it is to other players that are not as adept at creating their own offense (remembering that he had 106p and 92p his first 2 years with Zubrius). I think that we could put Backstrom on the 2nd line with Semin and Laich. I also think that you would have some flexibility then to put MJ 90 or Matty P with Ovie and Chimera. That would create alot of speed on that top line thus opening up the ice for Alex to be Alex. I think they did something similar earlier this year with MJ 90 but with Knuble on the other side and it lasted all of 7 shifts before Backstrom was back up.

Posted by: Big_Pushy | February 17, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

@ sgm3
Definitely, that Eakin and Kuznetsov could be moved to the wing. It will all depend on how they develop in the NHL and what is the best fit for the Caps. I mentioned Johansson as a good candidate because he played left wing in the SEL before being utilized as a full time center. A great thing about these three prospects is that they all appear to be very versatile at the forward position. I wouldn't be too worried about the Caps trading Johansson. He's improving every week and I believe that BB now utilizes him on the PK which he didn't do at the beginning of the season. That is a good indication of how strong his two-way game is. His skating is already at NHL level and he has loads of skill. Johansson needs NHL experience to develop his decision making on the ice.

Posted by: madflava | February 17, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Weiss is the best option for the Caps, but the Florida front office will want at least a No. 1 and possibly a prospect to make the trade in division. I checked on Weiss and he is on small side and a finesse player. I'd hate to be stuck with his large contract for another year after this one.

Arnott may be a rent a player, but at least he won't be a potential roadblock to developing MoJo and the other two young prospects next year. If Weiss comes here in a trade, he'll be our 2nd or 3rd line center through at least next season which has it's pluses and minuses. He certainly isn't the long-term solution that a Mike Fisher would have been.

Posted by: wizfan89 | February 17, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

VERMONT:

Leonsis shouted out Erskine on Ted's Take. Thought it was a nice move by Ted and I figured you'd be happy to see it.

on the subject of MaJo:
I have been thoroughly impressed by him this season. Not only does he have a bright future but I think that future will materialize fairly quickly. I thought his game against Pittsburgh was near-perfect, capped off by a great short-handed goal.

Posted by: PSD1 | February 17, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Eakin could be with the team by the playoffs if his junior team is eliminated by then...their playoffs start the last 2 weeks of March.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | February 17, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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