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Caps Have No Rookies

(Matt Bradley says he's ready to go tonight. He said he was "on fire" this morning. "Feels good," he said of his broken finger.

I asked if it had been tough sitting out.

"Obviously," he said. "It'd be like...I don't know, do you like your job?"

"It's ok," I said, feeling more optimistic than usual.

"Well, if it's just 'ok,' then it wouldn't be the same," Bradley said. "If you're doing something you really love, and then someone said you can't do it, you know, it sucks. I'm back now, so I'm excited."

It's nice to be around people who love their jobs)

Anyhow, since I'd never talked to Lawrence Nycholat, the Caps NON-rookie defenseman who has six points in eight games, I figured I ought to. What seemed interesting to me was that, by calling up a NON-rookie, the Caps' roster actually got older. (Nycholat is about 27 years 7 months, the team's average age is something like 27 years 1 month.)

"26?" Steve Eminger ventured, guessing at Nycholat's age.

"27," I said.

"27, yeah, I guess that's older for a rookie, but he doesn't seem that old," Eminger said. "To tell you the truth, on our team, because our team is young in general we don't really have rookies. It just seems like everyone's a rookie, or everyone's a veteran....I know when I was here my first year the next closest guy was 19 at the time and the next closest guy was 24 or 25, and then it was like 26, 28. There, it's really obvious who the rookie is. Here, when you have four guys on the team that are 22, 23, and guys that are 20, you know what I mean? They're the same age as the rookies. There's not really rookies on this team, in a way."

"I think league-wide, it's changed," Bradley agreed. "I think back in the day it was a bigger deal. Now, other than the rookie meal it really isn't anything different, you know what I mean? You don't really treat a rookie any different than you would a normal guy."

Which didn't stop Bradley from belting out "Roookieee" several times during my brief chat with Nycholat this morning. The NON-rookie was wearing a Tigers cap at the time, but he's not a Tigers fan. He's actually a Twins fan, but he just can't find his Twins hat right now. He's been staying at a hotel in D.C. since his call-up, and he said he's gone around to check out some monuments and the White House and downtown restaurants.

And although he said he doesn't feel like a rookie--having played seven years of professional hockey--he admitted to some rookie-like enthusiasm; "You know it's still pretty new; every day is exciting, whether it's a game day or practice," he said. He said the speed in the AHL isn't much different than the speed in the NHL, although the top-end players stand out. And he said he never worried about whether the NHL thing would happen.

"I don't know, it's not something I really put a whole lot of thought into, whether you get called up or not," he said. "It's not really in your hands. The only thing you can control is how you're playing, and my goal was to keep improving in Hershey and play well. And whatever happens, happens."

Surely, I suggested, the lifestyle of an NHL player must be a bit different.

"I've only been here for two weeks, so I really can't tell you much about the lifestyle," he said. "I know it's much nicer to be on a chartered jet than a bus. But other than that, it's all pretty new."

[Edit: Per FS's point below, I retract Nicky's being a rookie. Although there seems to be some confusion on that point, both among actual Caps and among Caps employees. In any case, my life goal remains intact: to write a blog post that pleases FS.]

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 9, 2007; 2:07 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Per the NHL rulebook, Nycholat is NOT a rookie. To be a rookie in the NHL (and thus eligible for the Calder trophy), one has to be under the Age of 27.

Posted by: FS | January 9, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Yeah to Caps coverage and congrats to Nycholat on his recent play and extending his time in the NHL!

Looking forward to seeing Bradley's energy in the game tonight, too.

In my eyes, Nycholat is a rookie unless you count his whopping 9 games with the NYR as his rookie season; he is simply not eligible for the Calder Trophy, which has stricter criteria including age for reasons not necessary to delve into here.

There are plenty of older rookies in the NHL this season including Brooks in NJ (30), Norrena (in Columbus) that are playing their first NHL games this season. NHL rookie, yes; eligible for the Calder Trophy, no.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 9, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

thanks for covering the caps. i love hearing what the guys have to say.

Posted by: BROWN | January 9, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Too much Caps coverage. Not enough Gil coverage. I think the majority of Bog readers feel this way.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 9, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for writing stories about the capitals ! its good to get some coverage!

Posted by: rebecca | January 9, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Love the Caps Coverage!

Posted by: James | January 9, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I've tried to expunge the "rookie" talk. My bad on that. Feel free to disregard the rest of this item as fabrication, if you'd like.

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | January 9, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Nice piece. With Nycholat doing so well, and the fact that he's a real asset whether he plays here or in Hershey (where he was their team captain), and the fact that Erskine will at some point get healthy enought to play, I have to wonder if Eminger's days as a defenseman are numbered.

Steve had a great game the other night (Atlanta) and has been marginally improving over the last few weeks, but he's still not where most Caps fans would like him to be, skill wise. He makes more mistakes than he should.

But then, it does take a long time for defenseman to really get good. It takes a lot longer for a defenseman to hone his skill than it does a forward. Unless you're Mike Green. That kid is awesome.

Posted by: The Horn Guy | January 9, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Rookie meal?

Also, is every Caps post going to be followed with a pitched battle between Caps fans desperate for attention and non-Caps fans provoking them?

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | January 9, 2007 8:47 PM | Report abuse

So Dan, I saw you at the game tonight, and before I could come up and say 'hi' you went the other way. Very sneaky.

I'm always happy when someone writes about my favorite "career-minor leaguer." I just don't think someone should be called a rookie when they've played almost 500 games as a professional.

Posted by: FS | January 9, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

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