Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2011/12 Washington Capitals R.I.P

2011/12 saw the Washington Capitals win a playoff series against the defending Stanley Cup champions and then push the #1 seeded New York Rangers to seven games, but ultimately this was a season that might be remembered as the year Alex Ovechkin's career took a turn for the worse. His point totals have been in steady decline from 109 PTS in 2010, to 85 PTS in 2011, to 65 PTS this year. Perhaps the decline is explicable by extended injuries to Mike Green and Niklas Backstrom, two players who can substantially improve the team's offense, increasing scoring chances. Or maybe, just maybe, Big Al's light was one that shined too bright. He'll be turning 27 in September which more often than not is the age when NHLers hit peak performance.

Ovechkin was benched by Boudreau, and Boudreau was fired (Bruce was only unemployed for a few days), then Dale Hunter came in to finish the season and he resorted to benching Alex the Great (or maybe we should call him Alexander the Above Average). Now Dale Hunter is going to return to his Junior team instead of coming back. Both stories end with Ovechkin's ass sitting on the bench when it mattered the most. Will he be at best a point per game guy going forward, or can he return to triple digits? He's infamous for partying harder than he trains in the summer time. He also plays a very physical, high velocity game that could wear out his body before its natural expiration date. He's under contract for 9 more years at $9.5M per.

On the bright side, Braden Holtby has seemingly emerged as the franchise goaltender (with arguably the #1 mom in the NHL) returning for a cheap $637K. Neuvirth is a decent plan B at $1.1M should Holtby falter. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents in 2013. Holtby's pre-game ritual is bordering on obsessive/compulsive as a means of getting his brain into a hypnotic trance. Not that it's rare among gatekeepers, but Braden really pushes the boundaries of ridiculousness. I suspect that if he ever gets out of his "zone", he might collapse completely and never be able to get it back. It's good to have a nervous breakdown insurance policy on a goalie like Holtby.

Alex Semin is gone. I'd be shocked if he gets another $6.7M deal, as his annual value should be in the $4M -$5M range. Mike Green and John Carlson are RFAs. Carlson should get a significant wage bump (at least $4M), but Green is already in his fair wage range at $5.2M. He's shown to be prone to injury, though when he's at his healthy peak production, he's worth over $6M. Dennis Wideman is also a UFA, and it is not clear if Washington will be able or willing to bring him back at a higher price. Most of this team should be back next season, minus Semin, possibly Knuble and Wideman. They will be competitive again and challenge for a playoff spot, but it does not appear that there will be a Stanley Cup in this team's near future.

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