Friday means mailbag. Mailbag means questions. Questions mean answers. Answers mean more questions for next Friday’s mailbag. Thanks to all who submitted an inquiry.
Hey Adam. Do you think the Washington Capitals need to shake up their core and rebuild? It seems like the same old story with the Capitals year after year. After going through three different coaches in two seasons it appears that whether attempting to play a defensive style or wide-open game, the Capitals cannot win in the playoffs. They rely on Alex Ovechkin way too much, as their horrendous first half indicates: when he is not scoring goals, the team cannot win.
Similarly, with an injury or two to Nicklas Backstrom or Mike Green, the Caps have no suitable replacements for either player. With a decreasing salary cap next year, and limited space to re-sign key role players and center Mike Ribeiro, this would seem like the perfect time to offload one of Backstrom, Green, or even start to peddle Ovechkin for draft picks and prospects. I was as shocked as anyone to hear of the deadline trade of Filip Forsberg for an aging talent in Martin Erat, and a middle of the pact prospect in Michael Latta. Despite dominating the awful Southeast division, the Caps were terrible against the rest of the Eastern Conference. While it is not easy to replace a first line center like Backstrom through trade, there are elite centers available in this year's draft and a team wishing to compete next year might trade one of those picks for a center like Backstrom, or a defenseman like Green.
Nick Stoyan, Toronto
The short answer is yes, I do think the Capitals’ core of talent isn’t one that matches up well with bona fide Stanley Cup contenders and ought to be broken up as soon as possible. I first made the argument in my THN magazine column midway through the regular season and heard from a good amount of irate Caps fans who questioned my sanity, especially after Washington’s late-season hot streak.
However, after the Caps were exposed in the first round of the playoffs by a New York Rangers team that wasn’t all that good either, I have yet to hear from any of those same folks. Odd how that works, isn’t it? Anyway, forget about statistical comparisons for a second and ask yourself this: of the four remaining NHL playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago), could the Capitals, as presently constructed, realistically beat any of them in a seven-game series? I can’t see how anyone could honestly answer “yes” to that question.
In terms of possible trades, I don’t think the Caps can deal Ovechkin mostly because of his monstrous contract (which still has eight years remaining). Backstrom would fetch the biggest trade package, but he is probably staying because he’s still a very good player. Other than those two and defenseman John Carlson, I think everybody else ought to be available for the right return. Caps management and ownership cannot continue to remain in love with a group of players who have shown repeatedly they’re not built to bang with the big boys.
Hey Adam, If Daniel Alfredsson is set to retire this season, who is next in line to lead the Senators and wear the ‘C’? Would they go with one of the alternate captains (Chris Phillips or Jason Spezza) or someone like Marc Methot or Erik Karlsson? Phillips seems like a given considering he is a natural leader and has had an ‘A’ for years, but his increasing age and approaching retirement could limit the role to a season or two and maybe Ottawa will be looking for something long-term. Spezza seems like a guy that fits the alternate captain role perfectly, but isn’t competent enough to be a captain at the NHL level in my opinion. What direction do you think the Senators will go once Alfie retires?
Patrick Steele, Ottawa
I don’t think the Sens could go wrong choosing Phillips, Methot or Karlsson, but I take exception to you questioning Spezza’s competency. First of all, players serve as captains in many different ways; some are in-your-face and vocal about it, while others lead more quietly and by example.
Secondly, in my estimation, Spezza has grown by leaps and bounds since he first came into the league as a nice guy with an odd laugh. He’s one of the most respected players in that Ottawa dressing room and given that he only turns 30 on June 13, he’s likely to remain a Sens staple. He’d be my first choice.
Adam, how do the Devils answer their netminding question for the 2014-2015 season?
Joe Connor, Pennsville, N.J.
As of today, there is scheduled to be a number of big-name goalies – including Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halak and Jonas Hiller – on the unrestricted free agent market in the summer of 2014. But the emphasis in that sentence is on “scheduled to be,” because whomever happens to be the GM who employs one of those stars is more than likely going to work his tail off attempting to re-sign them to a contract extension long in advance of the first day of free agency.
For that reason, it’s fair to say the free agency options for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello are likely to be limited by that point and he’ll either have to sign an unproven youngster or decent veteran, or he’ll need to try his luck on the trade front. The good news is New Jersey will have a ton of salary cap space ($40.8 million according to CapGeek.com) with which to add quality players; the bad news is the cash-poor franchise isn’t about to spend to the cap ceiling, so Devils management has to be cautious.
Hey Adam. Is it me, or do the LA Kings not get the credit they deserve from the NHL Network and NBC Sports? The announcers and in-studio analysts seem to be against the Kings. I know I am not the only one that feels that way. A number of Kings fans feel the same way. Even the casual sports fans that are now watching hockey in LA are saying the same thing. What do you think about this?
Alan Olivas, Duarte, Calif.
The one thing you discover by working at THN is that all fans feel the league/officials/media is out to get their particular team. Announcers who aren’t total homers can’t and shouldn’t think of the game the way fans do. They’re there to provide analysis and sometimes analysis means being more critical than fans can be.
Here’s what I’d suggest: watch other national broadcasts where the Kings aren’t involved and pretend you were a fan of those teams. Would you think the broadcaster is against that team, too? If you feel that way, perhaps you need to readjust your expectations regarding how non-fans see your team. I don’t mean that as a putdown of your support for the Kings, but gaining a different perspective often can be rather illuminating.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.