Thursday, April 24, 2008

Looking Ahead: Capitals 2008-09 Depth Chart

Take a look at who the Caps have under contract and who the pending free agents are.

NOTE: These are NOT meant to indicate line combos, just to show who the Caps have under contract.

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromViktor Kozlov
Alexander SeminMichael NylanderChris Clark
Matt Cooke (u)Sergei Fedorov (u)Brooks Laich (r)
Donald BrashearDave SteckelEric Fehr (r)
Quintin LaingBoyd Gordon (r)Matt Bradley (u)
  Tomas Fleischmann

Shaone Morrisonn (r)Mike Green (r)
Tom PotiMilan Jurcina
John ErskineSteve Eminger (r)
Jeff SchultzBrian Pothier*

Cristobal Huet (u)
Olie Kolzig (u)
Brent Johnson

(u) = Unrestricted Free Agent if not signed by July 1, 2008
(r) = Restricted Free Agent if not signed by July 1, 2008
*Pothier is still dealing with lingering effects from a concussion he sustained earlier this year, and there's no guarantee that he will play next season and his career could be in jeopardy.

In the system but possibly close:
Sami Lepisto - D (Hershey)
Chris Bourque - LW (Hershey)

Recent Draft Choices Not Yet in the Minors, but could fight for spots:
Karl Alzner - D (Calgary, WHL)
Joe Finley - D (North Dakota, NCAA)
Oskar Osala - LW (Espoo, Finland)

See a full list of potential NHL free agents here.

See just how long everyone is signed, and for how much, here.

Who do you keep? There are some tough decisions to be made, especially at right wing and center (keep in mind, Laich and Kozlov can also play center). Also, notice the three restricted free agents on defense, including what has been their top D-pairing this season.

But maybe more of a problem than who they don't have signed is who they DO have signed... Fleischmann is on for two more years. Erskine and Schultz are definitely here for another year. Not saying they should be out, but Jurcina and Brashear are here for another year as well. If they weren't already signed, those are guys the Caps might consider replacing with upgrades on the free agent market. Those guys could also be taking a spot from someone the Caps already have that they might want to re-sign (Fedorov, Cooke, Bradley), or they might be blocking a prospect who shines in next year's camp.

So as much as the Caps might want to go out and nab a bruising, physical defender, they may not really have the option without having to pay someone NHL money to play in the AHL, or just flat out paying them to leave.

And on that topic, one name you didn't see on that list was Ben Clymer, who played all year in Hershey this season but still has another year on his deal that will count about $1 million toward the salary cap.

GM George McPhee has got some tough decisions to make in the next two months...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grab the Antacid: Stress Levels Run High for NHL Playoffs

I was going to do this as a long blog post yesterday, but then I realized, "Wait a second... This should be a column."

So I wrote it up and sent it in, and now it's up on DC Sports Box. So here's the first few paragraphs. To see the rest you'll need to go to the full column.

I was pretty much constantly nervous from March 10 to April 5 as the Capitals went on an improbable and remarkable run to capture the Southeast Division title and earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, then I got a few days to celebrate and catch my breath, but now I'm nervous again.

And I mean really nervous. Gut-wrenching, grinding-my-teeth nervous.

It's not so much that the Capitals lost for the first time in over three weeks and the second time since that awful March 8-10 weekend where they dropped heartbreakers against Boston and Pittsburgh, and it's not that Philadelphia has wrestled home-ice advantage away from the Caps by splitting the first two games in Washington. It's how we got here.

Read the rest:
Grab the Antacid: Stress Levels Run High for NHL Playoffs

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Steckel back for playoffs?

Not to go into blogger hysteria over minor issues heading into the NHL playoffs, but reading Tarik El-Bashir's blog today I was excited to see that d-men Shaone Morrisonn and Jeff Schultz practiced today and look promising for Friday night's game one.

But then I also noticed this note:
"Also, center David Steckel (broken finger) has been assigned to the fourth line with Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley, so it looks like he'll be good to go Friday."

I like Steckel and am glad to hear he's ready to go, but why insert him into a lineup that's won 11 of its last 12 games, all without Stecks.

And who does this bump? Boyd Gordon? Tomas Fleischmann? Eric Fehr? I'm not a huge Flash fan and Fehr hasn't done a whole lot statistically, but the Laich-Fehr-Fleischmann line has shown a lot of chemistry, and Gordon brings good speed to the fourth line with Bradley and Brashear.

I say leave the lineup the way it's been since early March, and if things start to go south in the series, shake it up and bring Steckel AND Quintin Laing back into the fold. For now, why mess with a good thing?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

This should put everything into perspective

In case you need a visual aid to understand what's going to go down in about 90 seconds:


Friday, April 04, 2008

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Race: 3 days left

Sorry this is late. I was in a conference all day.

Buffalo lost and is off the board. The Rangers won and are off the board. The Caps moved tentatively into 8th place but Philadelphia can change that tonight.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Four Days Left: NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Race

Here's the updated version after last night:

*Southeast Division winner will get 3rd seed.

The Rangers can take themselves off the board in the good way (for them) if they get the full two points tonight on Long Island. The Sabres can take themselves off the board in the bad way if they get anything less than the full two points tonight in Montreal.

For a breakdown of all the scenarios that would get the Caps in the playoffs, go here.

ALSO the latest episode of the DC Sports Box Capitals Podcast is up. Click here to download it directly, or copy and paste this feed URL into your RSS reader to subscribe:

You can also subscribe through iTunes by searching for DC Sports Box in the iTunes Store.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NHL Playoff Race: UPDATED

Since it was so popular yesterday, I decided to update my little playoff race graphic with last night's results included. That means the Devils are off the board because they clinched, but I added the Sabres so that all the teams that are still mathematically in the race are included.

*The asterisk for the Hurricanes being in 3rd is because, obviously, their 90 points isn't the third most in the conference. The 3rd seed will go to the winner of the Southeast Division. What that also means is that if Buffalo catches Washington and Carolina, the Sabres could finish with the 8th most points in the East and still not make it.

Also check out my recap of last night's Caps game (from a packed house and packed press box at Verizon Center) at DC Sports Box:

Caps Enter Tie for Division Lead with Win Over 'Canes

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It All Comes Down to This...

NOTE: I've updated this graphic with last night's results. Check it out here.