Why the Washington Capitals Needed to Re-Sign Mike Green to Make the Playoffs

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Why the Washington Capitals Needed to Re-Sign Mike Green to Make the Playoffs
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

It's official. The Washington Capitals have shelled out $18.25 million for three years of Mr. Glass trying to skate past the blue line without shattering his pelvic bone.

Now, that's quite a bit of money to pay Mike Green, a defenseman who once upon a time put up 73 points in just 68 games but has missed 116 games in just six NHL seasons, including 50 last year. Why would you commit such large sums of cash to someone who's not going to be on the ice most of the time, or hasn't been?

The answer: Because he's Mike Freaking Green.

When he's not riding on Vespas or sitting on his couch with a giant icepack on his groin watching Dennis Wideman do his best scarecrow impression in front of the net, he's just plain awesome on the ice.

I'm not even just talking about his offensive prowess, which is nothing short of magnificent for a blue-liner—although I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how fantastic his numbers are.

Green has tallied 248 points in 376 games during his first six full seasons in the bigs—or 0.66 points per game. Not even the best of the best of today's top-shelf offensive-minded defensemen can top that over that period. Not Zdeno Chara. Not Duncan Keith. Not Drew Doughty. Not even Chris Pronger.

How do you replace that now that your other decent-shooting defenseman has left (Wideman)? You don't.

But it's not all about the offense. Green is still a defenseman, and his job is to keep the puck out of the net. How do you do that? By reducing the amount of shots your opponent takes, of course. And there's no better stat to track that ability than relative Corsi, a stat that measures the amount of shots taken and allowed while a player is on the ice versus when he is off of it.

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With Mike Green off the ice, the Caps registered a negative Corsi of -1.81 last season. When Green was on the ice, that jumped well into the positive territory to 4.45, which was good enough to put him in the top 25 percent of all defensemen.

And he's met that mark year in and year out. Is he a shutdown defenseman? No. But his offensive abilities combined with his defensive competence tilts the ice in the Caps' favor when he's skating.

 

But what good is that when you're not on the ice half the games? Well, that's true.

Mike Green's history of injuries is long and painful: December 2008, missed 13 games due to a right shoulder injury; October 2010, missed three games due to an upper body injury; February 2011, placed on injured reserve due to a head injury, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season; November 2011, missed six games due to ankle injury; November 2011, groin injury sidelines him indefinitely.

That list, which doesn't include a grab bag of shorter stints on the bench due to various ailments, makes me nervous just typing it. But there's reason for optimism: His surgery to repair the groin earlier this year was a success, and he looked like his old self on the ice.

Granted, not much time has passed, but the groin was the biggest question mark on his health, and that has potentially been solved.

It might be overly optimistic to think he'll be playing 82 games in each of those three years, but 70 is not out of the question. I'll take 70 games of Mike Green over 82 games of just about anyone else. And if the Capitals want to be a contender in 2012-13, they're going to need as much of No. 52 on the ice as possible.

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