It's easy to get antsy in these long summer months, especially in D.C. It's hot. It's humid. Any remnant of decent television left has been put on hold for two whole weeks by tape-delayed sports—and not even the good kind. That, or it's watch nothing but baseball games, which are the appropriate summer sport because each one of them seem about as long as this miserable offseason.
So instead, we Washington Capitals fans have to sit here in the boiling heat of August, the season opener still two solid months away (we hope), and think about five postseason defeats in a row, wondering for the millionth time where it all went wrong while crying into an Alexander Semin jersey.
And with another season approaching, a hockey fan's fancy turns to trades. Hey, at least it's something to do. Who can we trade? What can we get for him? Let's ship out Alex Ovechkin for Cal Clutterbuck and a box of Girl Scout thin mints!
Sometimes, it's best to stick with the hand you've got. And there are a lot of reasons that now is not the time to be wheelin' and dealin' for the 2012-13 Washington Capitals.
Child, please. If there's one article that has been overwritten, it's that Alex Ovechkin is done and the Caps should trade him. Well, allow me to retort: Ovechkin is still one of the best players in the league, and his “problems” are mostly problems with how the team is run.
The Capitals scored 218 goals in the regular season last year, and Ovechkin either scored or assisted on 30 percent of them. He also had 13 power-play goals, a full eight goals ahead of the No. 2 PP guy on the team, Brooks Laich.
Yeah, get that cancer off the team.
Now, Ovi's production has certainly dropped. He had a hand in a whopping 47 percent of the Capitals' goals back in 2007-08, but 30 percent is still fantastic. It's also not far off his 2009-10 season, when the Caps cruised to a Presidents' Trophy win and Ovechkin had 50 goals and 59 assists—accounting for 35 percent of the team's goals. That is actually worse than Ovi's 32-goal 2010-11 season, when he was responsible for 39 percent of the Capitals' goals.
Ovi's dip in production has been nowhere near as pronounced as the team's dip in production. That represents a definitive change in course by the current front office, from one that is focused on the team's natural talents in offensive prowess to one that is foolishly attempting to adopt a defensive style of play to which the Caps' stars are ill-suited.
And yet, the army of contrarians that fill the Internet love to write articles about how a top-five goal scorer in the league who pounded home 38 goals last year is “done” and thus should be traded—because any team would love to take on the gargantuan contract of someone who totally sucks now, of course.
One of the people you might consider trading is the under-performing Joel Ward. But then ask yourself this: How many teams are interested in paying $3 million per year for the next three years for an 18-point winger? You think the Caps have any chance of getting anything better than a low-round pick for him?
I'd say it's a lot better of an idea to give him a chance to return to his 30-point form. He surely can't get any worse, at least.
Hey, Ted Leonsis, here's one way a defensive system will work just fine: rely on your awesome defenders while the offensive stars get back to the run-and-gun. Now that Dennis Wideman is mercifully gone, the Caps have a defensive lineup that is pretty solid up and down.
John Carlson and Karl Alzner are already one of the best defensive duos in the NHL today—all the Caps need to do is get Carlson to sign on the dotted line. And then we get to Mike Green, who can be paired with either Jeff Schultz or Roman Hamrlick for another rock-solid duo that can add a little offense on its own.
There's also last year's standout rookie in Dmitri Orlov, who put up a 6.1 relative Corsi rating, good enough to place him in the top quarter of defenders in the league, alongside such names as Green, P.K. Subban and Kris Letang.
Along with a seventh defender in either veteran John Erskine or new signee Jack Hillen, that's a defensive lineup to admire.
Somewhere, Tom Poti nods approvingly...and pulls his groin again.
For goodness sakes, haven't the Caps done enough this offseason? Mike Knuble is gone. Alexander Semin is gone. Tomas Vokoun is gone.
They've added Mike Ribeiro, Joey Crabb, Wojtek Wolski and Jack Hillen.
Do you need to reinvent the team every year?
Capitals fans have endured years of question marks at at least one position. If it wasn't a second-line center, it was a goalie. Or both.
Semyon Varlamov, Jose Theodore, Tomas Vokoun—all of those distractions are gone, and now that the dust has cleared, two clear contenders for the long-term job at goalie in D.C. have finally emerged: Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.
And with the signing of Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars this offseason, the center position now looks like this for the Caps: Nicklas Backstrom, Ribeiro, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault. That ain't shallow at all.
Everyone is finally healthy again (for now). Let's see what they can do.