Power Ranking the Washington Capitals Players by Importance
The lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season is officially in its second half, and the Washington Capitals have a lot of ground to make up if the team is to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2006-07.
The Caps, who started the season on a 2-9 run, dug themselves a pretty sizable hole to start the season, and despite managing to win eight out of their next 10 games, this weekend's losses to both New York clubs have left the team three games under .500 with a record of 10-13-1.
Thus far, virtually every player has been a disappointment at times, and if Washington plans on avoiding the draft lottery this spring, the team's studs at every position have to be better.
Heading into the second half of the season, here's a look at where every Capitals regular ranks in terms of importance to the team.
No. 25-No. 21
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25. Jack Hillen
Big, physical defenseman has only suited up for one game this season, and given how little Adam Oates liked smart yet slow veteran Roman Hamrlik, don't expect to see Hillen making many appearances even when he is healthy.
24. Steve Oleksy
He may be higher up on this list by season's end, but for now, the career minor-leaguer is a spare part in Washington, and once Mike Green is healthy, he'll be spending a lot of time in the press box.
23. Wojtek Wolski
Wolski, who not too long ago was a 60-point guy, has become a one-dimensional secondary scorer who offers very little in terms of physicality or defense, and with Marcus Johansson back in the lineup, Wolski's ice time will diminish gradually.
22. Joey Crabb
Crabb is a solid foot solider who enjoyed a reasonably successful offensive season with Toronto a year ago, but he simply lacks the presence other grinders such as Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks and Jason Chimera possess.
21. Jeff Schultz
As one of the longest-tenured Caps, Jeff Schultz has managed to hold down a lineup spot for quite some time, but despite his massive frame, he often gets out-muscled down low and is prone to getting beat one-on-one. He's not a top-six defenseman on a good team, but perhaps that's part of why the Caps are in this predicament to begin with.
No. 20-No. 16
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20. John Erskine
Fresh off a new contract, John Erskine went down with an injury over the weekend, which was sad to see given how strong Erskine's play has been of late. That being said, he's a No. 5 defenseman at best, and when he is, it's usually because his team's light on legitimate NHL rearguards.
19 Matt Hendricks
He's one of the team's spiritual leaders, there's no doubt about that. But Hendricks, though he makes up for it with heart and his tireless work ethic, is light on skill (minus his shootout moves) and isn't really suited to play a top-nine offensive role.
18. Tom Poti
Tom Poti's return to professional hockey is a feel-good story, because it was unclear whether he'd ever be medically cleared to return to Washington's lineup. He's a former All-Star and U.S. Olympian, but Poti's not as agile as he once was, and it shows on the ice.
17. Mathieu Perreault
Perreault is a fan favorite, and rightfully so. Everyone loves an undersized secondary scorer who plays with a lot of heart and energy, but while Perreault is capable of notching 15 goals and 30 points in a full season, he's not quite fast enough to compensate for his diminutive frame.
16. Michal Neuvirth
This isn't an easy one, because Neuvirth has appeared to be a No. 1-caliber goaltender at times, but his lack of consistency (and ice time) has obviously taken away from his value.
No. 15-No. 11
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15. Jay Beagle
He's an ace on draws and after a breakout performance last season, Beagle has cemented his status as an everyday forward for the Caps. He's got limited offensive abilities, but given his defensive awareness and work ethic, he's a valuable bottom-six center.
14. Tomas Kundratek
Heading into the season, no one expected Tomas Kundratek to be playing top-four minutes halfway through the year. But that's exactly what's happened, as the 23-year-old rookie has tallied a goal and six assists thus far and has had his workload increased in Green's absence.
13. Jason Chimera
Chimera is one of the Caps' most valuable checkers, as his speed and size are great assets to the team on the penalty kill and at even strength. No, Chimera's hands don't do him any favors, as he's still waiting on his first goal of the season, but he's not paid to score.
12. Joel Ward
Ward was the hero during the Caps' first-round series against Boston last year, which was a relief for the former Nashville Predator after a dreadful first season following his rich free-agent deal he received from Washington. He's been a surprisingly effective offensive force thus far, and though he's got a ways to go, he's starting to earn that four-year, $12 million contract he signed in 2011.
11. Marcus Johansson
A year go, Marcus Johansson appeared to be on the verge of establishing himself as a legitimate top-six forward, but he's regressed significantly in his third season. He's been a healthy scratch at times, because one goal through 10 games simply isn't good enough.
No. 10-No. 6
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10. Eric Fehr
At the start of the season, Eric Fehr would have undoubtedly been lower on this list, but recently, the former 20-goal scorer has looked more and more like the guy who torched the Penguins for two goals at the 2011 Winter Classic. With 12 points on the season, Fehr won't be among the team's top five scorers, but he brings more to the table than just offensive numbers.
9. John Carlson
A former All-Rookie Team selection, John Carlson has all the tools to be a viable No. 1 defenseman, but at least in his own end, he's regressed a bit since his rookie season. He's still an offensive weapon on the Caps' back end, but he's got to be better defensively to be a top-pairing defenseman.
8. Troy Brouwer
A tireless checker, Troy Brouwer has been among the Caps' best forwards early on, as he sits tied for the team lead in goals with nine. He's got a Stanley Cup ring and possesses enough talent to be a top-line winger, and the only reason he's not higher is because he's always seemed to struggle to score consistently.
7. Karl Alzner
Alzner is Washington's best undisputed defensive defenseman, and his play goes a long way toward dictating the team's success. His offensive skills are limited, but he's a shutdown guy first and foremost.
6. Braden Holtby
The breakout star of the Caps' two-round postseason run in 2012, Braden Holtby has all the tools to be Washington's long-term answer in between the pipes. He's got to be better at bouncing back from bad goals, but at this point, the No. 1 job is his to lose.
No. 5-No. 2
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5. Brooks Laich
The Caps' struggles thus far in 2013 aren't as surprising when considering that the team has been without two of its top players for much of the season, as Brooks Laich and Mike Green have both missed extended periods of time.
In Laich, one of the team's assistant captains, the Caps have one of the game's most consistent two-way forwards, and Laich is equally as valuable in the defensive end as he is in that of the opposition. He's a consistent 50-point scorer, and the Caps can't get their emotional leader back soon enough.
4. Nicklas Backstrom
As little as 13 months ago, Nicklas Backstrom was arguably the team's most important player, because the silky Swede was emerging as one of the NHL's best playmakers. However, Backstrom's continued struggles with physical play since his concussion in 2011-12 have made him less of a game-breaking player, though not skating with Alex Ovechkin or Alexander Semin anymore obviously impacts his numbers.
He's still the team's franchise pivot, but until Backstrom starts playing like former 100-point scorer he is, Mike Ribeiro is Washington's best center.
3. Mike Green
There's a reason why Mike Green is a two-time NHL First-Team All-Star, as he's as dangerous as any defenseman in the league with the puck on his stick. Unfortunately, his injury problems have plagued his production for three seasons, and Green is no longer even in the discussion when talking about the best defensemen in hockey.
Green needs to get back to playing the care-free offensive brand of hockey he became known for, because the Caps are a much better team when No. 52 is on his game.
2. Mike Ribeiro
There's no doubting that Mike Ribeiro has been Washington's best player so far, as the former NHL All-Star has been among the league's top scorers all year long.
Ribeiro may not be a great defensive player, but his ability to create opportunities for his linemates has been an integral part of Washington's offense, and he may be the key for Oates to get Ovechkin to start scoring.
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1. Alex Ovechkin
Simply put, as Alex Ovechkin goes, so too do the Washington Capitals.
He's the captain, iconic superstar and face of the franchise, which is why the team gave him a 13-year deal during the 2007-08 season.
Since then, Ovechkin reeled off three seasons with at least 50 goals and 100 points, but his production has dropped drastically since the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
He's still an elite player with all the talent in the world, but until he gets back to being the guy who was twice named league MVP, the Caps' Stanley Cup drought will continue.