Biggest Successes and Failures from Washington Capitals' Offseason so Far
Some moves have gone well. Some other moves, not so well.
Here is a list of the biggest successes and failures from the Washington Capitals' offseason so far. This list will cover two of each in reverse order of significance, starting with the successes.
Biggest Success No. 2: Hiring Blaine Forsythe as Asst. Coach
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On June 24, the Washington Capitals replaced departing assistant coach Tim Hunter with longtime video coach Blaine Forsythe.
George McPhee told Katie Carrera of The Washington Post a little more about Forsythe:
Blaine’s got a real good feel for the game, terrific hockey sense and sees things and understands things and can break them down and explain them to players real well...[Adam Oates] got him doing a few practices this year and gave him a lot of responsibility throughout the year with the power play and different things, so he’s going to give him more responsibility this year.
This decision may not seem like much. After all, Forsythe is just an assistant coach.
But for the 2013-14 season, Oates will have a staff he is more comfortable with. You see, Hunter was not originally chosen by Oates, as explained by Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com on June 18:
When Adam Oates was hired as head coach of the Capitals last summer he immediately tabbed Calle Johansson as the man he wanted to lead his defense. But with neither coach having a wealth of NHL experience, the Caps hired veteran assistant Tim Hunter as Oates’ other voice behind the bench.
Forsythe, however, was chosen by Oates, and he is someone that the head coach is very comfortable with, according to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post:
Forsythe said he and Oates had a quick connection from when they first sat down to talk strategy prior to last summer’s development camp. They approach the game in a similar manner, were comfortable sharing opinions on any issue that would arise and got along well away from the rink.
This hiring is a success, as it improves the chemistry of the coaching staff and therefore the team as a whole, while also ensuring the continued success of the power play.
Biggest Success No. 1: Re-Signing Karl Alzner
The Washington Capitals crossed off the biggest item on their offseason to-do list when they re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner on July 10. The signing was announced by the Capitals' PR Department:
Caps GM George McPhee also made a statement regarding the deal, as relayed by Mike Halford of NBC Sports Pro Hockey Talk:
We are very pleased to sign Karl Alzner to a contract extension. Karl is just entering his prime and has been a model of consistency for our organization since he entered the League. He plays tough and valuable minutes against some of the NHL’s top players every game.
In support of McPhee's statement, Alzner was third in time on ice per game, and second in shorthanded time on ice per game and blocked shots among Capitals defensemen during the 2012-2013 season, according to NHL.com.
The most important aspect of this signing was that McPhee completed it quickly. McPhee had already discussed his stance on restricted free agents such as Karl Alzner, as tweeted by Katie Carrera of The Washington Post:
On the subject of RFAs receiving offer sheets, McPhee said the #Caps would match any offer sheet their players receive.— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) June 24, 2013
By re-signing Alzner before any other team could sign him to an offer sheet, McPhee kept the cost down on a valuable commodity.
Biggest Failure No. 2: Not Re-Signing Mike Ribeiro
It was all but inevitable that Mike Ribeiro would not be re-signed by the Capitals, after tweets such as this one by Renaud Lavoie of RDS on June 30:
Mike Ribeiro will hit the market on July 5th. Won't get an extension from Capitals. #RDS— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) July 1, 2013
Even so, it hurt when Ribeiro signed a four-year deal worth $22 million with the Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix GM Don Maloney expressed his pleasure at landing a big fish like Ribeiro, as reported by ESPN.com news services:
Since I came here six years ago, we've been searching for a playmaking center iceman, someone who could make his wingers better. Certainly, Mike's skill set, his ability to pass the puck, vision on the ice was an area we had ideally been looking for, so to be able to bring him to the desert is a really good day for us.
This is exactly the type of player the Capitals were looking for when they traded for Ribeiro. Now, the Capitals will have to replace Ribeiro's point-per-game production. The 33-year-old totaled 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points in 48 games. Ribeiro's 36 assists were fifth-best in the NHL.
Plus, his presence on the power play gave the unit another potent playmaker to go with Nicklas Backstrom, making the Capitals power play nearly unstoppable. Ribeiro ranked first in the NHL in power-play assists with 21, and the Caps ranked first in the league in power-play percentage at 26.8 percent, according to NHL.com.
What was especially damning, however, was the length of the deal. McPhee had offered a three-year deal. Ribeiro had demanded a five-year deal. Logically, a four-year deal should have been offered as a compromise. Apparently, Maloney thinks logically, and McPhee does not.
This failure by McPhee could have a drastically negative effect on the Capitals' offensive output during the 2013-14 season.
Biggest Failure No. 1: Not Re-Signing Matt Hendricks
The loss of Matt Hendricks will sting for a long time.
Among Capitals forwards in 2013, Hendricks was third in hits and blocked shots, second in shorthanded time on ice, and first in faceoff win percentage (minimum 200 total faceoffs), according to NHL.com. He also led the team in fighting majors, according to HockeyFights.com.
Tracee Hamilton of The Washington Post explains why Hendricks meant so much to the Capitals:
You keep a guy such as Hendricks because of his complete willingness to go after anyone on any team at any time. Hendricks is not a hothead, and he seldom loses control. He’s not the biggest guy on the ice — I’m amazed how small he is out of all that equipment — and he’s not the best, either. But he was the toughest, scrappiest guy on the Caps’ roster, the one who’ll send an opponent into the boards after he has taken a swipe at Alex Ovechkin or Nick Backstrom or gotten too close to Braden Holtby.
Former Capitals player and current CSN Washington analyst Alan May had this quote for Ted Starkey of SB Nation DC:
At the time, I thought it was devastating to the team. "He was the leader of the team, the most important player. And I thought he was our best player, and it changed the whole look of the team - and the attitude. He was the most professional player in the dressing room and at dinner, and it affected everyone. In the locker room, everything was changed. He wasn't the captain, but you looked at how young he was, how hard he played injured, how good he played, how fierce he was. He was basically the identity of the team, and we lost it. ... In the room, we were pissed, we were pretty upset. He was one of the guys we looked to for anything.
May was actually describing Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens—traded from the Capitals in 1990—and not Matt Hendricks.
It's difficult to tell the two apart.