In my first edition of the Washington Capitals Hot Seat, I addressed the expectations for goaltender Jose Theodore.
Theodore responded to my questions (and criticism) by playing well throughout the month. Currently, "Theo" has a 3-2-2 record, 2.47 goals-against-average, and is 4th in the NHL with a .922 save percentage.
The Capitals defense has been non-existent for long stretches, so Theodore has had to be on his game. He played perhaps his best game since the lockout (2004-2005) versus Philadelphia this week. At times he has looked acrobatic, and it seems that he is making fewer mistakes than last season, when positioning and focus were issues.
So, it would look like my little experiment is working. I highlight an area of concern with the Washington Capitals, and magically, we see positive results. If only I could predict the lottery numbers.
On to November's lucky subject, defenseman Mike Green. Last season, "Greener" finished 4th in scoring on the team (73 points), and lead the NHL in goals by a defenseman (31). Due to his scoring and rise as an elite power-play threat Green was nominated for the Norris Trophy. Despite his scoring, Green lost the award to Boston's Zdeno Chara, mainly due to his lack of maturation in his defensive zone.
Also in 2008-2009, Mike Green notched a goal in eight straight games, setting a new NHL record. He was rewarded (mid-season) with a 4-year $21 million dollar contract extension.
Unfortunately, as the 2008-2009 season wore on, so did Mike Green. Heading into the playoffs Green experienced a difficult stretch of offensive decline and physical breakdowns. His play in the Capitals 14 playoff games was brutal at times, and he struggled to chip in offensively. After the post-season exit Green admitted to conditioning issues, a lingering shoulder injury, and fatigue.
In the off-season Mike Green rehabilitated his shoulder, committed himself to a training program, and changed his diet. The results are highly visible as Green looks more muscular. He claims that his shoulder is 100% healed and that he has prepared himself for the long season ahead.
Through the first month of last season Mike Green notched 4 goals and 4 assists (8 points). So far in 2009-2010 (with one game left in October), Green has 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists). I am not yet sold that Mike Green is taking fewer scoring opportunities, looking to pass more, and playing smarter defense. I just think his relative lack of goal scoring can be attributed to the power-play struggles the Capitals have experienced thus far.
For the month of November, we will look for improvements from Mike Green. He has the long-term multi-million dollar contract, he is healthy, and he is playing with an elite offensive team. With his mind at ease and body healthy he should be able to quarterback an effective power-play, add to even strength offensive rushes, and play solid in his own zone.
I expect six goals and eight assists at the minimum for Mike Green in November. With fourteen games on the schedule for the Capitals, fourteen points should not be too much to ask. I am interested to see if Green can respond to my challenge.
As always, enjoy the game!