A Summer Wish List of Size and Snarl

The Flyers and Devils spent the weekend improving themselves. Gulp.

The leadup to the NHL draft brings the greatest week of player movement on the calendar next to trade deadline comings and goings, and so this week we in Washington especially wonder: what does general manager George McPhee have up his sleeve?

We know that neither the GM nor the coach is content with the roster as it’s currently comprised. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the Montreal series Bruce Boudreau matter of factly forecasted five or six new bodies in D.C. this fall. Good.

The Flyers in the minds of many who watched their run to within two victories of a Stanley Cup maxed out or even overachieved. I think the larger point is that they brought to the ice each night a roster that was exceedingly difficult to play against. Orange sweaters were in Habs’ faces in every corner of the rink in the Eastern conference finals. The Hawks had no picnic against them either. In the not so new any longer NHL, it was old-style Flyers ethos getting it done in the warmer weather. From the vantage of physical toll exacted, how difficult do you believe it has been to play against the Capitals the past three springs?

You can believe, as some in the Capitals’ organization would have you, that the Caps just ran into another hot goalie in Jaroslav Halak, and that they were undone as well by a godforsakenly awful power play. Or you can look at the larger picture, which is that the Capitals’ core as it’s been comprised now for three springs has underachieved in the glory season.  

“Mike Knuble is willing to go to the net and get sandy,” NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes told Tarik El Bashir in the aftermath of the Capitals’ latest early postseason demise. “But their guys are so used to painting Picassos, I don’t know if they’re willing to get out the crayons and start sketching.”

The Capitals, the thinking at this blog goes, don’t need to blow up the core but rather surround it with a bit more size and snarl. The snarl in particular makes life miserable for the opposition in the play-’em-every-other-night postseason.

Already we know that none of Jose Theodore, Scott Walker, Joe Corvo, Brendan Morrison, Shaone Morrisonn and likely Eric Belanger will be back in D.C. this fall. Three or four Hershey Bears will graduate. And we can make reasonable assumptions that in acquiring Corvo, Walker, and Belanger at the trade deadline George McPhee didn’t secure his most coveted roster-bolstering bodies. Will he resume his pursuit of them this summer? If so, that process could culminate this week, ahead of July 1’s unrestricted free agency slow dancing.

Of the Capitals’ top four on the blueline for next season I believe we know already the identities of three: Mike Green, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner. Carlson and Alzner were Gabby’s best defensive pairing in game 7 against Montreal, and most nights they were a dominant pairing for the Calder Cup winning Bears this spring. What’s most intriguing to me is the identity of the fourth rearguard. It won’t be Jeff Schultz. Anton Volchenkov? (Don’t be surprised.) The Flyers’ acquisition of Dan Hamhuis (his signing a formality) raises Volchenkov’s July 1 value.

Some manner of veteran difference-maker desperately needs to be added to the Washington blueline. John Carlson probably will look like a veteran difference-maker by next spring, if not the fall.

Up front, the Caps need a quality pivot to follow Nicklas Backstrom on the first line, to anchor a spectacularly anemic-in-the-postseason second line. The second line was a struggle in the middle for the Caps most of last season. Alexander Semin’s 40 goals are all the more impressive when you consider he endured center-by-committee during much of 2009-10.

And speaking of Semin . . . count me as one who’d be surprised were he still a Cap come dinner time Friday evening. Long-term contract tallks with his agent collapsed during the season, and George McPhee won’t let him walk away for nothing next summer. Semin’s an enigma, everyone knows that, but the deliberate player evaluations and budget reconfigurations of summer have a way of cleansing manager palates of playoff under-performings. Semin could fetch the Caps a difference-maker on the blueline or a high-end second-line center. Were he packaged with one of the three young goaltenders in the organization we could see Washington pull off one of the blockbuster moves of the week.

George McPhee has the assets to remake his springtime soft roster. More importantly, he has the urgency to.

This entry was posted in Bruce Boudreau, Hershey Bears, Montreal Canadiens, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Prospects, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Summer Wish List of Size and Snarl

  1. JR says:

    It won’t be Jeff Schultz? Care to elaborate?

  2. sean says:

    Looks like Flash might be gone also.

  3. Mike says:

    I hope it’s not Jeff Shultz. He doesn’t even belong in Hershey. Until the Caps stop relying on players (cowards) like Shultz and Flash this team will continue to disappoint come playoff time.

  4. dough says:

    first, Kevin Weekes has this team (and many of its fans) nailed. GMGM is not making any blockbuster moves. Volchenkov is headed somewhere else. The Caps bring up baby Bears because they think they have all of the talent they need currently inside of the organization. This organization has a p***y mentality. Expect more of that in the offseason.

    By the way, Belanger made a nice case to remain as 3rd line center.

  5. Boomer says:

    Schultz will be paired again with Green at the start of the season. If Alzner & Carlson are given the shot to play together, then the question is who will play with Poti. Will Morrison be brought back or a right handed d-man by trade or Free Agency? Semin will not be traded, his trade value is too low at this point, coming off a sub par playoff scoring performance, signed for only one more year @ $6 M, he would bring back less than his value.

  6. Herb Brooks says:

    Great article – although I think Ville Leino and the return of Gagne against a depleted Bruins squad [0-4 once Krecji went down] had a lot more to do with the Flyers’ run than guys like Asham and Carcillo running around banging heads.

    I really hope the Caps get the A-train, he’d fill a lot of needs. Slight quibble though, Poti may have been the Caps’ best PO performer; he and Carlson were certainly the best pairing. I like Alzner but still question the top-end footspeed / athleticism to be an elite shutdown at the world-class level; he is damn smart though.

    A friend who should know also told me Semin’s on the block; he mentioned for Brodeur and a prospect though so I told him he was out of his mind. Has anyone else heard this??? I fail to see what a past-his-prime [Olympics and last 2 playoffs] netminder brings us at a position at which we’re already deep. Net was NOT the problem for the Caps this spring!

  7. Riley says:

    Disagree with you on Schultz – I don’t see how he isn’t a top-4 guy for us right now, unless we were to obtain someone like Paul Martin or Anton Volchenkov. However, acquiring either one would be a cost-prohibitive move, I would imagine, that might hurt us more in the long-term.

  8. Herb Brooks says:

    Schultz tends to get exposed against quick [or even not-so-quick] forwards – i.e., exactly the type of guys he’s expected to defend against as a “top-4” d-man on a playoff team.

    People jumped on Green for the bad cough-ups against MTL – and it wasn’t good, to be sure – but his partner made a terrible pinch, and got burned. Schultz does make good outlet passes, to be fair – but I just think that lack of quickness [especially combined with lack of physicality] will always be an issue, against good team. Good forwards simply have way too much time and space against him.

  9. Ralph says:

    Ummm…I think you mean the Carlson pinch in Game 7, right? Leading to the 2nd MTL goal? Yeah, Carlson, not Schultz.

  10. Herb Brooks says:

    Nope, earlier in the series, forget which game – but Schultz definitely hung MG out to dry, more than once.

    Carlson was the Caps’ best d-man in the playoffs, with the possible exception of Poti.

  11. Herb Brooks says:

    As for the Game 7 play, it wasn’t a pinch – yeah Carlson didn’t get back quick enough, but it was a simple regroup in the neutral zone and he wasn’t expecting Green to make such an idiotic play.

  12. trekronor says:

    Caps’ D-men are bunch of chumps – with possible exception of Carlson and Poti. These guys can’t kill a penalty – let alone perform in the playoffs. Flyers make finals and go out and get Hamhuis in less than 2 weeks – that says it all. Expect the same unless McPhee starts pulling the trigger and unloading players/picks in exchange for some young muckers and bruisers.

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