From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up, Tomas Fleischmann.
#14 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
May 16, 1984
$725,000 cap hit in 2009-10; RFA after 2009-10 season
Key Stat: Fleischmann finished the regular season with the fourth best goals per sixty minutes of even-strength ice time (0.9), behind the two Alexes and the aforementioned (surprisingly so), Eric Fehr. That quite cogently exemplifies secondary scoring.
Interesting Stat: Flash committed nine minor penalties in 2008-09. The same number as during the 2007-08 season, and in just about the same number of GP (75 in 2007-08). That total was good for fourth-fewest on the Caps last season (minimum 13 games).
The Good: Obviously, Fleischmann took the significant leap from a 10-goal scorer in 2007-08 to the cusp of a 20-goal campaign last season. The quickness of his release improved this season, as did his abiity to corral the puck in tight spaces and heavy traffic in and around the crease this season. At times.
Flash showed an increased willingness to go into those high traffic areas, an element largely absent from his game in 2007-08. Perhaps nowhere was the improvement more dramatically displayed than in that game on January 14th at the Igloo, where #14 lunged at a loose puck at the top of the Penguin crease midway through the third period of a tie game, and scored the GWG. His playoff game-winner in Game 1 of the playoff series against those same Penguins exhibited a similar effort.
During the regular season, Fleischmann performed capably as part of a PP unit, finishing fourth in goals per sixty minutes of PP time (2.45), significantly ahead of Alex Semin (1.81). That trend continued during his modest PP ice time in the post-season.
It might astonish you to read that Flash also finished tied for fourth-best on the Caps during the regular season in takeaways (with 53) and, more importantly, had the third-best regular season takeaway-to-giveaway ratio on the club, of 1.56. (But keep in mind here our previous note on the overzealous tally of both of these two stats, to different degrees, by the official Verizon Center scorers.)
The Bad: Flash is somewhat a victim of high expectations. Acquired as an important component of the deal which sent Robert Lang to Detroit in February of 2004, Flash was considered by many to be a top prospect who would evolve into a significant secondary scorer (how's that for alliteration?), a vital cog of the youth-oriented rebuilt Caps machine, plucked straight out of the scouting behemoth that is the Red Wings organization.
Scoring 10 goals in the first 25 games of this past season, he was well on his way to silencing vocal detractors that said that his development had reached its modest plateau, after 118 NHL GP over three seasons. That he would never amount to a consistent scoring threat. That he was AHL-quick with the stick, and not quite sturdy enough to park himself in a position to score on a regular basis.
But while he's shown, pardon the pun, flashes of brilliance like his hot start to 2008-09, he's also struggled mightily with extended droughts, once scoring only two goals in a span of 29 games and being held pointless in 11 straight. Some of those struggles could be attributed to his two-week bout with mono this season, which obviously sapped his strength and impaired his in-season conditioning. But that acute ailment doesn't tell the whole story. For the positives on the stat sheet inherent in that T/G ratio we mentioned above, Flash still gets knocked off of the puck far too often for any player on a successful NHL team, let alone for a second line forward who plays at least 15 minutes a night. And rarely was that more apparent than during the Penguins series.
Better yet, a picture tells a thousand words.
On that note, Fleischmann could stand to throw his weight around a little more, having been credited with a paltry 22 hits in the regular season. Even Nicklas Backstrom, who is listed as (slightly) lighter than Flash, tallied 52 hits.
Perhaps Flash still has some evolving to do. And a contract year, after which he's arbitration eligible, would be a fine time to do it.
The Vote: Rate Fleischmann below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1..
The Discussion: Will Fleischmann take that proverbial next step and play a little tougher in the corners and in front of the net, with a little more snarl? Or is this past season's production about as much as we, and the organization, should reasonably expect from him in the future?