NHLI via The Hockey News
It's impossible to guess at exactly what sort of contributions Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison will provide the 2009-10 Capitals - "veteran leadership" and "grit" are impossible to quantify, and goals and assists are unpredictable.
But it's not difficult to look back on what these two have brought to their respective teams in the past, and HockeyAnalysis.com does exactly that, by computing individual players' offensive and defensive ratings and an "overall contribution" for each player. For this exercise it's not critically important to go into detail as to how those metrics are defined, but as points of reference, Alex Ovechkin was second in overall contribution (Nicklas Backstrom was third), Mike Green was fourth among defensemen in contribution (but the top blueliner in overall rating), and Alexander Semin was first among all skaters in offensive rating (and third in overall rating). In other words, "rating" here doesn't factor in total ice time, while "contribution" does... and all of these measures recognize the dominance of the Caps' Young guns.
With that in mind, we'll take a look at the offensive ratings of the Caps' top 14 forwards from a season ago, but we'll throw in Knuble's and Morrison's ratings in each of the past three years as well:
|MIKE KNUBLE (2006-07)||1.30|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2007-08)||1.15|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2008-09)||1.13|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2006-07)
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2007-08)||1.08|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2008-09)||0.88|
Now, there's a big difference between the 2008-09 Washington Capitals and the 2008-09 Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks, the 2006-07 Philadelphia Flyers, and so on. But raise your hand if you like seeing even a healthy Brendan Morrison rated below last year's Michael Nylander, or Mike Knuble's last two seasons closely resembling Tomas Fleischmann's offensive production rate. Yeah, me neither.Moving on to the defensive side of things, here's how last year's Caps forwards stand, again with Knuble and Morrison thrown in:
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2008-09)
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2007-08)||1.15|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2008-09)||1.08|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2007-08)||1.03|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2006-07)||0.99|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2006-07)||0.94|
While it's odd to see Donald Brashear near the top of any list that ostensibly measures how well a player performed in a given area, he did have the lowest GAON/60 at five-on-five of any regular Caps forward this past season, so it makes at least some sense. What jumps out here, of course, is how high Morrison's 2008-09 season appears on the list (and before you claim Anaheim or Dallas played solid defense, neither of those teams finished in the top half of the NHL in goals allowed, and both might have finished behind the Caps, had the Caps not laid that monster egg in Game 82). That Mike Knuble was a higher-rated player defensively than Boyd Gordon last season raises an eyebrow (granted, Gordon's , but overall what we see in Knuble and Morrison are two very sound defensive forwards.
Combining the offensive and defensive ratings we get an overall rating that looks like this:
|MIKE KNUBLE (2006-07)
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2007-08)||1.11|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2008-09)||1.10|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2008-09)||1.07|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2007-08)||1.03|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2006-07)||1.02|
Frankly, I'd have expected a bigger gap between Knuble's and Morrison's 2008-09 seasons, but Morrison's showing here is a testament to his defensive reliability as much as anything (the question now, of course, is can he maintain some semblance of that and have a rebirth in his offensive game). That Knuble's rating is so similar to Brooks Laich's and Eric Fehr's is interesting, given the stylistic comparisons we've seen and hoped for, respectively.
Finally, pulling it all together and accounting for total ice time, here's the contribution last year's Caps got from its regulars up front, with the Knuble's and Morrison's past three seasons' contributions thrown in:
|MIKE KNUBLE (2008-09)
|MIKE KNUBLE (2007-08)||2834.93|
|MIKE KNUBLE (2006-07)||2691.81|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2006-07)||2607.86|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2008-09)||2394.33|
|BRENDAN MORRISON (2007-08)||1250.21|
There's not a single Cap forward outside of the Young Guns who contributed more in 2008-09 than Mike Knuble has in any of his past three campaigns or than Brendan Morrison did in his last full, healthy season. Think about that for a second.
Over the past three seasons, Mike Knuble has missed just 18 regular season games, all coming in 2006-07; prior to his injury-shortened 2007-08 season, Brendan Morrison had played in every single game for the previous six seasons. The two newest Caps have been consistent contributors in the NHL because they're good players who have stayed healthy (with the obvious exception being Morrison's 2006-07 season and it's after-effects).
Maybe it's not so hard to guess what Knuble and Morrison will contribute after all.