2010 is quickly drawing to a close, and as we count down the final hours we look back on a year full of ups and downs, highs and lows, and - most of all - great hockey discussion.
And since the end of the year is a time for reflection and nostalgia (and a bit of self-congratulation), we've compiled what we feel to be the "best" of the Rink over the last twelve months. Interviews, analysis, commentary...we wrote it, you made it a conversation. See what made the cut after the jump...
The Unwise (1/13/10) - Who knew saying something like "with all due respect, it's hockey" could set off such a firestorm among Caps fans? Well...anyone with a brain, really. Some were offended, others unsurprised, but ultimately it led to a great discussion about hockey's place in our nation's capital.
Cody Eakin: "I gotta keep pushing my game" (1/19/10) - Caps' prospect signed an entry level deal just months after being drafted by the Capitals, and turned a WJC snub by Team Canada into an extremely prolific season with his WHL squad, the Swift Current Broncos. In this exclusive interview just a few weeks after John Carlson's overtime winner, Eakin talked about the World Juniors and his future role on the Caps.
Why Ilya Kovalchuk Isn't the Poster Boy for a Failed CBA (1/27/10) - Ah, yes...remember way back when Ilya Kovalchuk, then a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, was a hot trade deadline commodity who had yet to become the center of one of the more controversial summer stories? In this post, David uses the Kovalchuk situation to debate the idea that the CBA is a sham...and in doing so, issues a smakedown of epic proportions.
Semyon Varlamov: "No Time for Whining" (3/14/10) - "Going forward, of course, I have to play more reliably. Our team is a contender for the Stanley Cup, and I don't have the right to betray them." True back in March, true today.
Tom Poti’s Penalty-Kill Positioning (3/20/10) - Last season one of the biggest weaknesses in the Caps' game was their play shorthanded; one of the biggest perceived weaknesses of their play shorthanded was the play of Tom Poti. Here, J.P. breaks down Poti's positioning and explains why that was.
Rink Roundtable: Pre-Postseason Roundtable (4/1/10) - With six games remaining in the regular season and a first-round opponent yet to be determined, we sat down to hash out our concerns and talk about our hopes for what we thought would be a slightly longer postseason. Whether it was the goaltending or Ovechkin's play or the trade deadline acquisitions...let's just say hindsight is 20-20.
Alexander Semin: "We Need to Get Through the First Round as Quickly as Possible" (4/13/10) - Yes, Sasha. You did.
Manipulation vs. Investment: Why the Caps are Kosher (7/21/10) - After Kovalchuk finally landed in New Jersey and signed a 372-year contract, we explored why any discussion of front-loaded, cap-circumventing contracts needed to stop at the edge of the Potomac River.
Mock Arbitration: Tomas Fleischmann (7/26/10) - One of the few issues for the Caps over the summer was the contract situation of RFA Tomas Fleischmann. As his arbitration drew closer, J.P. and David brought it into the courtroom and looked at what Flash could - and should - get. He may be settling in to his new Denver home but the debate is still a good one.
Having the Right Tools for the Job (7/28/10) - Applying the five-tool system, most frequently used in baseball, to hockey and more specifically the Caps.
A Tale of Two Mountains (8/12/10) - One of the features over on Puck Daddy this summer explored who from each franchise's history would go on a the hockey equivalent of Mt. Rushmore, aka Mt. Puckmore. We took that a step further
by ripping off Battle of California creating a slightly less distinguished honor...the aptly titled Mt. Suckmore.
Five Years of Matt Bradley (8/18/10) - It's not often that we get to celebrate the grinders on a team; they don't score much, their contributions (while important) rarely show up on the scoreboard and they're never going to make the All Star Game or be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But one guy deserved a day of his own for the work, the paper-thin skin, the timely goals - and so this summer we celebrated five years of Matt Bradley.
Capitals Farm Report: The Season Approaches (8/20/10) - The Caps are a team chock full of young talent at every level, but sometimes it's easy to lose track of all of the kids. Luckily we've got Emily B on our side, keeping us apprised of the prospects and their ongoing development into (hopefully) NHLers.
Capitals on the Hot Seat (9/2/10) - This year's team probably has the highest expectations of any incarnation in recent history. As such, there's bound to be some added pressure on a few notables (pressure that has only intensified as the season's progressed and an eight-game losing streak got in the way). Here we look at who is facing the most heat for the 2010-11 campaign. Any changes since September?
Southeast Division Preview: Who Should Worry the Caps? (9/3/10) - As of 12/30, the Caps were tied with Tampa Bay atop the division, with Atlanta just three points back. Just something to think about.
Catching up with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitri Orlov (9/15/10) - Our newest contributor, Malin, got a chance to catch up with two of the young Russian prospects at a tournament and talked to them about their futures...and of course, cupcakes.
The Debut of a Superstar (10/5/10) - He is the face of the franchise, the superstar captain and the hope of a fanbase longing for its first Cup. And 5 years ago he made his debut in style.
Is Bruce Boudreau Hiding Mike Green? (11/5/10) - One of the more popular memes surrounding Mike Green - and more specifically the perception of Mike Green by fans outside Washington - is that he doesn't play the tough minutes, that Bruce Boudreau is protecting him from competition that he supposedly can't handle. Meme, meet J.P. and his smakedown of truth.
Learning to Win Small (11/9/10) - Last year the Caps had a tendency to blow out or be blown out, to use their potent offense to win games while perhaps having less success when games called for tight defense and minimal goal differentials. Whether it contributed to their early postseason dismissal is up for debate - as are the implications of their improved record in the close, playoff-style battles.
A Contract Year Like No Other? (11/19/10) - Alexander Semin started the year off red-hot, prompting discussion of the influences a contract year might be having on his performance. Pepper explores this a bit further and finds that, based on history, at least, it might not be the promise of a new contract that was driving Semin's performance.
Alex Ovechkin and Those Around Him (11/28/10) - The year starts with someone saying something idiotic (and being taken to task), so it should end.
From all of us here at the Rink, thanks for continuing to read and comment and make this community what it is - wishing all of you a safe, happy and healthy New Year!