From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Mike Knuble.
#22 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Jul 04, 1972
$2,800,000 cap hit in 2009-10; UFA after 2010-11 season
Key Stats: Knuble scored goals at a higher rate in 2009-10 (.42 per game) than in any other season in his career.
Interesting Stat: Knuble's shooting percentage by period (first-to-third): 23.3, 20.3, 12.8.
The Good: At the tender age of 37, Mike Knuble led all NHLers 34-and-above in goals scored (actually, Martin St. Louis, three years Knuble's junior, also had 29 goals, but in 13 more games played). More importantly, Knuble topped 25-goals for the third consecutive season, despite missing 12 games with a broken finger, and showed little sign of slowing down as the season wore on - 23 of his goals came in his last 42 games of the regular season, a span during which he had five multi-goal outings. Knuble is one of only nine players to have scored 20 or more goals in each of the last seven seasons, finished second in the League in shooting percentage at 19.2%, and helped lead the team to a 19-1-3 record in games in which he scored (29-3-4 in games in which he had a point). And yeah, we're going to go ahead and give "Knuble the mentor" some credit for the career years that Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr put together as well. Oh, and he was the first and only Cap to come to when 's defenseCraig Adams drove him head-long into the boards.
In the playoffs, Knuble had six points and a plus-four rating in the first five games of the series, and his shorthanded goal to tie Game 4 with seven seconds left in the second period seemed at the time to have broken Montreal's back for the series, as the Caps poured in four third period tallies and cruised to victory, taking a 3-1 series lead.
The Bad: Knuble missed a game for the first time in three seasons and saw his power-play point production drop sharply for the second consecutive season (down from 30 points in 2007-08 to 20 in 2008-09 to 13 this past season; of course, his drop in power-play minutes from 4:28 to 2:54 to 2:27 has a lot to do with that). Among forwards, only Alexander Semin committed more minor penalties total and at a greater frequency than Knuble (apparently, you can take the player out of Philly, but taking the Philly out of the player is a little tougher). And despite the post-season heroics while down a man (his shorty was actually his first since March 1, 2008), Knuble wasn't a terribly good penalty killer on the season, albeit in limited minutes. Finally, despite the good aggregate numbers, Knuble only managed to light the lamp in one game in the postseason, didn't do it at all on the power-play or at even strength with a goalie in the net at any point in the series, had a starring role in the train wreck that was the first ten minutes of Game 5... and grazed Jaroslav Halak on Ovechkin's would-be tying goal in the third period of Game 7.
The Vote: Rate Knuble 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: What would you like to see Knuble improve upon in 2010-11? Will his role change any next season? What will it take for him to earn a 10?