From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2010-11 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2011-12. Next up, Mike Knuble.
#22 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Jul 04, 1972
Cap hit of $2,000,000, signed through 2011-12
Key Stat: With seven powerplay goals, Mike Knuble was tied with Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in that category.
Interesting Stat: Knuble's 11.8% regular season shooting percentage was his lowest since 2003-04, and 7.4 percentage points lower than 2009-10.
The Good: When Knuble signed with the Capitals in the summer of 2009, it was clear he was being brought in for one reason: to bring a big body, net-crashing presence to the first line and the powerplay, and using that framework, his 2010-11 season was largely a successful one. Knuble tied for the team lead in powerplay goals, scored more often than anyone else who saw regular powerplay time, and, despite the powerplay struggling for the majority of the season, actually increased his goals per minute from the 2009-10 season. Knuble was also a goal-scoring threat at even strength, trailing only Ovechkin and Alexander Semin in goals per minute.
Knuble wasn't just a goal-scorer, however. 1:23 of his 17:48 of nightly ice time came with the Capitals down a man, and in shorthanded situations, Knuble was generally effective, with the Caps yielding only 4.48 goals per sixty minutes he was on the ice, and faring better than Boyd Gordon, Nicklas Backstrom, and Brooks Laich in terms of Corsi (albeit against pretty average competition). Additionally, his 2.5:1 giveaway to takeaway ratio was among the best on the team - and not bad for a guy who isn't exactly known for his smooth hands or puckhandling ability.
The Bad: Goal scoring is arguably the most important skill in the NHL, and the fact Knuble's pretty good at it makes him a valuable offensive player. That said, he is a bit of a one trick pony in the offensive zone. His playmaking ability isn't that strong, as his 16 assists with attest to and he doesn't have the speed to be a major factor on the forecheck or to create a ton of space. In short, though Knuble can finish off goal scoring opportunities, he is reliant on others to create them and can't be asked to carry the load for any period of time.
In addition, Knuble's playoffs were a bit of a disappointment. While we would be remiss to ignore the fact that he was playing through injury for much of the postseason, only two points (both goals) in six games is a poor showing for a player counted on for offense, and especially a veteran whose style of play would seem to mesh well with playoff hockey.
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: He might be relatively low mileage, but at 39 by opening night, Knuble's at the point where it's reasonable for people to ask how much he has in the tank - and whether he can go a full season without wearing down. What should the Capitals expect out Knuble for next season? Should they do anything to try and keep him fresh for the spring, or just go into the season full steam ahead and play it by ear? Finally, what would it take for you to rate Knuble a '10' next season?